"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

. . .a pupil attitude factor, which appears to have a stronger relationship to achievement than do all the “school” factors together, is the extent to which an individual feels that he has some control over his own destiny. James Coleman, 1966

Friday, April 17, 2015

Great Letters on Testing and Opt Out from NY Times

Link here 
To the Editor:
Re “Some Parents Oppose Standardized Testing in Principle, but Not in Practice” (news article, April 14):

On April 15 and 16, the days after a record number of students “opted out” of New York State standardized tests in English language arts, not a single word in this paper was dedicated to this groundswell of grass-roots opposition to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s testing and evaluation scheme.
While statistics are difficult to compile, it is clear that parents, in large numbers, are openly protesting what they see as state political leaders eroding the quality of public schools and siphoning local control away from them. It is also an example of politically strange bedfellows, liberal and conservative, acting in concert.

It is one thing to disagree on the merits of these arguments, and perhaps to ignore the pleas of teachers who can be seen as acting in self-interest, but it is quite another not to follow up your April 14 news article — at least, not as of this writing — with coverage of this unprecedented act of civil disobedience by parents who are justifiably concerned about the welfare of their children.

Huntington Station, N.Y.

The writer is a public school teacher and the parent of grade-school children.

To the Editor:
If Merryl H. Tisch, the chancellor of the State Board of Regents, wants to compare the state exams in English and math to annual medical checkups, let’s do so.

My doctor uses thorough tests that are considered accurate and are endorsed by experts in the field. Kids take state tests that educational experts agree are inaccurate assessments of student ability.
My doctor reviews my personal medical history and adjusts the exam accordingly; it’s not the same one given to the next patient with very different needs. Kids take state tests that use a one-size-fits-all approach.

My doctor returns test results within a week, so we can immediately begin any treatment or behavior changes necessary to improve my health. Kids get test results in the late summer or fall, after they’ve moved on to the next grade.

And my doctor gives me a comprehensive assessment of my health, with specific numbers and details to guide my progress. Kids get a score of 1 to 4.

If doctors ran their practices the way the state runs education, most people would opt out of their annual checkup, too.

Liverpool, N.Y.

The writer teaches seventh-grade English in a public school.

To the Editor:
My wife and I opted our daughter out of standardized testing as an act of political protest against using unreliable tests as a basis for teacher evaluation.

The so-called value-added measures for determining teachers’ evaluation scores are not statistically sound; they lead to arbitrary scores for teachers that do not accurately reflect the quality of their teaching. Moreover, the lack of any transparency in the design and scoring of the tests makes it impossible to hold anyone publicly accountable for their flaws.

Schools with high numbers of low-performing students and untenured teachers double down on test prep at the expense of authentic intellectual and artistic enrichment, thus disproportionately widening, not shrinking, the achievement gap for low-income students.

Increasing the stakes for these tests, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposes, will do little to remove poorly performing teachers from the classroom. But it will potentially drive good teachers from the classroom and discourage promising candidates from becoming teachers.

To compare this misguided system to a healthy “vaccination,” as the chancellor of the State Board of Regents does, is highly deceptive.


The writer is a New York City public school history teacher.

Democracy Now's Coverage of Opt Out

In NY, 13.6 Percent of Students Refused ELA Tests This Week

This impressive number of test refusers is sure to jump when the Math Common Core testing starts next week in New York.  

Governor Haslam Wants to Allow CorpEd's Barbic to Recruit Outside ASD School Boundaries

Tennessee's Achievement School District (ASD) was sold on the premise that its charter schools replace the lowest scoring public schools in the state, and in the process the corporate charters would raise the scores for the bottom 5 percent of public school populations up into the top 25 percent within five years.  State test score data would be used to label schools for "priority status," and the ASD would be free to use the list to target schools, beginning with those with the best real estate value, for shutdown and charter conversion.

A former CEO (Chris Barbic) of a Texas charter chain, Yes Prep, was hired to be the state's ASD superintendent in charge of handing out contracts to his buds around the country in the charter industry, with Tennessee taxpayers on the hook to pay the hundreds of millions to build this new corporate welfare operation.

Hitler once observed that a lie must be beyond mere exaggeration in order for people to believe that it must be true for, as the rationale goes, no one in his right mind would make up something that appears so obviously fantastical.  It must be true.  Well, we are now in year 3 of Barbic's grand lie of moving the bottom 5 percent into the top 25 percent within 5 years, and even those who wanted to believe such fanciful academic promises have come to realize what a outrageous lie that was from the beginning.

Unless, of course, Barbic gets lots of help to rewrite the rule and the reason for ASD's existence, to begin with.

Enter Governor Bill Haslam and Josh Edelman of the Gates Foundation to come up with a plan to help Barbic and his staff of former TFA robots to propose that ASD schools should be allowed to recruit students from outside the districts they were meant to serve and save.  Remember those lowest scoring community schools?
The proposal would permit select out-of-zone students — those who qualify for free-and-reduced lunch, who have failed statewide achievement tests, or whose parents or relatives work at an ASD school — to comprise up to 25 percent of students in any school operated through the ASD, most of which have been transitioned to charter school operators. Currently, only students who are zoned to a school in the ASD or another school in the bottom 5 percent are qualified to attend a school in the turnaround district.
With charter chains like KIPP and Yes Prep reluctant to come into situations where their brands could be tarnished by low test scorers, and with hundreds of million$ of public dollars on the table to run the corporate welfare charters that everyone in TN is excited about except the taxpayers, the ASD's reason for being, i.e., improving community schools, is suddenly not nearly as important as making ASD seem less than the crumbling failure that it is.

This latest move represents a clear sign of desperation among high rollers who wanted to make Memphis into another NOLA.  Parents and teachers across the state are calling for Barbic's bald head, and it seems to me that all of Haslam's horses and all of Haslam's men will not be able put the ASD back together again. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

TN's Deal with the Devil, Part 2

Updated April 17.

See Part 1 here.

In 2010 Tennessee got a check from Race to the Top for $501 million.  TN quickly moved to do everything their successful grant application had promised: adopt Common Core, build even bigger data systems on top of the VAM system that had been in place since 1992, uncap charter school expansion, and create a teacher evaluation system based on VAM student test scores.

By November 2011, Tennessee's new system for using test scores to evaluate teachers had made big news in the New York Times.  Michael Winerip wrote:
The new rules, enacted at the start of the school year [2011-2012], require Mr. Shelton to do as many observations for his strongest teachers — four a year — as for his weakest. “It’s an insult to my best teachers,” he said, “but it’s also a terrible waste of time.”
Because there are no student test scores with which to evaluate over half of Tennessee’s teachers — kindergarten to third-grade teachers; art, music and vocational teachers — the state has created a bewildering set of assessment rules. Math specialists can be evaluated by their school’s English scores, music teachers by the school’s writing scores.

It didn't take long for Commissioner of Education for TN, Kevin Huffman, to begin making modifications that might save the new system from drowning in own weight of paper, as all teachers were required to be evaluated 4 times each year. Observations would count as half the evaluation score, as testing in one form or another would make the other 50 percent of a teacher's score.

At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, the state's corporate ed reform office, the Gates Foundation and SCORE (State Collaborative On Reforming Education) reported that there were wide discrepancies between some principal observation scores and teachers' student test scores.  

The solution provided by Huffman: re-educate principals to bring their observation scores in line with the lower ratings derived from test scores.  None of the Kevin Huffman's former TFA advisors suggested that the tests might be off, even though researchers had already established that TN's VAM system could be depended upon to produce incorrect scores for 25 percent of TN's teachers each year (at least those teachers with test scores to report):
One of the most egregious shortcomings of VAM for educational purposes is that 1 in 4 teachers is mislabeled when using three years of data.  It would take ten years of data, in fact, to get the error rate down to 12 percent (Schochet & Chang, 2010). 
By the end of 2014, teachers had documented how the VAM system in Tennessee is unfair, unreliable, and invalid.  They filed a federal lawsuit in early 2015 against the state, Governor Haslam, and Kevin Huffman.

Since 2011, SCORE has been headed up by lawyer, Junior Leaguer, and former state legislator, Jamie Woodson, who likes to take her mind off the challenge of spinning bad news into good by working around the stables of her horse farm in East Tennessee: "I just enjoy the sight, the smells and the sounds of horses and the labor that it takes to tend to them properly."  Umm.

As a legislator, Woodson was a sponsor for the bill that created charter schools in Tennessee, and she remains a loyal supporter of whatever it takes to replace public schools with charter schools across the state. Not surprisingly, Woodson acknowledges that SCORE's educational mission is the same as that to that of the Gates Foundation: "SCORE's mission is to ensure that every child graduates high school prepared for college or a career through its programs and activities. . ."

Earlier in 2015 SCORE released it annual report on the state's effort to be "First to the Top."  (See Part 1 as it relates to that fantasy.)  The report noted that the state had made progress in reducing the number of teachers whose evaluations are based on another teacher's scores.  Details will be shared in Part 3.

School Choice allows segregation to come full circle

“As a result, advantaged, mostly white parents are pushed to make choices that they think protect their privilege. These factors perpetuate the cycle of social reproduction and resegregation, wherein schools enrolling the most students from affluent white families are automatically considered “better”—and therefore attract more students from advantaged backgrounds.” — Allison Roda and Amy Stuart Wells

School Choice allows segregation to come full circle

Washington Post just ran a piece entitled "White parents in North Carolina are using charter schools to secede from the education system," and it's exactly what we'd expect it to be.

Saw the link to the article on Dr. James Avington Miller Jr.'s Facebook page. Miller, of The War Report on Public Education radio show fame, had the following salient comment posted with the link: "BACK TO THE FUTURE------BACK WHERE IT STARTED"

I left the following commentary on Washington Post:

School Choice was coined by the segregationists, borrowed by the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate, and now gleefully being reclaimed by the segregationists. Not just Southerners either, mind you. Check out Los Angeles "boutique charters" like Citizens of the World (CWC), Larchmont, and Metro. They cater to so-called liberal parents looking for "alternatives." What that really means is alternatives to having brown and poor children in their schools... well with the exception of those whose parents are self colonized and adept at respectability politics. Those are the parents of color that the Mike McGalliards of the charter project would boast are "so articulate" (read white-acting). The concept of school choice is racist and classist at its very core.

Remembering a Late George Carlin Riff

Arthur Goldstein had a post at FB that reminded me of this, much worth recalling in these early campaign days of false choices between neolibs and neocons. From 10 years ago.

More Refuse News!

High Anxiety and High Profits

NY State ED Losers Plan to Use Invalid Test Data: So What's New

Call this posturing by fuming Cuomo stooges at the state department of ed after this week's repudiation of Common Core testing by refusers, but it will only serve in infuriate parents who are already gathering their pitchforks and torches:
A NYSED spokesman said Wednesday that the state would still go ahead with its planned use of the data.

"We are confident the department will be able to generate a representative sample of students who took the test, generate valid scores for anyone who took the test, and calculate valid state-provided growth scores to be used in teacher evaluations," spokesman Jonathan Burman said in a written statement.

Relying on the test data in schools where the majority of students did not participate is sure to raise the ire of the swell of parents leading the charge.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Is CNCA paying parents to support CCSA's Ref Rodriguez's LAUSD Board campaign?

“Walmart fortune heiress, Carrie Walton Penner, is currently the CCSA Board Vice-Chair (term ending 6/30/2017). By most accounts Walton Penner is close to both profiteer "Ref" Rodriguez of the PUC Charter School Corporation, and the well-heeled Ana Ponce of the Camino Nuevo Charter School Corporation.” — Robert D. Skeels

PROFITS! Why Ref Rodriguez and his CCSA covet the LAUSD Board Seat

Charter industry profiteer Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez, and his California Charter Schools Association's (CCSA) ruthless campaign to capture the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education seat for District 5 has had every advantage. Rodriguez is backed with millions of dollars from an assortment of billionaires ranging from right-wing extremists like the Walton Family Fortune (Walmart) heirs to anti-public-commons ideologues including Reed Hastings, Eli Broad, and Michael Bloomberg. He has received uncritical press from all the major Los Angeles corporate media outlets. Rodriguez has waged a dishonest campaign that viciously mocked the incumbent school board member's disabilities, and went as far to make deplorable accusations of racism. With essentially unlimited funding at his disposal, one would think that the profit hungry corporate charter school executive wouldn't need any more advantages. However, Rodriguez and his CCSA allies are leaving nothing to chance in defense of their lucrative profits. Profits that have been threatened by an incumbent who has insisted that the charter industry serve all students, not just the ones that are "cheap" to educate.

Evidence of possible further impropriety was provided by Cheryl Ortega. Ortega is the Director of Bilingual Education at United Teachers Los Angeles, has taught in the community for nearly half a century, is a member of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, and was recently honored as the 28th Congressional District Woman of the Year. Given her long-standing ties to the community, parents frequently use her as a clearinghouse for education issues. For example, this revelation that she posted on her Facebook feed:

Interesting and shocking fact regarding the Kayser - Rodriguez LAUSD school board race. A long time friend and former school parent at Logan Elementary School, told me that parents at the Sandra Cisneros/Camino Nuevo Charter Corp School in Echo Park were paid to attend political meetings to help elect Ref Rodriguez. They were told that Bennet Kayser would "close down their school" if elected to the school board. I am not surprised at Camino Nuevo's message given their record of "misleading" parents.

Asking around, I've been informed that these parents are being paid in kind (not cash), with expensive dinners, trips to Starbucks, etc. These reports corroborate each other, and with definitive proof that CCSA and Rodriguez are chasing profits, their purported "payment" of parents to sway this election makes perfect sense. Who is doing it makes sense too.

Camino Nuevo Charter Corporation's profits depend on market share

Camino Nuevo Charter Academy Corporation (CNCA) has a long record of duplicity. Their fourteen member Board of Directors, comprised mostly of hedge fund/investment managers, venture capitalists, brokers, and bankers, is wholly unaccountable to the community. CNCA's campaign to expropriate the newly constructed CRES #14 school site during Gates Foundation employee Yolie Flores' so-called Public School Choice (PSC) charter school handout project, saw CNCA trying to stack the vote by busing in outsiders. CNCA lost to the community public school plan by more than 2 to 1 margin, but Flores gave them our school anyway. Here is a photo, taken at Rosemont ES during the CRES #14 advisory vote, of one of nearly a dozen buses brought in by the Camino Nuevo Charter Corporation.

Taken by Robert D. Skeels at Rosemont ES during the CRES #14 advisory vote, was one of nearly a dozen brought in by the Camino Nuevo Charter Corporation.

Charter schools using parents as political pawns for profits

It should be no surprise if CNCA is bribing parents to campaign and vote for Rodriguez. Even when they aren't using meals, gift cards, t-shirts, and other material enticements to induce parents into engaging in charter political activities, the lucrative charter school industry has another means of getting what they want—forced parent work policies. For years social justice activists have pointed out that CCSA, CCSA Advocates, Families that Can, and individual corporate charter chains have compelled parents to participate in their political activities by evoking their required "volunteer" hours. However, it wasn't until the watershed report from Public Advocates Inc. entitled Charging for Access: How California Charter Schools Exclude Vulnerable Students by Imposing Illegal Family Work Quotas was published that we began to recognize the full extent of this practice.

Wealthy Ana Ponce and Ref Rodriguez aiming for more profits

The essay PROFITS! Why Ref Rodriguez and his CCSA covet the LAUSD Board Seat exposed the connections between the CCSA, transnational corporations, and local charter school profiteers. This quote is extremely important:

Walmart fortune heiress, Carrie Walton Penner, is currently the CCSA Board Vice-Chair (term ending 6/30/2017). By most accounts Walton Penner is close to both profiteer "Ref" Rodriguez of the PUC Charter School Corporation, and the well-heeled Ana Ponce of the Camino Nuevo Charter School Corporation.

CNCA Corporation's 2012 Form 990, Part VII§A shows Ponce stuffing her pockets with a mind-boggling $230,811.00. Her ties to Rodriguez extend beyond their mutual profiteering, and California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) board memberships. Ponce did postgraduate work at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), and Rodriguez is an adjunct instructor there. Sadly LMU's education department faculty and administration is dominated by neoliberal privatizers, like Shane P. Martin, who actively work to destroy public education at the behest of their corporate sponsors. The one exception to LMU's complicity with the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate is that of renowned Freirian scholar Professor Antonia Darder, who writes brilliant essays like Racism and the Charter School Movement: Unveiling the Myths. Darder's is the sole voice of reason in LMU's cacophony of corporate concerns.

Paying parents to advocate for the charter industry's political and financial aims, whether those payments are in kind, through required "volunteer" hours, or any other form of consideration is highly unethical, immoral, and likely illegal. In other words, it's just the sort of thing that Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez and his CCSA cabal would do.

If you live in LAUSD District 5, I implore you to demonstrate to charter profiteer Ref Rodriguez, his CNCA allies, and his deep-pocketed CCSA trade association that our communities value pupils over profits. Reelect the Honorable Bennett Kayser in the May 19, 2015 General Municipal Election!

Relay GSE Wants to Replace Legitimate Teacher Preparation and Professional Development with Digital Merit Badges

In many areas of the country, teachers are disappearing at an alarming rate.  Demoralized, terrorized, berated, hounded, bullied, and just fed up, teachers are increasingly leaving--and sharing their horror stories as they exit the classroom.  Their stories, too, are finding their way through blogs, social media, and into the mainstream, and as a result university teacher education enrollment has plummeted. 

Without any protection from either of the teacher unions, corporate education reformers have remained free to bombard the teaching profession without fear of anti-aircraft fire from union leaders, who have cut deals with the oligarchs to make sure the union home offices are not damaged in the firestorms that result from the continued corporate bombing missions. 

When combined with a recovering economy, the result has been an precipitous drop in teacher ed college enrollment, which has fed the corporate alternative preparations programs, from TFA, TNTP, and the infamous Relay Graduate School of Education--where teacher interns must raise test scores before their teaching degrees are granted.  I have posted here and here on the Relay phenomenon.

There is a new money-making scheme that has been devised by the profiteers who back the Relay chain gang approach to teaching and the penal pedagogy that it entails.  It is based on marketing a concept called micro-credentialing, and it aims to replace legitimate professional development with a series of online training info-bits that teachers can then claim toward their required hours of professional development. Instead of teachers taking college credit courses for ongoing professional development requirements, the hustlers at Relay are now in the business of developing modules based, no doubt, on the "no excuses" bible by Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Robot Champion.  

Relay's first big contract: Washington, DC schools.
Teachers in DCPS must complete 90 professional development “contact hours” every four years in order to renew their teaching license, and DCPS has final approval over what learning counts. The District is exploring innovative options for teacher professional development by piloting a new model, MyPD, which offers more personalized options for teachers to choose from (options that also align with the District’s Teaching and Learning standards). MyPD includes online opportunities such as virtual modules created by Relay Graduate School which are aligned to the the district’s teaching standards — and much like Mozilla’s badges, the strategies covered in Relay’s modules “stack” to convey competency in a larger skill.
Never mind that there is no research to substantiate the use of any of this.  

Why Parents Refuse Testing

Spring Valley HS Students Prove They Know More Than School Admin Bullies

Hear the audio excerpts from a special meeting held at Spring Valley High School last week to bully students toward taking the rotted Common Core tests.  ht to Defend Public Education

Report Pro-Test Bullying Here

If you or child or your students have been bullied, cajoled, threatened, frightened, or lied to in order to get more test forms completed, please send us your story: ontogenyx@gmail.com.  Use the subject line: TEST BULLIES.

See story here about testing advocate lies in New York.

Day 1 of NY Testing: Hundreds of Thousands Refuse

This week will mark the end of the beginning in the long war to end racist and classist high stakes tests.  Advantage--parents, students, and teachers. 

It does not matter what the Pearson and Microsoft Congressmen in Washington do or don't do with their states privatization version of ESEA.  This testing orgy will end, public schools will be saved and renewed, and it will done by non-violent resistance and civil disobedience.
“From what I’m hearing from other superintendents, it could be at least 300,000 students across the state that opted out,” said William Cala, superintendent of Fairport Central School District near Rochester.
Story here.

Monday, April 13, 2015



Nancie Atwell, winner of the Varkey Foundation's first Global Teacher Prize, recently spoke to CNN's "New Day" show about receiving a $1 million award that she subsequently handed over to her school, the school she founded, the Center For Teaching and Learning.

I admire Ms. Atwell and all her work. I am sure she is a great teacher, but I have a problem with any teacher, even me, being called the best Global Teacher and winning an award of $1,000,000. 

Although she humbly noted that she thought that the gift and award to her was symbolic of the Varkey Foundation’s acknowledgment of all teachers, only one was singled out. I know many “world's greatest teachers” of English, Social Studies, Science, Math, World Languages, Art, Music, and Physical Education. No single teacher should get any award like that. It is simply an unfair contest. But that’s what we do in our society -- we make everything a competition.

One of the three CNN co-anchors asked her to describe what she does that is so special. I listened to her then looked up what she described. It's all very Impressive. Then I realized that these are all things I have seen many English teachers do every day when they are in an environment that allows them to really teach.  

Then, as curious as a kindergartener, I went to the CTL website and discovered how different this Independent (Is that code for private?) school is from public schools.
I gathered this information from the CTL website:

At CTL, there are small class sizes with 16-18 students, (with just 8-9 in kindergarten), a full-day kindergarten program focused on helping children feel secure and competent as they learn the essentials of writing, reading, and math and bond with a teacher and classmates, and never a standardized test.

Also at CTL, there is a library in every room, tens of thousands of books for students to choose from, time to read them every day, individualized instruction that results in both high proficiency and a passion for books and reading; a five-year spiral curriculum in science and history in which all students, grades K-8 engage together as researchers of paired concepts; a science lab and hands-on learning in science, and history with field trips, guest experts, experiments, project-based research, collaborations with regional environmental agencies and institutions, participation in the Maine Model United Nations Program, and explorations in the arts.

Each student also has access to daily writing workshops in which they develop his or her own topics, write in many genres, confer with their teachers about drafts in progress, communicate their ideas to others, and achieve recognition for writing excellence; an exemplary art program, weekly music classes in grades K-4, drama in grades 5-8, a school literary magazine,
daily whole-school morning meetings that create a community as children and teachers chat about current events and natural phenomena, celebrate birthdays, sing, read poems, and laugh together, multicultural studies and celebrations, and daily recess, a well-equipped playground, and woods with a nature trail.

…Just like every public school we know. Hardly.

The other two top 10 finalists from the U.S. were Stephen Ritz, from Public School 55 in the South Bronx and Naomi Volain from an inner city urban high school. Why not them? But I digress….

Back to the TV interview. Then came the bombshell.

Atwell was asked, “What do you say to kids out there who are trying to figure out what they want to do when they grow up, and might be considering teaching?”

Her response was, “Honestly, I’d encourage them to work in the private sector.” When asked why, she told the anchors what she could of what we know teachers are faced with constrained by CCSS and tests, turned teachers into technicians, not reflective practitioners. "And if you are a creative, smart young person, I don't think this is the time to go into teaching unless an independent school would suit you.”  What?  Really?

Isn’t working in an independent school like working in the private sector?

Anyway, let's get back to the real issue here. The reasons Ms. Atwell felt are reasons for students not to go into public school teaching are exactly why many public school teachers are leaving the profession earlier or sooner after starting.  If the question, as asked, was referring to her middle school kids, then is she saying there will never be a return to creative, smart, young people to public school teaching? Is all hope gone unless you work in an independent school, as she does? 

But let’s suppose she was really referring to today’s 20-somethings. Are we to give up on public schools and public school teaching? Are we to lose the oral history of the craft that master teachers hand down to younger teachers in the schools in which they work? Who then will teach teachers to teach? TFA? Will how to teach be taught from online or print sources? Who will be there to pay forward the craft?

I disagree with Ms. Atwell. Now is the time to actively recruit those “creative, smart, young” people who have what it takes, not only to become master teachers, but who also have the will to become masters of their own fate, fight back, defeat the “edupreneurs” making policy, and reclaim our great profession from those who have stolen it from our children. I bet both Mr. Ritz and Ms. Volain, and others, would agree.


Opt out - NOT anti-testing

Sent to the New York Post, April 13, 2015

David Bradford ("Opt out of tests – kids will suffer," April 13) thinks that parents who opt their children out of the current tests are opposed to assessment. Wrong. They are opposed to excessive and inappropriate assessment.

Students in New York and across the country are now being tested more than any time in history, far more than is necessary and far more than is helpful. In addition, the tests have been made arbitrarily too difficult, resulting in high failure rates that do not reflect reality, and are inaccurate measures of students' abilities.

The opt out movement is a rational reaction to overtesting, and unresearched, unreasonable standards. 

Stephen Krashen

original article http://nypost.com/2015/04/12/opt-out-of-tests-kids-will-suffer/

Send Article to Al Sharpton, the NAACP, and Randi Weingarten

A clip from this long overdue piece that ties together a number of corporate ed resistance elements:

Read the story here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Turning "Collaboration" into a Bad Word

Turning “Collaboration” Into a Bad Word

By Ken Derstine

The disastrous budget that Governor Cuomo has achieved in New York deepens the attack on teachers and public education. Among its many regressive measures, the budget includes evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores. This is despite the American Statistical Association estimating that teachers affect test scores by a factor of 1% to 14% , and that evaluating teachers by scores may actually reduce quality.

The development of a national teacher evaluation system based on standardized tests has been the ten-year goal of The Gates Foundation and The Broad Foundation. Gates wants to bring the data crunching of computer technology to create an automated system for ranking teachers and schools in order to create a two-tier system of education basically based on class differences. Broad wants to bring his business acumen to education, and like a businessman engaged in a hostile takeover, reorganize public education to be more efficient with the ultimate aim of privatizing public education, using taxpayer dollars, for private profit.

This hostile takeover of public education by corporate education reform is unfolding year-by-year, month-by-month. It is based on the economic theories of rightwing economist Milton Friedman. His vision for privatizing education can be seen in this 1995 paper written by him..

How has corporate education reform been able to advance its privatization agenda with little resistance? How can a program based on private profit over the common good be sold to the public despite the vast number of people opposed to this agenda?

The growing Opt Out movement, mainly lead by parents, is the first sign of the growing opposition to the corporate agenda. After a year of being ignored by the corporate media, the Opt Out movement is gaining national attention, much to the dismay of education officials who have signed on to the corporate agenda.

The national leadership of the teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, have mouthed verbal support for Opting Out, but they have not put financial or organizational effort into the cause.

A clue to why this is so can be found in a video of a conference of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute held on February 5, 2015. The conference was a series of panels from researchers supporting corporate education reform.

The conference can be viewed at this video. (The video is more than four hours long and should be downloaded even if you do not have time to view all of it right now.)

A centerpiece of the discussions was the document “Singing from the Same Hymnbook”: Education Policy Advocacy at Gates and Broad. This paper is by Sarah Reckhow of Michigan State University and Megan Tompkins-Stange of the University of Michigan.

Ms. Reckhow can be viewed at the AEI conference video talking about their paper starting at 16:00 - 27:30.

The “Singing from the Same Hymnbook” paper explains why the leadership of the AFT has been missing in action in the Opt Out movement. On page 12 they detail how the corporate education reformers are deeply embedded in the U. S. Department of Education under Arne Duncan. This is followed by a description of AFT President Randi Weingarten’s collaboration with them to create a teacher evaluation system based on standardized testing.

What follows is an extended excerpt (pages 17 - 19) from “Singing from the Handbook” about the AFT leadership’s collaboration with the Gates and Broad Foundations to create a teacher evaluation system based on standardized tests.
(Boldface added)

Overall, a pattern emerged wherein Gates and Broad increased advocacy grant funding to groups that gave frequent testimony—defined as three or more appearances before Congress from 2000 to 2012. Advocacy grant dollars to these groups grew by more than $12 million from 2005 to 2010—well above the overall growth in funding for national advocacy groups. The overall increase in national advocacy funding from Gates and Broad was 140 percent from 2005 to 2010, while the funding to those who gave frequent testimony (included in Table 1, page 16) increased by tenfold. This funding growth supports new actors, like The New Teacher Project, as well as the establishment groups, like the NEA and AFT. This suggests that Gates and Broad were pursuing a two-pronged funding strategy: diversifying the voices in the debate and extending ties to the education
Yet support for an organization that delivers testimony is not direct evidence of alignment with the foundation’ s agenda priorities. In some cases, increased grant support was channeled to organizations that had already shown support for reforms such as using standardized tests to evaluate teachers or implementing performance pay systems. For example, The New Teacher Project, which was one time headed by Michelle Rhee, released “ The Widget Effect” report in 2009, supporting a major overhaul of teacher evaluation; since 2009, the Gates Foundation has committed $13.5 million in grants to The New Teacher Project. Representatives from The New Teacher Project testified before Congress in 2009, 2010, and 2012. Meanwhile, the president of the Center for American Progress, John Podesta, testified twice in 2007 in support of linking teacher compensation to evaluation systems. The Broad Foundation began funding the Center for American Progress in 2007 and has since continuously supported the Center for American Progress with almost $1 million in grants, including three grants focused on teacher incentives or pay for performance. Meanwhile, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has not been traditionally associated with vocal support for overhauling teacher evaluation or linking evaluations to high stakes personnel decisions. In 2010, the Gates Foundation funded the AFT to support teacher development and evaluation programs. Also in 2010, AFT president Randi Weingarten provided Congressional testimony that was relatively supportive of a new approach to teacher evaluation. (Editor’s Note: According to Table 1 on page 16 in this report, Weingarten testified on teacher quality three times and the AFT received $2.4 million from Gates and Broad in 2010.) Weingarten testified in favor of evaluation systems that include inputs and outputs—with outputs including test data. Moreover, her written testimony included the following:

We know that a natural outgrowth of teacher evaluation systems will be differentiated compensation systems. We know from the first-hand experience of our affiliates that differentiated compensation systems developed and implemented with the full support and collaboration of teachers can succeed.

Weingarten remained strongly committed to the collective bargaining process, but she also signaled a willingness to negotiate pay for performance systems. Weingarten’ s fellow panelists at the hearing were eager to note their alignment with the union leader. For example, Tim Daly of The New Teacher Project observed, “ Secretary Duncan and some of my fellow panelists, including Randi Weingarten, are among those calling for more rigorous evaluation systems that recognize these differences.”

Shortly after Daly’ s testimony, Professor Thomas Kane of Harvard University (and lead researcher on the Gates-funded Measures of Effective Teaching project), commented on Weingarten’ s cooperation with Measures of Effective Teaching: “ Randi Weingarten deserves a lot of credit for supporting that effort, even when it was not easy.”

Thus, the content of the Congressional testimony suggests that organizations appearing frequently before Congress and receiving foundation funds often provided aligned recommendations and perspectives on the issue of teacher quality—views that also aligned with Gates’ and Broad’s priorities.

Month by month, year by year the conditions in the public schools are being eroded - and it is not only in New York under Cuomo. This is the result of the deliberate policy of starve the public schools, feed the charters in order to advance the privatization agenda while using standardized test scores to close or turnaround schools to charters in low income areas.

The hubris and aggressiveness of the corporate education reformers is because they believe there will not be an organized and determined fight against their privatization agenda. This collaboration has been going on for a long time. They know that (unknown to their members), not only is the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers standing down from what a union is supposed to be, they are collaborating with the corporate education reformers.

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