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Posts Tagged ‘RTTT’

Peter Greene’s Offers Clear Explanation of DeVos’ End Run

May 29, 2020 Leave a comment

In this Forbes article education writer Peter Greene offers a clear explanation of Betsy DeVos’ decision to allocate Title One funds to private and parochial schools in a fashion that robs from the poorest children and gives to the more affluent.

In the article Mr. Greene makes the same point I made in an earlier post: DeVos is essentially doing the same thing as Arne Duncan. Whereas Mr. Duncan used 4.5 billion to leverage changes that reinforced NCLB’a test and punish paradigm, Ms. DeVos has over three times as much to funnel funds to parochial schools. But UNLIKE Mr. Duncan case, Congress placed a constraint on how funds could be used, requiring that they be allocated by the Title One formula that sends more funds to underfunded schools. Ms. DeVos, however, read the law differently, claiming that they should be distributed to ALL schools on a per capita basis. As Mr. Greene notes in his concluding paragraph, this is clearly unfair:

Supporters of the DeVos view have argued that some of the private and religious schools serve some students from low-income families. But that’s beside the point—no one is arguing that the private and religious schools should be ignored entirely, and the law is clear that they should receive relief funds for the Title I students they serve. The question is whether or not the law should perform a reverse Robin Hood to serve even the most wealthy and privileged private school students.

But with bigger problems than the misappropriation of funds for poor children facing them and a AG who will do the bidding of the libertarian wing of the GOP I do not expect much to change… especially given the precedent set by the Obama administration.

Democrats Despair as DeVos Does Same Thing as Duncan

May 23, 2020 Leave a comment

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The massive CARES bailout put lots of money into the hands of Betsy DeVos and provided little guidance or oversight on how the money would be spent. Unsurprisingly Ms. DeVos has decided that she is going to use some of those funds to underwrite parochial schools and the response from politicians is equally unsurprising: the Democrats are upset that Ms. DeVos is using government funds to pay for religious schools and the GOP is looking the other way as the Executive branch ignores a law passed by the Legislature.

But neither party has a good reason to be upset. The GOP is getting what they asked for when they exonerated the POTUS when he unilaterally withheld funds from the Ukraine and the Democrats who supported the Obama/Duncan RTTT initiative based on Duncan’s beliefs that schools should run like a business. Both parties should realize by now that if they want to help public schools they should give money to the STATES to use explicitly for that purpose and to use Title 1 formulas to distribute it.

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Stan Karp’s Rethinking Schools Post Full of Chilling Reminders of the Past, Ominous Predictions for the Future

May 21, 2020 Leave a comment

Rethinking Schools editor Stan Karp wrote a post yesterday that is full of chilling reminders from the past and ominous predictions for the future.

In case any public school advocates had forgotten, Mr. Karp offers a scathing recounting of how the Democrats responded to the economic meltdown in 2008 where the relatively scarce funds allocated for public education were used to leverage the ill-starred ideas of “reformers” who hoped to privatize public education by sustaining the test-and-punish models put in place as part of No Child Left Behind. By the time the Obama administration came to an end, public schools were funded more parsimoniously than they had been for decades and the funding mechanisms did not move in the direction of greater equity:

Even as the economy recovered in the years after 2009, the vise of austerity continued to squeeze schools. A recent report from the Shanker Institute documented a 25-year decline in the percentage of personal income that went to state and local taxes.What school finance experts call “effort” — the share of state economies devoted to supporting K–12 education — decreased sharply through 2012 and hasn’t recovered. “This was not an accident or random confluence of events,” the Shanker Institute report noted. “It was — and still is — due in no small part to policymakers’ refusal to raise sufficient revenue to fund public services, including education.”

Expanded federal aid could be used as a lever to increase the “effort” and fairness of state school funding systems. But federal and state policy decisions have instead steadily eroded the funding mechanisms that support public education and left it increasingly vulnerable to repeated crises, with disproportionate impact on high-poverty districts most dependent on state and federal aid.

As bad as things were in response to the 2008 meltdown, they promise to be even worse this time around because the Congress has turned over a massive amount of spending authority to Betsy DeVos…. and in case you think she couldn’t wreak havoc on public education, here’s a reminder of what she’s done without any money at her disposal and what she will be able to do once she has some:

The CARES Act gives her the power to waive Title I funding regulations, which govern the largest federal education program supporting children from low-income families. It also allows her to suspend Title II rules defining professional development and Title IV requirements to “provide students with a well-rounded education” including the arts, mental health services, and training on trauma-informed practices — all crucially important in the current crisis. The CARES Act specifically allows schools to shift money from these areas to purchase “digital devices.” By early April, 28 states had received waivers to reallocate ESSA spending…

DeVos has a long and notorious record of using agency guidance and regulatory action to undermine equity. One of her first acts after being confirmed as secretary was to support the repeal of protections for transgender students, including their right to choose restrooms. She was sued for rolling back protections against predatory lenders at for-profit colleges and threatened with jail by a federal judge for “intentionally flouting” a court order to stop collection proceedings for such loans. DeVos rescinded sexual assault guidance issued under Title IX, a move the National Women’s Law Center said would have a “devastating” impact, and in May released new guidance that weakened protections for victims of sexual harassment and assault. She proposed allowing schools to use federal “student enrichment funds” to purchase guns and used a school safety commission formed in the wake of the Parkland school shootings to recommend repeal of regulations on school discipline practices that were rooted in civil rights concerns. Similarly, DeVos tried to rescind Obama-era rules that required districts to track racial disparities in special education classification rates, an effort a federal judge blocked as “arbitrary and capricious.” In April, DeVos relaxed oversight and accreditation rules for higher education online programs at a time when the pandemic was massively expanding the scale of such programs.

What could go wrong?

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…

Diane Ravitch Accurately Eviscerated Test-Based “Reformers”

February 1, 2020 Comments off

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Nearly 20 years after NCLB, RTT, and now Betsy DeVos there’s been no progress made in the improvement of public schools as measured by test results… and this is the case even though the schools directed all their time and energy and instruction toward the tests! This comes as no surprise since the correlation between poverty and test scores has been well established for over 50 years and the low spending on those schools has persisted.

Will anything change in the future? Doubtful given our obsession with spreadsheets and low taxes.

Good News in Massachusetts: A Commitment to Funding Equity Paid Off

January 29, 2020 Comments off

Earlier this month, Bloomberg News reporter Andrea Gabor wrote an article describing the recent implementation of Massachusetts’ financing bill  titled:

School Wars Are Over in Massachusetts. Everybody Won.

The subtitle of the article elaborates on the heading with even MORE good news from this blogger’s perspective:

A bipartisan agreement to boost financing, especially for poor districts,                                                                    marks a retreat from top-down reforms and the spread of charter schools.

From my perspective, the two headlines and the accompanying article underscore the reality that bipartisanship is the only avenue for accomplishing the kinds of funding equity every State constitution aspires to. In her essay, Ms. Gabor describes how a bi-partisan 1993 bill established rigorous standards for all schools and provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund an equity formula. It goes on to describe how a tax cut in the early 2000s undercut the funding required to maintain the equity elements of the formula and the Obama stimulus compelled the state to replace it’s holistic standards for ones based almost solely on standardized tests. Once the recent ESSA legislation gave the states some degree of flexibility in setting standards, the Democratic Massachusetts legislature passed a bill the Republican Governor signed that effectively replicated the accountability and funding put in place in 1993. Ms. Gabor concludes her article with this synopsis of the legislation passed last years, with the especially heartening information about the bill highlighted:

After two decades of reforms that focused on expanding standardized tests and charter schools with disappointing results — scores mostly declined on the latest NAEP test — a few states, including Michigan and Rhode Island, are looking to Massachusetts as a model. Unfortunately, they are trying to achieve improvement via tests and state intervention in underperforming districts without the extra funding that made Massachusetts successful.

Ultimately, it is voters who will have to press legislators to spend more on schools and to distribute the money to communities with the fewest resources. Just months before passage of the Massachusetts law, 58 percent of the state’s voters said they were willing to pay higher taxes to reduce education disparities and a majority said they would give up some funding in their own districts if it meant more money for the most disadvantaged communities.

I find it hard to believe that a majority of any state’s voters would be so cold hearted that they would not be willing to share their wealth with those less fortunate. I hope that those running for office in 2020 will address this need in the forthcoming elections at all levels of government.

Diane Ravitch Savages “Reformers” and “Disruptors” in her New Book

January 18, 2020 Comments off

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Forbes writer and public education resistance fighter Peter Greene’s paean to Diane Ravitch provides a good overview of her clear-headed thinking and the muddled thinking of what she calls this disruption movement. And what is that movement?

The disruption movement has given us charter schools, high stakes testing, and the de-professionalization of teaching. It has used the real problems of inequity and underserved communities to justify false solutions.

In his review of her forthcoming book Mr. Greene contrasts the “reformers” embrace of Taylor’s standardization with Deming’s Total Quality Management and laments the victory of Taylor in this war of ideas. Like Diane Ravitch, Peter Greene seems to think the tide is turning. I hope they are right….