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Breaking News: @NAACP calls for national moratorium on charters

July 31, 2016 Leave a comment

MAYBE, just MAYBE this will help undercut the prevalent meme that “choice” is a civil rights issue… and MAYBE, just MAYBE it will re-launch the need for equitable funding and segregation in its place. 

I don’t believe that this has been reported anywhere else. Last week at the NAACP National Convention in Cincinnati, the delegates voted in a new resolution on charter schools. It’s app…

Source: Breaking News: @NAACP calls for national moratorium on charters

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ESSA Marginalized K-12 Education Policy Debates, Ensures the Beat Will Go On

July 31, 2016 Leave a comment

Earlier this month I spent time with family members at a reunion and came away more distressed than ever over the condition of public education today. My nieces and cousins who work in public school have now experienced 10-15 years of teaching where test scores are the be all and end all of their jobs. Worse, their children have no experience in a school setting where test scores were not the predominant concern.

For the past couple weeks we’ve been subjected to the frightening reality that Donald Trump, a candidate who plays to the basest instincts of our citizenry, and Hillary Clinton, a neoliberal who until recently espoused the “reform” line that led to the evaluation of schooling based solely on standardized testing, will be the candidates for 2016. A recent Atlantic article contrasts the two candidates positions on K-12 education, noting that Mr. Trump’s position is more a slogan than a well-conceived policy idea.

But the article failed to note the reality that the passage of ESSA took the air out of any meaningful discussion about K-12 education on the campaign trail and will make any change to education policy in the first term of either Trump or Clinton a near impossibility. The bi-partisan ESSA legislation gives the decision on testing back to states where ALEC influenced Republicans control 35 State houses and legislatures. In so doing, it undercuts the Federal role in setting educational policy, which could be a good thing after NCLB and RTTT and will be a good thing if progressive activists focus on state elections and elect governors and legislators who want to use something something more than high-stakes tests to measure school effectiveness.

This means it will become increasingly difficult to make changes to the test-and-punish “reform” system in place after 15 years of NCLB and RTTT and that, in turn, means that a full generation of students will experience schooling that uses standardized testing as the primary means of measurement, a full generation of teachers will know only that kind of teaching, and a full generation of school board members will believe that only test scores can “objectively measure” the effectiveness of public schooling. The only exception to this kind of education will take place in the most affluent school districts where the vast majority of students can pass the so-called “accountability” tests with ease and can therefore focus on “frills” like the arts, technology, and emotional development.

 

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NYTimes Report on Mike Pence’s Education Record is Appalling!

July 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Kate Zernicke’s article in todays NYTimes describing Mike Pence’s record as a Governor is appallingly inaccurate and unfair. Misleadingly titled “Mike Pence’s Record on Education is One of Turmoil and Mixed Results”, the article describes only turmoil and no positive results for children whatsoever, unless you count the passage of a $15 million dollar preschool program serving a handful of poor children in five counties as “positive”. Worse, instead of seeking quotes from the large number of voters who supported Glenda Ritz, the “anti-reform” candidate who defeated Tony Bennett, his favored candidate for State Superintendent, the Times got quotes from Joy Pullmann, described as “...an education research fellow with the libertarian Heartland Institute“, an organization funded by anti-environmentalists who staunchly oppose public funding for anything and favor Milton Friedman’s magical market solutions for everything. Thus, instead of criticisms of how poorly charters perform, how Mr. Bennett was involved in a financial scandal involving charter schools, and how students raised in poverty are woefully underserved in Indiana readers got complaints about “the fact” that charters are over-regulated because they are required to administer the same tests as public schools, that insufficient public funds are going into the pockets of profiteers and religiously affiliated schools, and that he ultimately accepted the “strings” attached to an $80,000,000 federal grant that would nearly quadruple the funding for pre-school.

Pence’s policies, which are those of the ultra-right reformers, failed children attending public schools in the state pushing more and more middle class students out and starving the poor children who remained. To state otherwise is misleading and dishonest… but since the Times seems to have bought into the basic premise of the “soft reformers” like those endorsed by the presumptive Democrat candidate, they seem reluctant to point out where the privatization “solution” offered by reformers will ultimately lead.

And here’s whats even worse: Pence would be one of those who would champion ESSA since it gives more control to States and loosens the federal “strings” that require things like supplement-vs-supplant. As one who hoped for a robust debate on privatized deregulated schools and the federal role on education I am saddened to see that this will not be on either party’s agenda for the coming months… and even sadder for the children raised in poverty who’ll be neglected as a result.

Three Year Turnaround Timetable Unrealistic, Underscores Inherent Flaws in “Reform”

July 19, 2016 Leave a comment

An article by Kate Taylor in today’s NYTimes explicitly emphasized the fantastical notion that “failing schools” can be “turned around” in three years and implicitly highlighted the flaws in the “reformer’s” notion that grading schools will help school improvement.

The notion that a “failing school” can miraculously change in three years is rebutted by Megan Hester, a principal associate at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, an organization that is working closely with community organizations involved in the turnaround effort. She said,

“There’s no school improvement initiative in the country that shows long-term success that showed improvement within two or three years.”

Giving schools the time they might need… “is at odds with the political cycle and the political attention span.”

But politics is everything in NYC schools and since mayors are elected every four years and it took Mr. de Blasio a year to get his leadership team in place he needed to set a three year timetable. In my judgment, the mayor missed a teachable moment and picked the wrong battle at the outset. In his first months in office he could have taken on the wrongheaded idea that labelling schools as “failing” based on test scores when the effects of poverty account for nearly all the variance in those scores. He could have emphasized that when a school is labelled as “failing” it is difficult to recruit students and even more difficult to recruit teachers. And while the article points out these realities, it does not explicitly link the realities to the flawed idea of classifying the schools as “failing”, an idea the “reformers” love because it enables them to close the schools and replace them with for-profit charters that repackage the schools, draw engaged parents and hire new teachers, but make no difference whatsoever when it comes to test scores or graduation rates.

Improving schools and addressing the effects of poverty takes time and requires more resources. That combination is a poison pill for politicians… but it is the only medicine that will cure the ills of public education in urban areas. Until a politician is willing to explain this to voters and voters are willing to listen the vicious cycle of “failing” schools for children raised in poverty will continue.

Fordham Foundation Finds Flaws in Ohio’s Voucher Program

July 17, 2016 Leave a comment

Last week the Columbus Dispatch released a story that reported on the findings of a Fordham Foundation study:

…according to new study that found many students who used vouchers to attend private schools fared worse on state reading and math tests compared with their peers in public schools.

Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which commissioned the report and supports vouchers, called the results “disappointing,” but he cautioned that researchers looked at a limited number of students and raised questions that warrant further exploration…

In an effort to make lemonade out of the “disappointing” findings, Mr. Aldis offered this preposterous conclusion:

The report also found “modest” improvements in achievement among public school students who were eligible for a voucher but declined to use one, suggesting competition created by the program might have spurred improvements in the public schools.

“For years, voucher critics have argued that students staying in public schools were hurt by voucher programs,” Aldis said. “It’s heartening to see that healthy competition can improve achievement.”

“Healthy competition” had nothing to do with the disparity. In fact the “modest improvements” experienced by the students who remained in public schools is even more astonishing given that during the time the study was underway per pupil spending on public schools declined by 6.8%!

Maybe it’s time for the Fordham Foundation and other conservative think tanks to look at the results of voucher programs in urban areas and determine that they have made no difference whatsoever. At the same time, they might look at the impact supplemental services make in schools serving children raised in poverty and conclude that more spending in those areas might be worthwhile.

…Meanwhile, Republicans Push for Bible Study

July 17, 2016 Leave a comment

The New Orleans Times-Picayune ran an article earlier this week detailing one of the focal points of the Republican’s debate on public education: Bible study! The first five paragraphs describe their thinking on this topic:

Members of the GOP this week debated and ultimately embraced an addition to the party’s platform that encourages public high schools to teach elective courses about the Bible, one of several moves that contributed to Republicans’ broad shift to the right.

Several GOP delegates said that they aren’t seeking to inculcate schools with Christianity, but they are trying to make sure that young people are acquainted with a document that has played a significant role in shaping Western culture.

“This is not designed to teach religion in the schools as a means of proselytizing,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group, and a GOP delegate from Louisiana who supported the Bible-in-schools provision. “You can’t really fully understand the American form of government and society without some understanding of the Bible.”

Others said they want to give students a way to understand biblical allusions in Shakespeare and other literature, or want to honor U.S. history and the nation’s founders.

“The first Congress of the United States in 1789 called for the distribution of Bibles for all children in the United States at that time,” said Kansas delegate Kris Kobach. “This was an important principle that the Founding Fathers chose to embrace.”

I only hope that if the Bible is mandated that progressive-minded educators will emphasize the New Testament teaching of Jesus on caring for those with the most needs.

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Sanders Movement Pushes Democratic Party Platform Toward A Big Fight Over Charter Schools

July 16, 2016 Leave a comment

Two quotes from  Jeff Bryant’s Common Dreams article makes all the money I donated to Bernie Sanders and the time I spent working on his campaign worth it. First this one from Diane Ravitch: 

The Sanders supporters teamed up with Clinton delegates, including Randi Weingarten, the leader of the American Federation of Teachers, to deliver a platform that “now takes a stand against the high-stakes testing regime, opposes school closing based on test scores, opposes evaluating teachers by test scores, and emphasizes the importance of democratically-controlled public schools,” as education historian Diane Ravitch writes on her personal blog. 

And this quote from Peter Greene:

As Greene explains, whereas the original platform’s “definition of Bad Charter was just ‘a for-profit charter’ … This new language defines a Bad Charter as one that does not have democratically-elected governance, does not serve the exact same population as the local public school, and that ‘destabilizes or damages the health of that local public school.’ In other words, the new language offers a much broader understanding of when a charter school is Not Okay than the draft did.”

This change was attributed to Sanders’ appointees and was fought tooth and nail by the “reform” crowd. 

Here’s a summary and a link to the complete article:

Earlier this week my colleague Richard Eskow reported on the impact the populist progressive movement led by Bernie Sanders and others is having on the Democratic Party Platform to be voted on at the party’s national convention in Philadelphia later this month.

Source: Sanders Movement Pushes Democratic Party Platform Toward A Big Fight Over Charter Schools

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