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Posts Tagged ‘RTTT’

Public Schools are Getting Billions from the American Rescue Plan. Should Private Schools Get a Fair Share? Schumer and Weingarten Say Yes Given Safeguards THEY Contend Are in Rescue Plan… I’m Not So Sure

March 14, 2021 Comments off

The amount of money going to public education as a result of the Rescue Bill passed earlier this week is astonishing!  A Chalkbeat article by Matt Barnum reports that the colossal American Rescue Plan includes $128 billion for K-12 schools PLUS a number of other provisions that will provide support. Thats almost 30 times as much as President Obama allocated for his ill-conceived Race to the Top…. and this is on top of $70 billion schools already received as a result of the initial rescue package passed earlier. Mr. Barnum offers several examples of how much $128 billion works out to:

A few ways to think about that figure:

  • It is almost certainly the largest single federal outlay on K-12 education in U.S. history.

  • It’s nearly eight times what the federal government spends annually on the Title I program.

  • It’s more than twice what the federal government spends on education in a typical year.

  • It amounts to about 20% of all K-12 public operating spending in 2018, the most recent year with data available.

  • The three relief packages together add up to much more federal help than schools got during the Great Recession.

And how does that money get divvied up?

  • 90% of that goes to school districts. The Title I formula determines how much each district gets.

  • States get 5% of that to create resources to help schools address learning loss, another 1% help create summer school programs, and another 1% to help create after-school programs.

  • The U.S. Department of Education gets $800 million (less than 1%) to identify and support students who are homeless and also issue grants to states to do the same.

  • States can decide how to use the small share that’s left.

There’s a separate $2.58 billion going to states to support students with disabilities.

Lastly, $2.75 billion is set aside for private schools. This money, distributed by governors, is for those schools serving a “significant” number of students from low-income families.

It’s that last paragraph from Mr. Barnum’s article that led to some controversy as the American Rescue Plan wended its way through Congress, a $2.75 carve out that resulted from a bargain struck by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Nathan J. Diament, the executive director for public policy at the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, a bargain that Randi Weingarten supported… and a bargain that earmarked funds for private schools that was not included in the House version of the bill. In an article in today’s NYTimes, writer Erica Green describes the details of the bargain and the fallout that resulted, fallout because the amount Mr. Schumer included was nearly the same amount Betsy DeVos sought and the House fought to keep out of previous legislation. But in this case, Ms. Weingarten felt that providing a relatively small share of the funds to private schools was morally correct and politically acceptable given the clause requiring the funds be spent on “…schools serving a “significant” number of students from low-income families” would protect the money from going to schools serving affluent parents, which was a flaw in Betsy DeVos’ proposal. This notion was reinforced by Nathan Diament, who

…likened Mr. Schumer’s decision to Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s move more than a decade ago to include private schools in emergency relief funding if they served students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

That, for me, was a most unsettling analogy… because the funding for Hurricane Katrina went to create charter schools– many of whom were for profit— that ultimately displaced public schools in that city.

The fact that the funds appear to be directed to public school systems is a clear victory for public education… but only if the public school systems use those funds to shore up their operations in the many ways possible given the relative flexibility in terms of how the money can be used. In the coming months, it will be imperative for all of the associations and unions serving public schools work harmoniously to ensure that the funds they receive are spent wisely— and to make sure the language regarding private school funding is followed.

NYC Chancellor Carranza’s Resignation Underscores the Insidious Link Between Standardized Tests and Segregation… and the Political Peril When That Link is Broken

February 28, 2021 Comments off

I was dismayed to read that NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza submitted his resignation to Mayor De Blasio today. Despite the pushback he received from tabloids like the NYPost and many politicians and most affluent parents, he continued advocating for the end of the tyranny of standardized testing, tests that are used to ostensibly to dispassionately and objectively sort and select students based on their “merit”. Moreover, after some initial hesitancy he seemed endorse the community schools movement whose success and failure defied could not be readily identified by the conventional measures used in public education. In a system based on the premise that “choice” was the only way White parents would remain in the schools and “choice” was limited for those who scored poorly on standardized tests, Mr. Carranza stood firm in his opposition to the use of test scores as a gatekeeping mechanism because the effect of that system was the re-segregation of schools.

Unlike most businessmen, politicians, and parents, Mr. Carranza understood that standardized tests are not the ultimate metric. He understood that using a single standardized test to identify “gifted and talented” 4 year olds has no basis in psychometrics and led to highly stressed childhoods for any children who aspired to enter those programs, especially if the parents of those children saw the scores on those tests as evidence that their child might not get accepted to a “brand name” college or university. Mr. Carranza also understood that use of standardized tests to sort-and-select rising middle and high school students re-segregated schools in the city and rejected the notion that standardized test scores are a valid proxy for “successful schools”. This stance made him a pariah to those who wanted to maintain the status quo and an especially fearsome opponent to the parents who believed that high test scores were evidence of merit on the part of their children.

We’ve use standardized test scores to “measure” students from the time I entered elementary school in the 50s, to “measure” schools since the passage of No Child Left Behind, and— had the “value added mentality of Race to the Top prevailed, would be using them now to “measure” teachers. Standardized tests are not useful for any of the above. They are a crude measure of student performance in any content area, of no use in determining “school quality”, and are absolutely wrong for the purpose of measuring teachers. Yet they persist. Why? Because they are a cheap, fast, and seemingly exact means of setting normative standards for cohorts of students based on age.

Formative tests, the ones developed by independent publicly funded research-based organizations or classroom teachers, provide a means of determining if an individual student has mastered a skill. They are valuable for teachers to use to identify where an individual student is encountering difficulty and to explain to parents how their child is progressing in a particular content area. How an individual student compares to his ager cohorts is immaterial in the learning process. What is important that the student is mastering skills he or she will need to progress.

Using standardized tests for anything else is absurd. Maybe Richard Carranza’s departure will lead to a dialogue on this issue.

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Tennessee’s Law Mandating Retention Based on Standardized Test Scores: Cheap, Easy-to-Explain, Appealing to Voters…. and VERY Stupid!

February 6, 2021 Comments off

Peter Greene tweeted a link to Andy Spears’ blog post about a preposterous bill passed by the Tennessee House and Senate that has the effect of mandating retention for 62% of current 3rd graders unless the cut scores change. Spears’ blog post is fittingly titled “I Don’t Even Have a Headline”. The one I offered above seems fitting after reading his post. The Tennessee legislature wants to make sure very child gets a wonderful education but doesn’t want to pay for it… so it implements a law that defies the realities of child development, ignores the realities of the impact of poverty and race on public school students, and relies on cheap, easy-to-administer-off-the-shelf standardized tests to determine if 8 year olds are “ready” to go into 4th grade. If they “fail” based on this test, they DO have a fall back: they can go to summer school.

Like Andy Spears, I have difficulty finding the words to describe the absurdity. But here’s what I’m willing to wager: the Tennessee Education Department (or whatever it’s called in that State) will tinker with the cut scores to make certain that 62% of the kids DON’T fail which will beg the question of why they are using a test that can be easily manipulated…. but that question has been around for two decades. I keep hoping the pandemic will be an opportunity to change the dominant paradigm of public education… but GOP legislatures keep beating a path to the good old days of NCLB-style accountability. Ugh!

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