Archives for category: NCLB (No Child Left Behind)

The Center for American Progress is identified by the mainstream media as a “liberal think tank” and as the think tank of the Democratic establishment. It protects the Obama legacy, including the toxic legacy of Arne Duncan’s failed Race to the Top. Billions were squandered for a program that was built on the foundation of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind. Twenty years have been wasted by investing in high-stakes testing and charter schools. CAP refuses to acknowledge this education disaster and continues to peddle the same tired Bush-Obama remedies.

Our reader Laura Chapman writes here about CAP’s May 27 event, featuring charter school leaders, even the executive director of the hedge funders’ charter advocacy lobby, DFER.

Please read! Take her advice and send in your questions. Ask them why they support the DeVos agenda. Let’s hope that CAP and its neonservative allies do not influence Joe Biden.

Laura writes:

“DeVos has a long and notorious record of using agency guidance and regulatory action to undermine equity.”

Yes. And this power is why, in addition to getting rid of Trump and DeVos, voters who care about public education must pay attention to Biden and who he is courting for advice. We need to let him know that more attention must be paid to public schools, not charter schools

Charter schools have a non-stop campaign for money, with a major pitch that they are the only schools that care about black and brown children. That is non-sense. Charter schools originated in and perpetuate racially segregated schools.

Here is an example of that campaign pitch, from Center for American Progress, founded by Hillary Clinton’s John Podesta, and an outfit that also gets money from both teacher unions. It is not a supporter of public schools. It is an apologist and promoter of them,

If you have nothing better to do, submit some questions for CAP’s May 27 event, staged with speakers who love charter schools. The title is “Beyond the Talking Points: Charter School Policy and Equity. Ensuring a Quality Education for Every Child Web Series.”

Here is the pitch
“Charter schools have been the source of some contentious debates in the education policy space, often centered on the growth of charters and their impact on traditional public school systems. Yet beyond these debates are a number of issues and policy choices that have deep impacts on the equity effects of charter schools.”

“This interactive conversation will cover a range of issues, with a focus on less commonly discussed topics in charter school policy such as
–enrollment issues around student backfill policies,
–lottery systems, and
–the perceived notion that charters are able to self-select students for attendance.”(This in not merely a perception. )

“Additionally, the discussion will explore operations issues that affect equity in charter schools, such as
–transportation for students to and from school,
–participation in meal programs, and
–how schools receive and use funding for facilities and resources.
(Operations issues are those wherein charter schools want to raid public schools fund even though they are supported by billionaires and have been gifted special federal funds from ten-yacht Betsy DeVos).

Finally, the panelists will discuss the ability of charters to serve all populations of students, particularly those who need additional services such as students with disabilities, English learners, and foster or homeless youth.” (This is just shy of an admission that charter schools, unlike public schools, may choose not to serve students with special needs).

“Please join the Center for American Progress to discuss charter policy in a broader context than the often debated talking points. This discussion aims to step back and examine the current state of the charter debate and where we might go from here, with an emphasis on how equity can be infused more holistically into charter policy.

“We would love to hear your questions.
Please submit any questions you have for our panelists using the hashtag #QualityEdChat on Twitter or via email to CAPeventquestions@americanprogress.org.

There certainly are issues with charter schools, a whole bunch. The CAP sponsors seem to think those listed above are “less commonly discussed.” If so, the sponsors are too much involved in cheerleading for charters and repeating talking points from the billionaire-funded 74Million news. They may also be indifferent to scholarship about charter schools especially the evidence-based criticisms in Diane Ravitch’s latest book Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools, or her earlier Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement, the Danger to America’s Public Schools, and then another, The Death and Life of the Great American School System.

The discussants in this affair are cheerleaders for charter schools who seem to have some mental inventory of criticisms of charter schools, are floundering, and also pondering “how equity can be infused more holistically into charter policy.” Informed critics will see through this promotional exercise with participants who claim to be MORE concerned with “equity” and in greater measure than supporters of traditional public schools.

Panelists:
Sharhonda Bossier. Deputy Director, Education Leaders of Color (EdLoc), prior work with Education Cities, a national promoter of charter schools
Laina Cox. Principal, Capital City Public Charter Middle School (for about 8 years). Holds a Master in Education in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University.
Shavar Jeffries. National President, Democrats for Education Reform, a PAC that promotes charter schools and stricter teacher evaluations. Lawyer, board member fro KIPP, ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Newark, NJ.
Joshua P. Starr. CEO of PDK International former Superintendent of Schools in Montgomery County, MD; Stamford CN. Also worked briefly for NYC Department of Education, served one month on Board of Directors, Center for Teacher Quality.
Moderator:
Neil Campbell, Director of Innovation, K-12 Education Policy, Center for American Progress, former director of Jeb Bush’s FEE–Foundation for Excellence in Education, Broad resident 2009-2011 while serving as Education Program Analyst with USDE.

Beyond the Talking Points: Charter School Policy and Equity

I hope that readers of this blog will submit a generous supply of questions. I will submit one: Why is there so much documented fraud, waste, and abuse in the charter school industry?

Peter Greene thinks that we should use this respite from the pressure of high-stakes testing to rethink accountability.

Our current accountability system was cobbled together hastily in 2001 during the writing of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. The NCLB law was based on a hoax, a fallacious claim that there had been a Texas miracle, all due to testing every child every year. Congress bought the lie and enacted the law. Since then, Congress has been unwilling to review the creaky and ineffective accountability system that it mandated.

No high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year. But we do. We have done it for 20 years and have little or nothing to show for it. The students who were left behind in 2001 are still left behind. Then Obama-Duncan brought in their “Race to the Top,” doubling down on standardized testing, and spent more than $5 billion without reaching “the top” or closing gaps or raising test scores.

Greene says: Let’s think about what happens next.

The defining question for any accountability system is this:

Accountable to whom, for what?

The “to whom” part is the hard part of educational accountability, because classroom teachers serve a thousand different masters.

Teachers need to be accountable to their administration, to their school board, to their students, to the parents of their students, to the taxpayers who fund the school and pay their salaries, to the state, to the students’ future employers, and to their own colleagues. School administrators also need to be accountable to those various stakeholders, but in different ways. Each set of stakeholders also has a wide variety of concerns; some parents are primarily concerned with academic issues, while others give priority to their child’s emotional health and happiness.

Parents may want to know if their children are on track for future success, or how their children’s progress compares to others. Those are two different measures, just as “How tall is my child” and “Is my child the tallest in class” are two different questions, each of which can be answered without answering the other.

Taxpayers want to know if they’re getting their money’s worth. State and federal politicians may want to see if benchmarks they have imposed on schools are being met. Teachers want to know how well their students are learning the various content the teachers have been delivering. Administrators may want to identify their “best” and “worst” teachers. School boards may want to know if their new hires are on track.

Answers to every single one of these questions require different measures collected with different tools. Some questions can’t be answered at all (there is no reliable way to rank teachers best-to-worst). One of the biggest fallacies of the ed reform movement has been the notion that a single multiple-choice math and reading test can somehow measure everything.

The reform dream was to be able to reduce school quality to a simple data point, a score or letter grade that tells us whether a school is any good or not. This is foolish. Ask any number of people to describe their idea of an “A” school; no two descriptions will match. A single grade system must by definition be reductive and useless for anything except as a crude tool for punishing some schools and marketing others.

Teachers and their unions are not opposed to accountability; they are opposed to accountability measures that are random and invalid. Meanwhile, accountability discussions never seem to include measures that would hold politicians accountable for getting schools the support and resources that they need. A good example would be the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a law that Congress passed to hold schools accountable for properly educating students with specials needs, and also a law that Congress has never come close to fully funding.

My view: Accountability starts at the top, not the bottom. Congress has never been willing to hold itself accountable for the mandates it imposes. State legislatures have been unaccountable as well, never having provided the funding that schools require to provide the resources that schools need.

Yes, let’s have that conversation about who should be accountable and how will it be measured and what matters most.

The National Center for Education Statistics released NAEP scores in history and geography, which declined, and in civics, which were flat.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos went into her customary rant against public schools, but the real culprit is a failed federal policy of high-stakes testing narrowly focused on reading and math. If DeVos were able to produce data to demonstrate that scores on the same tests were rising for the same demographic groups in charter schools and voucher schools, she might be able to make an intelligent point, but all she has is her ideological hatred of public schools.

After nearly 20 years of federal policies of high-stakes testing, punitive accountability, and federal funding of school choice, the results are in. The “reforms” mandated by No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as the federally-endorsed (Gates-funded) Common Core, have had no benefit for American students.

Enough!

When the ESSA comes up for reauthorization, it should be revised. The standardized testing mandate should be eliminated. The original name—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—should replace the fanciful and delusional title (NCLB, ESSA), since we now know that the promise of “no child left behind” was fake, as was the claim that “every student succeeds” by complying with federally mandated testing.

Restore also the original purpose of the act in 1965: EQUITY. That is, financial help for the schools that enroll the poorest children, so they can have small classes, experienced teachers, a full curriculum including the arts and recess, a school nurse, a library and librarian, a psychologist and social worker.

Here is the report from Politico Morning Education:

MANY STUDENTS ARE STRUGGLING’: Average scores for eighth-graders on the Nation’s Report Card declined in U.S. history and geography between 2014 and 2018 while scores in civics remained flat, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The results follow disappointing scores for math and reading released in October.

— “The results provided here indicate that many students are struggling to understand and explain the importance of civic participation, how American government functions, the historical significance of events, and the need to grasp and apply core geographic concepts,” stated Peggy G. Carr, the associate commissioner of assessment at NCES, which runs the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, known as The Nation’s Report Card.

— The digitally based assessments were administered from January to March 2018 to a nationally representative sample of eighth-graders from about 780 schools. The results are available at nationsreportcard.gov. They will be discussed at a livestreamed event, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

— Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, in a statement, said “America’s antiquated approach to education is creating a generation of future leaders who will not have a foundational understanding of what makes this country exceptional. We cannot continue to excuse this problem away. Instead, we need to fundamentally rethink education in America

Open the link to find links to the NAEP reports.

Carol Burris and I wrote “An Open Letter to Joe Biden,” which was published by Valerie Strauss on her blog “The Answer Sheet” at the Washington Post.

Valerie Strauss begins:

During the Obama administration, public school advocates led by Diane Ravitch opposed the education agenda of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who had embraced standardized testing, charter schools and the Common Core State Standards as the way to improve America’s schools.
Ravitch, an education historian and research professor at New York University, became the titular leader of the grass-roots movement against the privatization of public education in 2010, when she published her best-selling book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” It detailed her conversion from a No Child Left Behind supporter to an opponent.

From 1991 to 1993, Ravitch served as assistant secretary of research and improvement in the Education Department under President George H.W. Bush. She was, too, an early supporter of No Child Left Behind, the chief education initiative of his son, President George W. Bush, which ushered in the high-stakes standardized-testing movement. But when she researched the effects of the measures, she saw that NCLB’s testing requirements had turned classrooms into test prep factories and forced schools to narrow the curriculum to focus on tested subjects.

She changed her long-held views about how to improve schools and for the last decade has been speaking and writing about education reform. She also co-founded and heads the nonprofit Network for Public Education, which links people and groups that advocate to improve public schools and fight school privatization.
Ravitch became a lightning rod for criticism by supporters of President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, which made standardized tests more important than ever. But, at 81 years old, she is still writing and advocating for public schools. Her most recent book was published this year, “Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools.”

The Network for Public Education that she leads opposes charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately managed — seeing them as part of a movement to privatize public education. It published two reports last year about how the federal government wasted millions of dollars on a program aimed at expanding the charter sector.

Charter supporters criticized the reports, but the overall story of waste and abuse in the federal Charter Schools Program helped to prompt Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to promise to end funding for the program when they were both running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Some Democratic legislators in the House also expressed concern about the program after the reports were released.
Joe Biden was Obama’s vice president but was not in the forefront of the administration’s education agenda. He has promised that if elected, he would, among other things, triple the federal funding for high-poverty schools, increase teachers salaries and ban for-profit charter schools. He has also expressed opposition to standardized testing.

In the following open letter to Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Ravitch and Carol Burris write about public education and their reaction to his public comments about school policy, saying they are encouraged.

Burris, a former award-winning principal in New York, is the executive director of the Network for Public Education. Burris has been writing for this blog for years, chronicling the effects of Race to the Top and about charter schools.

Here is the open letter to Biden about education policy, written by Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris:</strong

Dear Vice President Biden,

We write on behalf of the Network for Public Education, the nation’s largest group of volunteers and advocates for public schools in the nation, with more than 350,000 followers spread across all 50 states.
We have strongly opposed the education agenda of Donald Trump. For the first time in the history of the Department of Education, its secretary seems dedicated to the destruction of public schools. From her enthusiastic support of private school vouchers, charter schools, and virtual charter schools, Betsy DeVos has made clear that she believes that schools should be run by private agencies and as entrepreneurial start-ups, not as centers of community life, subject to democratic governance by elected school boards.

Our public schools and their students desperately need a champion. We hope you will be that champion. For two decades, our schools and their teachers have been micromanaged by misguided federal mandates that require states to judge students, teachers, and schools by standardized test scores, as though a test score could ever be the true measure of a child, a teacher or a school.

We know that you know better. At the Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh in December 2019, NPE Board member Denisha Jones asked you whether you would commit to ending standardized testing in public schools. You did not hesitate when you said, “Yes. You are preaching to the choir.”

You continued by saying, “Teaching to a test underestimates and discounts the things that are most important for students to know.” You explained that what is most important is building a child’s confidence and you referred to evaluating teachers by test scores as a “big mistake.”

You are right in your assessment of standardized, high-stakes tests and we appreciate your response. Hold firmly to those beliefs. We understand that federal law must be rewritten to free the schools from their fixation on test scores. We count on you to make that happen, and to put an end to the legacy of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. Billions of dollars have been wasted on testing during these past twenty years. It is time for a fresh vision of what education can be.

Former supporters of President Obama’s Race to the Top program will whisper in your ear to persuade you to double down on failed policies. They will try to convince you that testing is a “civil right.” It is not. In fact, standardized testing has its roots in eugenics — it was used for years as a means by which to shut out immigrants, students of color, and students who live in poverty in order to reserve privilege for affluent students, who more typically excel on standardized tests.

All children deserve a well-resourced public school filled with high-quality educational experiences. All children deserve experienced and well-prepared teachers. All children deserve schools that have counselors, social workers, librarians, and nurses. All children deserve a full curriculum, with science labs and arts programs. When schools become test-prep factories, the civil rights of children to equal education opportunities are denied.

Others will tell you that funding does not matter and that only choice and competition will improve public schools. They are wrong. Research consistently demonstrates that increases in funding make a difference in the educational outcomes of children. But we cannot tinker around the edges and expect to get dramatic results. That is why we fully support your plan to triple Title I funding while giving educators voice in how that money should be best spent.

We are pleased that you support community schools as a pathway for school improvement. During the forum, you said that “Betsy DeVos’s whole notion from charter schools to this [her blame the victim position on sexual harassment on campus] is gone,” if you are elected. We are glad that you endorse district public school improvement instead of embracing the expansion of what has become a competing alternative system whose growth has drained funding from public schools.

Banning for-profit charter schools is not enough. There are only a handful of for-profit charters, and they exist only in Arizona. There are, however, many for-profit charter management companies as well as nonprofit charter management companies whose CEOs enjoy exorbitant salaries, far exceeding the salaries of district school superintendents. These charter chains hide their lavish spending on travel, marketing, advertising, rental payments to related companies, and administrative salaries from community, state and federal taxpayers even as they claim to be public schools.

Although the policies of the states regarding charter schools are beyond your control, the Federal Charter School Program is not. A once modest program intended to spark innovation community-led charter schools is now a program that sends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to corporate charter school chains. Just last month, DeVos gave $72 million to the IDEA charter chain whose chief executive officer hired a private jet on which he was the only passenger to meet DeVos in Florida. That same charter chain received over $175 million from DeVos through the Charter Schools Program in 2017 and 2018.

It is time to eliminate the federal Charter Schools Program, which is no longer needed since billionaire-directed foundations supply ample funding for new charters and charter expansion. We issued two reports last year, demonstrating that the federal Charter Schools Program is riddled with waste and fraud, having spent approximately $1 billion on schools that never opened, or that opened and subsequently closed.

Your public statements encourage us to believe that you do not intend to follow the disastrous education policies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. We are hopeful that you will renounce the status quo and bring a fresh vision that supports the work of teachers and public schools.

You will receive no better counsel on public education than you will from your educator wife, Jill Biden. We have no doubt that she will advise you well. It is time to turn the page on failed policies and invest in our nation’s public schools, which enroll nearly 90 percent of all American children.

The future of our nation depends on the success of public schools and their leaders, teachers, and support staff, who even, in this crisis, are working tirelessly to educate our students and keep them fed, well, and safe. Please stand with them and with the more than 50 million children who attend district public schools.

Diane Ravitch
Carol Burris

Please read the NPE Action endorsement of Joe Biden for President.

We support public schools.

Donald Trump and his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, are hostile to the very idea of public schools. They have spent three years proposing deep cuts to public education and attempting to establish federally-funded vouchers for private and religious schools.

In contrast, Joe Biden has proposed dramatic increases in funding to public schools by tripling the amount that Title I schools would receive. He has voiced strong support for more counselors and psychologists in our schools, as well as increased funding for high-quality pre-kindergarten programs. He supports community schools that link social services and the school together to serve children and their families better.

At the Public Education Forum held in Pittsburgh in December of 2019, Joe Biden was asked by NPE Board member Denisha Jones if he would commit to ending standardized testing in schools. His unequivocal response was, “Yes. You are preaching to the choir.” He said to a national audience that “teaching to a test underestimates and discounts the things that are most important for students to know.” He described evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students as a “big mistake.”

At the same public forum in Pittsburgh, he was dismissive of the policies of Secretary of Education DeVos, saying that under his administration, “Betsy DeVos’s whole notion of charter schools…are gone.”

The public statements expressed by Joe Biden encourage us to believe that he does not intend to follow the disastrous education policies of the Obama years included in Race to the Top, which were closely aligned with the failed policies of George Bush’s No Child Left Behind.

We are taking candidate Joe Biden at his word. We believe that he recognizes that Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind were harmful to our schools and our children.

However, if those policies re-emerge, we will vigorously oppose them. We will also continue to be engaged in monitoring the words of both candidates and their parties’ platforms.

We urge our supporters and all friends of public education to go to the polls in November and vote for Joe Biden. The future of our public schools and our democracy is at stake.

In the words of NPE Action President, Diane Ravitch, “We support Joe Biden because he has promised to reverse the failed “test-and-punish” federal policies of the past two decades. For the sake of our children, their teachers, our public schools, and our democracy, Trump must go.”

This article was written by Jennifer Weiner, an education professor at the University of Connecticut. She explains why she refuses to follow the worksheets and detailed instructions for her twin sons. She recognizes that she is privileged as a person who has economic security, healthcare and is white. But there’s no reason to believe that children who lack her privileges need to be subjected to dull routine.

I read her article with pleasure, a welcome respite from the dire warnings issued by the test-and-punish crowd, by various bureaucrats, by think-tanks underwritten by the Gates Foundation, and many others who are certain that children’s brains will wither if they are not subjected daily to worksheets, test prep, and the holy tests themselves.

What happens if there is a respite in our academic Hunger Games? How will we know who will win and who will lose? This mother wants her children to have a timeout. I’m a grandmother now, but I suspect if my children were still in school, I would be in her camp. School is not a global race to the top. It should be a time to learn and explore and to find joy in reading, writing, thinking, and growing. What children miss most now is the personal contact with their teachers and the social interactions with other students. Jennifer Weiner reminds us that the NCLB pressure-cooker is unhealthy for all children, not just her own. When school resumes, we need to rethink the oppressive and pointless regime imposed on children by federal mandates and groupthink. It’s past time to rethink the status quo and place our faith in real education, students, and teachers, not tests and technology.

She writes:

Thanks to the coronavirus, my third-grade twins are home all day for the foreseeable future. I’m not going to recreate school for them.

Judge me all you want.

Out of respect for their amazing teachers, I’m making a good-faith effort to get my kids to do the work that’s been sent home, but that does not come anywhere close to filling what would have been a school day. After accomplishing the bare minimum, the agenda is to survive and watch too much TV. We are eating cookies and carbs and hoping for the best. We are loving one another and trying not to go insane.

When we got the call that our schools were closing, I knew I’d start seeing social media posts with home-schooling schedules and amazing and quite labor-intensive (for adults) activities for children.

My predictions were right: There have been color-coded home school charts with every minute scheduled, online resources on how to lead children through yoga and meditation, French lessons, and building their own rocket ships. Parents are sharing recipes with the right nutritional balance to enhance study productivity. Many have already begun to lament that they’re failing at meeting these new expectations.

I want to send a message to parents, and in particular to working moms, who will inevitably take on most of this home labor along with working remotely: This is going to be messy and that is OK.

I am not an expert in teaching third graders, particularly those like one of my sons, who has special needs and receives numerous services from talented professional educators every day to ensure he can thrive. We are so grateful to them and to our other son’s teachers and their patience, wisdom, and skill. We know that we don’t share these qualities.

I’m also not a parenting expert — a fact that would be clear if you met our wonderful but somewhat feral children. But I do know, from often painful firsthand experiences, that trying to turn mothering into a competitive sport is straight up unhealthy. It’s not a game I want to play.

My husband and I both work full time. Like so many others, we’re attempting to keep our family safe and fed during our state’s Covid-19 shutdown while simultaneously working to convince our boomer parents to practice social distancing, reaching out to other loved ones and friends and trying not to panic. Even when everything in our life is working the way it should, and with all the privileges we have — our solid health care, our economic stability, our whiteness — we often feel overwhelmed. So this pandemic felt like a bridge too far. We had to meet it head on: holding our breath, crossing our fingers. And not judging ourselves.

I’ve heard predictions from other parents about how this time without classroom instruction could lead to my kids (who, remember, are 8) falling behind so far that college will no longer be in their future. I hate to think of how parents who are preoccupied with worry about loss of income and how to provide food and shelter for their families feel.

They must be terrified their children will be unable to keep up as moms and dads with more flexibility, more security, or even full-time help talk about their aggressive at-home enrichment agendas for their little ones. Maybe this is the perfect time to call a timeout on the academic rat-race that was never healthy or fair in the first place.

Yes, we have embraced the need for some schedule, taking turns keeping an eye on the kids as they surf the internet to make sure whatever they are looking at is age-appropriate. (Of course, one of the boys wanted to learn about bombs.)

So far, we’ve seen them digging into mastodons, dwarf planets, the Mars rover and who made Legos and why. They’ve been reading a lot (mostly graphic novels and “Big Nate” books) because my kids were always avid readers and I don’t have to fight with them to do it. But there are no flash cards and no made-up projects to “enrich” them. We do not assign them essays or ensure their explorations are aligned with Common Core standards. There is no official “movement” or music time. We have not set up a makeshift classroom or given our family’s “school” a name.

We bake and have taste tests to see which cookie recipes are the best, because we like cookies and they are among the few things I know how to make. We walk and walk and walk. We eat together. We think about how lucky we are and try to help those who are more vulnerable and without our resources.

So far, the boys have played more video games and watched more television than they did during any given week before schools shut down. It keeps them busy while their dad and I try to finish our meetings before Zoom crashes.

We love each other, we yell, we apologize, we laugh, they punch each other, we yell some more, we make up. We live, we try to be compassionate and we hope this will all be a memory soon. And when it’s over, the schoolwork will be there.

Here are two contrasting views about what happens when (if?) children return to school in the fall.

In an article in the Washington Post, Mike Petrilli, president of the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute, proposes that all students be held back a grade to make up for the ground they lost when schools closed in March. He also suggests that this is a good time to embrace distance learning.

Jan Resseger, retired social justice director for a religious group, says that this is the right time to recognize the failure of the standards-tests-accountability regime of the past two decades and to develop fresh ideas about children and learning.

Petrilli does not address the many studies (such as CREDO 2015) that show the abject failure of cyber schools. That study found that students lost 44 days in reading and 180 days in math when they were schooled online. Nor does he consider that being “held back” is universally seen as failure. The students haven’t failed. Why should they be punished? Expect a parent revolution if any state or district tries this.

Resseger writes:

Conceptualizing public education as students climbing ladders of curricular standards without missing a rung is only one way to think about education. And while such a theory has been drilled into all of us as a sort of “standards-based accountability conventional wisdom,” it isn’t really how most of us learn. If we want to understand something new, and there is some background we need, most of us look to experts or do some research to fill in the holes. School curriculum is better conceptualized as a spiral instead of a ladder. Children learn some processes and then as they move on to more advanced material, teachers are taught to spiral back—to review and even provide new and previously missed background. Sometimes people apply what they have learned in one discipline to help them understand or enhance what they have learned in another discipline. Remedial classes worry educators because too frequently they trap students in the most basic material—material skillful teachers can introduce and reinforce as children learn more complex material. After schools reopen, acceleration will be preferable to remediation.

To use a different metaphor, the advocates for the status quo see each grade as a measuring cup that must be filled. Some students will get the full measure, some will get less. The standardized tests, they think, can gelll is how much of the cup was filled. This is all nonsense, an outgrowth of a vapid, mechanistic approach to education that explains the failed regime of standards and testing. After twenty years, can anyone seriously claim that NCLB and Race to the Top succeeded? Seriously.

Due to the blinders tightly strapped on our policy makers, we are stuck in a pointless, soul-deadening approach to schooling that kills the joy of teaching and learning, except for those few subversive educators who have found devious ways to escape the dead cold hand of the status quo.

Kevin Kumashiro, leader of 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.

Chalkbeat reports that Colorado has canceled state academic tests for 2020.

Colorado will cancel state tests in light of coronavirus school closures, officials say

Any state that insists on giving the federally-mandated tests should be prepared to answer how they expect to test children who have been out of school for several weeks without instruction.

Under the best of circumstances, the scores reveal little more than family income and education. In the current circumstances, what will they mean? Nothing, although the differences between haves and have-nots might be accentuated.

Best course of action for every state: Cancel the tests now and focus instead on making sure that students have food, social supports, and access to medical care.

Cancel the tests. Care for students.

Peter Greene writes here about the forgotten role of the principal and superintendent. It is not to promote misguided and harmful policies such as those that were central to No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, but to fight against them and to protect their staff as best they can against misguided mandates. For most of the past two decades, however, the folks at the top blew with the wind and went along with what they surely knew were very bad ideas.

He writes:

A manager’s job– and not just the management of a school, but any manager– is to create the system, environment and supports that get his people to do their very best work. When it rains, it’s the manager’s job to hold an umbrella over his people. When the wind starts blowing tree limbs across the landscape, it’s the manager’s job to stand before the storm and bat the debris away. And when the Folks at the Top start sending down stupid directives, it’s a manager’s job to protect his people the best he possibly can.

NCLB, Race to the Top, Common Core, the high stakes Big Standardized Tests– each of these bad policies is bad for many reason, but the biggest one is this: instead of helping teachers do their jobs, these policies interfere with teachers doing their jobs, even mandate doing their jobs badly. In each case a bunch of educational amateurs pushed their way into schools and said, “You’re doing it all wrong from now on, you have to do it like this,” like medically untrained non-doctors barging into a surgical procedure to say, “Stop using that sterile scalpel and use this rusty shovel instead.”

That was bad. But it is base betrayal when, in that situation, management turns to its trained, professional workers and says, “Well, you heard the man. Pick up that rusty shovel.”