Today’s NYTimes features an op ed article written by UCal Berkeley professors Stephen Hinshaw and Richard Sheffler titled “Expand Pre-K, Not ADHD”. The article describes the explosion of ADHD diagnoses in K-12 schooling and expresses concerns that as younger and younger children enter school more and more of them will be diagnosed with ADHD. As Sir Ken Robinson pointed out in his celebrated TED talk captured in this RSA Animation, Ritalin (and now Adderall) prescriptions began spiking around the time high stakes testing began, and as readers of this blog know, high stakes testing is an essential element of the factory school model.
As I noted in my written comment to the article in the Times, as a nation we want fast, cheap, and effective solutions to every problem… and drugs do the trick! The budget figures Cuomo and even deBlasio are projecting for prekindergarten will not provide the funds needed to operate a developmentally appropriate preschool program… let alone a program that would provide the kinds of wraparound services the most exemplary preschool programs provide. The politicians have sold the public on prekindergarten programs that push the traditional factory school model to three and four year olds. The programs advocated by “reformers” call for school to administer standardized tests beginning at age 3 or 4 and use those test results to sort students earlier and earlier into “compliant” and “non-compliant” bins… not exactly the terms used by the “reformers”… but an exact operational definition of the sorting.
Here’s the bottom line: When we warehouse more kids in traditional classroom settings at an earlier age we’ll be giving those “noncompliant” kids sedatives so they will pay attention to the teacher! Unless we are willing to spend more to offer a robust preschool program and allow time to be the variable and learning to be the constant we will spend more on drugs and continue turning out the compliant conformists who unquestioningly accept the narratives reinforced by the factory school.
NYS’s botched roll-out of the Common Core assessments has gotten the attention of both parties in the NYS legislature, resulting in “A Call to Ignore Exam Results When Evaluating Teachers” according to a headline and accompanying article in today’s NYTimes. This can only be perceived as a slap in the face to “reformers”, including Arne Duncan who wrote VAM into RTTT and Governor Cuomo who championed VAM in his recent legislation and the Regents and NY Commissioner who rushed to administer Common Core tests before teachers, parents, or— most importantly– STUDENTS were prepared.
The Times concluded their story with these paragraphs:
Some advocates of the new teacher evaluation system and the Common Core expressed concern over the lawmakers’ proposal.
“We need to give teachers the tools they need, not introduce new uncertainty by changing the rules midyear and letting politics drive pedagogy,” said Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of Educators 4 Excellence, a nonprofit group. “Kicking the can down the road is either a death knell for Common Core or ensures that we’re having this same conversation a year from now.”
The Times DIDN’T mention that the non-profit group is funded by Bill Gates, who also bankrolled the Common Core and who also, arguably, has a vested interest in the implementation of the computerized tests that will be used to determine teacher effectiveness…
Over the past 2-3 weeks, national and state media outlets have been publishing stories about the sorry state of public education based on ratings provided by StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee’s “independent think tank”. It is not surprising to find that the ratings were commissioned and reported by US News and World Reports since their biggest seller is the annual college ratings issue. What was surprising was to see the article picked up in its entirety by Huffington Post and subsequently picked up by newspaper after newspaper across the country as regional media breathlessly reported on the “poor ratings” assigned to schools in their state. What makes this distressing is that many people I know who are supporters of public education read the headline and the synopsis article and ask me questions like “What’s wrong with the schools in Vermont?”…. when the answer is NOTHING! Vermont schools have high NAEP scores, low drop out rates, and relatively well funded and equitably funded schools. Yet StudentsFirst assigned Vermont an “F”. And what were the criteria for this grade?
“This is a different kind of report card. This is not a reflection of the states’ individual schools, nor is it a rating of the current academic levels,” Rhee said in a call with reporters Tuesday. “This is an evaluation of whether states have the right policy environment in place that will lead to higher academic growth from where they are today.”
A thinking reader might ask, “What is the right policy environment that will lead to higher academic growth” and a critically thinking reader might follow up with this question: “What evidence do you have to support that?” Well… according to the glossy 65 page document prepared by StudentsFirst there are “24 policies” linked to “3 pillars” all of which are full of Newspeak. Basically, the policy prescriptions presume that any state that doesn’t have complete parental choice for students to attend private for-profit charter schools and and doesn’t rate teachers using value added metrics is on the path to devolution and any state that DOES have policies that allow choice, for-profit charters, and rate teachers using VAM will improve. And the evidence they issue that these “24 policies” works? There isn’t any… Oh, and how do states “improve”? By introducing these policies regardless of whether they show any improvement in student achievement because— presumably— student achievement will improve if the policies are implemented. If you’re scratching your head, you are reading for comprehension because this Alice In Wonderland rating system makes no sense whatsoever.
If anyone but Michelle Rhee, who seems to get a free ride from everyone except John Merrow and Diane Ravitch, was making these pronouncements they would never see the light of day. But for mysterious reasons Michelle Rhee seems to have credibility… and cynics and conspiracy theorists think that reason Rhee retains her credibility is that the underwriters of StudentsFirst have connections. It’s possible that Rupert Murdoch and the Walton Foundation, to name two disclosed backers, MAY have SOME media connections… and who knows who else might be profiting from choice, charters, and VAM?