In reading an account in the ASCD Journal about the tug-of-war over the reauthorization of NCLB I recall the original bi-partisan passage of the bill. During the final negotiations, Jim Jeffords agreed to vote for the bill because it was supposed to include a proviso that would fully fund the special education law. This was a key issue for Jeffords whose home state, VT, included scores of small districts who constantly struggled to balance budgets when students with extraordinary special needs moved in. When the final bill was adopted Jeffords saw that his Republican colleagues pulled that proviso out of the bill, an action that contributed to Jeffords decision to pull out of the party and create a slim Democrat majority in the Senate.
Whenever I read about the desire for “bipartisan agreements” and promises of provisos that will include elements that ensure more equitable funding I think of Jim Jeffords. I hope Patty Murray does not fall victim to the same shenanigans… but expect to see vouchers and abandonment of the replacement of national common core tests with state developed tests as elements in whatever bill passes the Congress… Alas, Murray and other bi-partisan minded Democrats have nowhere to run.
As reported in a post earlier this week, the prognosis for federal spending on public education is not good and, as intimated in earlier posts, those of us hoping to see NCLB and RTTT replaced with something better might be disappointed. Allie Bidwell’s interview with Senate Education Chair Lamar Alexander in the US News and World Report makes me think we should be pessimistic about the repeal of NCLB and the demise of RTTT. My pessimism is based on the following:
- As the quote below indicates, neither the house or the senate reauthorization will eliminate the use of standardized tests. The quote:
The consensus we came to in our Senate education committee was that the federal role should be to require measures of student achievement, tests, and to publicize them so that parents and students and taxpayers would know how the schools were doing.
- That same quote implies that both legislative bodies are viewing schools as a commodity whose worth can best be measured by standardized tests and, presumably, if they don’t like the “product” available in their public school will be able go elsewhere to purchase something better.
- The Democrats, the presumptive “pro-public education branch” traded new funding for pre-school for vouchers. Alexander indicated to Bidwell that the compromise between the parties was reached when he and his Democrat counterpart Patty Murray “exercised restraint in search of a result” and abandoned positions on issues that divided them.
- The President and Congress seem to be in agreement on the broad issues, including the continuation of standardized testing. When asked about the prognosis for passing the reauthorization bill, Alexander was optimistic: “Whenever you get both houses of a Republican Congress on a parallel track and you’re talking with the president of a different party at the same time, your chances of success are pretty good.“
As I’ve written often in this blog, those who want to replace the Common Core should be careful what they are wishing for… because when the decision about what to teach and test is returned to the STATES it is highly likely that academic rigor will be replaced with Christian culture… and this may prove to be one of the worst outcomes of the Obama administration’s ineffective roll-out of a national accountability measure.
“Grading the Common Core: No Teaching Experience Required”, a matter-of-fact article by Mokoto Rich in yesterday’s NYTimes, describes the techniques national standardized testing consortia are using to grade their Common Core tests… and it’s not a pretty picture! Instead of hiring trained and carefully screened teachers and professors to grade the tests as ETS does for its AP tests, PARCC and Pearson are hiring temporary employees recruited through want ads… and here are the results:
There was a onetime wedding planner, a retired medical technologist and a former Pearson saleswoman with a master’s degree in marital counseling. To get the job, like other scorers nationwide, they needed a four-year college degree with relevant coursework, but no teaching experience. They earned $12 to $14 an hour, with the possibility of small bonuses if they hit daily quality and volume targets.
I found it fitting that the linchpin of the factory school— the standardized test— was graded using the factory model perfected by fast-food chains, as described by a Pearson executive below:
Officials from Pearson and Parcc, a nonprofit consortium that has coordinated development of new Common Core tests, say strict training and scoring protocols are intended to ensure consistency, no matter who is marking the tests.
At times, the scoring process can evoke the way a restaurant chain monitors the work of its employees and the quality of its products.
“From the standpoint of comparing us to a Starbucks or McDonald’s, where you go into those places you know exactly what you’re going to get,” said Bob Sanders, vice president of content and scoring management at Pearson North America, when asked whether such an analogy was apt.
“McDonald’s has a process in place to make sure they put two patties on that Big Mac,” he continued. “We do that exact same thing. We have processes to oversee our processes, and to make sure they are being followed.”
An article several years ago disparagingly compared students to widgets being manufactured in a factory… and now we have an executive favorably comparing his corporation to McDonalds… which effectively compares students to raw meat being converted into hamburgers for mass consumption.
One thing Rich’s article did not mention: these tests were inextricably linked to RTTT grants that, in turn, mandated the use of these test results to evaluate teachers. The net result: wedding planners and retired radiologists being paid $12-$14 dollars per hour are determining the fate of experienced classroom teachers across the country. But hey… it’s cheap, it’s fast, and it’s politically popular. What’s not to like?
In an editorial in today’s NYTimes, the editorial board describes a crisis that has been hiding in plain sight for decades: “…the isolation of millions of young black and Latino men, who are disengaged from school, work and mainstream institutions generally.” Except, as they note later in the piece, the problem extends well beyond young black and Latino men:
Nationally, 21.6 percent of black youths are neither working nor in school, compared with 20.3 percent of Native Americans, 16.3 percent of Latinos, 11.3 percent of whites and 7.9 percent of Asians. In nine metropolitan areas, at least one in four black youths are shut out of society this way.
After identifying the crises, the Times editors preposterously declare that the task of solving this problem “…has been left to the philanthropic community, which understands the crisis and has undertaken various educational initiatives.“
As readers of this blog realize, the “various educational initiatives” undertaken by the philanthropic community do not display an understanding of the crisis. The funding of selective charter schools that expel students who do not adhere to strict discipline codes and require parent engagement only serve to reinforce the alienation of the 16-24 year olds the Times describes. The philanthropists funding of the Common Core standards and the tests have done nothing to help schools located in neighborhoods with “high poverty, high unemployment, and housing segregation”. Indeed, they have only dispirited teachers working in the schools and parents whose children are assigned to them.
If philanthropists understood the crisis as the Times asserts, it seems that at least one of them would have launched an initiative to provide low income housing in the affluent communities where schools are successful, or initiated mentoring programs that worked to support the ongoing efforts of public schools, or provided apprenticeships and/or training programs within the highly profitable corporations they lead…
Based on the philanthropy community’s spending record, they “understand” the solution to the crisis: replace open admission “government schools” with selective charters and replace “bad teachers” with bright, vigorous, and untrained youthful teachers.
One other point the Times failed to make: if No Child Left Behind was a success and Race To The Top was a good investment of the limited similes funds provided to schools, wouldn’t the number of alienated and adrift 16-24 year olds have diminished markedly? If you need any further evidence that NCLB and RTTT are bankrupt, read this editorial.
Jordan Ellenberg’s op ed piece in the NYTimes earlier this week describes how states who abandoned the Common Core for political reasons replaced it with… THE COMMON CORE! Oh… and those tests that aligned with the Common Core… they were replaced with a NEW set of tests that, surprise, aligned with the THE COMMON CORE!
Ellenberg’s article offered several specific examples of the duplicitous actions of Governors and legislatures when it came to “abandoning” the common core… but it included on egregious error in this phrase in the opening paragraph:
The national reading and math standards, set up by a bipartisan consortium of state governors, have turned into a political lightning rod for a coalition of angry parents and education activists.
The more this meme gets repeated the more it becomes “truth”… and it is NOT true. The so-called “bi-partisan consortium of State governors” did not spring up from the grassroots level: it was orchestrated by the billionaire boys club who wanted to promote the notion that schools should compete with each other in an unregulated environment like businesses supposedly do as a means of developing a common set of assessments that could be used to measure the “bottom line” since schools, unlike businesses, cannot be measured by profits. Every time the agency of the Common Core is ascribed to a “bi-partisan consortium of State governors” it legitimizes the development of the Common Core as a democratically derived set of standards. That is clearly NOT the case and it’s true derivation should be repeated so that the public is aware of the source.
I am not at all in favor of the way the Common Core was developed or imposed on public schools across the country, but I DO support the need for a national curriculum if we ever hope to have our country retain its leadership in science and technology. I hereby offer this article from Salon as evidence that a national curriculum is warranted. The title of the article is really all you need to read:
It’s official: Louisiana public schools are using the Book of Genesis in high school science classes
And I salute Zack Kopplin’s persistence in pushing for a change in the law that made this abomination possible.