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Posts Tagged ‘ESSA’

Peter Greene Wonders: What IS Biden’s Position on Public Education?

September 13, 2020 Comments off

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In this Forbes article pro-public education advocate Peter Greene describes the dilemma those of us in his camp face in this election. We clearly cannot afford another minute of Betsy DeVos but neither do we want to see a reprise of the misbegotten Obama-Duncan test and punish regime. Before the POTUS’ mishandling of the pandemic and before the police brutality in Wisconsin and Minnesota began eating up bandwidth in the news there was a brief window where it appeared that public schools might be in forefront as a campaign issue and in that brief time Greene describes a platform that his staff and Bernie Sanders staff put together that had the elimination of high stakes testing and the abandonment of “market based” reform as the centerpiece. Greene believes that the DNC was unsettled by this because their base is split on these issues and, as a result the current Biden platform sidesteps both issues completely. And Greene concludes that as things stand now, candidate Biden may never have to offer a clear position on public schools, which will suit him fine:

This may highlight how education as an issue has changed for Democratic candidates. It used to be a simple, safe topic, but as it has become more contentious, Democratic politicians have tried to skate carefully past the tricky parts. And this may be the election that makes skating easy—after all, the Trump/DeVos track record for public education is abysmal, and their plan for public education is more of the same. For people who care about public education, Trump is a terrible choice. But Biden can’t skate forever. Nominee Biden may not have to fully explain himself, but if he becomes President Biden, he won’t have that luxury. The people who work in public education would just like to hear about it sooner rather than later.

Given the DNC’s stance on public schools, and the bipartisan support for the continuation of the use of standardized testing incorporated in ESSA, and the daunting fiscal challenges he will face I doubt that Biden will do anything about the inequities in public education… and I fear that those inequities, which are the root cause of the inequities in our economy, will persist for another generation.

Washington State’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Offers Ten Solid Recommendations for Biden-Harris

August 26, 2020 Comments off

Diane Ravitch shared an open letter from Chris Reykdal, Washington State’s Superintendent of Public Instruction that captures the direction Biden and Harris should take to help move public education forward. While I completely agree with all ten, the first one is far and away the most important. It reads:

Grant a national waiver of all federally mandated tests required under the Every Student Succeeds Act until Congress has an opportunity to amend the law. This will save billions of dollars and allow us to refocus resources on assessments that illuminate student growth and learning, are delivered locally, and are aligned to requirements that are properly situated at the state or local level, not the federal government. The USDOE should review and approve each state’s education assessment framework, but it is time to put the evaluation of learning back in the classroom with meaningful standards, trained professionals, and culturally responsive instructional practices.

I have long believed that the standardized tests, which have always been a measure of the affluence of school districts and not a measure of students’ ability, have driven instruction, particularly in those schools that are deemed “failing”. Mr. Reykdal righty places this as the most important reform necessary, but, unlike some of the reforms that could be accomplished through the stroke of the pen, this one would ultimately require both the House and Senate to reconsider ESSA. While I believe this is truly crucial to the helathof public schools, because it is one of the few bi-partisan acts passed in the last decade I fear that making changes to this legislation will be difficult. Should Biden and Harris win with a substantial majority of voters, however, those of us who are in favor of the abandonment of standardized testing should launch a concerted effort to overturn ESSA’s mandate for testing.

Washington Post’s Narrative of School Reform Movement is Flawed, But It’s Conclusion is Accurate: Reform Failed

March 19, 2020 Comments off

Yesterday’s Washington Post featured an extended article by Kevin Carey on public education titled “The Demise of the Great Education Saviors“. It’s subtitle explains who the saviors were support to be:

Charter schools and testing were supposed to right historic wrongs.                                                                 Now they’ve run out of political steam. What happened?

Having lived through all of the history in the article and served as a public school administrator during the period of history Mr. Carey described, I found his narrative flawed. He oversold the virtues of testing asserting that Robert Kennedy saw testing as a means of achieving equitable outcomes in the face of districts who were fighting against school segregation, downplaying the GOP’s privatization agenda, dissociating the Common Core from Bill Gates misguided philanthropy, and insinuating that the virtues of competition could still save the day. Despite these flaws, his story ends with a clear and accurate conclusion: the reform movement failed.

And I also think Mr. Carey did a decent job of answering his question about “what happened?” in two key sections of the story he weaves. The first section offered an anecdote about Shannon Carey, an Oakland CA teacher who worked in a segregated and struggling elementary school beginning in 1992. After describing how Ms. Carey’s elementary school eliminated after school enrichment programs in favor of an extended school day and doubled the amount of math instruction, he offers this insight:

“For the record,” Carey says, “my teacher friends and I knew it was terrible from the start. These carrots and sticks with adults who were working in underfunded schools with 32 students per classroom? Really? You’re going to punish us for our migrant students who learned English two years ago, their test scores? It was very clear that it was setting us up to restructure. For privatization.”

…Teachers like Shannon Carey and her friends and millions like them sensed mistrust in how NCLB spoke to them. They felt infantilized and disrespected. Because the law did so little to fix the financial and social inequality baked into the education system and the larger society, they felt set up to fail. So they rejected it, in ways large and small.

Mr. Carey countered Ms. Carey’s contention that NCLB’s intent was to restructure and privatize by offering statistics on how few schools were actually closed— a misleading data point since the restructuring more frequently took the form of offering students the “choice” to attend a charter school. It is noteworthy that Mr. Carey offered no rejoinder to the sense teachers had that they “felt infantilized and disrespected”. Nor did he offer a rejoinder to their sense that they were “set up to fail” because “the law failed to fix the financial and social inequality baked into the education system and the larger society“. I suppose being of a quantitive mind Mr. Carey diminished these “feelings”… but in the case of the feelings they had of being set up, the facts are that neither NCLB or RTTT did anything to redress the “financial and social inequality baked into the education system and the larger society” and because of this oversight (or, less charitably, negligence) on the part of lawmakers, teachers in schools like the one where Ms. Carey taught WERE in fact punished for the low test scores their migrant students achieved… and likewise NYC teachers in schools serving a large population of homeless children whose absentee rates were high were punished… and teachers in underfunded schools in property poor districts were punished… In the meantime, teachers in affluent districts like the one I led from 2004-2011 paid no attention to minimum competency tests whatsoever because there was never any danger that they would be placed on a “watch list” for an extended time period. The result? While districts proximate to mine were struggling to maintain reasonable pupil-teacher ratios we were debating whether to offer swimming and rowing as interscholastic sports.

The second telling section of Mr. Carey’s article came at the end, where he described the status of the Education Trust, the school reform think tank he worked for from 2002-2005… and whose credo he still seems to believe— with some notable caveats, which I highlighted in bold red italics!

The Education Trust is now run by Obama’s second education secretary, John B. King Jr., a former schoolteacher, charter-school leader and New York state commissioner of education. “I’m more optimistic than many about the future of school reform,” he told me. For all the political controversy around the Common Core, he notes, 41 states and the District of Columbia remain on board.

King believes that accountability can succeed if it works alongside other critical changes, including more-equitable funding, higher-quality curriculums and better training for teachers. He points to a recent bipartisan deal in Massachusetts to boost school funding alongside accountability for student learning. States including Texas and California have taken advantage of the decade-long economic expansion to send large sums to high-poverty schools. Others may follow suit. King’s is a more pragmatic and incremental approach to improving education, one that recognizes, and pays, the price of democracy that confronted Robert Kennedy in 1965.

Of course with the Dow declining precipitously and unemployment forecast to rise to 20% it appears the “decade-long economic expansion” is over… and with it the other critical changes Mr. Kind calls for are likely to disappear as well… Here’s hoping the reform movement disappears with it…