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Why Many Younger Educators Don’t Like “Reformers”

December 5, 2018 Leave a comment

I am VERY encouraged by this letter. Like Diane Ravitch I am concerned that the generation of children who only experienced a world of high stakes testing would see that as the only way schools should function. THIS group of aspiring teachers clearly see that there is a better way! Here’s hoping they are the voice of the future!

via Why Many Younger Educators Don’t Like “Reformers”

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State Mandated Rating Systems Reinforce Commodification… Multiple Metrics Determined by Local Boards the Best Accountability

November 3, 2018 Comments off

Diane Ravitch’s posted blogger Laura Chapman’s critique of Ohio’s rating system for schools that, in response to ESSA mandates, now incorporates “multiple measures”. But the results of changing to multiple measures made no difference in terms of what the report cards actually measure: family income and education.

To my surprise, neither Diane Ravitch nor Laura Chapman nor any of the commenters noted the interest flaw of rating systems: the fact that they reinforce the commodification of public schools. Ratings were introduced by “reformers” based on the premise that parents can shop for schools the way they shop for cars or groceries. Until affluent school districts with space in their classrooms open their doors to children raised in poverty in neighboring districts these ratings should be ignored.

BTW, one of the most bogus “selling points” of ESSA was the notion that STATES would be in complete control of the mandated rating system, a system that would ultimately need to be approved by the USDOE. If you think any state will abandon standardized testing as the primary metric there is a bridge I can sell you…. And worse yet, in the case of Ohio, one of the”multiple measures” is the introduction of a value added metric… despite the fact that VAM has been repeatedly discredited.

A Good News Update on Arizona Standards: State Board Rejects State Superintendent’s Fundamentalist “Science” Standards

October 24, 2018 Comments off

In an earlier blog post I wrote that Arizona seemed poised to adopt a set of “science” standards advocated by the State Superintendent, Diane Douglas, that would effectively block the instruction of evolution and climate change. In a heartening turn of events, AZCentral writer Lily Altavena reports that the State Board has rejected Ms. Douglas’ recommendations:

The Arizona State Board of Education approved revised science and history standards on Monday, shrugging off outgoing State Superintendent Diane Douglas’ suggestion to replace all the standards with a set from a conservative college in Michigan.

The science standards include edits recommended by the Arizona Science Teachers Association after an outcry over how the draft standards addressed evolution. Those edits emphasize that “The unity and diversity of organisms, living and extinct, is the result of evolution.”

The revised standards will be used by K-12 public district and charter schools statewide. Their approval received thunderous applause from educators and education advocates sitting in the boardroom.

It IS encouraging to see that democracy is working in the curriculum review process, but discouraging to imagine that in 2018 we would be engaged in a debate over the merits of evolution.

Oh, and it wasn’t just the SCIENCE standards that were under review; the SOCIAL STUDIES standards were also on the agenda and Ms. Douglas also wanted her state to use the Hillsdale College standards as the basis for curriculum objectives in Arizona. There was at least one problem with those standards, which were also unanimously rejected by the State Board:

The vote followed a slew of public comment from parents and educators worried that the Hillsdale standards, if adopted, would exclude the study of world religions. There are more references to Christianity in the Hillsdale standards than in Arizona’s draft standards

Fortunately, this is the last time Ms. Douglas will have an opportunity to promote her notions about curriculum standards, as she was defeated in the State GOP primary. But as the door closes behind her, she offered this:

She said she considers the revised standards indoctrination “in some areas,” adding that the new standards don’t go into the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution.

“Show me where any scientist has proven or replicated that life came from non-living matter or that, if you would, in the example we see in the museums, that man evolved from an ape — there’s no proof to that,” she said. “That’s all I’m saying to our teachers: Let’s teach our children all those different things and let them study that.”

Ms. Altavena added this footnote at the end of her article:

The vast majority of scientists connected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science — 98 percent —  believe in human evolution, according to Pew. About six in 10 Americans believe humans have evolved.

Evidently the 40% who DON’T believe in evolution voted in large numbers when Ms. Douglas was running for office… but fortunately for school children in Arizona the State Board listened to the scientists.

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ACT Results Show Bi-Partisan Premises Behind NCLB, RTTT, ESSA are Flawed… But They Will NOT Be Easily Overturned

October 18, 2018 Comments off

The latest ACT results are worse than ever, which John Merrow believes might drive a final nail in the coffin of the premise that annual high stakes tests will improve schools… but if last year’s debates in Congress and the ongoing debates in state legislatures are any indication there is no likelihood of changing the thinking on accountability any time soon. Why? Because ESSA delegated accountability to States and at this writing 33 states are controlled by GOP legislatures, many of whom are using the ALEC playbook to craft legislation and frame the debates about public education in their states. Add to that the ongoing debates about how best to “harden” schools and the bandwidth for debates about public education is used up.

New Hampshire where I live is a good case in point. In 2016 voters elected GOP candidate Chris Sununu as governor and elected GOP dominated legislature. Once elected, Mr. Sununu replaced widely respected Commissioner of Education Virginia Barry, a Ph.D educator, with Frank Edeblut, a business executive who homeschooled his seven children and ran to the right of Mr. Sununu in the primaries. As a result of the 2016 election there has been no discussion whatsoever about moving forward with a creative accountability plan Dr. Barry developed, a plan that was not exclusively reliant on standardized testing. Instead, the GOP Governor and GOP controlled State Legislature are trying to pass laws that would expand the use of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) for parents who want to educate their children in private sectarian schools. To fund these ESAs, the GOP planned to divert funds from an equalization formula developed by previous legislatures in response to a court order that would provide more support to property poor districts so their students could meet the “adequate education” mandated by the State Supreme Court. The GOP governor’s solution? Pass a bill that would preclude the courts from intervening on issues involving public school funding and expand choice. The Governor’s thinking? If the parents of students who resided in property poor towns had the opportunity to use tax free savings to take their children out of “failing government schools” and place them in any school they wished their children would ultimately benefit.

Added to the mix of ALEC bills designed to facilitate vouchers that will supposedly allow children who reside in property poor towns to escape the “failing schools” in their community is the ongoing debate on how much to spend to “harden” public schools to make them safe from shooters. This debate about school safety is a double whammy for public education: it inevitably results in diverting funds away from making capital improvements in outdated schools, many of which are located in property poor towns; and it reinforces the notion that public schools are inherently unsafe, making the push for de facto vouchers to attend private schools more politically acceptable.

Because of the ongoing debates on vouchers and school safety, debates on the virtue of standardized testing are pushed to the sidelines. Indeed, the need for these tests is largely settled in minds of most voters. Didn’t voters need to pass test to pass courses that got them promoted to the next grade level and earn a diploma? Didn’t voters who went to college have to attain a minimum score on the SAT to gain acceptance to their higher education? Doesn’t the military and civil service use tests to sort and select applicants? Why, then, doesn’t it make sense to use tests to determine if schools are successful?

At the conclusion of his article on the decline in ACT scores, Mr. Merrow writes:

It’s past time for progressives to speak loudly in support of strong public education….as well as other social initiatives that will address homelessness, hunger, and lack of health care.  Schools don’t function in isolation, not when–for example–about 10 percent of New York City’s public school students are homeless.

I completely agree and persist in writing this blog to that end… but, I don’t see many politicians at any level speaking up for public education or “…social initiatives that will address homelessness, hunger, and lack of health care“. The Social Darwinists in the GOP want to drown government in a bathtub and the neo-liberals who dominate the DNC are comfortable with privatization of public services or relying on the goodwill of philanthropists… and NO politician in EITHER wants to advocate for the higher taxes that would be needed to underwrite these social needs. And alas, as the cold analysis outlined above indicates, I do not see much sentiment today among rank and file voters for “social initiatives that will address homelessness, hunger, and lack of health care” because they know that such initiatives will cost them money.

My bottom line is that unless we reframe the debates about public education away from “choice” and the debates about social initiatives away from their cost we will continue on the path we are traveling and inequality will persist. We need to talk more about the common good and less about the virtue of selfishness.

Arizona: Outgoing State Chief Wants to Adopt Far-Right Christian Standards to Replace State Standards

September 25, 2018 Comments off

More evidence that ESSA’s move to allow states to set standards is deeply flawed. If these standards are combined with high stakes tests for graduation we will be turning out a generation of mis-educated students in several states. The Common Core had its own deep flaws, but if public education is to contribute to a common good it needs to be based on a common set of standards. 

via Arizona: Outgoing State Chief Wants to Adopt Far-Right Christian Standards to Replace State Standards

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Texas Curriculum Illustrates Need for Uniform Curriculum, ESPECIALLY in Civics

September 20, 2018 Comments off

Tuesday morning I read two articles that taken together underscore the lack of cohesiveness in instruction that is occurring in our country thanks in large measure to the USDOE’s refusal to impose some kind of standards in terms of civics instruction.

One article, by Alyson Klein in Education Week, told of Betsy DeVos’ “strong words on suppression of speech and the sad state of civics education. Her remarks on free speech hewed close to the MAGA line of thinking that liberals are denying conservatives an opportunity to speak freely and openly on campuses and, as a result, there is a diminishment in the free flow of ideas… a concept that seems especially preposterous given the ability of the plutocrats to pay for as much speech as they wish. Her remarks on civics education, though, drew my attention:

DeVos said that schools need to teach students to engage with others with whom they might disagree. And she said this needs to begin at the K-12 level, where she said civics education hasn’t been a priority.

“It hasn’t been a focus. We’ve been focusing a lot on math, science and reading, which are all, of course, very important subjects,” DeVos said in remarks at the National Constitution Center, a nonpartisan interactive museum. “But I think it’s really important that students learn about the history of this nation that they are here to actually protect and enhance from this day forward.

On the very same day this article appeared in Education Week, Truthdig published an article by Naomi La Chance reporting on the Texas Board of Education’s decision to eliminate certain information from the social studies curriculum because, presumably they are unimportant for students to know and understand. The information in question?

The Texas State Board of Education, a 15-member group that has been of great importance to the religious right since the 1960s, voted Friday to revise the public school social studies curriculum, including the removal of Hillary Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Keller.

To speed up a third-grade unit on civic responsibility, the board opted to remove Keller—an activist, member of the Socialist Party, co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and the first blind and deaf person with a bachelor’s degree. The work group wrote, “Helen Keller does not best represent the concept of citizenship,” giving her a score of seven out of 20 in considering her usefulness to the school curriculum. Removing her would save 40 minutes, it calculated.

By contrast, U.S. senators and representatives from Texas and “Texans who have been president” all received a rating of 20 out of 20. Students as young as kindergarten are expected to “identify the role of the U.S. free enterprise system.”

For high school classes, the board suggested removing discussion about opportunities and obstacles for women and members of ethnic minorities because, according to the board, “American patriotism does not inspire obstacles for women and ethnic minorities.”

I imagine Ms. DeVos will be perfectly OK with these changes, because States should have the right to define their own curriculum goals. But I want to know how it will be possible for students in Texas to “…learn about the history of this nation that they are here to actually protect and enhance from this day forward.” without knowing the name of the most recent Presidential candidate for the Democratic party, a first lady who fought hard for women and minorities, and an iconic figure who inspired hundreds of handicapped children to see that there were no limits on what they could accomplish.

This is what ESSA hath wrought… and it will not help children everywhere learn about the history of this nation that they are here to actually protect and enhance from this day forward.

 

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Waco TX Columnist Calls on Texas Board to Change It’s Revisionist Social Studies Curriculum… and Underscores ESSA’s Glaring Deficiencies

September 9, 2018 Comments off

Cary Clack’s op ed column in the Waco Tribune-Herald urges the Texas State Board of Education to use the review of it’s Social Studies curriculum to rectify the revisionist history embedded in the current standards. Mr. Clack explains why such a revision is needed, noting that the current standards were decried by stalwart conservative think tanks like the Fordham Foundation:

State Board of Education members lack the power to bend history to their will. But they can distort history to fit their political agenda, and it’s an ability exercised with alarming disregard to truth.

The SBOE adopted the current social-studies curriculum standards, known as Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), in 2010. It is such a masterpiece of misrepresentation and propaganda over actual history that it was singled out for criticism by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute in its 2011 report, “The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011.”

The report chastised the standards for using a thematic structure more often used by “the relativist and diversity-obsessed educational left.” It accused the SBOE’s conservative majority of openly seeking “to use the state curriculum to promote its political priorities, molding the telling of the past to justify its current views and aims. Indeed, the SBOE majority displayed overt hostility and contempt for historians and scholars, whom they derided as insidious activists for a liberal academic establishment.”

The Fordham Foundation’s critique notwithstanding, the 2010 Board adopted these standards. And they include some egregious misinterpretations, several of which Mr. Clack flags:

SBOE members in 2010 were especially shameless in perpetuating the lie that slavery was one of several causes for the Civil War when it was THE REASON. Lost Cause advocates always ignore the Lost Clauses in the Declarations of Secession of the Confederate states, including Texas, which explicitly cite slavery as their reason for seceding.

But this seems to have been an uncomfortable truth for some SBOE members in 2010, as was the more expansive and indispensable roles which Native Americans, Latinos and women played in our nation.

History is full of uncomfortable truths. Reality doesn’t have an ideological slant, and historical facts don’t always coincide with our politics. But they must be studied, taught and discussed. There’s something wrong when what children are taught depends on whether the State Board of Education has a Republican or Democratic majority, whether it has a greater representation of conservatives or liberals.

Mr. Clack urges the State Board to eliminate “…the distorted, politicized history the 2010 board wove into the current standards” this time around. And while Mr. Clack doesn’t say so, in the new era of ESSA the State Standards especially crucial since they will serve as the basis for measuring the effectiveness of schools going forward. And if Texas schoolchildren are taught that slavery was a secondary cause of the Civil War, that Native Americans, Latinos and women played an insignificant role in the history of our nation, and that our forefathers based the constitution on the teachings of Moses they will be learning a different history than that of the rest of the country.

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