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Posts Tagged ‘value added’

Bad News Betsy Blistered by Guardian

December 30, 2019 Comments off

Guardian writer David Smith wrote a blistering essay outlining the many ways Betsy DeVos has undermined public schools in her short tenure as Secretary of Education. Here are some highlights, beginning with Randi Weingarten’s assessment:

“We’ve had plenty of Republican as well as Democratic secretaries of education but none of them, even those who believed in alternatives to public education, actually tried to eviscerate public education,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Here is someone who in her first budget tried to eliminate every single summer school programme, every single after-school programme, and who has done everything in her power to try to make it harder for us to strengthen public [sector] schools.”

Then there’s the federal court’s assessment:

DeVos is currently attacking a programme, known as “borrower defense to repayment”, intended to forgive federal loans for students whose colleges misrepresent the quality of their education or otherwise commit fraud. The programme was expanded under Barack Obama but DeVos has been accused of stalling it for more than a year while she altered the rules and made it harder for students to get loan relief, resulting in a large backlog.

Last month, a federal judge held DeVos in contempt for violating an order to stop collecting loan payments from former Corinthian Colleges students, a for-profit college chain that collapsed in 2015 amid allegations that it lied about the success of its graduates in order to get students to enroll.

And centrist MD legislator John Delaney’s take:

“If we were grading her on a report card, I would give her very low grades if not a failing grade,” he said by phone from Iowa. “The reason I think she has not been a successful secretary of educationwas obvious from the day she was given the job, which is she doesn’t believe in the public education system in this country. She would voucherise the whole system if she could.”

But the most chilling quote from Mr. Delaney was this one:

Delaney warned: “We have to be careful not to be so preoccupied with every single ridiculous thing the president does because, to some extent, it might be a strategy to distract us from the bad policy that’s actually getting done.Obviously the things he did with Ukraine deserve this attention they’re getting. But in some ways he’s the bright, shiny light and every little tweet causes people to just be incredibly preoccupied.

“Meanwhile, environmental regulations are getting rolled back. Ethanol waivers are being granted. There are proposals to spin off the entire student loan portfolio of the Department of Education. The list goes on and on and on of real policies that are happening that deserve much more attention. She has largely kept her head down and gone about her business, which I think is ideologically driven and hasn’t attracted that much attention.”

John Delaney is onto something insidious: while the President issues ridiculous tweets that occupy bandwidth on the evening news his appointees and the anti-government wing of the GOP are doing horrific damage to our country… damage that will cost billions of dollars and, in all probability, decades to repair.

Mr. Smith’s article concludes with this prediction from Neil Sroka, an activist from Michigan:

“(Betsy DeVos)… scion of wealth and privilege has never had a real job but made it her life’s work to attack public schools, teachers and students. She only escapes scrutiny because so much incompetence, grief and evil comes out of this administration that she’s been able to ride out the storm. But she’s made it much more likely we’ll get a Democratic education secretary who’s a real champion for teachers.

Sroka’s prediction will only come true if we elect a Democrat who opposes the neoliberal agenda. If the Democrats choose someone in the mold of Barak Obama or Bill Clinton they will likely get a secretary of education in the mold of Arne Duncan, someone who will never be held up as “…a real champion for teachers”.

Great Analysis of Democratic Candidates by John Merrow— Watch Out for Buttigieg

December 20, 2019 Comments off

John Merrow recently attended a debate in Pittsburgh among seven of the candidates for President,  a debate that occurred at a gathering of teachers in that region. At the debate he took notes on each candidate, notes that provided a relatively comprehensive overview of the candidate’s views on education and resulted in a VERY insightful blog post.

In reading the post I got a clear distinction between “the other moderate Democrats” Klobucher and Buttigieg and learned that he supports Value Added metrics, which immediately eliminated him from my list of prospective candidates. I have been very open to his candidacy given his reasoned and even-tempered approach but was suspicious of him for a couple of reasons: his experience as a McKinsey consultant and his general lack of experience in a major leadership role. His desire to use mathematical models to “measure” teacher performance based on standardized test meshes well with the use of such models to cut spending and raise profits— a McKinsey standard practice

After reading Mr. Merrow’s insightful analysis, I only wish one of the reporters or someone in the audience challenged Joe Biden on the question of whether he supports RTTT and the appointment of a Secretary of Education in the mold of Arne Duncan. That question needs to be posed to each “moderate” or “centrist” Democratic candidate if we ever hope to get out of the test-driven ditch NCLB and RTTT drove us into. Otherwise, the only hope is that either Warren (who has a TFA staffer— a potential flaw given their thinking about RTTT and similar programs) or ESPECIALLY Sanders gets the Democratic party nod.

NBC News Editorial by Daniel Koretz Blames Test-Driven “Reform” for Poor Performance

December 18, 2019 Comments off

I was pleasantly surprised to see NBC News publish an editorial by Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Daniel Koretz laying the blame for America’s poor performance on PISA where it belongs: on the test-driven accountability movement. The subheading of the article, titled “American Students Aren’t Getting Smarter and Test-Based ‘Reform’ Initiatives are to Blame” should be a call to arms for politicians and parents:

It’s time to stop pretending that test-based accountability is improving schools, and turn to other approaches that will create less harm.

I won’t recount Mr. Koretz’s argument point-by-point but do urge readers of this blog to read the editorial in its entirety because Mr. Koretz makes the case for abandoning test-driven accountability for more elegantly and eloquently than I could. This is a must read.

Reformers’ Worries About Standardized Tests Too Little and Too Late

November 17, 2018 Comments off

Two days ago Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum posted an article describing the epiphany of many reformers regarding standardized tests titled “In a shift, more education reformers say they’re worried about schools’ focus on testing“.

The epiphany is summarized in the opening paragraphs:

“If there is one office in every state I would want to get rid of, it’s the accountability office,” said Andre Perry, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who previously led a charter school in New Orleans. “I would replace that office with some kind of statewide coordination around personalized learning.” No one on the panel with him disagreed.

I think too much time, attention, and resources have been devoted to accountability systems that don’t produce outcomes for students that historically struggled,” Lewis Ferebee, the head of Indianapolis Public Schools, said later.

“The way we’re doing [assessment] now — that is so time-, age-, grade-based — is really constraining for those innovators that are developing models that will support all kids,” said Susan Patrick of iNACOL, an organization that promotes technology-based personalized learning in schools.

To no educators surprise, once No Child Left Behind mandated the use of standardized tests to determine whether a school was succeeding or failing and then tied those test results to the compensation of teachers and made the continued operation of the schools contingent on performing well on the tests, MOST of the teachers time, attention and resources were devoted to passing those tests. And to no educators’ surprise the students who struggled the most to pass those tests were children who came from homes where education was not as important as, say, figuring out where the family would sleep or where their next meal would come from.

And once standardized tests became the basis for judging schools, it became evident to reformers and politicians who were claiming these tests would “prepare students to enter the workforce” that it was necessary to ensure that the tests in every state were based on the same set of skills… which opened the door to the Common Core.

By the time the Obama administration had every state engaged in a Race to the Top, standardized tests were entrenched in the DNA of every school system in the nation and their importance was magnified.

So, nearly two decades later, the “reformers” who wanted a cheap, simple, and fast way to measure “school effectiveness” and “student success” have come to the conclusion that standardized tests, while cheap, simple, and fast, do NOT measure the effectiveness of schools or do an adequate job of measuring individual student learning.

But the tests cannot be abandoned as quickly as they were imposed… because there is not a quick, cheap and easy metric to take their place when it comes to measuring schools or individual student performance… and if it is impossible to do so how can a school be given a low grade and recommended for takeover by a private for profit charter chain? And how can a parent make an informed choice about the school they want to attend.

Mr. Barnum’s article concludes with this offer from a group that has long opposed standardized testing:

“I’m happy to hear that these groups are in fact grappling with and realizing some of the same problems we are,” said Andre Green, the executive director of FairTest, a group that pushes for a smaller role for testing. “Come talk to us.”

I doubt that FiarTest’s phone is ringing off the hook… and that’s too bad because they might have some insights based on what makes sense to teachers and administrators.

State Mandated Rating Systems Reinforce Commodification… Multiple Metrics Determined by Local Boards the Best Accountability

November 3, 2018 Comments off

Diane Ravitch’s posted blogger Laura Chapman’s critique of Ohio’s rating system for schools that, in response to ESSA mandates, now incorporates “multiple measures”. But the results of changing to multiple measures made no difference in terms of what the report cards actually measure: family income and education.

To my surprise, neither Diane Ravitch nor Laura Chapman nor any of the commenters noted the interest flaw of rating systems: the fact that they reinforce the commodification of public schools. Ratings were introduced by “reformers” based on the premise that parents can shop for schools the way they shop for cars or groceries. Until affluent school districts with space in their classrooms open their doors to children raised in poverty in neighboring districts these ratings should be ignored.

BTW, one of the most bogus “selling points” of ESSA was the notion that STATES would be in complete control of the mandated rating system, a system that would ultimately need to be approved by the USDOE. If you think any state will abandon standardized testing as the primary metric there is a bridge I can sell you…. And worse yet, in the case of Ohio, one of the”multiple measures” is the introduction of a value added metric… despite the fact that VAM has been repeatedly discredited.

NYTimes Reporting on Tests Gets a “D”… the Lowest Passing Grade Possible

September 28, 2018 Comments off

NYTimes reporter Eliza Shapiro’s article on the release of last year’s test results gets a passing grade because it is factually accurate, but it gets a “D” because of what it fails to report. It factually recounts the reasons why last year’s results cannot be compared to previous year’s tests. It also factually reports on the opt out movement data and accurately contrasts the Mayor Bloomberg’s overemphasis on test results as compared to his successor, Bill de Blasio. But here are the points Ms. Shapiro missed:

  • Ms. Shapiro writes: “Just five years ago, it seemed the state was poised to have some of the toughest teacher evaluations in the nation, based on some of the most intensive exams.” The “tough evaluations” Mr. Bloomberg championed were based on VAM, a statistically invalid and discredited method of evaluation– not discredited by teachers unions, but by statisticians!
  •  Ms. Shapiro writes: “This year’s scores are the latest confusing data points in a long history of zigzagging test results in New York, but what they do tell us is how much the political pendulum has swung on standardized testing.” One VERY possible reason for the “zig-zag” in test scores, as any education writer should realize, is the fact that the definition of a “passing score” is not based on how students perform compared to a fixed set of standards: it is based on a cut score that can be set arbitrarily by those who designed the test… and, surprise… cut scores have proved to be a function of political variances and not a function of teaching variances. That is, political forces swing the pendulum on test scores and parents, teachers, and many voters are beginning to realize that reality. Ms. Shapiro’s article makes no mention of this, leading an innocent reader to believe that performance, not the cut score, zig-zagged. This only adds to the public’s confusion about the data points.
  • Ms. Shapiro oversells the differences in test scores… even after she wrote in one of the opening paragraphs that “…the (State education) department cautioned that the exams cannot be measured against previous tests and should be considered a new baseline.” What Ms. Shapiro fails to realize is that if they can’t be measured against a previous baseline, they can’t be analyzed by comparing how one group of schools did as opposed to another set. Despite this reality, Ms. Shapiro compares the performance of charter schools to regular public schools and regular charter schools to “Renewal schools” and draws a long series of faulty conclusions as a result.
  • Ms. Shapiro downplays the bottom line: all of the “reforms” in NY have made no difference whatsoever. She writes: “Although state exam results have fluctuated wildly in the past 10 years, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, considered the gold-standard measure of academic growth, found that New York City’s students did not make progress in English or math between 2015 and 2017.” 
  • And last, but not least, Ms. Shapiro concludes her article with this: “This year’s results will no doubt influence fresh questions about education policy in New York, including the state Board of Regents’ decision about whether to use exam results in teacher evaluations.

So Ms. Shapiro got the facts right… but she got the conclusions all wrong… and the public, as a result, is getting the message that reforms advocated by the billionaires are doing well (i.e. charters “outperform” public schools) but the reforms advocated by progressives like the Mayor are not making a difference (i.e. the renewal school scores are flat) and that VAM is still a viable means of evaluating teachers. Ugh!

Arne Duncan Still True Believer in VAM, “Failure” of Public Schools, Standardized Testing

August 9, 2018 Comments off

Arne Duncan has written a new book, How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success From One of the Nation’s Longest-Serving Secretaries of Education, and he is getting lots of publicity as he tours the country selling his book and the tired ideas in it. Here’s the opening paragraph from a review of his book by Atlantic reporter Alia Wong:

Arne Duncan, the former education secretary under President Barack Obama, has always been more candid than others who’ve served in that role. He’s often used his platform to talk about what he sees as the persistent socioeconomic and racial disparities in access to quality schools. His new book, How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success From One of the Nation’s Longest-Serving Secretaries of Education, further cements that reputation. How Schools Work’s first chapter is titled “Lies, Lies Everywhere.” The first sentence: “Education runs on lies.” If one were to create a word cloud of the book, lies would probably pop out as one of the most frequently used words. Duncan writes that even the countless fantastic schools across the country “haven’t managed to defeat the lies that undermine our system so much as they’ve been able to circumvent them.” These lies, according to Duncan, include a culture of setting low expectations for high schoolers who later discover they’re not prepared for the real world, and poorly designed accountability systems that allow teachers to fudge their students’ test-score results.

This paragraph itself is full of canards about public education that only someone who never set foot in a public school could believe. I worked in an urban middle school, a blue collar suburban high school, and a rural high school that served many poor families. The teachers in these schools, even the weakest, had high expectations for their children.

As for the “accountability systems that allow teachers to fudge their test-score results”, I presume he must be referring to the grading systems that allow students to pass a course with a “C” or a “D”, grades that typically require a student to get grades that do not require mastery of ALL the information presented. And the norm-referenced tests that were the backbone of the RTTT “accountability systems” Mr. Duncan imposed on schools that were presumably designed to avoid the “fudging” did nothing to help students. They only reinforced the notion that students were poorly prepared because teachers were lazy and incompetent and did so by providing a sheen of precision.

In the interview with Ms. Wong that accompanied this overview of his book Mr. Duncan DID reveal an understanding of the root cause of “failing” schools… and it isn’t the teachers… it’s parents who are disengaged from the lives of their students, parent’s whose disengagement is often the result of working multiple jobs or, in the worst case, drug and alcohol abuse. Here’s Mr. Duncan’s take:

It’s the parents who aren’t present whose kids you have to worry about even more because those parents just have too much going on in their own lives to be engaged in their children’s education. Those kids are the ones I actually worry about the most.

But, as written frequently in this blog, actions speak louder than words. IF Mr. Duncan believed this as the head of public education in Chicago and then the nation, why did he not take action to provide support for the children of disengaged parents, the children whose performance pulls down the test scores he values so highly and whose ultimate withdrawal from schools increases the drop out rates he blames on “the system”?

Mr. Duncan’s perspective on gun violence was also on point. But like his views on the problems presented by disengaged parents, it’s a perspective he failed to share when he led the nation’s schools:

I talk a lot about gun violence—it’s what I’m dealing with in Chicago all the time; it unfortunately shaped me as a kid; we saw it in the Sandy Hook massacre, which happened when I was education secretary. There’s no political leader who says they don’t value kids, but the truth is: we value guns more than we value the lives of our children .And that is irrefutable if you look at the rates of gun deaths in the U.S. compared to other nations that make other policy choices.

Mr. Duncan purports to be one who perceives education as a great equalizer and one who attempts to use data to help him see what works and what doesn’t work. I wish that as Secretary of Education emeritus he would take a dispassion look at the true impact of RTTT and acknowledge that it was a doubling down on NCLB, a program he viewed as “horribly constructed.” I wish he would acknowledge that the standardized tests he advocated were not constructed to perform the VAM he mandated and resulted in the discrediting of the teaching profession. I wish that he would trumpet the need for programs to support parents who “…just have too much going on in their own lives to be engaged in their children’s education” and speak out against the politicians who value guns more than we value the lives of our children. Finally, I wish he would acknowledge that the programs he advocates, the expansion of choice and charters, reward those parents who are engaged in the lives of their children, sidestep the need for a larger investment in the safety net, and divert needed funds away from public schools.