Archives for category: NCLB (No Child Left Behind)

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics, has been studying the spread of the fake “reform” efforts across the nation (aka the Destroy Public Education Movement).

In this post, he reviews the damage done by authoritarian education “leaders” who have robbed students and teachers of the joy of learning while attacking public schools. He names names.

He begins:

For more than two decades, bureaucratic style top down education “reform” has undermined improvement efforts by professional educators. For budding teachers, beginning in college with the study of education and their own personal experience as students, an innate need to better education develops. However, in the modern era, that teacher energy to improve education has been sapped by the desperate fight to save public education from “reformers,” to protect their profession from amateurs and to defend the children in their classrooms from profiteers. 

Genuine advancements in educational practices come from the classroom. Those edicts emanating from government offices or those lavishly financed and promoted by philanthropies are doomed to failure...

Sadly, every business and government sponsored education innovation for the past 40 years has resulted in harm to American schools. Standardized education, standardized testing, charter schools, school choice, vouchers, reading science, math and reading first, common core, value added measures to assess teachers and schools, mandatory third grade retention, computer based credit recovery, turnaround schools, turnaround districts, and more have been foisted on schools. None of these ideas percolated up from the classroom and all are doing harm.

Peter Greene assures is that Trump and DeVos are a disaster for education. We know that. No one could be worse. They want to blow up public schools. No question.

But he’s worried that Biden will bring back the staffers from the Obama era of high-stakes testing, charter love, and Commin Core. In particular, he’s worried about Carmel Martin, a perennial favorite of Democratic neoliberals.

My one encounter with Carmel occurred at a panel discussion at the progressive Economic Policy Association in D.C. about one of my books. I lacerated charters, vouchers, and high-stakes testing, as well as the continuity between NCLB and Race to the Top. Carmel vigorously defended all that I criticized.

Like Peter Greene, I’m worried that Obama-era education staffers will return to restore the failed ideas of NCLB and Duncan’s disastrous reign.

Trump must go, and we must keep up the pressure to insist that Biden produce a fresh vision for federal education policy that discards the failures of the past 20 years.

More of the same is unacceptable.

Veteran educator Nancy Bailey has some very clear ideas about the next Secretary of Education. All her proposals are premised on Trump’s defeat, since billionaire Betsy DeVos would want to hang on and finish the job of destroying public schools and enriching religious and private schools.

Let’s hope that the next Secretary of Education has the wisdom and vision to liberate children and teachers from the iron grip of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Every Student Succeeds Act, High-stakes testing, privatization, and a generation of failed federal policies.

Bailey begins:

During this critical time in American history, that individual should be a black or brown woman, who has been a teacher of young children, and who understands child development. She should hold an education degree and have an additional leadership degree and experience that will help her run the U.S. Department of Education.

Children deserve to see more teachers who look like they do, who will inspire them to go on and become teachers themselves. A black female education secretary will bring more diverse individuals to the field and set an example. This will benefit all students.

Many individuals, including accomplished black men, have brilliant minds, and understand what we need in the way of democratic public education. Leadership roles should await them in the U.S. Department of Education, in schools, universities, or states and local education departments.

But with the fight for Black Lives to Matter and for an end to gender inequality, a knowledgeable black woman with a large heart to embrace these times should take this spot. The majority of teachers have always been women, and while men are critical to being role models for children and teens, it is time for a black woman to lead.

We have had eleven education secretaries, and only three of them have been women, including Shirley Hufstedler, Margaret Spellings, and Betsy DeVos. None of these women were educators or had experience in the classroom. Only two African American men have been in this role, and neither of them could be considered authentic teachers and educators. Both had the goal to undermine public schools.

The time is now for a black female education secretary who will set a positive example and be the face of the future for children from all gender and cultural backgrounds.

Evie Blad of Education Week writes that a Biden-Harris administration may forge a new path on education issues. They have pledged to increase funding, regulate charters, and back away from standardized testing. They also have pledged to support the right to collective bargaining. This heartens advocates of public education, but frightens the corporate reformers who have controlled education for 20 years.

Twenty years of failed education policy is enough!

Democrats for Education Reform and the Center for American Policy, both committed to high/stakes testing and charters, are worried.

As he campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Vice President Joe Biden pledged that, if elected, his education department would be a sharp departure from that of President Donald Trump.

Rather than promoting private school choice, as the Republican incumbent has, Biden pledged to dramatically increase federal aid to schools, including ambitious calls to triple the Title I funding targeted at students from low-income households and to “fully fund” the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

But, as Biden accepts his party’s nomination this week, there also are signs that his potential future administration wouldn’t return lock step to the education policies of President Barack Obama. And some of a Biden administration’s education policy goals could take a back seat to the pressing matter of helping schools navigate the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which may alter their operations and threaten their budgets for years to come.

Though he’s campaigned heavily on his experience as Obama’s vice president, Biden has departed on some key issues from that self-described supporter of education reform. Obama’s education department championed rigorous state education standards, encouraged states to lift their caps on public charter schools to apply for big federal Race to the Top grants, and offered charter school conversions as an improvement strategy for struggling schools.

By contrast, Biden called for a scale-back of standardized testing at a 2019 MSNBC education forum, and he criticized their use in teacher evaluations, a key policy goal of the Obama administration. Under the leadership of Biden’s campaign, Democrats formally introduced a party platform this week that criticizes high-stakes testing and calls for new restrictions on charter schools.

How much Biden’s policy would depart from the last Democratic president’s is up for debate. But the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law Obama signed at the end of his last term, may offer levers to make some policy changes.

“Your job as a vice president is to toe the line of your boss,” said Julian Vasquez Heilig, the dean of the college of education at the University of Kentucky and a board member of the Network for Public Education, a progressive advocacy group. If Biden chooses, “he can be his own person on education.”

Praise and Concern

That suggestion of a new direction has won praise from groups like national teachers’ unions, which called for the resignation of Obama’s long-serving education secretary, Arne Duncan, when Duncan advanced a push for teacher evaluations and other reforms.

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García called Biden and his running mate and one-time rival for the nomination, California Sen. Kamala Harris, a “dream team” that “respects educators and will listen to those who know the names of the kids in the classrooms.”

But Biden’s priorities, and the absence of discussions of school improvement during the Democratic primary, have also been met with concern from some education groups.

“If we only talk about the money side of the equation, that’s not enough by itself,” said Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform. “That’s where we need our president to be a leader and hold those institutions accountable.”

The organization, which supports charter schools and data-driven school accountability efforts, has praised Biden’s push for more resources, but it has sounded the alarm about other changes recommended in the party platform.

That platform language reflects some of Biden’s comments during the primaries. In recorded interviews with the NEA, for example, he said a lot of charter schools are “significantly underperforming” and that charter schools “cannot come at the expense of the public school.”

Neither Biden nor Harris included language on charters in their plans as candidates. But the platform language-created with input from a “unity task force” assembled by the campaigns of Biden and Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders-calls for a ban on federal funding for “for-profit charter businesses.”

The language also calls for “conditioning federal funding for new, expanded charter schools or for charter school renewals on a district’s review of whether the charter will systematically underserve the neediest students,” which has alarmed charter advocates who say the publicly funded, independently managed schools already face sufficient accountability.

Charter schools are largely governed through state and local policy. But a presidential administration can help shape public debate on the issue. And a Biden administration could scale back support for charter schools in its discretionary grant priorities and regulations or in its proposed budgets.

Time for fresh thinking! Time to build strong child-centered, community-based schools and throw off the obsession with standardized testing and privatization.

Jim Blew was hired by Betsy DeVos for a key role at the U.S Department of Education, having worked at the far-right Walton Family Foundation, which has a strong commitment to privatization, charter schools, Teach for America, and union-busting. He told education writers that the Department of Education was not likely to grant waivers for next spring’s annual federal testing, despite a year of confusion and disruption in schooling.

The American people are likely to tell Betsy DeVos and Jim Blew and the other public-school haters to pack their bags this November and clear out by January 20, 2021. Someone appointed by President Biden will decide whether to inflict the detritus of NCLB on the nation’s students. If the public votes wisely, the whole wrecking crew will be ousted, blown with the wind, so to speak.

An assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education said Friday that his agency’s inclination is not to grant states waivers from federally mandated tests for the upcoming school year like it did in the spring.

Speaking on a video call with reporters at the Education Writers Association’s National Seminar, Jim Blew, the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy analysis, stressed the importance of testing beyond accountability. And he expressed support for a recent statement from the Council of Chief State School Officers about the importance of assessments for learning; that July 20 statement said that “even during a pandemic” assessments “serve as an important tool in our education system.”

In March, as schools shut down in-person classes around the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos quickly granted waivers to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico from having to administer certain annual exams as required by federal law. But concerns about the pandemic’s impact on the 2020-21 school year have grown, as have sentiments in some quarters that states should get those waivers again, in order to focus on other educational needs…

During a question-and-answer session with reporters, Blew pointed to CCSSO’s statement and said that with respect to testing, “Accountability aside, we need to know where students are so we can address their needs.”

Blew then indicated it would be premature to grant waivers at this time from testing and said, “Our instinct would not be to give those waivers” from the exams, which are mandated under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the main federal K-12 law. “There are so many benefits to testing and it allows for some transparency about how schools are performing and the issues we need to address, that our instinct would be to decline those waivers,” Blew added.

Jack Schneider is a historian of education and a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell.
He wrote this essay at my request.

Why study history? It’s a legitimate question during times like these, when the future seems so uncertain. The past, one might argue, is the past; it’s what comes next that really matters. And whatever we don’t know, we can probably find on Wikipedia anyway.

The question isn’t merely theoretical. History as a school subject was crippled by No Child Left Behind’s testing requirements, which incentivized narrow instruction in English and math. But when the global pandemic pushed schools online, dramatically limiting student contact hours in the process, the slow decline of history was dramatically accelerated.

Yet the past remains as important as ever. Consider, for instance, the recent uprising over racial inequality, and the various ways Americans have interpreted the subsequent destruction of property. Donald Trump, who is broadly ignorant, but who is particularly illiterate historically, has framed such destruction as unreasoning and unprincipled. Others, by contrast, have seen in the present rebellion a clear civic message—one rooted in centuries of injustice. Such an understanding is not merely the product of racial sympathy. It is also the result of basic historical understanding. The past matters because it tells the story of how we arrived at the present. Without it, we might know where we are, but we cannot hope to understand why we’re there.

Understanding the legacy of pressing contemporary issues is clearly valuable. But the past is also instructive even when it seems hopelessly distant from the present. One reason is that history can be viewed as a series of experiments. What, we might wonder, will the political consequences of prolonged economic inequality be? Well, we can run that experiment: in Mesopotamia, ancient Rome, the Aztec empire, or among indigenous communities of the Mississippi River Valley. And though history doesn’t repeat itself, it does rhyme. So although we may never acquire the certainty of a randomized control trial, we can hope to see patterns emerge. The greatest challenges of the present—ethnic conflict, environmental crisis, political demagoguery—are all old stories.

Finally, studying history matters because of what it does for our thinking. Facts matter. Over the past four years, that has become painfully clear in a way that many of us never anticipated. But studying history isn’t about the acquisition of factual knowledge alone. Historians don’t sit down in front of textbooks and expand their memories. Instead, they work with fragmentary evidence to assemble coherent narratives rooted in context. The habits required for such work—careful reading, obsessive verification, an orientation toward complexity—are hallmarks not just of good historians, but of good citizens. Historical thinking is the enemy of sloganeering and simple solutions; it is a remedy for fake news and false choices.

History today is the stepchild of the curriculum for a variety of reasons. Textbooks are authorless collections of facts, completely out of step with the actual work that historians do. State standards documents are political battlegrounds, regularly bordering on propaganda. Instructional time has been eaten away by the demand for higher scores in tested subjects. And our track record of miseducating young people in the history classroom—through a narrative of perpetual progress and American exceptionalism—has engendered suspicion among many who rightly see themselves written-out of the past or misrepresented in its telling.

These outrages are alarming. But inasmuch as that is the case, they might be their own undoing. If they were less shocking, such offenses might be easy to dismiss or ignore; history as a school subject might fade quietly into oblivion. Remembering its importance, we might finally hear the warning siren.

Jan Resseger read Valerie Strauss’s hopeful column about a possible end to America’s obsession with standardized testing, and wrote about how this testing has warped American education into a punishing regime, rather than an environment of nurturing , growth, caring, compassion, and human development.

Jan reviews some of the most important ways in which test scores have been used to punish students, teachers, principals, and schools, even school districts.

Enough is enough.

Standardized testing has been used in American schools for a century, though never on the scale of the past twenty years. It first was introduced into some schools as IQ tests, which were used (wrongly) to judge students’ innate ability and to assign them to different tracks, which then determined their life outcomes. I wrote about the IQ tests in my 2000 book “Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reforms.” The psychologists who created the tests believed that IQ was innate, inherited, and fixed. They asserted that the tests demonstrated the superiority of whites who spoke English well. Their views were welcomed and used by racists and anti-immigrant groups to support their policies. They were used to defend segregation and to restrict immigration. Their critics pointed out that the tests measured culture and life circumstances, not innate intelligence.

One of the psychologists who developed IQ tests and wrote a racist book about the results was Carl C. Brigham of Princeton. Brigham later created the prototype for the multiple-choice SAT in the 1930s, which replaced the essay-based “College Boards” in 1941.

Many schools used standardized tests in the second half of the twentieth century. Some states required periodic state tests, like the Iowa tests. No state required standardized testing every student every year until the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001, based on George W. Bush’s assertion that there had been a “miracle” in Texas because of annual testing in grades 3-8.

We now know that there was never a miracle in Texas, but the every U.S. public school has been required to administer standardized tests since NCLB was signed into law on January 8, 2002.

When NCLB was re-authorized in 2015, there were demands to eliminate the testing mandate, but the Gates Foundation organized many of its recipients to insist on preserving the testing as a “civil right,” which was ironic in view of the racist and culturally biased history of standardized testing and its negative impact on marginalized groups. The new Every Student Succeeds Act preserves the annual testing. (Be it noted that every Democratic senator—including Sanders and Warren—on the Senate HELP Committee drafting the law voted in 2015 to preserve the most punitive aspects of NCLB, including the testing mandate, but the Murphy Amendment was voted down by Republicans).

Recently, Valerie Strauss wondered whether the nation’s obsession with standardized testing was ending due to the pandemic pause. While I share her enthusiasm to make the pause permanent, I know it won’t happen unless the federal law is changed. That requires sustained citizen action to counter the millions that the testing industry will certainly spend to preserve their economic interests.

She wrote:

America has been obsessed with student standardized tests for nearly 20 years. Now it looks like the country is at the beginning of the end of our high-stakes testing mania — both for K-12 “accountability” purposes and in college admissions.

When President George W. Bush signed the K-12 No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, the country began an experiment based on the belief that we could test our way to educational success and end the achievement gap. His successor, Barack Obama, ratcheted up the stakes of test scores under that same philosophy.
It didn’t work, which came as no surprise to teachers and other critics. They had long pointed to extensive research showing standardized test scores are most strongly correlated to a student’s life circumstances. Real reform, they said, means addressing students’ social and emotional needs and the conditions in which they live, and making improvements in school buildings.

Higher education was not immune to the testing frenzy, either, at least not in admissions. Scores on the SAT or ACT became an important factor in deciding who was accepted. College rankings — led by the annual lists of U.S. News & World Report, which were heavily weighted on test scores — became powerful as students relied on them and schools tried to improve their rankings with targeted reforms. Scholarship programs were linked to test scores, and some companies checked the scores of potential hires.

Florida spent millions of dollars to give bonuses to teachers with high SAT scores — even decades after the tests were taken.

Now, we are seeing the collapse of the two-decade-old bipartisan consensus among major policymakers that testing was the key lever for holding students, schools and teachers “accountable.”

And it is no coincidence that it is happening against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic that forced educational institutions to revamp how they operate.
States are learning they can live without them, having been given permission by the Department of Education to not give them this past spring. Georgia has already announced its intention to get a waiver for 2020-21, too.

A tsunami of colleges and universities have dropped the requirement for an ACT or SAT score for at least a year. The huge organizations that own the tests, ACT Inc. and the College Board, are clearly struggling in the new environment.
Even high-stakes law exams are starting to be waived. Washington state’s Supreme Court just decided to allow graduates from American Bar Association-accredited law schools who were registered to take the bar exam in July or September to be licensed without passing the test. The winning argument was that it would be too difficult for many students to study for and take the exam during the pandemic. The justices must have thought the education and grades the students received in law school were good enough.

Politically, too, the stars seem aligned for a serious de-escalation of testing. President Trump has never been a loud advocate for standardized testing and has repeatedly said his education priority is expanding alternatives to public school districts. His education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has not been a testing proponent either, with her eye instead on expanding school “choice.”

Former vice president Joe Biden, who is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and ahead of Trump in many polls, has tried to distance himself from the pro-testing policies of the Obama administration. He was not a cheerleader of testing during Obama’s two terms and has said recently he is opposed to high-stakes testing. That’s not a promise that he will work to reduce it, but it is a promising suggestion.

None of this means standardized testing will stop, or even that every state and district will cut back, or that all colleges and universities will stop requiring an SAT or ACT score to apply.

But here are some developments in the testing world that show that more policymakers understand tests can’t fix problems in schools — and that schools alone can’t fix the nation’s problems.

This past spring, K-12 school districts across the country did something that for nearly two decades had been deemed unthinkable.
With permission from the Education Department, they canceled annual high-stakes standardized testing after the covid-19 crisis upended the last several months of the school year.

Millions of students were at home, learning remotely either on paper or on screens. And state leaders realized it wasn’t plausible or fair to give students the tests.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) made the point that “the world will not come to an end” if the federally mandated tests weren’t given — though for years, federal and state policymakers had acted as if it would.

States require students to take standardized tests for different purposes. Some tests are mandated by K-12 law, and while that didn’t start with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), it ushered in the high-stakes testing era in which punishments were meted out to schools and teachers based on how well students performed on the exams. It didn’t matter that testing experts repeatedly warned that using scores for these purposes was not valid or reliable.

States give standardized tests, too, for reasons including third-grade retention, high school graduation, and end-of-course exams. A two-year study released in 2015 revealed that kids were being forced to take too many mandated standardized tests — and that there was no evidence that adding testing time was improving student achievement. The average student in America’s big-city public schools was then taking some 112 mandatory standardized tests between prekindergarten and the end of 12th grade — an average of about eight a year, the study said. Those were on top of teacher-written tests.

The purported goal of NCLB — written with the input of not a single public school teacher — was to ensure that marginalized communities were not ignored by looking at test scores by student subgroups and targeting help where it was needed. Schools concentrated on math and English so students could pass the exams while giving short shrift to, or eliminating, classes in history, science, art, music, physical education and other subjects.

Public education advocates hoped Obama would stop the country’s obsession with standardized tests and address inequity baked into the funding system. His administration instead heightened the importance of the test scores by dangling federal funds in front of states that agreed to evaluate teachers through the exam results. States developed cockamamie schemes to do this, including grading teachers on students they didn’t have and subjects they didn’t teach.

A grass-roots effort to get the administration to change course took hold, and some states tried to find ways to cut back on local testing. But then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan micromanaged education policy so much that the department was derided as a “national school board,” and Congress, in late 2015 — eight years after it was supposed to — passed a successor law that sent policymaking largely back to the states.

By early 2016, Obama and his second education secretary, John B. King Jr., said kids were, after all, over-tested. Still, the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), mandated the same testing regime, and states were still spending millions of dollars each year on testing programs.
Ostensibly, the tests would provide data to schools about what students had learned and how effective teachers were.

But research study after study showed that the highest correlation was between the scores and whether a child lived in poverty.
This all made DeWine’s statement about the world not coming to an end if tests were suspended for a year an unusual admission.

On June 18, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) made it clear he doesn’t think missing two years of standardized testing is a big problem, either.
This past spring, DeVos gave all states a one-year waiver to suspend the federally mandated testing. Kemp announced that his state would be the first to seek a second testing waiver from the Education Department, this time for the soon-to-start 2020-21 school year.

Other states are likely to follow suit amid so much uncertainty about the trajectory of the pandemic.
Kemp also said that the “current high-stakes testing regime is excessive,” and promised to keep pushing an initiative in the state legislature to eliminate four of eight end-of-course exams required for high school students, and another standardized test given in middle school.

Georgia isn’t the only state that is now moving to cut back on standardized testing. In late May, the Ohio House of Representatives passed legislation to reduce standardized testing.

What could make this effort to cut testing different from earlier ones are the outside circumstances.

Because of the pandemic, states and school districts are facing potentially unprecedented budget deficits — and school spending in some states has still not recovered from the Great Recession of 2007-2009.
Because testing programs are extremely expensive, states could decide the costs aren’t worth the dubious results. Many teachers say they don’t need standardized tests to help them assess where students are in their learning.

Add to that the effects of the national uprising for racial justice, sparked by the death in police custody of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis.
Protesters in the streets are looking for justice not only in policing and the courts. They also want social, economic and educational justice.

Though educators have long known that students need more than tests to thrive and that schools must address more than academics, there is a new awareness among the people who make policy.
Spending mountains of money for inequitable testing accountability systems isn’t compatible with calls for more holistic ways of educating and helping students grow and thrive.

College admissions
On the higher education front, the pandemic also interrupted the SAT/ACT college admissions testing juggernaut.
With exam days canceled and aspiring college students getting frantic about not having a score to add to their applications, many colleges and universities said they would drop their requirements for an SAT or ACT test score for admission in fall 2021.

To be sure, a “test-optional” movement had been building for years. A nonprofit group called the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), which operated on a shoestring budget with a mission to end the misuse of standardized tests, worked with testing critics and compiled a list of colleges and universities that had dropped the use of ACT or SAT scores for admissions.
Hundreds of schools had already done so, as research showed the test scores were linked to socio-economic factors and not predictive of college success, despite counter statements by the College Board and ACT Inc.

Then the pandemic hit. Schools shut down and college students went home to finish their semesters virtually. The two testing giants canceled repeated administrations of their exams, losing millions of dollars and making it difficult for many students to get a score required by most institutions of higher education.

The inevitable happened: Colleges and universities announced suspensions of testing requirements for 2020-21. Some said they would not require tests for a few years as an experiment to see how the admissions process would do without them.

Then, in May, in what was called a seminal event in college admissions, the University of California system announced it would phase out SAT/ACT testing requirements over several years, with some members of the Board of Regents saying the tests were not helpful in creating diverse student bodies and one member labeling them “racist.” The prestigious system has long been a force in public higher education, and its decision is expected to influence other schools.
By mid-June, every Ivy League school had agreed to drop SAT/ACT requirements for students entering in the fall of 2020. FairTest’s list includes more than 1,250 schools that in some way allow students leeway in including test scores on their applications, albeit some of them just for 2020-21. (The list includes for-profit schools.)

The College Board and ACT have been struggling during the pandemic. Both were forced to cancel multiple administrations of the SAT and ACT, losing millions of dollars and leaving many students fearful they wouldn’t have a score for applications. Both promised they would offer at-home exams this fall if necessary, but the College Board backed off after its experiment with at-home Advanced Placement tests.
Though most students had no problem taking the AP tests, thousands did, and the College Board decided not to try an at-home SAT.

The ACT said it will go ahead, but the Iowa-based organization has other problems.
In May, ACT chief executive Marten Roorda, who aggressively lobbied against the UC decision, lost his job. At the same time, ACT announced it was taking “a series of cost-cutting measures,” including no raises and cuts in fringe benefits.

Meanwhile students trying in May to sign up for future AP and SAT exams, should they be given, ran into online trouble.

The fundamental notion that standardized testing is an effective way of gauging student achievement is being challenged more strongly than ever.
Some K-12 schools will continue to use these exams extensively, seeing them as a valuable tool, including in Florida, where former governor Jeb Bush (R) pioneered high-stakes accountability testing and still has influence in education policy.

And many colleges and universities will require admissions test scores, seeing them as a useful data point in making decisions on whom to admit.

But the combination of the pandemic, the uprising and disillusionment with the testing industry — which has been building among teachers, parents and students for years — points to a new chapter for public education, or, at least, the beginning of the end of our obsession with high-stakes standardized tests.

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

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.

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.
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.