Archives for category: U.S. education

Last week, I posted my thoughts on “Who Demoralized the Nation’s Teachers?” I sought to identify the people and organizations that spread the lie that America’s public schools were “broken” and that public school teachers were the cause. The critics slandered teachers repeatedly, claiming that teachers were dragging down student test scores. They said that today’s teachers were not bright enough; they said teachers had low SAT scores; and they were no longer “the best and the brightest.”

The “corporate reform” movement (the disruption movement) was driven in large part by the “reformers'” belief that public schools were obsolete and their teachers were the bottom of the barrel. So the “reformers” promoted school choice, especially charter schools, and Teach for America, to provide the labor supply for charter schools. TFA promised to bring smart college graduates for at least two years to staff public schools and charter schools, replacing the public school teachers whom TFA believed had low expectations. TFA would have high expectations, and these newcomers with their high SAT scores would turn around the nation’s schools. The “reformers” also promoted the spurious, ineffective and harmful idea that teachers could be evaluated by the test scores of their students, although this method repeatedly, consistently showed that those who taught affluent children were excellent, while those who taught children with special needs or limited-English proficiency or high poverty were unsatisfactory. “Value-added” methodology ranked teachers by the income and background of their students’ families, not by the teachers’ effectiveness.

All of these claims were propaganda that was skillfully utilized by people who wanted to privatize the funding of public education, eliminate unions, and crush the teaching profession.

The response to the post was immediate and sizable. Some thought the list of names and groups I posted was dated, others thought it needed additions. The comments of readers were so interesting that I present them here as a supplement to my original post. My list identified No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core as causes of demoralization that tied teachers to a standards-and-testing regime that reduced their autonomy as professionals. One reader said that the real beginning of the war on teachers was the Reagan-era report called “A Nation at Risk,” which asserted that American public schools were mired in mediocrity and needed dramatic changes. I agree that the “Nation at Risk” report launched the era of public-school bashing. But it was NCLB and the other “solutions” that launched teacher-bashing, blaming teachers for low test scores and judging teachers by their test scores. It should be noted that the crest of “reform” was 2010, when “Waiting for Superman” was released, Common Core was put into place, value-added test scores for teachers were published, and “reformers” like Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, and other became media stars, with their constant teacher-bashing. For what it’s worth, the National Assessment of Educational Progress flatlined from 2010 onwards. Test score gains, which were supposedly the point of all this “reform” activity, were non-existent on the nation’s most consequential test (no stakes attached).

Readers also blamed demoralization on teachers’ loss of autonomy, caused by federal laws and the testing imposed by them, and by the weakness of principals and administrators who did not protect teachers from the anti-education climate caused by NCLB, RTTT, ESSA, and the test-and-punish mindset that gripped the minds of the nation’s legislators and school leaders.

Readers said that my list left off important names of those responsible for demoralizing the nation’s teachers.

Here are readers’ additions, paraphrased by me:

Michelle Rhee, who was pictured on the cover of TIME magazine as the person who knew “How to Fix American Education” and lionized in a story by Amanda Ripley. Rhee was shown holding a broom, preparing to sweep “bad teachers” and “bad principals” out of the schools. During her brief tenure as Chancellor of D.C., she fired scores of teachers and added to her ruthless reputation by firing a principal on national television. For doing so, she was the Queen of “education reform” in the eyes of the national media until USA Today broke a major cheating scandal in the D.C. schools.

Joel Klein, antitrust lawyer who was chosen by Mayor Bloomberg to become the Chancellor of the New York City public schools, where he closed scores of schools because of their low test scores, embraced test-based evaluation of schools and teachers, and opened hundreds of small specialized schools and charter schools. He frequently derided teachers and blamed them for lagging test scores. He frequently reorganized the entire, vast school system, surrounding himself with aides with Business School graduates and Wall Street credentials. Under his leadership, NYC was the epitome of corporate reform, which inherently disrespected career educators.

Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City, billionaire funder of charter schools and of candidates running for state or local offices who supported privatization of public schools. He claimed that under his leadership, the test-score gap between different racial gaps had been cut in half or even closed, but it wasn’t true. He stated his desire to fire teachers who couldn’t “produce” high test scores, while doubling the size of the classes of teachers who could. His huge public relations staff circulated the story of a “New York City Miracle,” but it didn’t exist and evaporated as soon as he left office.

Reed Hastings, billionaire funder of charter schools and founder of Netflix. He expressed the wish that all school boards would be eliminated. The charter school was his ideal, managed privately without public oversight.

John King, charter school leader who was appointed New York Commissioner of Education. He was a cheerleader for the Common Core and high-stakes testing. He made parents so angry by his policies that he stopped appearing at public events. He was named U.S. Secretary of Education, following Arne Duncan, in the last year of the Obama administration and continued to advocate for the same ill-fated policies as Duncan.

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education despised public schools, unions, and teachers. She never had a good word to say about public schools. She wanted every student to attend religious schools at public expense.

Eli Broad and the “academy” he created to train superintendents with his ideas about top-down management and the alleged value of closing schools with low test scores

ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), which writes model legislation for privatizing public schools by opening charters and vouchers and lowering standards for teachers and crushing unions. More than 2,000 rightwing state legislators belong to ALEC and get their ideas directly from ALEC about privatization and other ways to crush public schools and their teachers.

Rupert Murdoch, the media, Time, Newsweek, NY Times, Washington Post for their hostility towards public schools and their warm, breathless reporting about charter schools and Teach for America. The Washington Post editorialist is a devotee of charter schools and loved Michelle Rhee’s cut-throat style. TIME ran two cover stories endorsing the “reform” movement; the one featuring Michelle Rhee, and the other referring to one of every four public school teachers as a “rotten apple.” The second cover lauded the idea that teachers were the cause of low test scores, and one of every four should be weeded out. Newsweek also had a Rhee cover, and another that declared in a sentence repeated on a chalkboard, “We Must Fire Bad Teachers,” as though the public schools were overrun with miscreant teachers.

David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core, which undermined the autonomy of teachers and ironically removed teachers’ focus on content and replaced it with empty skills. The Common Core valued “informational text” over literature and urged teachers to reduce time spent teaching literature.

Margaret Raymond, of the Walton-funded CREDO, which evaluates charter schools.

Hanna Skandera, who was Secretary of Education in New Mexico and tried to import the Florida model of testing, accountability, and choice to New Mexico. That state has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the nation, and the Florida model didn’t make any difference.

Governors who bashed teachers and public schools, like Chris Christie of New Jersey, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Gregg Abbott of Texas

“Researchers” like those from the Fordham Institute, who saw nothing good in public schools or their teaching

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, who turned Denver into a model of “reform,” with everything DFER wanted: charter schools and high-stakes testing.

Poorly behaving students and parents who won’t hold kids accountable for bad behavior

Campbell Brown and the 74

The U.S. Department of Education, for foisting terrible ideas on the nation’s schools and teachers, and state education departments and state superintendents for going along with these bad ideas. Not one state chief stood up and said, “We won’t do what is clearly wrong for our students and their teachers.”

The two big national unions, for going along with these bad ideas instead of fighting them tooth and nail.

And now I will quote readers’ comments exactly as they wrote them, without identifying their authors (they know who they are):

*Rightwing organizations like the American Enterprise Institute, (AEI), the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Heritage Foundation, even the allegedly Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) for publishing white papers masquerading as education research that promotes privatization.

*Wall St moguls who invented Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) to gamble on & profit from preK student test scores.

*Rogues Gallery. One body blow after another. A systematic 💦 water boarding with no respite. And then we add the Broad Foundation who sent Broad-trained “leadership” so drunk on arrogance and ignorance that the term “School Yard Bully” just doesn’t capture it.
Operating with the Imprimatur and thin veneer of venture capital, plutocratic philanthropy, these haughty thugs devastated every good program they laid eyes on. Sinking their claws instinctively into the intelligent, effective and cultured faculty FIRST.A well orchestrated, heavily scripted Saturday Night Massacre.

*Congress and the Presidents set the stage, but the US Department of Education was instrumental in making it all happen. They effectively implemented a coherent program to attack, smear and otherwise demoralize teachers. And make no mistake, it was quite purposeful

*This list is incomplete without members of Democrats for Education Reform. Add in Senator Ted Kennedy, whose role in the passage of No Child Left Behind was critical. Same for then Congressman and future Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who noted (bragged!) in his recent autobiography that he was essential in keeping President George W. Bush on track with NCLB.

*Let’s not forget Senate Chair Patty Murray. She has been an important player in keeping the worse of Ed Reform legislation alive.

*You have presented a rogue’s gallery of failed “reformers” that have worked against the common good. In addition to those mentioned, there has also been an ancillary group of promoters and enablers that have undermined public education including billionaire think tanks, foundations and members of both political parties. These people continue to spread lies and misinformation, and no amount of facts or research is able to diminish the drive to privatize. While so called reformers often hide behind an ideological shield, they are mostly about the greedy pursuit of appropriating the education that belongs to the people and transferring its billions in value into the pockets of the already wealthy. So called education reform is class warfare.

*The Clintons, whose 1994 reauthorization of ESEA set the stage for NCLB

*Don’t forget the so called ‘liberal’ media, publications such as the New York Times and the Boston Globe who have published pro charter piece after pro charter piece, while simultaneously dumping all over public schools

*I’d like to include a cast of editorialists like George Will, Bill Rhoden, and many others, who have parroted the plutocratic-backed Ed Reform line. Armstrong Williams would certainly be part of this.

*Going back even further into the origins of this madness, I would add to Diane’s excellent rogues gallery those unknown bureaucrats in state departments of education who replaced broad, general frameworks/overall strategic objectives with bullet lists of almost entirely content-free “standards” that served as the archetype of the Common [sic] Core [sic] based on the absurd theory that we should “teach skills” independent of content, all of which led, ironically, to trivialization of and aimlessnessness in ELA pedagogy and curricula and to a whole generation of young English teachers who themselves NOW KNOW NEXT TO NOTHING OF THE CONTENT OF THEIR SUBJECT, typified by the English teacher who told one of the parents who regularly contributes comments to this blog, “I’m an English teacher, so I don’t teach content.” So, today, instead of teaching, say, Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as part of a coherent and cumulative unit on common structures and techniques and genres of poetry, one gets idiotic test-practice exercises on “inferencing” and “finding the main idea,” with any random piece of writing as the “text.”

*It’s driven by how teachers have been treated the past 4-5 years, especially during the pandemic. Teachers are first responders. We should have been on the list of first-to-be-vaccinated. Schools should have strict mask and vaccine mandates. Teachers are professional educators. We should not be told what and how to teach by ignorant, conspiracy-driven MAGA parents. Public education is a cornerstone of democracy, and we teachers are motivated by a sense of civic duty. We are demoralized by attempts to destroy public education, led by anti-education bible-thumping “leaders” like Betsy DeVos and (in my home state) Frank Edelblut. Public education is being dismantled by gleeful right-wingers, while naive, well-intentioned moderates wring their hands and do little to defend it. It’s tiring to be under constant attack on the front lines, with no support. That’s why teachers are leaving today.

*One tiny example of a routine phenomenon. Teachers got the message pretty clearly: They were at the bottom of the pecking order. The absolute bottom. Micromanaged and undercut at every turn.Excellent points. The heavy handed top-down, bureaucratic demands for “data,” basically serve one goal, to justify the existence of administration.Don’t forget the voracious appetite of publishing companies…We had a district administrator prance around in our “professional; development days” tell use could not read novels or other picture books to the students…ONLY USE PEARSON.”And then 7 or so years later, the district made us THROW OUT every book from Pearson, and they bought new crap curriculum…that program was written by testing industry, not educators, I think it was “Benchmark,” real junk.

*I’d like to mention how I often lose my student teachers when they see the edTPA requirement. They switch majors, and the teaching pool gets even smaller.

*After Skamdera in NM came the TFA VAM sweetheart Christopher Ruszkowski. At least he had 3 years in a classroom, Skammy had none, but the Florida model, you know?

*Children’s behavior is in large part in response to the drill and kill curriculum and endless testing and teaching to the test that has been driving public education since NCLB and the back-to-basics movement that ushered it in. No room for creativity, no room for self expression, no room for innovation. Highly scripted Curriculum like Open Court turned children into little automatons, barking their answers like well trained dogs and turned teachers into task masters. It was a drive to dummy down the curriculum for fear of teaching too much free thinking. And a drive to turn teachers into testing machines and teacher technicians, easily replaced by anyone who can walk in a classroom and pick up the manual. Only it doesn’t work. It was and is developmentally inappropriate and the resulting rebellion in the classrooms if proof of that. No wonder teachers are leaving in droves!

*Under threat of closure of the MA school board in the mid 1800s, Horace Mann turned to the cheapest labor he could find, literate northern females, and deployed the Protestant ethic “teacher as a calling” trope to institute state free-riding on teachers (as opposed to the free-riding of which teachers are accused). Everything in this piece is correct except for the “almost” in the final paragraph. There’s no “almost” about it … free-riding on teachers is an operational feature of a system imported from Prussia, designed to produce cheap, obedient labor by underpaying women. As of 2012, teachers would need to make around 1/3 higher salaries to be paid on the same level as their professional peers. Everyone mentioned in the article is simply this generation’s enactment of the long-standing, systemic class war that preys on gender and race to continue and exacerbate inequity. While naming the current situation is very important, we also need to discuss, address, and shift these deep issues.

*It’s the boiled frog effect over the last 50 years that began as a response to mini-courses, sixties curriculum, obsession over college attendance, professors and teachers walking out to protest with their students, Viet Nam… and the Civil Rights Act. Since 1964, Intentional segregation influenced Local, state, and federal decision making on transportation, health care, insurance, zoning, housing, education funding, hiring, and more. When whites fled the cities and insured two sides of the tracks in towns and two systems evolved, quick fixes became that accumulation of bad decisions and leadership – and slowly, slowly, deterioration became acceptable.

*The list is not dated. It’s illustrative of the accumulation of negativity, quick-fix seeking, acronym-filled, snake-oil salesmen, desperate mayors and governors, obsession with rankings, publisher fixation on common core, NCLB votes hidden under the shadow of 9/11, and keep-everyone-happy state and national professional organizations.

*At the end of 2021 it is far right and left of politics and their rhetoric like CRT and homophobic slurs. So much for especially the “Christian Right.” In their god’s (yes lower case since not The Lord Jesus Christ’s New Testament words of love) name they exclude instead of include to share the good news/word.

*Data, data, data. Yesterday, I commented that I feel sympathetic toward the anti-CRT petitioners. I do. They’re not bad people. They’re just afraid of changing social rules. Their actions are demoralizing, but not dehumanizing. Wealthy corporations and individuals on the other hand , through their untaxed foundations, gave carrots to governments the world over to give the stick to education so that greater profits could be made through privatization and data monetizing. I was once called a 2. I was once labeled the color grey. I was numbered, dehumanized by test score data in an attempt to make education like Uber or Yelp. Not just demoralized, dehumanized. It’s not just who but what dehumanized teachers. It was the wrongheaded idea that education can be measured and sold by the unit. That idea was insidious. The marketing ploy to make my students into consumers who consider their efforts junk unless they are labeled with the right number or dashboard color was insidious. I have no sympathy for the investor class. They are not people with whom I disagree about social issues; they are hostile, corporate takeover wolves out to tear the flesh of the formerly middle and deeply impoverished classes for profit. Not one of the investors in education “reform” or any of their revolving door bureaucrats is any friend of mine. The list of who is long. The list of what is short.

*Jonah Edelman (Founder, Stand on Children); brother Josh Edelman (Gates Foundation: Empowering-?!–Effective Teaching; SEED Charter Schools); Charles & David Koch. Pear$on Publishing monopoly&, of course, ALEC (interfering in our business for FIFTY long years!)


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.

This is a great article, written in 2015. How could I have missed it!

It was written by Salvator Babones, a professor of sociology at the University of Sydney and the Institute for Policy Studies.

He begins:

When did reform become a dirty word? Thirty years of education reform have brought a barren, test-bound curriculum that stigmatizes students, vilifies teachers, and encourages administrators to commit wholesale fraud in order to hit the testing goals that have been set for them. Strangely, reform has gone from being a progressive cause to being a conservative curse. It used to be that good people pursued reform to make the world a better place, usually by bringing public services under transparent, meritocratic, democratically governed public control. Today, reform more often involves firing people and dismantling public services in the pursuit of private gain. Where did it all go so wrong? Who stole our ever-progressing public sector, and in the process stole one of our most effective words for improving it?

At least so far as education reform is concerned, the answer is clear. The current age of education reform can be traced to the landmark 1983 report A Nation at Risk, subtitled “The Imperative for Educational Reform.” Future dictionaries may mark this report as the turning point when the definition of reform changed from cause to a curse. In 1981 Ronald Reagan’s first Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell appointed an 18-person commission to look into the state of US schools. He charged the commission with addressing “the widespread public perception that something is seriously remiss in our educational system.” The commission included 12 administrators, 1 businessperson, 1 chemist, 1 physicist, 1 politician, 1 conservative activist, and 1 teacher. No students or recent graduates. No everyday parents. No representatives of parents’ organizations. No social workers, school psychologists, or guidance counselors. No representatives of teacher’s unions (God forbid). Just one practicing teacher and not a single academic expert on education.

It should come as no surprise that a commission dominated by administrators found that the problems of U.S. schools were mainly caused by lazy students and unaccountable teachers. Administrative incompetence was not on the agenda. Nor were poverty, inequality, and racial discrimination. A Nation at Risk began from the assumption that our public schools were failing. Of course our public schools were failing. Our public schools are always failing. No investigative panel has ever found that our public schools are succeeding. But if public schools have been failing for so long—if they were already failing in 1983 and have been failing ever since—then very few of us alive today could possibly have had a decent education. So who are we to offer solutions for fixing these failing schools? We are ourselves the products of the very failing schools we propose to fix.

 

“A Nation at Risk” was published in 1983. It launched the false narrative that American public schools were failing. The nation was in recession, and the authors of the report blamed the schools. When the economy improved, no one said, “Oops, we were wrong about the schools.”

In this article, James Harvey and David Berliner reflect on what the report said, and what needs to change to create real reform.

Although there is powerful evidence of significant improvement in American schools since 1971, as Arne Duncan, President Barack Obama’s first secretary of education, recently noted, “A Nation at Risk” itself ignored that evidence in favor of launching what turned into a “shock and awe” campaign that promoted a consistent narrative of school failure.

Part of the shock and awe campaign used the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  With the encouragement of Secretary Bennett and his allies, this excellent assessment was diverted from its original purpose of measuring what students at various grade levels actually know to a new goal: judging what students at various grade levels should know.

Adding to the confusion, NAEP’s governing body, the National Assessment Governing Board, adopted three vague terms to define performance benchmarks: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. Almost nobody understands what these terms mean. Analysts, journalists, and state officials use the term “proficient” as the barometer of success despite the fact that the government has consistently maintained that what most people would consider to be proficient performance would not meet NAEP’s definition of proficiency.

So we are told every few years that only about a third of our students are “proficient” in reading or mathematics under NAEP’s benchmarks as though that were information of great value. Yet it is clear from recent research published by the National Superintendents Roundtable and the Horace Mann League (“How High the Bar?”) that the vast majority of students in most nations cannot clear the NAEP bar of “proficiency.”

Indeed, government officials acknowledge that to understand how many students in the United States are performing at grade level, the appropriate benchmark to examine is “basic,” not “proficient.“

What to Do?

Nobody should think for a minute that there aren’t very real problems with learning in America.  There’s a lot to be done.  But we’re not going to solve our school problems by exaggerating them or by misleading the public about school quality.

It is simply not true that American schools are failing 60 percent or more of their students, as NAEP’s proficient benchmark suggests. NAEP’s data indicate that nearly 70 percent of fourth graders are performing on grade level in reading, with 80 percent performing on grade level in mathematics. For 8th graders, the rates are 76 and 70 percent, respectively. While it would be gratifying to see higher numbers, these results are a much better guide to action than the deceptive picture of failure painted by the misleading term “proficient.”

“How High the Bar?” recommends that NAEP adopt benchmarks used by international education assessments, such as low, intermediate, high, and advanced. These terms provide a much more neutral and accurate take on student achievement.

It’s time also that we put an end to educational policy-making grounded in testing and tax cuts. As the recent wave of statewide protests across the nation indicates, educators are tired of standing by, their dignity under assault while their incomes stagnate and books and buildings fall apart.

Of course we should build more flexibility into the system, along with more variety and greater responsiveness to student and parent preferences.

Finally, we should go back to some of the advice the excellence commission received during its hearings but tossed aside in developing its report.  Oddly, President George H.W. Bush adopted some of these ideas in his “America 2000” program. Make sure all infants have a decent start in life so that they’re “ready” when school begins.  Worry about the 80 percent of their waking hours that students spend outside the school walls.  Provide adequate health care for children and a living wage for working parents, along with affordable day-care.

We can’t afford these things? Nonsense!  The United States is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. It can certainly provide its citizens with the basics that other nations provide to theirs.

Please read this wonderful statement!

Willam Mathis is Vice-Chairman of the Vermont Board of Education and Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center.

Losing our Purpose, Measuring the Wrong Things.

“Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to, convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.”

■ Thomas Jefferson

“For our first 200 years, the paramount purpose for building and sustaining universal public education was to nurture democracy. Written into state constitutions, education was to consolidate a stew of different languages, religious affiliations, ethnic groups and levels of fortune into a working commonwealth.

“As Massachusetts’ constitutional framers wrote, “Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, (is) necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties….”

In the nineteenth century, Horace Mann, father of the common schools movement, said “Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men – the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” Through the twentieth century, the popular view was that universal education would produce an equal and democratic society.

“Pulitzer Prize historian Lawrence Cremin and economist John Kenneth Galbraith viewed the GI bill’s educational entitlements as the key building blocks of the strongest democracy and economic power in world history.

“As a result, higher education became democratized and millions were lifted into the middle class. The nation was at the zenith of world influence and democratic parity.

“But our social progress is checkered. Residential segregation and unequal opportunities still blight our society, economy and schools. Unfortunately, rather than addressing politically unpopular root causes, it was far more convenient to demand schools solve these problems.

“The Shift in Educational Purposes – No serious effort was made to assure equal opportunities, for example. Thus, the achievement gap was finessed by blaming the victim.

“Instead of advancing democracy, our neediest schools were underfunded. The new purpose, test-based reform, appealed to conservatives because it sounded tough and punitive; to liberals because it illuminated the plainly visible problems; and it was cheap – the costs were passed on to the schools.

“​Having high test scores was falsely linked to national economic performance. In hyperbolic overdrive, the 1983 Nation at Risk report thundered,”the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

“After 35 years of this same Chicken Little jeremiad, the nation is still the premier economy of the world, leads the world in patents, registers record high stock prices, and is second in international manufacturing. (For the nation as a whole, the independent Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates that we do not have a math and science shortage).

“By declaring schools “failures,” public monies were increasingly diverted to private corporations. Yet, after a half-century of trials, there is no body of evidence that shows privatized schools are better or less expensive. Large-scale voucher programs actually show substantial score declines. The plain fact is that privatization, even at its best, does not have sufficient power to close the achievement gap — but it segregates. It imperils the unity of schools and society. This proposed solution works against the very democratic and equity principles for which public systems were formed.

“The Genius of American Civilization – As a nation, our genius is in when we work with common and united purpose. We came together and defined nationhood with the common schools movement. We recovered and rebuilt our society and our economy with the New Deal and the GI bill. Education became universal and we protected the poor and those with special needs with considerable success.

“Regrettably, we are still dealing with echoes of our great civil war, economic segregation is greater than what we saw in the gilded age, environmental catastrophes threaten entire species, economic uncertainty unsteadies many, health care is still unresolved, and our federal government’s lack of stability has reached crisis levels. We are torn by a new racism, bigotry and selfishness.

“If our purpose is a democratic and equitable society, test scores take us off-purpose. They distract our attention. Rather, our success is measured by how well we enhance health in our society, manifest civic virtues, behave as a society, and dedicate ourselves to the common good. Jefferson reminds us, “If the children are untaught, their ignorance and vices will in future life cost us much dearer in their consequences than it would have done in their correction by a good education.”

“The great balance wheel turns slowly. We must select leaders who embrace higher purposes and in John Dewey’s words, choose people who will expand our heritage of values, make the world more solid and secure, and more generously share it with those that come after us.”

William J. Mathis is vice-chair of the Vermont Board of Education and is the Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of any group with which he is affiliated.


NPE Action exists to fight school privatization and to demand better resourced, more equitable schools.

Here is the latest news on the privatization front.


Good News! House Bill HR 610, the School Choice Act, Appears to Have Stalled

HR 610 was written to eliminate the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which was passed as a part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” and to create block grants to “distribute a portion of funds to parents who elect to enroll their child in a private school or to home-school their child.” It would also lower nutritional standards for free or reduced priced lunches.

Thanks to your efforts, the Network for Public Education generated over 32,000 emails to members of the U.S. House of Representatives in opposition to this bill. That is a job well done, members!

Be our Eyes and Ears in Your State

Voucher bills and bills that expand charter schools are popping up in nearly every state. When we learn of such bills, we create an action alert that produces a barrage of emails to lawmakers. We need your help in keeping us up to date.

Become a member of our state alert system. If you know of a bill in your state that would promote vouchers, so-called education savings accounts, or tax credit funded “scholarships” to private schools, let us know using the form below. If there is a bill that would expand charter schools or reduce their governing regulations, tell us.

You can find the sign-up form here. Please be sure to save it in your favorites for easy access.

We will then investigate the bill and help mobilize activists in your state.

NPE Action Welcomes Tina Andres to its Board of Directors

Tina Andres has been a public school teacher for 30 years in Santa Ana, California. She has taught elementary special education classes and middle school mathematics for 25 years. She has served as a math curriculum specialist, and mentored over 50 student teachers from public universities throughout her career. Tina is married with two children who attend Santa Ana schools. She is an active member of NEA and CTA and serves on the State Council. Tina is also a member of the BATs Board of Directors. She is a proud advocate for public schools. We welcome Tina to our NPE Action Board.

Are you a School Board Member? It’s Time to Organize!

NPE Action is creating a nationwide Grassroots School Board Members Network. If you are a member of a board of education, please sign up to join​.

https://npeaction.org/2017/03/03/7286/

This new grassroots group will provide a means by which you can share resolutions, actions, and communicate with like-minded board members who are intent on supporting and preserving public education.

We believe that School Boards are vital for democratically goverend public schools, and we want to fight with you to make sure that the public understands their importance. We will also provide resources and information.

There is no cost to you–our only motivation is to help you find like-minded board members with whom you can communicate in this important struggle to save our public schools from privatization.

If you would like to join, please fill out our short form that you can find here. If you are not a school board member, please share the form with a school board member.

https://npeaction.org/2017/03/03/7286/

G. F. Brandenburg, a fearless blogger who taught math for many years in the schools of D.C., writes here about the hypocrisy of reformer rhetoric. 

 

He writes:

 

If you look at the lingo used to justify all the horrendous crap being imposed by “Ed reform”, you’ll see that it’s all couched in lefty-liberal civil rights language. But its results are anything but. Very strange.

 

He takes, for example, the flowery language used to recruit college students to join Teach for America. They are led to believe that their presence will reduce the achievement gap and bring us closer to the day when all children, regardless of zip code, get an excellent education.

 

 

He writes:

 

GFB: However, the way TFA works in practice is that the kids who need the most experienced, skillful teachers, instead get total newbies straight out of college with no teaching experience, no mentoring, and courses on how to teach whatever subject they are they are assigned to. Their five weeks of summer training are mostly rah-rah cheerleading and browbeating. Their only classroom experiences during that summer are a dozen or so hours teaching a handful of kids, **in a subject or grade level totally different from whatever they will be randomly assigned to**.

What underprivileged students do NOT need is an untrained newbie who won’t stick with them. If anything, this policy INCREASES the ‘achievement gap’.

 

He then proposes 17 ideas that would actually improve the lives of children and their education. Begin, he says, by getting non-educators out of the drivers’ seat.

 

Get people who don’t have actual, extensive teaching or research experience out of the command and control centers of education except as advisors. So, no Michelle Rhee, Andre Agassi, Arne Duncan, Billionaire Broad at the helm.

 

Read his other good ideas, and add your own.

 

 

Rebecca Mead writes in The New Yorker that the presidential campaign has almost entirely overlooked K-12 education. The subject never came up in the presidential debates (nor did climate change).

She writes:

Unsurprisingly, the candidates differ as much on their approach to education as they do on virtually every other issue, as the Washington Post outlined in a helpful analysis earlier this month. In September, Donald Trump delivered a speech at the Cleveland Arts and Sciences Academy, a charter school in Cleveland, Ohio, in which he offered his vision, though not before delivering an extended peroration about the perfidies of his Democratic opponent—e-mail, Iraq, the Clinton Foundation—unrelated to educational concerns. When he did get around to his own proposals, he spoke of expanding existing school-choice programs, promising that in a Trump Administration twenty billion dollars of federal education funds would be reassigned to provide a block grant enabling the eleven million students living in poverty to attend the private or public school of their parents’ choice. “Competition always does it,” he said. “The weak fall out and the strong get better. It is an amazing thing.” He advocated merit pay for teachers, stated his opposition to Common Core, and spoke in favor of charter schools and against teachers’ unions. “It’s time for our country to start thinking big and correct once again,” he declared, thereby failing to meet the second-grade Common Core standard 2.1.E. (“Use adjectives and adverbs, and choose between them depending on what is to be modified.”)

Clinton has a long-standing commitment to educational issues; as First Lady of Arkansas, in 1983, she headed a committee to improve academic achievement among the state’s public-school students. She has declared the intention of “preparing, supporting, and paying every child’s teacher as if the future of our country is in their hands,” and has given some suggestions as to how that estimable goal would be accomplished. She has said that she will provide funding to increase the teaching of computer science; she has also pledged to fund the rebuilding of school infrastructure, and to address the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, whereby African-American and minority students are disproportionately subject to overly punitive disciplinary policies, often involving law enforcement, within the schools they attend; she would fund interventions in social and emotional learning, to the tune of two billion dollars.

Clinton has left us all guessing about charter schools, but she has a balancing act: She needs money to run her campaign (think DFER), and she needs to satisfy the her strong supporters, the teachers’ unions, whose very existence is put at risk by the growth of the non-union charter industry (more than 90% of charter schools are non-union).

But of this we can be sure: Trump is 100% aligned with the far-right that hates public schools and unions. He loves charter schools and vouchers. He thinks he will “get rid” of the Common Core, but he doesn’t know that the president does not have the power to do so. His surrogate Carl Paladino of Buffalo, New York, said that Trump would not put an educator in charge of the Department of Education. The Trump campaign seems to look at public education as a cancerous growth on American society.

A vote for Trump is a vote to cripple and perhaps abandon public education.

A vote for Clinton is a vote for a candidate who has some good ideas and who knows that Obama’s education policies have been unsuccessful. Many think she will continue the status quo, but count me as one who expects that she will look for ways to improve public schools, not destroy them.

Jersey Jazzman cringed (I imagine) as he watched Donald Trump Jr. spout off about the failures of American public education. Young Trump wants all children to have the same choices that he had. That’s what makes great education, right? Choice.

But Jersey Jazzman (aka teacher and doctoral student Mark Weber) knows that all children will never have the same choices that the son of a billionaire had.

Trump Jr. said:

Growing up, my siblings and I, we were truly fortunate to have choices and options that others don’t have. We want all Americans to have those same opportunities. Our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class. Now, they’re stalled on the ground floor. They’re like Soviet era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers. For the teachers and the administrators and not the students.

You know why other countries do better on K through 12?* They let parents choose where to send their own children to school. That’s called competition. It’s called the free market. And it’s what the other party fears. They fear it because they’re more concerned about protecting the jobs of tenured teachers than serving the students in desperate need of a good education.

Don Trump Jr. and his brother Eric attended The Hill School in Pottstown, PA, where the tuition for boarding students is $55,600 per year. (Ivanka attended the Choate School, another elite boarding school.) The student-teacher ratio at the Hill School is 7:1. The average class size is 12-14 students. Many of the teachers get free housing on campus. The facilities, the academic curriculum, the extra-curricular activities, and the sports offerings are splendiferous.

Don Trump Jr. is right! All children should “have those same opportunities.”

But that means spending much more money on education, not giving kids a voucher worth $7,000. How about a voucher worth $55,000 so they can go to the Hill School or Choate?

Jersey Jazzman gives almost equal heat to Hillary, not because she sent Chelsea to Sidwell Friends (a choice also made by the Obamas, the Nixons, and Al Gore), but because she has not addressed the need to increase funding for the schools with the greatest needs.

Since George H.W. Bush in 1988, every president has promised to be the “Education President,” but none has been willing to make sure that the nation’s schools have the resources they need for the children they enroll. Instead they prefer to push choice or testing or standards or some other “fix” that fixes nothing.

The US Department of Education reported that the high school graduation rate rose to another historic high.

The rate represents those who graduated in four years. It does not include those who graduated in August or took five years to graduate. The overall graduation rate of the population 18-24 is higher than the four-year rate. Sometimes I think it was set at precisely four years to make the schools look bad. Personally, I think both rates should be reported at the same time: the four-year rate and the rate for the group 18-24, which shows a truer picture.

It should also be noted that the pressure to raise graduation rates as a marker of success may have inflated the graduation rate through such dubious means as “credit recovery,” in which students who failed a course may get full credit by taking a short-cut program, often online, often fraudulent in terms of learning.

It should also be noted that the District of Columbia has the lowest graduation rate of any state (DC is reported in federal data as both a state and a city). DC is widely hailed as one of the stars of the corporate reform movement. It has been under mayoral control since 2007, when Michelle Rhee took charge as chancellor. Bill Gates once said it would take a decade to know if “this stuff” works. The clock is ticking. Maybe he meant to say two decades or three.