Archives for category: Race to the Top

Earlier today, I posted a piece by Andy Jones, a high school language arts teacher in Hawaii. In the introduction, I mistakenly said that Hawaii had eliminated the teacher evaluation system that was created in response to winning Race to the Top funding. I wrote: “This past spring, Hawaii dropped the test-based teacher evaluation that Race to the Top had forced on the state as a condition of winning RTTT funds. The money was all gone, and so was this bad idea.” That was not completely accurate.

Andy Jones sent this note to correct me:

“I so hate to ask, but…the HSTA secretary, who along with everyone else here is a great admirer of your work, just asked me if I could mention to you that your intro to my article is somewhat inaccurate, in that the teacher evaluation system (EES) is still in place. We were merely successful in eliminating test scores from the evaluation. We are, however, almost equally angry at present, because in the months since that announcement was made, they have insisted on maintaining the excoriated SLO component (Student Learning Outcomes) – the mindbogglingly ridiculous quasi-action-research template we have to go through in our evaluations in which we choose learning objectives, administer pre-assessments, make predictions about student learning, collect evidence of student growth, etc., and are only rated “distinguished” if 90% of our predictions are accurate. This is now worth 50% of our evaluation, along with the standard Danielson-based observation cycle and Core Professionalism (basically a portfolio on Danielson Domain 4) comprising the other 50%.

“HSTA secretary Amy Perruso wanted me to post you on this, because she’s afraid that HSTA will now be bombarded with emails and telephone calls asking “How did you get rid of the teacher evaluations?” – which, unfortunately we have not and which we’re going to be attempting very aggressively this year to get rid of.

– Andy”

John Thompson, teacher and historian in Oklahoma, is a frequent contributor to the blog.

Diane Ravitch publicized an educator’s concise and astute critique of Florida’s standards of instruction where “The FLDOE has absolutely no clue on how long it takes to teach each standard effectively.” An educational software company “looked at the standards that a fifth grade teacher is required to teach effectively and stopped counting when we found it would take a minimum of at least 300 school days to teach the standards to an effective level.” The obvious problem is that covering the tested standards would take 2/3rds of a school year more than the time students are in class – even if there were no disruptions of learning ranging from assemblies and class disruptions to the time wasted on benchmark and other form of testing.

Reader: It Takes 300 Days to Teach the Florida Standards Effectively

Moreover, even a Florida true believer in test-driven, competition-driven reform should understand “that these tests are not built to test your child’s learning knowledge, they are built to evaluate the schools and teachers on their effectiveness on teaching the standards.” Consequently, “In order for a teacher or school to score effectively on these tests you have to hope that the students that are coming into your classroom have at least some prior knowledge of the standards.” That, of course, helps explain why the contemporary reform movement, which was designed to help poor children of color, has inflicted the most damage on the kids that it was supposed to help.

We need far more press coverage of the absurdities fostered by high stakes testing. To know about the real-world effects of corporate school reform is to recognize why it should be ridiculed to death. We must also explain, however, that teaching and testing to a standards regime that is disconnected to reality is more than a farce. It is a tragedy. For our poorest children of color, the test, sort, reward, and punish path to school improvement has been especially cruel. And, don’t even get me started about the damage done to our society’s education values by bubble-in accountability.

In Oklahoma City, before NCLB, administrators would grin when they passed out aligned and paced curriculum guides. All types of educators were mostly amused that anyone would seriously contemplate such a guide for our Standards of Instruction as anything more than some silly paperwork to be filed away and forgotten. The time it took for students to master material obviously was the time it took to master material. There was no possible way that the rate of learning could be predetermined and, back then, administrators knew that there was no alternative to trusting the teachers’ judgments on the pacing of instruction. Besides, teachers and students need to be free to build on the kids’ interests and strengths, and get off the beaten path to engage in class discussions, take field trips, and pursue project-based learning.

The pacing guide listed the standards, or major concepts and skills, that students were supposed to master on its schedule. I was supposed to cover a major standard, something as complex and sweeping as the New Deal or the Cold War, every eight minutes, every hour of every day. A unit on World War II, for example, prescribed a one-day lesson to examine the rise of nationalism in the 1920s and 1930s, describe the causes of the war, elaborate on its outcomes and effects, from the Holocaust against the Jews and other groups, to economic and military shifts since 1945 to the founding of the United Nations and the political positioning of Europe, Africa, and Asia. This lesson was known in the curriculum guide as “Standard 16.4.” Another typical one-day lesson, known as Standard 7.2, was to describe China under the Qin, Han, T’ang, and Sung Dynasties; discuss the traditions, customs, beliefs, and significance of Buddhism; document the impact of Confucianism and Taoism, and detail the construction of the Great Wall.

Since history test scores were not included in the NCLB accountability matrix, nobody bothered to ask whether I followed the pacing guide. By 2005, however, freshman math and sophomore English teachers had to organize their instruction around those standards and, on Fridays, give benchmark tests, provided by the central office. Teachers resisted the micromanaging, so grades were mandated for benchmarks.

Soon failure rates soared from below 20% to 80% to 90% in tested subjects. Within three months, our school lost 40% of its students, mostly to the streets. This occurred as the percentage of our students on special education IEPs peaked at 30% and the number of high schoolers who could not read their name jumped from zero to twelve.

After that horrible fiasco, the doubling down on teach to the test according to a mandated schedule grew worse as individuals were supposed to be held accountable for test-score growth. My students complained that they had been robbed of an education. Their entire career had been dominated by fill-in-the-blanks, worksheet-driven pedagogy. Now, a full generation of kids have been subject to bubble-in malpractice.

And that raises the question of what else has been lost to corporate reform. Since 9/11, the global village has faced incredible challenges, but how many classes have been required to keep their aligned and paced schedule, and thus denied an opportunity to grapple with world historical issues. Digital miracles abound, but have schools introduced the younger generation to cultural literacy and media ethics? The economic and racial divide has exploded into view, but how many classes are denied the time to address the issues raised by Black Lives Matter? Global warming has accelerated and time is running out for wrestling with ecological dilemmas. But, how many minutes are allotted to environmentalism? Someday, our generation may be condemned for ignoring, and allowing our children to ignore, these crucial issues. Our reply – that we had to get through Standard 18.2, or whatever, before the standardized test – is likely to ring hollow.

Perhaps you don’t know who Peter Cunningham is. I didn’t know until he went to Washington as Arne Duncan’s chief PR guy (Assistant Secretary for Communications). I met Peter a few times, and I thought he was charming. We always disagreed with a smile or a laugh. He knew he would never persuade me, and I knew I would never get him to admit that Race to the Top was all wrong.

I recall a discussion of testing. I tried to persuade him that the most important things in life can’t be measured. He replied, “You measure what you treasure.” I of course responded, “what you really treasure can never be measured.” What about your children? Your spouse? Your parents? Your pets? Come on! I love certain paintings, certain music, certain movies. How much? I don’t know. What difference?

Mike Klonsky has been arguing on Twitter with Peter.

Peter has decided that it’s too late to worry about racial segregation. Apparently he thinks that talking about poverty is a distraction from school reform. Peter has become the voice of corporate reformers. They have controlled the narrative for at least 15 years. Where are the success stories?

Vermont is the smartest state in the nation. Not because of test scores, but because the officials in charge of education actually care about children and about education. When they look at the state’s children, they see children with names and faces, not just data. When they think about their schools, they see them as places where children should experience the excitement and joy of learning.

Vermont did not apply for a Race to the Top grant, meaning that it never was compelled to adopt Arne Duncan’s ideas about how to reform schools (which he failed to do when he was superintendent in Chicago).

Vermont never enacted charter school legislation. Vermont has its own kind of school choice program. If a district or town does not offer a public elementary or high school, students may receive a voucher to attend a private (non-religious) school. Such vouchers (called “town tuitioning”) are available only when there are no public schools available.

Vermont education officials think for themselves. Read their brilliant letter to Secretary of Education John King, advocate of high-stakes testing and privatization of public schools, about the inadequacies of ESSA and his proposed regulations.

They say:

The logic of ESSA is the same as NCLB. It is to identify “low performing schools.” Its operating theory is pressuring schools in the belief that the fear of punishment will improve student learning. It assumes poor achievement is a function of poor will. If we learned anything from NCLB, it is that that system does not work. It did not narrow gaps and did not lead to meaningful improvements in learning. If ESSA is similarly restrictive, we can expect no better.

This thinking perpetuates a disabling narrative about public schools. We ask for leadership from Washington that celebrates the glories of what we can accomplish rather than unrelenting dirges.

We are dismayed that the federal government continues to commoditize education and support charter and private schools which segregate children and show no particular learning advantage. We are disturbed that the federal government continues to underfund its commitment to our most vulnerable children, who are disproportionately served by public schools. We are disappointed that the federal government could not embrace and promote a more expansive understanding of the purpose and value of public schools in creating a strong citizenry.

We take note of the $1.3 billion budget cut approved by the House Appropriations Committee. While you have recently called for a broader “well-rounded” education, you suggest that these initiatives be paid for out of the funds that were just slashed. The federal government is ill- credentialed to call on more from states while providing less.

The Vermont State Board of Education feels it is time we commit to attacking the underlying challenges of poverty, despair, addiction and inequity that undermine school performance, rather than blaming the schools that strive to overcome the very manifestations of our greater social troubles. In the rules and the implementation of ESSA, we urge the federal government to both step-back from over-reach and narrowness; and step-up to a new re-framing, broadening and advancing of the promises of what we can achieve for the children and for the nation.

The letter can be found here.

In an interview published in The Hechinger Report, Randi Weingarten expresses her belief that Hillary Clinton will change course from the Obama education policies. She expects that a President Clinton would select a new Secretary of Education, one who shares her expressed belief in strengthening public schools and supporting teachers.

Emmanuel Felton, who conducted the interview, writes:

While teachers unions have long been a key pillar in Democratic Party, they’ve been on the outs with President Barack Obama’s education department. The administration doubled down on Republican President George W. Bush’s educational agenda of holding schools accountable for students’ test scores. Under the administration’s $3 billion School Improvement Grant program, for example, struggling schools had options to implement new accountability systems for teachers, remove staff, be closed or converted into charter schools, the vast majority of which employ non-unionized staff.

These policies devastated some local teachers unions, including Philadelphia’s, which lost 10,000 members during the Obama and Bush administrations. Weingarten expects Clinton to totally upend this agenda, and hopes she won’t reappoint Education Secretary John King, who was just confirmed by the senate in March.

From the day he was elected, President Obama decided to maintain the punitive policies of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and made standardized testing even more consequential. He and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pressed for higher standards, tougher accountability, and more choices, especially charter schools. They used Race to the Top to promote the evaluation of teachers by their students’ test scores, a policy that cost hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars, with nothing to show for it.

Let’s all hope that Hillary Clinton, if elected, will recognize the damage done by the Bush-Obama education agenda and push the “reset” button for a federal policy that helps children, educators, and public schools.

Joseph Ricciotti, veteran educator in Connecticut, wonders if Hillary Clinton will forge a different path from that of the Obama administration. He points out that Race to the Top and Common Core were both major disasters. Race to the Top was built on the assumptions of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, and proved even more harmful to public education and to children.

He notes that she benefited in her campaign by the early endorsements of the two teachers’ unions, the NEA and AFT.

He writes:

She can be thankful in no small part to the major role that the teacher organizations in the nation such as the National Educational Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) played in their early endorsement of her presidency. Public school teachers and parents are fighting the battle of their lives in attempting to hold off the forces of privatization along with the onslaught of charter schools in the nation.


Sadly, theses forces of privatization received major support from Arne Duncan, the former Secretary of Education appointed by President Barack Obama. No other Education Secretary, especially Democratic, has done more to privatize and weaken public education than Arne Duncan who was also obsessed with standardized testing. Under his regime, public schools across the nation experienced two failed programs with Race to the Top (RTTT) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS). His so-called “testocracy” grossly neglected the impact of childhood poverty on learning for children from impoverished homes.

Likewise, under Duncan’s time in office, we have witnessed the demise of the neighborhood school and the growth of charter schools, all with corporate sponsors. Hence, it was obvious that former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was not a public school advocate but rather a paid shill who was in the pockets of the corporate reformers and the testing industry.

If Clinton is elected as president in 2016, it will not take very long for both the NEA and the AFT to know whether their early presidential endorsement has been wasted, as was the case following Barack Obama’s nomination eight years ago in his selection of Duncan as Secretary of Education. Whether Clinton chooses someone to serve as Secretary of Education who will undo the disastrous harm that Duncan has inflicted on public education in his eight years remains to be seen. Will she choose another corporate reformer or will she surprise everyone with an appointment of someone who will be a true advocate of public education and who is widely respected by the supporters of public education in the nation?

I can’t bring myself to tell you whom he recommends to lead the Department of Education.

Valerie Strauss conducted a written Q&A exchange with me over the weekend.

She asked good questions. She wanted to know what I had changed in the revision of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

She asked me what I would say to President Obama if I had the chance to sit down with him.

She asked what I thought Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would do.

I thought it was a good opportunity to sum up what is happening right now.

As an aside, readers of this blog might be interested to note that our old friend Virginia SGP comments and claims that he was “censored” on my blog. Happily, a reader of this blog pointed out that he was limited to only four comments a day, which is not censorship. If I posted everything he sent in, he would have had 10-12 comments a day. And then there was the problem that he often used his space to slam and slander people he disagreed with. Not me, but others. He has left us, sadly. I no longer have to read a dozen comments of his daily and decide which to post.

Larry Cuban writes on his blog about the most important inventions that have raised our nation’s standard of living. He poses the question that is the title of this post. He supposes that most people would respond “the smartphone,” but they would be wrong. His post is an intriguing review of a book by economic historian Robert Gordon, who contends that the century from 1870-1970 experienced greater growth and innovation than the past half century.

Cuban summarizes Gordon’s central argument:

Thus, an unheralded, stunning century of innovation and economic growth produced the telegraph, phone, television, house lighting, automobile, airplane travel, and, yes, indoor plumbing. These inventions networked the home and workplace in ways that raised living standards and increased workplace productivity considerably. It was in that same century that medical advances reduced infant mortality and lengthened life of Americans dramatically.

The half-century since 1970 has surely seen innovations that have enhanced these earlier inventions but the template for economic growth was laid down for that fruitful hundred-year period. In past decades, new technologies have clearly expanded communication and entertainment, making life far more instantaneous, convenient and pleasurable. But social media, immediate communication, and constant access to photos, video clips, and films have not increased the standard of living as had the decades between 1870-1970.

Cuban then segues to a discussion of the current reform movement in education, which traces its roots to the 1983 report “A Nation at Risk.” That report was “driven by an economic rationale–the human capital argument–for improving U.S. schools” and embraced by policymakers, business leaders, and foundations. If we didn’t improve education dramatically, we would lose our competitive edge in the world economy. And thus was born the “reform movement,” in which governors and “reformers” sought to raise curriculum and performance standards for both students and teachers, increase testing, and create accountability frameworks that included rewards and penalties in subsequent decades….

The current reforms in education and the pressure to raise test scores on international tests have not increased economic growth, stimulated productivity, or reduced inequality, writes Cuban.

In other words, reforms aimed at getting U.S. students to perform better on international tests for the past three decades–think No Child Left Behind, expanded parental choice in schools, more computers in schools, and Common Core state standards–was of little influence on growing a strong economy, raising median income, or lessening inequality, according to Gordon. These reforms, while aiding low-income minorities in many instances, overall, contributed little to improving productivity or raising standards of living

Gordon’s book concludes, writes Cuban, with a list of ten interventions that could raise the standard of living, like raising the minimum wage. Of his ten interventions three have to do with education. They are:

“…investing in preschools, state and federal school financing rather than local taxes, and reducing student indebtedness in higher education. Not a word about the dominant school reforms in 2016–Common Core standards, standardized testing, technologies in schools, charter schools, accountability.

In questioning the dominant beliefs in current school reform as essential to economic growth, Gordon’s argument and evidence are useful to those politically active decision-makers, teachers, parents, and researchers who know that a democracy needs schools that do more than prepare children and youth for the workplace.

The paradox, as Cuban suggests, is that the more we focus on test scores and workplace readiness, the more we sacrifice civic values that may be of greater importance in a democracy.

The Oklahoma legislature passed a law eliminating student test scores as part of teacher evaluation. Hawaii did the same last week. Bit by bit, the most ill-advised, costly, and demoralizing part of Race to the Top is being rejected by the states. It has no research base. Researchers find that measuring teachers by their student scores is unreliable, unstable, and varies by the composition of the class. Its biggest contribution to American education has been to drive out good teachers and create s teacher shortage.

 

House leaders unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that eliminates the requirement to use student academic growth in Oklahoma’s teacher evaluation system.

 

House Bill 2957, which is estimated to save Oklahoma school districts millions of dollars and the Oklahoma State Department of Education more than $500,000, has been sent to the governor’s desk for signature.

 

“Amid this difficult budget year when public education has faced a variety of challenges, House Bill 2957 is a true bright spot of this year’s legislative session,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said. “By giving districts the option of removing the quantitative portion of teacher evaluations, we not only increase local control but lift outcomes by supporting our teachers while strengthening their professional development and growth in the classroom.”

 

Also praising the bill for its return to local decision-making was Rep. Michael Rogers,R-Broken Arrow, HB 2957’s House author.

 

“This legislation will return flexibility back to the districts on their evaluations while developing an individualized professional development program that will help all of our teachers and administrators,” he said.

 

HB 2957 removes the controversial and mandated Value-Added Measures – which tie a teacher’s performance rating to student test scores — from OSDE’s Teacher and Leader Effectiveness evaluation system and effectively eliminates the requirement that evaluation scores be used to terminate teachers. These quantitative evaluation tools will become optional for districts upon the governor’s signature.

 

Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, who co-authored the bill, said the legislation has been long overdue.

 

“After gathering input from a variety of stakeholders through a lengthy and thoughtful review process, we feel that HB 2957 promotes increased reflection and professional growth for teachers and leaders,” Ford said. “Now is the time to support the teachers in Oklahoma’s public education system by focusing on an evaluation system that places professional development first.”

 

Farewell and good riddance!

 

 

– See more at: http://m.examiner-enterprise.com/news/local-news/lawmakers-pass-teacher-evaluation-changes#sthash.xJo33ldE.dpuf

 

 

Emma Brown, writing in the Washington Post, reports the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress: High school seniors showed a slippage in their test scores in math and no improvement in reading.

 

Throughout the entire period of “reform” that started with No Child Left Behind, scores of high school students have been stagnant. Brown writes:

 

The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, also show a longer-term stagnation in 12th-grade performance in U.S. public and private schools: Scores on the 2015 reading test have dropped five points since 1992, the earliest year with comparable scores, and are unchanged in math during the past decade.

 

 

The NAEP report says:

 

In comparison to the first year of the current trendline, 2005, the average mathematics score in 2015 did not significantly differ. In comparison to the initial reading assessment year, 1992, the 2015 average reading score was lower.

 

In short, NCLB (signed into law in 2002) and Race to the Top (launched in 2009) have been failures. They have been disastrous failures. How many billions of dollars were wasted no testing and test prep? How many teachers and principals were fired? How many schools were closed? How many public schools were turned over to entrepreneurs?

 

As a nation, we have endured fourteen years of failed federal policies. Will we ever learn that testing doesn’t produce higher achievement? Will we ever learn that intrinsic motivation is more powerful than threats and rewards?

 

Heckuva job, President Obama and former Secretary Arne Duncan!