Posts Tagged ‘RTTT’

We Can’t Learn From Failures We Don’t Know About: Report Showing The Test-and-Punish Regimen Beloved by Reformers Cost Billions, Accomplished Nothing.

July 15, 2021 Comments off

I entered the phrase “Move fast and break things” into Goggle and got this explanation:

Move fast and break things” is a saying common in science and engineering industries. In that context, it means that making mistakes is a natural consequence of innovation in a highly competitive and complex environment.

“Move fast and break things” was one of several mantras thrown in the face of educators in the early 2000s as a wave of disruptive change swept through public education. Charter schools and No Child Left Behind were rooted in the notion that if public schools were subjected to market forces, freed from regulations, and measured with precision using standardized tests they would improve over time. Like corporations in the private sector, they could systematically examine the results of their counterparts, identify the practices and elements of instruction that were “successful” in boosting test scores, and replicate them in their own schools. To help them in this mission, the federal government would offer competitive grants. 

As one who immediately and urgently argued against this idea when it was presented in the form of Race to the Top, I was not surprised to learn of it’s abject failure as a strategy. But as one who believes that it is possible AND necessary to learn from mistakes, I was disappointed to learn of its documented failure from a recent Common Dreams article by Diane Ravitch. Ms. Ravitch’s devastating critique of Race to the Top ends with these paragraphs: 

What NCLB, Race to the Top, and SIG demonstrated was that their theory of action was wrong. They did not address the needs of students, teachers, or schools. They imposed the lessons of the non-existent Texas “miracle” and relied on carrots and sticks to get results. They failed, but they did not prove that money doesn’t matter.

Money matters very much. Equitable and adequate funding matters. Class size matters, especially for children with the highest needs. A refusal to look at evidence and history blinds us to seeing what must change in federal and state policy. It will be an uphill battle but we must persuade our representatives in state legislatures and Congress to open their eyes, acknowledge the failure of the test-and-punish regime, and think anew about the best ways to help students, teachers, families, and communities.

The findings of the report were devastating, not only to the SIG program, but to the punitive strategies imposed by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, which together cost many more billions. 

Worse, as future blog posts will indicate, we just came away from a once in a generation opportunity to rethink the way we provde schooling, the way we measure “success” in schools, and the way we pay for schools and, in part because this refusal to look at evidence and history is blinding us to the changes we need to make if we ever hope to improve the ultimate goal of public education: to provide every child with an equitable opportunity to thrive in our democracy. 

Categories: Essays Tags: , , , ,

NYTimes David Leonhardt Continues to Disappoint by Reinforcing the Bipartisan Support for Test and Punish

April 28, 2021 Comments off

I subscribe to “The Morning”, David Leonhardt’s daily newsletter from the NYTimes that offers an overview of the news of the day. As readers of this blog may recall, I often found myself in disagreement with Mr. Leonhardt’s perspectives on public education, particularly his sustained and continued support for the “reform” movement that swept the country following No Child Left Behind. Here’s an excerpt from today’s newsletter that was especially disappointing given all that has transpired over the past two decades:

One example: Democrats are not the only ones with constructive ideas about education. Republicans sometimes put more emphasis on school accountability, while Democrats assume — incorrectly — that adequate funding ensures high quality. If the two parties were negotiating over a bill, it might include a mix of both sides’ best ideas.

I invite readers to click on the link… and read an article from 2004 that offers the conclusion:

The accountability mechanism implemented by the No Child Left Behind Act highlights the use of standardized test scores to measure education quality. Although such scores may be imperfect measures of education quality, their use is meant to shift attention to outcomes and to avoid reliance on input measures, such as student-teacher ratios or spending per pupil. Some economists believe this is important because an accountability system opens the door for additional reforms that would help provide parents and school officials with the right incentives to make socially optimal choices on education investment.Incentives based on students’ outcomes are more likely to be effective and to have a long-term impact on academic achievement than the incentives provided by merely increasing spending in education.

This implies that these scores, which the author acknowledges are “…imperfect measures of education quality” are nevertheless important tools for parents to make socially optimal choices on education investment. 

Here’s my question for David Leonhardt: How on earth does one make an optimal choice based on a set of imperfect quality metrics? He’s definitely had too many sips of the kool-aid of spreadsheet driven venture capitalists who, in an effort to find a cold objective metric settled on standardized testing. I would hope that the failure of this concept would have dawned on Mr. Leonhardt and the “reformers” after 16 years… but it appears that we will continue doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Categories: Essays Tags: , , ,

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.