Author Archive

Benton Harbor’s Segregated Schools are Betsy DeVos’ Sordid Legacy

February 21, 2020 Leave a comment

This Time magazine article describes how the market driven for-profit laissez-faire funding model adopted in Michigan resulted in a school system that is racially and economically segregated. This is where our entire country is headed thanks to the notion that “choice” is more important than equality.

A Collapsed Roof is the Goal of Betsy DeVos… Will the Supreme Court Allow the Blizzard to Begin

February 20, 2020 Leave a comment

NYTimes columnist Sarah Vowell wrote a somewhat humorous but ultimately damning op ed article on a Montana lawsuit that could ultimately overturn the intention of the framers of Montana’s recently revised constitution and, in doing so, create a precedent whereby State funds can be funneled into sectarian schools. The suit brought against the state by a parent seeking $150 of state funding to help her underwrite her costs for parochial school hinges on this question: is the small amount allocated to school districts in the name of equitable funding fungible and, if so, can a parent use the funds to provide a de facto voucher for their child to attend a parochial school.

In the article, Ms. Vowell, a Montana native, describes the history of the $150 per student allocation which emanated from a early 1970s constitutional convention, and describes how the loss of that relatively small amount of funding would send shock waves throughout the state and especially hurt this schools who receive the supplement to help offset their lack of a local tax base.

She concludes her article with this synopsis of the situation, which is the basis for the title of this post:

The public schools the framers (of the State constitution) conjured ask the taxpayers to splurge on fairness, not privilege, to pull together, not away. That beekeeper, those clergymen and moms chartered a state in a republic where a first grader on horseback is supposed to be as big and important as the mountains. As the Supreme Court justices ponder whether to upend all that over what appears to be a $150 trifle, I’ll pass along this lesson of Montana winters: A collapsed roof starts with a single snowflake.

The Charter School Movement Is Imploding. What Comes Next May Be Worse

February 19, 2020 Leave a comment

As always, Jeff Bryant gets to the root of the issue when it comes to the privatization movement…. and “charters and choice” was always a backdoor means of getting vouchers…. and vouchers, in turn, will undercut public education overseen by elected officials who do their best to provide the kind of education their children need. This quote from Diane Ravitch describes the way the pro-privatization forces used charter schools to move forward:

“I have known for many years that right-wingers went for charters only because they lay the groundwork for vouchers,” wrote education historian Diane Ravitch, after learning of the Trump Administration’s abandonment of charter schools in its budget. “Charters pave the way for vouchers. They turn citizens, invested in public institutions, into consumers, looking out only for their own child.”

And in our culture, where “consumers” can presumably “choose what they want” the lure of receiving a bundle of money in the form of a voucher to buy whatever education their child needs is alluring. But when the “consumers” find that their voucher only covers a basic education plan and then find that their child may not qualify for enrollment in that plan, their choice vanishes. In the meantime, the Walmart Chain of Basic Education Schools makes a profit by offering low cost education taught by low-paid staff members in abandoned public schools or empty shopping malls that they pay very little for. And if the voucher carrier is dissatisfied with their purchase? Caveat Emptor!

Jeff Bryant closes his Common Dreams article describing President Trump’s “Education Plan” with this:

So sure, Trump lied during his State of the Union address about saving the educational destiny of a young African American girl in Philadelphia, but that lie exposed a much deeper one: That the political establishment, conservative and liberal alike, has been deceiving us about the goals of school choice—vouchers and charter schools—all along. It’s always been about turning education into a private enterprise.

I bold faced and underscored “conservative and liberal alike” to emphasize that point: the federal legislation that led us to where we are today was bi-partisan and the government policies that emerged from the bi-partisan legislation were implemented under both Democrat and Republican administrations. If the Democrats are astonished at this latest development, they have not been paying attention to the public education advocates like Jeff Bryant, Diane Ravitch, and- yes- the leadership of the AFT and NEA. The time to wake up is now!

Source: The Charter School Movement Is Imploding. What Comes Next May Be Worse

Categories: Uncategorized

MAYBE the Tide is Turning: Parents and Students Want Counselors, Not Cops

February 19, 2020 Leave a comment

This Wake County NC news report recounts a parent and student petition to the school district to replace cops in the schools with more counselors and nurses. MAYBE this kind of thinking will go viral.

Conservatives Discover Mastery Learning, the Flaws in the Carnegie Unit… Can Their Abandonment of Standardized Tests be Far Behind?

February 18, 2020 Leave a comment

I make every effort to read every perspective possible in my education feed, and as a result I received an article from The Hill by Margaret “Macke” Raymond titled “The Diploma Dilemma”. Ms. Raymond, who is the founder and director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University recently authored a policy briefing of the same name as part of the Hoover Education Success Initiative. And what is the dilemma as Ms. Raymond sees it?

Despite evidence that our students’ performance is flat or declining on many levels, our high school graduation rates have continued to rise significantly over the past six years. This paradox may not be widely known or understood, as politicians and policymakers have consistently trumpeted the steady rise of graduation rates. The casual observer would be led to believe that public education is improving because more students are being granted a diploma.

The truth is, in most states, there is a critical chasm between the rising graduation rate and the underlying knowledge and skills of large shares of degree holders. Many students, especially low-income students and students of color, are inadequately prepared to take the first step of college, training, military service or employment, let alone have the foundational knowledge needed to improve their lives in the future.

The truth is that US public schools are not as bad as standardized tests make the out to be or as good as graduation rates make them out to be… except for those underfunded schools serving low income students and students of color. The data on this truth have been evident for generations and yet nothing has been done to address it. After decrying softer grading standards, seat time as a metric, and “low expectations”, Ms. Raymond offers this idea to close the gaps at the high school level:

So what’s needed? States and school districts need mastery-based approaches to capturing and rewarding high school learning to ensure that students earn a high school diploma that provides a fair and clear signal of its value. Better and more frequent measures of high school students and courses would illuminate the pathways that students follow, and the benefits gained from them.  Linking course passing with known requirements for post-high school options will improve the success that holders of a U.S. high school diploma can achieve. In order to realize these things for our students, school systems leaders will invariably be placed in a diploma dilemma —strengthening requirements will almost certainly mean falling graduation rates in the short-term. 

Ms. Raymond’s prescription sounds very familiar to this blogger. In the early 1990s I attempted to launch a district-wide initiative called “Teaching for Mastery” based on the premise that TIME needed to be the variable and LEARNING needed to be the constant. Here’s what I learned from that experience: changing the dominant paradigm as a Superintendent was beyond my reach. Indeed, Ms. Raymond seems to miss the entire point of mastery learning, which is that TIME must be a variable if LEARNING is constant and so time-driven metrics like standardized testing and graduation rates tied to a student’s age are meaningless.

Our current system was implemented in the 1920s and it was designed to sort and select students with no regard or expectation that ALL students would master the K-12 curriculum. There was an expectation that many of not most students would fall short of the standards and find work in the fields or factories. And thanks to labor unions many of those jobs paid well and enabled workers to have good life. That economic paradigm disappeared in the 1970s and 1980s and it isn’t coming back any tie soon. When oh when will our education paradigm change? When will TIME be a variable and LEARNING constant?

The Reading Wars AGAIN??? When Will We Look at the Metrics Instead of the Results?

February 17, 2020 Leave a comment

Here we go again… according to a recent NYTimes article by Dana Goldstein the reading wars are beginning anew! As a retired school Superintendent I’ve seen this movie before and know how it ends… lotos of pointless debates about The One Best Way to teach reading despite the reality that all children learn differently AND at different rates.

Alas, too many policy makers overlook the real issue, which is the metric we use. We define “failure” based on standardized tests, tests based on the assumption that students within an age cohort all learn at the same rate. Tests explicitly designed to sort those students based on their rate of learning on a predetermined set of reading “skills” that can be readily measured by a multiple choice test.

This just in: students develop at different rates physically and intellectually. Schools began grouping students by age in the name of efficiency in the 1920s and began testing them in these cohorts in earnest after World War II. In the name of “efficiency” we also instruct students in the same content in large groups— the chanting of “Tuh! Ah! Puh!” as descried in Ms. Goldstein’s article is a classic example.

In the 1920s we did not have the capability to provide tailored instruction to students when they were ready to learn it. Technology gives us the tools to do this now…. why are we arguing over test scores based on the assumption that all children learn the same way at the same rate?

Reagan National University, Approved by Accrediting Agency Closed Down by Obama, Is Now Approved. One Problem: It Has No Students, No Campus, No Faculty—

February 15, 2020 Leave a comment

Two USA Today reporters, Chris Quintana and Shelly Conlon, looked into Reagan National University, a for-profit college recently accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools, and saw an immediate problem: “By all appearances, at present it has no students, no faculty and no classrooms.

The article goes on to describe how Betsy DeVos restored capacity of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools to grant approval to for-profit schools after the Obama administration shut it down because of it’s lax oversight. It also describes the checkered history of “Reagan National University”, which was formerly called Northern Virginia University before that state’s accrediting board shut it down and the college relocated to South Dakota. Why South Dakota?

In some ways, South Dakota was the ideal place for Reagan. The state has among the laxest rules for colleges in the country. State officials merely ask colleges whether an accrediting group has approved them — they don’t independently hold universities accountable.

It is perversely humorous that a college named for a POTUS who championed deregulation is in existence because another POTUS who operated a flimflam college restored an inept accreditor who approved a college that intentionally sought a location in the state with the most lax regulations… It isn’t funny, though, to any of the students who enrolled in this college and took out loans to attend classes. But in the Social Darwinist world that libertarian deregulators live in caveat emptor is the rule and government should stay out of the way of the marketplace.