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Posts Tagged ‘ESSA’

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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Kavanaugh’s Court Likely to Rule in Favor of Vouchers for Parochial Schools… Reaping What NCLB, RTTT, and “Reformers” Sowed

August 22, 2018 Comments off

Blogger Gaius Publius, who writes for several websites is who is frequently featured in Naked Capitalism, wrote a post last week forecasting that should Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed to the Supreme Court that “his” court will ultimately rule that public funds may be used to underwrite sectarian schools. And he convinced that once sectarian schools are funded, it is highly likely that those funds will not be available for ALL religiously affiliated institutions:

The purpose of that flow of funds would not be to ensure that a broad spectrum of religious ideas get funded — imagine the response from conservatives, for example, if a large group of Muslim madrassas were funded by the U.S. government or one of the states. That response would be like the response from whites if a large group of blacks in, say, Alabama exercised their Scalia-minted Second Amendment rights and took open-carry to the streets.

The purpose of that new funding would be to “save the nation” by creating an army of politically active fundamentalist true believers.

I am less certain that Gaius Publius that funds might be limited to Christian institutions given that Indiana, which already has de facto vouchers in place, provides funding for Muslim schools as well as parochial schools. In making his case that the intent of any case brought before the Supreme Court would be to create “…an army of politically active fundamentalist true believers” he seizes on this quote from Betsy DeVos and concludes that is one of the reasons Mr. Kavanaugh should be rejected:

Here’s Ms. DeVos belief about the mission of education: “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”

DeVos wants to devote government dollars to that mission. And that’s the mission a Kavanaugh Court will enshrine into law. Just one of many reasons confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would be a generational disaster for a nation already in crisis.

But, as I noted in a comment left on the Naked Capitalism website, we are reaping what the “school reformers” sowed when they decided to use “choice” and “competition” as the mechanism for “improving failing public schools”.  After all, if schools are a commodity like grocery stores and parents are “consumers” who are given the opportunity to “shop”, how can a court deny them the opportunity to shop wherever they wish to make a purchase?

Schools are not commodities… they are a public good. One of public education’s primary goals is to help children develop the skills needed to become informed voters who can help guide the direction of local, state, and federal government and who can live harmoniously with their fellow citizens. Isolating children into tribes based on religion or demographics will undercut that mission.

 

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DPE 2.0 The City Fund

August 22, 2018 Comments off

A thoroughly researched analysis of one “reform” group that sprung up in response to ESSA, which opens the door for the bottom 5% of districts in any state to be taken over by profiteers. Implicit in this approach is the notion that the parents who presumably chose to reside in neighborhoods or communities where the “low performing” schools are located don’t deserve to live in a democracy.

via DPE 2.0 The City Fund

If You “Run-Schools-Like-a-Business” Privatization is the Ultimate Result… and Democracy Loses Out

August 18, 2018 Comments off

In one of her posts yesterday, Diane Ravitch bemoaned the fact that the Democrats For Education Reform (DFER) was in fact comprised of hedge funders who were Republicans as well as Democrats. After reading her critique of DFER, it struck me that she missed DFER’s over-arching message, which ISN’T that schools should be privatized: it’s that schools should operate like a business.

As a retired school superintendent I can attest to the fact that many newly elected school board members and in some instances a majority of taxpayers share this sentiment. On most school boards the experienced school board members would patiently explain to their newly elected “run-schools-like-business” colleagues that public schools, unlike businesses, are operated democratically and decisions that a school board makes need to be done openly and democratically. And unlike a business, which can determine their “success” based on the bottom line, schools lack a clear metric for success.

This is why the “run-schools-like-a-business” reformers love standardized tests: test scores provide them with a seemingly precise metric that serves as a proxy for “profit”. In this way the “run-schools-like-a-business” crowd can make a cold determination on which schools are “successful” and which are “failing”. Many Democrats, wanting to show that they can run government with the same kind of cold efficiency as CEOs can run a corporation, buy into the “run-schools-like-a-business” ethos. That’s why there is bi-partisan support for test-driven “reforms” like NCLB and why a “liberal president” spent billions on testing and test-based “merit pay” instead of on programs that would help children or help states equalize funding disparities.

DFER is very comfortable with privatization because that is the ultimate consequence of “running-schools-like-a-business”… and until voters realize that businesses are not democratic we may see our all our public services operated by the private sector. And instead of getting a human voice on the phone when your child encounters a problem in school, expect to get a menu urging you to go to a web page and engage in a chat with someone who will likely be housed offshore following a prescribed problem solving algorithm.

 

Arne Duncan Continues Tour, Amassing Evidence of His Obliviousness

August 14, 2018 Comments off

Yesterday’s Common Dreams included a reprint of a column by Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post titled “Arne Duncan Never Learns“. Ms. Strauss, like most reviewers who do not support his brand of “reform”, was appalled at his opening statement in his new book titled “How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation’s Longest-Serving Secretaries of Education.” That sentence? “Education runs on lies.” Ms. Strauss, ever the thorough researcher, offered a long list of times that Mr. Duncan used that phrase while he was Secretary of Education, and as I read through each one it became clearer and clearer that Mr. Duncan was not only lying to the audience when he uttered these epithets about public education, he was lying to himself and using these lies to buttress his narrative about “failing public schools”, a narrative that does not stand up to scrutiny.

Like earlier columns that review his latest book, Ms. Strauss’ includes highlights of an interview Mr. Duncan conducted, this time with  journalist Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation,.”The interview included this exchange, which includes my highlights:

BRENNAN: So, some colors and personal anecdotes but you also really, it’s not so much about how schools work but really an indictment of how schools aren’t working. It’s a very critical take in this book about the education system, and you say, “the education system runs on lies.” What do you mean by that?

DUNCAN: That’s a tough statement to make. But let me just give you a couple of notes. We say we value education, but we never vote on education. We never hold politicians accountable, local, state, or national level, for getting better results, higher graduation rates, more people graduate from college. We say we value teachers, but we don’t pay teachers. We don’t support them.We don’t mentor them the way they need to do their incredibly important, tough, complex work. And then maybe the toughest lie, for me, Margaret, is that we say we value kids and we’ve raised a generation of young people, teens who have been raised on mass shootings and gun violence. And that simply doesn’t happen in other nations. So I don’t look at what people say. I look at their actions. I’d look at their policies. I’d look at their budgets. And our values don’t reflect that we care about education, we care about teachers or that we truly care about keeping our children safe and free and free of fear.

Ms. Strauss, like me and presumably like most readers of this blog, looked at Mr. Duncan’s actions and was appalled at his ignorance and hypocrisy. First, we ALWAYS vote on education in America by adopting budgets at the local and the State level. Second, most parents assess the quality of their local schools by examining the quality of their child’s experience— not test scores or graduation rates. And, as I HOPE Mr. Duncan realizes, those parents who are engaged in the lives of their children are well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the schools their child attends and work with the schools to make them better. Finally, and most appallingly, when he held the seat as Secretary of Education Mr. Duncan never spoke out about the shootings that took place in the same way as he is now, he never enacted policies or budgets that would help schools serving disadvantaged kids get a good start and have an even playing field, and never supported teachers. Worse than his hypocrisy is his obliviousness. He fails to see that his policies damaged the equity in schools by diverting stimulus funds to assessments and the Common Core, crushed the morale of teachers by using standardized tests to measure their “performance”, and diverted attention away from the need to create the kind of nurturing environment in schools that might reduce the loneliness and alienation children feel.

Ms. Strauss does an excellent job of contrasting the failures of Mr. Duncan’s administration, page-by-page and section-by-section… but her best rejoinder dealt with his insistence that VAM would be a “game changer”:

Ample evidence exists that Duncan’s push for annual standardized testing for high-stakes decisions on teachers, students and schools was destructive and in some cases nonsensical. In some places, teachers were evaluated on students they didn’t have and subjects they didn’t teach simply because test scores had to be used as an evaluation metric.

I do not believe Mr. Duncan intentionally undercut public schools. Rather, he had a narrative about education and how to “fix” it that he clung to steadfastly in the face of accumulating evidence that his “fix” was wrongheaded and destructive. It was his obliviousness more than his incompetence or ignorance that troubles me. When the facts on the ground were not matching his beliefs he chose to ignore them and as a result children and teachers across the nation suffered an extension of the test-and-punish regimen imposed by NCLB, a regimen that is now extended even further into the future at the State level by ESSA.

When President Obama was elected I hoped that NCLB would be replaced. When it was evident that the USDOE would be the beneficiary of stimulus funds, I hoped to see an upgrade to technology infrastructure or a redoubling of the redistribution of funds that was implicit in Title One. Instead, we got Arne Duncan’s RTTT: more tests linked to adverse consequences and less respect for the hard work being done by teachers. Hope vanished… and fear was increased. John McCain would have been happy with Mr. Duncan’s work.

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Tennessee’s Faith in Testing is Based on the Flawed Premise that More Money is Unnecessary

August 2, 2018 Comments off

Diane Ravitch wrote a post yesterday decrying the “colossal failure” of the school district comprised of the “failing schools” taken over by the state, a district that received millions of dollars from Race to the Top to replace “failing” public schools with charters. There’s only one problem, as noted in the Chalkbeat article that was the basis for Ms. Ravitch’s post: low-performing schools operated by Shelby County Schools, where most of the “failing schools” taken over by the state are located, have outpaced progress of those run by the state! 

The agreeable fantasy that a “state takeover” of “failing schools” or the outsourcing of those same schools to deregulated charter schools would lead to their “improvement” underpins virtually all federal and state legislation. It also underpins the reform movement and leads to other agreeable fantasies promoted by reformers. These agreeable fantasies enable politicians to dodge the need for legislation that would either require them to raise more money for public education or divert the money already allocated to less affluent districts. It also enabled them to adopt other ideas based on magical thinking, ideas that don’t require more money but result in “improvement”. Ideas like: firing “bad teachers” would improve “failing schools”; or, “adopting a uniform curriculum” would improve the teaching and learning in “failing schools”; or “eliminating frills” would direct more resources “to the classroom”; or implementing merit pay plans that would reward the “best and brightest teachers” and withhold raises from “weak teachers” thereby “improving failing schools”; or implementing programs that “increase the grit” of students raised in poverty to help them overcome the adversity they face. None of these ideas require more money and all of them directly or indirectly scapegoat the teachers who work tirelessly to improve their “failing” schools.

But the biggest agreeable fantasy is that statewide standardized norm referenced tests are the best means of measuring the “quality of education”… and, as we are witnessing, the state that gave us value added testing has tremendous faith in that fantasy… and. alas, so do most voters across the country despite the accumulating evidence to the contrary.