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

Sunday, April 30, 2006

NCLB, Highly-Qualified Teachers, and Ignorance as Knowledge

Ever since the 19th Century when the rote teaching of the Latin grammar school masters of New England was challenged by Horace Mann's call for teacher training programs and new methods of instruction, an unceasing dispute between traditionalists and progressives has been ongoing.

Only since the cons and the neo-cons arrived in Washington, however, have we seen a concerted campaign to crush the opposition, thus bringing an end to accredited teacher preparation programs and the professional organizations of teachers. The Walmarization of teaching is a high priority by the corporate welfare con artists of the ed industry who are crafting federal education decisions, and the collective bargaining of teachers threatens the future earnings of the for-profit charter schools poised and hoping to take over public schools as NCLB mandates kick in a couple of years down the road (if reauthorization goes forward next year).

In that regard, I have noted before the remarks by Bush's former reading czar, Reid Lyon, who said this in 2002: "You know, if there was any piece of legislation that I could pass, it would be to blow up colleges of education." And how can we forget that zany Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, who referred to the NEA in 2004 as a "terrorist organization."

What is the connection of these with-us-or-against-us
incendiary remarks to the big NCLB lie of a highly-qualified teacher in every classroom? First, you must understand that the neo-con definition for "highly-qualified" is the opposite of what a we have long considered a highly qualified teacher to be--one with subject expertise and certification through an accredited college teacher preparation program.

Remember, ignorance is knowledge in the neo-con Orwellian house of mirrors, and "highly-qualified" has come to mean a subject matter degree and a desire to teach in the formulaic, "scientifically-based" ways that closely resemble the memorization and recitation of those same 19th Century Latin masters. The biggest difference between the preferred method then and now is that the hickory stick used to beat children into submission has been replaced by a # 2 pencil and a bubble sheet.
The neo-cons, in fact, prefer no no teacher preparation beyond a subject matter degree if is likely to threaten the scientized dogma derived from the Code People.

The other big difference between then and now is, of course, the profit motive. That helps to explain why ABCTE, the fraudulent creation of the ethically-challenged Education Leaders Council (ELC), remains the preferred path, or "passport," to teaching by career changers who are moving into this foreign territory that they know nothing about. Promoted by the former Secretary of Ed. before his cronies could even develop their miracle test to offer candidates at $500 a pop, ABCTE will be making a public splash on May 11 at the National Press Club as a way to fill the gaps for states who have not met the "highly qualified" deadline.

ABCTE offers a chance to become a fully-certified teacher in Florida and Idaho (Pennsylvania and New Hampshire are hedging), with no requirements for student teaching, no methods courses, no child development courses, no ed psych, no historical or philosophical foundations (god knows, no Dewey!), no special ed, and no diversity preparation.

Spellings, who has been waiting for the "highly-qualified" deadline of May 15 in order to appear magnanimous by extending the deadline, will likely recommend ABCTE as an "helpful" alternative to professional teacher preparation. She tipped her hand, in fact, the other day in Philadelphia:

I want this event to kick off some serious debates about how to solve the issues we're facing.

For example, how can we reform our personnel system to make sure our most challenging schools are served by our most effective teachers? Shouldn't we track the results they're getting with students and learn from that data? Since we know that teachers with strong content knowledge get better results, shouldn't we reach out to professionals from other fields to bring them into our classrooms, especially when our shortages in these critical areas are so great?

Could it be that many our most effective teachers, whether inner city or outer suburb, have left teaching because NCLB fallout has made teaching a nightmare? Could it be the 50% turnover in new hires that we see every five years could have been exacerbated by the NCLB-inspired pressure cooker environment of today's public schools? Could the shortage have anything to do with the fact that competent teachers who are at the top of their game are simply unwilling to go along with the insanity?

Whatever the reason, we need some people seeking teaching passports, yes? Buy your Kaplan study guide for 4o bucks, and take a test for $500 online (courtesy of Pearson, Inc.), and, voila you are a teacher. Could anything be more highly qualified than that?

And by the way, Pearson could be a very good stock tip. They just bought National Evaluation Systems, the company that has some of the largest state teacher certification testing accounts. As reported by the Guardian, Pearson is bullish on increasing market share:

NES has contracts with 15 states and Pearson hopes that some non-testing states will begin assessing teachers soon. There are 3 million public school teachers in the US and it is a profession with a high turnover that sees half of newly qualified teachers quitting the profession within five years.

"You are getting a consistent coming and going of teachers and that presents opportunities for testing," said Mr Dowling.

Analysts at ABN Amro described the deal as a "sensible bolt-on", while UBS said it "helps Pearson access a bigger share of the No Child Left Behind federal funding and expand its market opportunity."

(Updated May 1, 2006)

Let the Sun Shine In

The sunshine state once again takes on a whole new meaning as a full-scale scandal breaks out over the Florida FCAT scoring debacle. State Senate Democratic leader Lesley Miller Jr. and Sen. Walter Campbell sued this week for the information under Florida's open records law. It's only a matter of time before parents, teachers and the general public wake up to the truth about the testing industry scam plaguing American public schools from coast to coast.

While there are those who would rather play pretend, like the Sun-Sentinel editorial board along with big brother and little brother Bush that the FCAT scandal is going away, others are more sanguine about the prospects of their magic tricks blowing up in their face.

One editorial writer at the Palm Beach Post is even a little giddy about the FCAT scandal and has a great idea:

From the moment it became public knowledge that the precious FCAT essays were being graded by $10-an-hour Kelly girls, it was over. There is going to be a scandal over this. It's just a matter of time. Right now, we're in the pretending-it-will-go-away phase. This is a particularly annoying Bush family trait.

The state Department of Education has pretended to be uninterested in knowing whether the people grading the FCAT — the hub that the wheel of public education rolls on — are actually qualified.

Lawmakers raising that question have, so far, been told it's none of their business.
The all-important job has been farmed out to a private contractor, in this case CTB/McGraw-Hill of California. And that company hires temporary help to grade the tests.

CATs and DOGs working together
So I've got a better idea. Why not get ahead of this disaster before it happens?
Gov. Jeb Bush can accomplish that with a smartly executed shifting of direction, announcing that upon further reflection, it might not be a bad idea to ensure the integrity of the FCAT grading.
And there's only one good way to do that.

The FDOG — the Florida Documentation of Graders.

That's right, a brand new form of statewide standardized testing, a test that will measure the academic competence of the people grading the FCAT.
Without an FDOG, there's no good way to measure the competence of the graders. And shouldn't that be where standardized testing starts?

And just like the FCAT, test takers who do well on the FDOG will be given incentives such as higher pay. It will, over time, give Florida an increasingly more qualified set of test graders, and on the flip side, the state will have a way to weed out underperforming test graders who can't pass the FDOG.

Over time, the A plus, plus, plus, plus, plus, plus system of evaluating graders will produce unassailable FCAT grading — and demonstrate, in a new way, the pure magic of standardized testing.
Yes, pure magic.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Tutoring Companies on Needs Improvement List?

Only if there was such a list.

With a billion dollars a year drained from Title I funds nationwide each year, and with most of it going to the companies rooting to get their snouts in the soft dough, an actual study has been conducted in Minneapolis to ascertain if these corporate welfare cases are actually producing any results. Education Station, Catapult, or Sylvan Learning, Inc.--it is unclear as to which name applies--has been shown to produce no reading gains in the students they "tutored." After collecting $1.7 million for tutoring 1,266 students, no gains:
The dominant provider of required after-school tutoring in Minneapolis didn't produce any better reading gains last year than those for students who skipped tutoring.

That's the result of a new district analysis that scrutinized gains by elementary students who got after-school help that must be offered under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

District researcher David Heistad called the results "very disappointing." State officials, who approve tutoring providers, said they plan to review his findings.

The district gave special scrutiny to the Education Station program offered by Catapult Learning, a division of the company once known as Sylvan Learning. That's because 71 percent of the low-income Minneapolis students who elected tutoring and similar help under the law last year got it from Catapult. Catapult was paid $1.7 million last year by the district for tutoring 1,266 students.

One must wonder, in fact, what kind of results could be expected from any tutoring service that subjects students to more and more of what is not working during the regular school day. A better idea: give the $1.7 million to parents to buy clothing, food, health care, or job skills. More test drilling is only killing, and no one is getting ahead except Sylvan executives.

The naive among us must wonder why Grover Whitehurst, Mr. Science Guy at ED, has not already demanded DATA to back up this expenditure of federal tax money.

Fat chance, said the grunting pig.

NCLB Dividing and Conquering in Omaha

This story from Knight-Ridder provides some history on the surprise vote two weeks ago to officially institute apartheid schooling in Omaha. With the survival of their own schools threatened by NCLB requirements, white parents of Omaha rose up in opposition to the local campaign to bring the city together under the banner, "One City, One School District." Here is a clip:
In June, Omaha Superintendent John Mackiel cited an 1891 state law to argue that any home or school within the city limits rightfully belonged in his district. Mackiel, who is white, sought to direct more money to inner-city schools racked by a weakening tax base.

Civic and business leaders, including billionaire Warren Buffett, endorsed this "One City, One School District" plan as a way of correcting 1970s-era white flight, in which developing suburbs hurried to form or expand their own school systems. Many of the new suburbanites still lived within Omaha's borders, but their children attended school in a different district.

To most of those residents last summer, however, the sudden unveiling of "One City, One School District" had all the appeal of an unwanted neighbor banging at their doors.

"No thanks!" screamed yard signs at the edges of Omaha.

The Nebraska Legislature had to settle the issue.

No white school in Omaha or anywhere else wants poor brown or black students who are going to bring down their scores, thus their chances at the surviving the inherently racist NCLB requirements for adequate yearly progress (AYP). Nor do they want to give up any funding to black or brown schools that might jeopardize their own chances at survival. NCLB, in fact, very cleverly undergirds any overt racist sentiments that are expressed by returning to segregated schools and in turning back social advances of the past hundred years.

See this commentary called "Jim Crow Moves to Omaha" from the Toledo Blade.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Victims of the Code

If you have been wondering about the source of the scriptural (as in scripts) infallibility or the rigid rituals handed down by the anointed high priests (and priestess) to Open Cult, er, Court Reading and Voyager Learning (pdf) and the Association for Direct Instruction, the source might be found in this arcane L. Ron Hubbard-esque network of fringe religio-science that operates around the shadowy world of the Children of the Code.

Claiming connections with G. Reid Lyon and Grover (Data-or-Death) Whitehurst (featured interview from 2003), Children of the Code followers believe that there is neurological and behavioral patterning that takes place during the reading initiation phase (perhaps the hand-held DIBELS machine could be called a phaser, for just $14-20 per student).

If this initiation of the initiate into the Code is completed according to the prescribed ritual, all sorts of social and economic benefits will accrue, from an end of poverty to the end of juvenile delinquency to the disappearance of shame to a significant uptick in retail sales. From the Code Website:

"There’s a growing body of research that indicates that the consumer behavior of adults with low literacy skills is distinctly different from the average adult. It’s not just about their inability to calculate or understand many of the aspects of a transaction that goes on with a consumer, but it’s because they overlay all of it with a risk aversion strategy that’s to avoid being embarrassed. So that the most important thing is not that you get what you need when you get to that check out counter, the most important thing is that you avoid being embarrassed by having more than you can afford to buy or appearing not to know what you’re doing. We tend to focus on the adult’s lack of skills in calculating unit prices and stuff like that but the most important thing is that they’re avoiding being embarrassing." - Robert Wedgeworth, President of ProLiteracy (Children of the Code interview)

Apparently, something has gone wrong in the school systems that have been converted. More poverty, same juvenile delinquency, a never-ending supply of failure and shame. The only proven difference so far: a huge uptick in retail sales of these soon-to-be relics of educational scamming and hucksterism conducted on historic proportions with the full support of public officials at the Federal level.

Do check out the website--it has all the messianic and anti-aesthetic appeal of a spooky anti-abortion site. Unfortunately, it has the same scary righteousness that is the hallmark of the most effective totalitarian crackpots.

DIBELS and the Science of the 60-Second Sorting Machine

If you are a teacher or young parent wondering about or contending with the the new Caucasian "science" of reading assessment (DIBELS) dreamed up by Sopris West top sellers, Good & Kaminski, who have the blessing of Carnine & Lyon, who have the blessing of W. Bush & the science guy, Grover W. (you get the picture), you need to be aware of this site, (Not the Official) DIBELS Clearinghouse. Largely the work of Susan Ohanian and Ken Goodman, you will find a wealth of information here on what Goodman calls "the perfect literacy test." Here is a clip from a Goodman article explaining why:
. . . . But the perfect test is not like any of the traditional tests in popular use. It is not “norm referenced” like the Iowa or Stanford tests which are widely used to measure achievement. It is not like the barrage of high-stakes state “criterion referenced tests” promulgated to test reading and writing and judge whether pupils can pass from grade to grade or receive a high school diploma. It is not the National Assessment of Educational Progress which has been used to paint dire pictures of whole states failing to produce proficient readers and writers.

No, the perfect Literacy test is the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills developed by a federally funded group at the University of Oregon. It is being widely mandated as part of the No Child Left Behind plan each state must submit to the federal bureaucracy that controls NCLB funding. It’s acronym DIBELS has, according to Education Week, “become a catchphrase in the schoolhouse and the statehouse.” (Manzo, Education Week, 9/28/2005)

What makes DIBELS the perfect literacy test is that it takes total control of the academic futures and school lives of the children it reaches from the first day they enter kindergarten when they are barely five years old. It keeps control of their literacy development and indeed their whole school experience for four years from kindergarten through third grade.. And the more poorly the children respond to DIBELS the more they experience it.

Norm referenced tests usually are not given until third grade and then only once a year. Diagnostic tests are usually used selectively with pupils to provide teachers with information on what strengths and weaknesses learners may have. DIBELS, once it gains a foothold, is administered a minimum of three times a year at the beginning, middle and end of each grade from kindergarten to third. . . .

So now the neo-eugenicists can begin in kindergarten with their beat-the-clock testing to sort and fail the innocents who have no awareness of their economic or linguistic deficits until they fail a 60-second test. No need for those messy, time-consuming, IQ tests that were used early in the last century to sort the poor and the brown.

Fortunately, there are stories of resistance like this one that came in a letter to Susan Ohanian, from the (Not the Official) DIBELS Clearinghouse):

As I finish the preliminary work in my first year of my Master's program I am taking a break from writing to send you a note.

The final paper for my pilot action research project is entitled "What's Wrong With DIBELS?" (everything). I wanted to write and thank you. I have cited you countless times and used so much information from your website. You are an inspiration and a champion for children.

I also wanted to let you know that my kindergarten class will be performing for the Parent Teacher Organization meeting next month. We are singing Stuart Stotts' "So Many Ways to Be Smart" from the No Child Left Behind - Bring Back the Joy CD. In the final verse Stuart sings "some folks are good at doing their best, though it's hard to measure on a standardized test" - the choreography for that verse is sixteen kindergarteners ripping a DIBELS test recording form! Ay yay yay!

You are cordially invited . . . .

DIBELS is a high-stakes test in our district, and I am doing everything I can to raise awareness about it and advocate for balanced literacy instruction. It is an uphill battle to say the least. Our district has cooked up a "corrective action reading plan" for kindergarten teachers who fail to show 95% of children at benchmark for Phoneme Segmentation Fluency - the plan is yet to be revealed, presumably once our scores are posted in May we'll find out the nature of our punishment.

In my school, kinders are pulled out of the classroom and away from real literature and language experiences for DIBELS "interventions" - the same drill and kill skills practice everyday to boost DIBELS scores.


We are much too busy watching caterpillars pupate and fiddler crabs molt. Last week we found a bat roosting outside our classroom door - one of my students hollered "WAIT - we have to go to the library and get some books so we can learn about it!" - so we dropped everything and that's what we did.

Alas, the next day we found the bat dead on the sidewalk. . . I sealed it in a plastic bag with it's wings outstretched so we could study it for the day before it started to decay. Don't tell the school board.

Next week we're collaborating with fourth-graders to build a bat house so the bats on our campus have a safe place to roost.

Just wanted to share a dispatch from the resistance.

What we need now are 2 million more new teachers working in solidarity with the moral courage of this one.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


I haven't had much time for blogging lately, but as I finish the final week of student teaching at a suburban high school in New Jersey, I've been reflecting upon the advice a number of teachers gave me. They call it KISS -- "keep it simple stupid."

At the beginning of my student teaching experience, I took this advice as a well-meaning attempt to make my life easier as I took on the responsiblity of teaching five classes and 120 students for U.S. History I.

As time went on, I began to realize that in order to survive in the current system, keeping it simple is what's required - it's as simple as that. In a system that values getting through 15 chapters of a textbook in American History more than reading real books like biographies, historical novels, and primary source documents, that is what is required. There's no time to dig deeply into the rich, meaningful volumes of material that lie dusty on the shelves of libraries or shiny on the shelves in bookstores. No, history teachers are forced to cover hundreds of bold-faced terms likely to be on the test.

Some teachers view the speed with which they move through chapters as a badge of honor as if it's a huge accomplishment. My supervisor told me I should be grateful to have a cooperating teacher that doesn't mind having to "catch up" when I leave.

I will be spending the next week, and possibly a week after that, grading my students' letters to the editor, their projects, posters, power point presentations and movies. No, I haven't kept it simple and I will never keep it simple because simple is just plain stupid.

High Stakes and Low Incomes: The Recipe for Repression

We know and we have known for years that family income is the most reliable predictor of standardized test scores, whether third grade state math tests or the GREs required to get into grad school.

What kind of social and political structure, then, would require that the poorest children perform on tests at the same level as the children of more well-to-do parents, knowing that the poor children are going to come up short?

What kind of social and political structure would then blame those children for their failure, which remains entirely predictable by anyone who does not have her eyes and heart tightly shut in order to maintain a "color-blindness" or "economic class blindness" that is, then, used to excuse the blaming of children for their own disadvantage that the children are not blind to at all?

Will the denial that discrimination exists make discrimination go away, or will the pretense that poverty is not a factor in performance results deliver us from the devastating effects of poverty? Or will the embrace of color-blind and class-blind policies make racism and poverty so ingrained that we can continue on for years to punish children for their inability to be blind to what we have have successfully refused to see?

Does our "color-blindness" allow us, then, to leave children behind in classrooms to repeat the same mind-numbing scripted anti-thought curriculums developed to control the behavior of children who will never learn that learning is the necessary tool of freedom?

Do we then pretend that the totalitarian horror shows we have made out of urban schools is the best we can do for the children who our history has ignored, and who bit parts in our visions of the future?

How long can we use our advantage to blame the disadvantaged for not being what we have never allowed? How long will we cluck at their "lagging" performance, while exerting more pressure on the school to become more like a boot camp, more pressure on teachers to become the drill sergeants?

Is this not the classic definition of racism--the joint exercise of prejudice plus power?

How long will we celebrate incremental test score advances, while we make sure that 23% of Hispanic children and 32% of black children repeat the nightmares they have just come through while their classmates move on? And will Katrina refugees in Texas complete another failing year while they are waiting for the right to return home?

With no humanitarianism in sight, do we really have we really no shame remaining that might stop this modern-day eugenics movement that is going on in Texas, Louisiana, or New York City?

TAKS Math Test 2006

White passing rate: 91%

Hispanic passing rate: 77%

Black passing rate: 68%

Spanish language version: 47%

Displaced hurricane survivors: 45%

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Competition Without Constraint = Ultimate Corruption

If we are aghast at the level of corruption in corporations and government today, one must wonder what the next generation will look like after being thoroughly schooled in the art and science of clawing one's way to the percentile pinnacle, regardless of what it takes to get there. There is not a more sadly appropriate morality tale to portray this phenomenon than this one told in the NY Times, which concludes with what happened to Harvard sophomore, Kaavya Viswanathan. Here is a clip:
. . . . One result is a frenzied search for angles. Parents seek to have their children classified as learning disabled so they can receive unlimited time on the SAT. Children invent clubs so they can list themselves as president of something on college applications. Scott White, a guidance counselor at Montclair High School in that New Jersey suburb, recalls the envy of one student for a classmate with cancer because "he'll have a great college essay now."

Beyond these dubious personal choices, entire industries have emerged to meet and further stimulate the demand for any perceived edge. The undergraduate test-prep business now has revenue of $726 million a year, up 25 percent from just four years ago, according to the market research firm Eduventures; even the College Board, the nonprofit organization that oversees the SAT and that for decades insisted that the test could not be gamed, sells its own test-prep program online. The Independent Educational Consultants Association, which represents private academic counselors, claims about 3,500 members, up from 200 only a decade ago. About 100 more consultants apply for membership each month.

THE private operators charge an average of $3,300 for their services, said Mark Sklarow, the executive director of the group, and consultants routinely start working with students in ninth or 10th grade. The typical client, Mr. Sklarow said, fits the boomer stereotype, with parents in professions, an income of $75,000 to $125,000, and residence in a high-performing public-school district.

While his field has reaped the financial benefits of the college-admissions frenzy, even Mr. Sklarow cringes at the picture, perhaps because he is also a father of a high school student.

"There is no question in my mind that the system is broken," he said, "and it's broken in so many ways. And all the principal players agree it's broken but that it's not their fault and that they're reacting to a situation beyond their control." . . . .

So this insanity is a result of cosmic law? Or the fact that we were too busy clawing up to notice that what we left has been irrevocably altered? Can we begin the reclamation now?

Kelly Girls Hired for High Stakes Test Scoring

In Florida as in Ohio, it seems that the courts may be the last recourse for getting some light shed on the money lust driving the ed industry's sleazy affair with elected officials charged with the education of America's children. Not only is McGraw-Hill hiring temps to score the FCAT, but now it would appear that there is enough doubt about the truthfulness of McGraw-Hill's claim regarding their qualifications to warrant a lawsuit:

Senate Democrats sued Education Commissioner John Winn on Monday, saying his department violated Florida's public-records laws by not releasing information on people who grade the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The suit, filed in Leon County Circuit Court by Senate Minority Leader Les Miller, D-Tampa, and Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, D-Fort Lauderdale, requests more information on a contractor's use of low-wage, temporary employees to grade the high-stakes Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Kelly Services, a temporary-employment firm subcontracting with test developers CTB/McGraw-Hill and the state, put out a call in February for 300 temporary workers in the Lake Mary area to grade the FCAT. The Department of Education said more than 50 percent of the scorers were teachers or had teaching experience.

But a letter received by Miller's office Monday morning from the DOE made him doubt if the department knows anything about the graders' background.

The letter said that "because the names or other identifiers of the graders are not needed for the management of the contract the Department does not require CTB/McGraw-Hill to provide this information."

Miller said that's not good enough.

"The Department of Education lied to two senators," Miller said. "They told us that 50 percent of the people who graded the tests were retired teachers or had educated degrees, and now they don't know." . . . .

A Baptist Pastoral Letter Supporting Public Education

For the list of signatories, click here.

Baptist Center for Ethics
Nashville, TN
April 21, 2006

Dear Fellow Baptists:

The time has come for Baptists to speak positively about public education and to take proactive initiatives that advance a constructive future for America's public school system.

We recognize the need for reforms in public schools, as all organizations need reformation, including churches and corporations. Reforms to improve all facets of public education should be a constant goal of our nation.

While every family is free to decide the course of their children's education, we believe it is wrong for Baptist leaders to urge Baptists to exit the nation's public school system for homeschools and Christian academies and to equip that cause.

We decry the anti-public school statements that identify public schools as "the enemies of God," that label the nation's school system as "a dark and decaying government school system" and that claim public schools are converting Christian children "to an anti-Christian worldview." We urge a halt to the demonization of public schools.

We believe Baptists should recommit themselves to public education, not as a means toward converting school children, but because it is the right thing to do. We believe public school children are God's children who deserve the nurture of a good society, the prospect for a good education and the equal opportunity for a good life.

We call on Baptists to recommit themselves to the separation of church and state, which will keep public schools free from coercive pressure to promote sectarian faith, such as state-written school prayers and the teaching of neo-creationism (intelligent design).

We call on Baptists to recommit themselves to a just society. A just society will ensure that every American child has an opportunity for a good education and that public schools have the resources necessary to provide such an opportunity, achieving the highest standards possible.

We call on Baptists to recommit themselves to the nation's founding principle of "E Pluribus Unum." A society based on unity out of diversity will embrace every child and recognize the vital role public schools play in achieving national unity.

We, the undersigned, pledge therefore to

  • pray for public schools;
  • show our support for public schools through worship services that affirm all school-related personnel;
  • advocate for a high wall of separation between church and state that is critical to good public education;
  • pursue a just society that benefits every child;
  • speak up for the role public education plays in democracy, especially the unity it creates in the midst of diversity so necessary in our society;
  • challenge religious voices who demonize public education; and
  • share this letter with others.

Spellings Calls Bad Testing Boys to Office

From the AP story in WaPo:

Last month, the College Board revealed a scoring error by Pearson Educational Measurement had resulted in more than 4,000 high school students receiving incorrectly low scores on the SAT exam they took in October. Pearson said the problem may have been caused by excessive moisture on answer sheets due to wet weather.

That error focused wider attention on the testing industry. A recent report by Thomas Toch of the Washington-based group Education Sector argued that a shortage of testing experts and pressure on the companies to return scores to the states quickly could compromise accuracy.

Simon said additional meetings with the industry are planned, and will include state officials.

Attendees were officials from testing companies including Pearson, Harcout Assessment and McGraw-Hill Assessment and Reporting, along with industry groups, the College Board and the Educational Testing Service.

At the end of the meeting, everyone got hugs and candy.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

NCLB, Military Recruiters, and a Rumsfeld Lawsuit

It took two years for the Pentagon to acknowledge that it had used NCLB to justify a massive database of high schoolers to be harassed as potential recruits for the the neo-cons' pre-emptive wars. Fortunately, it hasn't taken as long for high school students to understand their rights to privacy.

Six New York teenagers sued Rummy on Monday in Manhattan federal court, alleging that recruiters continued to harass students who had requested that their names be deleted from the database. The Reuters story:

By Daniel TrottaMon Apr 24, 3:34 PM ET

Six New York teen-agers sued Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld on Monday, alleging the U.S. Department of Defense broke the law by keeping an extensive database on potential recruits.

The suit in federal court in Manhattan follows a series of allegations last year of misconduct by recruiters, who have experienced difficulty meeting targets because of the war in Iraq.

The Pentagon last year acknowledged it had created a database of 12 million Americans, full of personal data such as grades and Social Security numbers, to help find potential military recruits.

The Pentagon has defended the practice as critical to the success of the all-volunteer U.S. military, and said it was sensitive to privacy concerns.

But the suit alleges the Pentagon improperly collected data on people as young as 16 and kept it beyond a three-year limit, and said that the law does not allow for keeping records on race, ethnicity, gender or social security numbers.

"On the one hand Congress has afforded broad latitude to collect information but on the other hand the Department of Defense has completely flouted those limits," said Donna Lieberman, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed the suit on behalf of the six plaintiffs.

The Pentagon referred the case to a spokeswoman who was not immediately available for comment.

For-Profit Charter Scandal for Mr. White Hat in Ohio

In Ohio, state officials continue to try to pry open the records of corporate welfare artist, David Brennan, of White Hat Management, Inc. Of particular interest in what may be another major scandal for Ohio politics is the money trail from Brennan to former state lawmaker, Sally Perz, to Sally's daughter, Allison. Did the mother use Brennan money to create an office to hire the daughter who then hired the mother as consultant on issues related to which companies get recommended to lap up state money to run schools? State auditors want to know.

. . . . White Hat received $109 million in tax dollars last year. Mr. Needles refused to discuss how much is profit. But an analysis by The Columbus Dispatch last month of state audits for 17 White Hat schools found the firm made $15.4 million in combined profits and management fees last year.
Senator Fedor said she is suspicious of how Allison Perz, who is executive director of the council of community schools, attained her position and if her mother, Sally Perz, has a conflict of interest.

Sally Perz, a former Republican state lawmaker, helped create Ohio's charter schools laws and then helped form the school council her daughter now runs.

Allison Perz was out-of-town last night and could not be reached for comment.

She is paid $85,000 annually, receives a $4,800 annual car allowance, and was given a $26,000 bonus in October, 2004.

After The Blade first reported Allison Perz's income in July, 2005, Mr. Abramson responded with an e-mail explaining the bonus, which he said reflected services rendered in 2003 and 2004. "During the first several months of 2003, Ms. Perz worked without compensation from the council," he wrote.

Sally Perz now works for her daughter as a regional representative, monitoring some of charter schools sponsored by the council of community schools.

She was registered last year with the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee as a lobbyist for the council of community schools, White Hat, and several other management firms.

The elder Ms. Perz is no longer registered as a lobbyist for any company other than her own, The Capital Link Inc.

Monday, April 24, 2006

A Highly-Qualified Teacher in Every High-Income Classroom

The fact that this even warrants a news story suggests how much needs to be done in educating the media and the public as to the effects of NCLB on children and teaching and learning in schools that need the best teachers that regularly end up in suburban schools:
WASHINGTON — Public school teachers in the nation's wealthiest communities continue to be more qualified than those in the poorest despite a federal law designed to provide all children equal educational opportunity.

Preliminary data released by the Department of Education show that in 39 states, the chance of finding teachers who know their subjects are better in elementary schools where parents' incomes are highest. The data show that's also the case among middle and high schools in 43 states.

"Obviously we have a long way to go," said Rene Islas, who monitors teacher quality for the Department of Education. "Even if you have high numbers (of certified instructors) in the aggregate, there are pockets where students are being taught by teachers that are not highly qualified."

Under the No Child Left Behind law President Bush signed in 2002, states are supposed to have "highly qualified teachers" for all of their core academic courses, such as math, English and science, by the end of this school year. States that don't face a loss of federal funding.

As of the 2004-05 school year, nearly 91% of schools nationwide reported having highly qualified teachers for those courses, up from 86% the year before. Montana reported the highest compliance rate at 99.4%. Several, including Hawaii, California and South Carolina, were below 80%.

The numbers are improving at a slightly faster rate for schools in the poorest neighborhoods, where nearly 87% of classes had a qualified teacher last year compared to 93% for those in the most affluent areas. . . .

Of course, the problem extends beyond the problem of mere certifying that teachers are "highly qualified." Remember, this is the same U.S. ED that recommended ABCTE, the fraudulent (and still under GAO investigation) online testing miracle (before they even had a test) as an option to accredited teacher certification programs. Too, which teachers besides the ones who have a secret desire to be prison guards would choose to "teach" in one the urban test prep chain gang schools already labeled a failure by NCLB, where their professional competence is measured by how well they learn the lines to a script written by some poor hack at McGraw-Hill or Harcourt?

Anyone who still believes this this high-stakes testing madness if anything but a tool to continue the institionalized inequality that our "democratic" pride will not allow us to acknowledge has already stopped reading by now. If you're still reading, reading is not enough. It is time to act.

Questioning NCLB in the Teacher Education Classroom

One of my greatest disappointments has been to see other academics stand on the sidelines during the current genocidal attacks on learning, children, teachers, and schools. Maintaining a protective pretense of objectivity by avoidance of the issues may help to conserve the federal contracts that win brownie points at the college, but these practices in the long run threaten teacher preparation programs more than any attacks that George Will or Bill Bennett might muster.

I hold my glass high, then, to Dana Rapp, whose problem posing in the teacher ed classroom is exactly what is needed if we have any hope of ending the assault on a generation of children:
NORTH ADAMS — Dana Rapp, an associate professor of educational studies at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, has a simple proposal for legislators who support the rigorous standardized testing that comes with federal mandates such as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

They should make an example of themselves. They should take the eighth-grade MCAS test, make the results public and explain how the results reflect what they have accomplished in life.

Rapp's skepticism about the value of the law and its consequences comes in part from a recent survey he conducted of 216 Vermont teachers, which showed high-levels of discontent with the law and its consequences for states. It was conducted by the Vermont Society for the Study of Education, and the findings were presented earlier last week in Montpelier.

The study found that 80 percent said they don't think it reflects student needs; 93 percent report "students' love of learning is less" in the face of such testing.

Rapp, who lives in Readsboro, Vt., said the results are not surprising in that teachers are forced to "teach to the test" more, with more worksheets and rote learning and less time for discussions and engagement.

"Students lose the ability to think critically and deeply about ideas," he said. "We're educating a group of people in very shallow ways."

Supporters of the law say it is a successful public policy that has brought accountability and transparency to public schools around the nation.

In testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce earlier this month, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the law has "laid a solid foundation of student achievement." She said that, in the five years since it passed, more reading progress has been made among American 9-year-olds than in the previous 28 years combined.

"This law is raising achievement nationwide by shining a bright light on schools and districts and on a lot of great success stories," she said. "It's also shining a light on schools and districts that aren't doing right by the children and parents they serve."

She noted that 1.4 million students are eligible for free tutoring under Title I, but that only 17 percent of those eligible received the services. Nearly

half of school districts didn't tell parents that their children were eligible until after the school year began, she said.

"Without No Child Left Behind, we wouldn't know which schools are falling short of standards," she said. "We wouldn't necessarily know which children needed extra help. And we wouldn't be able to hold grownups accountable when they don't deliver that help."

Rapp said he believes there is some place for quantifiable measurements, but not the high-stakes approach NCLB forces.

"There's probably a place for testing," he said. "But there is not a place for the kind of radical testing that takes over, directs and abuses all other aspects of the school experience."

Although Rapp's report focuses on Vermont, he said that the experience in Massachusetts is worse because of the MCAS system, which has labeled several school districts as underperforming.

"Massachusetts forces, coerces and penalizes districts and withholds funds for any district that isn't fixated by a Dow Jones approach to their test scores," he said.

Rapp, who teaches ethics and curriculum and is the master's thesis adviser for the education program at MCLA, said he tries to get his students to think about the law.

"I ask them to think on their own terms, in their own ways, and to draw their own conclusions about NCLB and its effects. My role as a professor is to make them think about the potentials and pitfalls of it, and students can determine for themselves what it is and what it is about."

Which explains his challenge to legislators to start "a debate, a conversation, maybe a state committee, not to convince the public MCAS is legitimate, but to engage us in a study of it."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Income and Achievement

Jean Anyon gets to the point in her op-ed in the Times. Let's hope the editorial writers at the paper stick this one up beside their monitors. A clip:

When low-income urban families are provided with increased wages and social supports, the school achievement of the children typically improves significantly. During the 1990's in the inner city of Milwaukee, for example, an innovative program that offered poor families an earning supplement and subsidized health insurance and child care produced significant improvements in academic performance, particularly in reading and comprehension tests. The development in Newark of full service schools that collaborate with health providers and job preparation programs — connected to employers with pay scales above the minimum — would be a step in the right direction.

In short, the new mayor needs to use the power of his office to develop a plan for urban educational improvement that recognizes that an entire community, not just the school system, is responsible for the education of its children.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

"History May Not Cut It"

Yale history major, George Bush, was sent down to Tuskegee on Wednesday to make the formal annoucement of the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). For those who have watched over the years as Spellings and Bush have plied their cynical lies regarding an egalitarian rationale for NCLB, it is not surprising to see them take the stage at Tuskegee to suggest that the ACI is aimed to help the brown and the poor to find a way out of the second-class status that Bush's and Spellings' conservative cronyism and social-engineering-through-testing-policies have both exacerbated.

Although Bush would wait until his California trip on Friday to actually make it explicit that the different "skills sets" that students will need in the brave new future do not include history, and that 'history may not cut it," he did take the opportunity at Tuskegee to downplay history's importance by pointing out, in good ole' boy self-deprecating fashion, that his own undergraduate degree in history had left him unprepared to understand what he was seeing in the labs at Tuskegee, while expressing amazement that Tuskegee could actually have real scientific labs:

And here are some things we need to do to make sure we shape the future. First is to make sure we're always on the leading edge of research and technology. I saw some amazing things happening today. I was a history major so maybe they were really amazing because I didn't know what I was looking at. (Laughter.) Seemed amazing. (Laughter.) I was at the Center for Biomedical Research -- I was really at the Center for Advanced Materials called T-CAM, a sister organization to the Center for Biomedical Research and for the Center for Aerospace Science Engineering. Isn't that interesting, those three centers exist right here in Tuskegee.

What is ironic in Bush's pro-technology and anti-history campaign that was launched at Tuskegee this week (and is sure to picked as part of the Spellings Commission plans for state universities) is that Bush probably has no historical knowledge that his kind of philanthropy resembles the policies of McKinley and Taft, who came to Tuskegee after its founding in 1881 to hail its industrial education model as the solution to the "Negro problem." Rather than support the liberal arts curriculums of higher ed institutions such as Harvard of Yale or Vanderbilt, the solution then was to inculcate the value of labor, any labor, for African-Americans, rather than the value of a well-rounded education that included the classics, the arts, and yes, history.

Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee's first principal and implementer of the racist social policies he had learned at Hampton Institute under the tutelage of Samuel Chapman Armstrong, became the sweetheart of white Protestant elites because of his brainwashed complicity in the acceptance of segregation and second-class citizenship as the price to be paid for a chance to work. (See James Anderson for more on the industrial education model).

But an anti-history history major would never know these facts, much less understand them. I am wondering, then, if Bush, who has a such a low regard for historians, realizes what low regard that historians have for him. Even before Katrina, domestic spying, or lies about war intelligence, historians, both conservative and liberal, gave Bush a 19% favorable, 81% unfavorable rating. The ratings today must be in the minus territory, much like I imagine the ratings are among the African-Americans who dutifully listened to his subterfuge this past Wednesday at Tuskegee, a great university today despite the oppression of the white philanthropy that would have kept it a training center for labor.

Friday, April 21, 2006

IDEA vs. NCLB in Missouri

A new form (Form D, Part 2 - "State Accommodations") used for state assessment testing was introduced this year for the 2005-2006 school year to be used in conjunction with IEP's. This new form came from MO DESE (Missouri Department of elementary and Secondary Education) in the summer of 2005.

In the past, accommodations for the IEP were listed and were adhered to for regular classroom instruction, assessment, and state MAP assessment.

However, the new form was designed specifically for state assessment purposes. In other words, accommodations for regular classroom instruction and assessment were, for the first time, separated and distinguished from state assessment accommodations. According to a special ed teacher in a neighboring district, the IEP teams met in August of 2005 to review the new state policies and procedures. They were told about the new form and were made aware of the new distinction between (a) accommodations for regular classroom instruction and assessment and (b) state assessment accommodations.

During these meetings, they were also made aware that if the reading or paraphrasing accommodation were listed as part of the state assessment accommodations, then the scores of the students for whom this accommodation was made would be labeled "Level Not Determined" or LND.

If more than five percent of the students in any given subgroup receive this LND ranking, then the entire subgroup does not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), thereby penalizing the students and the school district regardless of how well the students perform on the test.

A colleague confirmed with the special ed teacher that none of her students' IEP's included the accommodation of reading on the communication arts portion of the state assessment because all of the students who were given the accommodation would receive "LND" when they took the test. In other words, the scores would not count if they were given the accommodation. I know for a fact that at least one other school district responded to the new policy by completely withdrawing the accommodation from state assessment, despite the fact that it had been given to the majority of special needs students over the last five years and had been considered an important part of each IEP. Prior to the '05-06 school year, students that had an IEP with the accommodation of reading for ANY test would also have that accommodation for the state assessment tests.

In sum, the reading and/or paraphrasing accommodation was removed from these students' IEP's for state assessment purposes in order to avoid the penalty of having the scores on these assessments invalidated. In those cases where the accommodations are not listed in the IEP on Form D, Part 2 - "State Accommodations" - the school and the district are not technically violating federal IDEA law. However, there are numerous instances where the reading and/or paraphrasing accommodation is listed in the IEP for accommodations for regular classroom instruction and assessment but is not listed for state assessment purposes.

I would argue that this practice violates the intent of IDEA. Children who receive the reading/paraphrasing accommodation for regular classroom instruction and assessment are suddenly told one day to take a test without this accommodation. The results of this test are then used to determine the quality of teaching and learning in that school and in that district. This is neither logical nor consistent. It may be technically legal, but it undermines what IDEA was designed to do, i.e., protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. Moreover, it increases the likelihood that entire schools and school districts will be labeled "in need of improvement."

Finally, I'd like to underscore the dilemma that special education teachers and IEP teams were faced with last year as they considered their options. They could follow the intent of IDEA and make the accommodations for regular classroom instruction and assessment consistent with state assessment accommodations, or they could follow NCLB and withdraw the accommodations from the state assessment. If they followed IDEA, they would violate NCLB. If they followed NCLB, they would violate IDEA. The new form gave them a way out of the dilemma so they could be in compliance with both federal laws. Although DESE told the districts that they were free to include the reading/paraphrasing accommodation in the new state assessment portion of the IEP, this "freedom" was somewhat disingenuous.

At the end of the day, DESE did not have to make the tough decisions. The IEP teams did. The decision was ultimately about picking their own poison: do they assure their school of AYP failure by including the reading/paraphrasing accommodation or do they take the chance that children with IEP's might somehow miraculously achieve grade level proficiency on a single test without the accommodation they were accustomed to having? Clearly most schools and districts have chosen to role the dice. We'll have to wait until August when the scores come out to see what happens.

This is not meant as a condemnation of IEP teams, public schools, or even DESE. They are just following orders from Washington. If we want to point fingers, then we need to look at the unintended (intended?) consequences of NCLB and the Bush administration's insistence that sticks and threats are the way to help children learn.

Speller and Fellings and Feints

Spellings and media lap dogs, Ben Feller and Co., have put a wrap on their week-long public relations campaign against state departments of education, schools, and teachers--with the final piece appearing yesterday. Let’s see what Maggie has accomplished along the way:
  1. States have been blamed for implementing NCLB mandated test score reporting policies that are now described as loopholes that states have found to wriggle through. In the meantime, ED can be seen as an advocate and potential rescuer of the children whose continued failures ED and NCLB has assured.
  2. Teachers have been blamed for giving low odds, when compared to parents, for chances of ever meeting NCLB’s impossible demands of 100% proficiency by 2014. While surprising that only half the teachers surveyed understand the impossibility of 100% proficiency, we should not be surprised to see Feller and Co. paint teachers as bigots and Spellings as the Savior of the Oppressed. The survey didn’t ask how many teachers believe that the Queen of Pain’s racist policy of manufactured failure is a back door school privatization plan.
  3. Tutoring corporations have been portrayed as providing a public service to entrepreneurial couples in the suburb trying to start businesses, rather than as the mercenary trough feeders that they are.
  4. School systems have been portrayed as lead segregationists, rather than as desperate bureaucrats willing to do anything, morally reprehensible or otherwise, to avoid having ED shut them down for not meeting NCLB test targets. This is the moral equivalent of blaming the prison officials in Iraq for the torture policy implemented at the Pentagon. Wonder who’s left holding the head bags or the Ziplocs of child vomit, respectively?

All in all, it’s a pretty good week of work for Spellings, a dedicated public servant ever intent upon using a willing media to rescue the public from the policies her own department is perpetrating. Now that's what I call PR.

Look for NAEP (Not Any Escape Portals) and Growth Models (making poverty invisible) to be next on the road to rescue.

Contractors, Mercenaries, and Media Whores

In Iraq mercenaries are called contractors, and they are paid huge sums beyond what GIs are paid to hunt down and kill people. In this country we have another kind of contractor in the ed biz, but this one is preying on the federal Title I dollars that were intended to help poor children in school. As part of the neo-con No Corporation Left Behind philosophy, NCLB is pumping almost $2.5 billion a year into the tutoring industry, with the majority of it going to a handful of corporations like Sylvan, Princeton Review, Kaplan, and Edison (Newton).

After the third year of failing to make NCLB test targets, the failing school must use up to 20% of its Title I money to pay for more cognitive-decapitating test prep, this time in the form of tutoring for which companies can charge the school up to $40 per hour for each student. Schools are forced, then, to cut other services, resources, and personnel that had previously been provided by Title I funds. This loss comes on top of money paid out in transportation costs for student transfers after Year 2 of failure to make test targets. In the meantime, companies like Educate, Inc. saw their 2004 profits soar by 402 percent.

None of these facts is reported by Spellings' go-to media guy, Ben Feller, in his cheery promo now circulating from AP as part of a week-long ED public relations blitz led by Feller. The intro and pic would lead you to believe that Bush had developed a new humanitarian economic plan to salvage the crumbling hopes of an endangered middle class. A new corporate welfare ed industry or a Mom and Pop operation?:

— Lew and Sharon Goldfarb went looking for a way to make some extra cash and help kids learn, too. They found both in President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.

The suburban Columbus, Ohio couple bought a franchise with a Florida-based company, Club Z! In-Home Tutoring Services, that provides one-on-one academic help. The Goldfarbs now have 100 tutors working for them, and much of their business is due to the 2002 education law.

Schoolhouse Rock

Do you remember Schoolhouse Rock? If so, you probably remember "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here," "Conjunction Junction," etc. Two I saw recently with my three-year-old daughter that I don't remember seeing when I was a kid are called "Fireworks" (about the Declaration of Independence) and "Sufferin' 'til Suffrage" (about women's rights).

Some of the lyrics from each are below.

The songs are cute. Catchy tunes. But as I was watching with my daughter -- someone who knows nothing about the Declaration of Independence or women's rights -- it hit me: this is really powerful stuff. Here's a sample from "Fireworks": "It's only common sense that if a government won't give you your basic rights, you'd better get another government." Here's a sample from "Sufferin' 'til Suffrage": "Susan B. Anthony and Julia Howe, Lucretia Mott, (and others!) they showed us how; they carried signs and marched in lines until at long last the law was passed."

But these messages, sent to kids between breaks in Saturday morning cartoons in the early 70's, aren't getting much air time these days. And, if you believe the Center on Education Policy's recent report that 71 percent of the nation's 15,000 school districts have reduced the hours of instructional time spent on history, music, and other subjects since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2002, then it seems that these messages aren't getting much air time in public schools, either.

Imagine the poor African-American and Hispanic kids at Edison singing these songs instead of being trained in phonemic awareness. Imagine the poor African-American and Hispanic kids at KIPP wearing shirts that read, "Stand Up for Your Civil Rights" instead of the required slogan, "Work hard. Be nice."

Imagine if the original colonists had worked hard and been nice. Imagine if Susan B. Anthony, Julia Howe, and Lucretia Mott had worked hard and been nice. Imagine if Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, or Cesar Chavez had worked hard and been nice.

For more and more kids, especially kids in urban apartheid schools, working hard and being nice is all that is expected of them. Some might say it's all that's required.


"Fireworks" (http://www.schoolhouserock.tv/Fireworks.htm)

In 1776 (fireworks!)
There were fireworks too (red, white, and blue!)
The original colonists,
You know their tempers blew (They really blew!)
Like Thomas Paine once wrote:
It's only common sense (only common sense)
That if a government won't give you your basic rights
You'd better get another government.

Ooh, when England heard the news, (Kerpow!)
They blew their stack (They really blew their cool!)
But the colonies lit the fuse,
There'd be no turning back (no turnin' back!)
They'd had enough of injustice now
But even if it really hurts, oh yeah,
If you don't give us our freedom now
You're gonna see some fireworks!


"Sufferin' 'til Suffrage" (http://www.schoolhouserock.tv/Sufferin.html)

Those pilgrim women who ...
Who braved the boat
Could cook the turkey, but they ...
They could not vote.
Even Betsy Ross who sewed the flag was left behind that first election day.

(What a shame, Sisters!)

Then Susan B. Anthony (Yeah!) and Julia Howe,
(Lucretia!) Lucretia Mott, (and others!) they showed us how;
They carried signs and marched in lines
Until at long last the law was passed.

Oh, we were suffering until suffrage,
Not a woman here could vote, no matter what age,
Then the 19th Amendment struck down that restrictive rule. (Oh yeah!)

And now we pull down on the lever,
Cast our ballots and we endeavor
To improve our country, state, county, town, and school. (Right On! Right On!)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

NCLB, Segregation, and "Counting the Most"

With the survival of public schools hinges on NCLB annual test scores that are directly correlated to family income, who wants a sub-group of poor kids in your school to bring down those scores? And since most urban poor kids are brown or black (imagine that), the social equality clock has begun running backwards at an ever-increasing clip since NCLB's intractable requirement of 100% proficiency was devised.

News out of Nebraska last week, in fact, shows us that the calendars in Omaha have been turned back to the early 1950s--we can't be sure of the exact date, but we know it was before Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka.

Frank Bass has this story that must have the seers at ED trying to figure out how to blame the states for this little detail. The Kozol quote makes it clear that NCLB encourages the insulatation of high-achieving schools and rewards them for their exclusionary practices. What we have, then, is the emergence of two school systems, one for the well-to-do and one for the poor:

"The really rich and ritzy suburbs that don't participate in any form of integration, that turn their backs on all efforts to admit minority kids or low-income kids into their first-rate public schools, those districts aren't going to suffer at all," said Jonathan Kozol, an educator and author of several acclaimed books on race and education.

"They're going to be rewarded for their selfishness. They're going to be rewarded for their racial insularity because they're not admitting any kids who are at any academic risk. They're not admitting any kids who had been previously studying, for perhaps the first six years of school, in a rotten, overcrowded school."

Barbara Radner, director of DePaul University's Center for Urban Education, works with Chicago public schools and has heard some parents complain about the treatment of inner city children when they move to suburban schools.

Bush as Decider, AP's Feller as Divider

When parents and teachers come to realize that the source of their children's misery is not one another, but the divisive and alienating intrusion called NCLB, that is when a coalition will be formed to bring an end to this backdoor privatization plan and modern day eugenics experiment. The Deciders and Dividers at ED know this, and that is why their go-to guy at the AP, Ben Feller, is double-timing it to the front lines of this failing war on public schools and public everything, hoping to keep the wedge in place between parents and teachers, between parents and schools. If they can peel off a significant number of parents who don't know enough about NCLB to choose sides, then the ED war on public schools will have tilted in favor of the privatizers.

Feller's latest efforts reports survey results showing an "expectation gap" between parents and teachers regarding the NCLB's impossible requirementof of 100 % proficiency by 2014. I should say "efforts" because there are actually two versions of the same story circulating in newspapers.

The beginning of Version 1:

WASHINGTON --Teachers are far more pessimistic than parents about getting every student to succeed in reading and math as boldly promised by the No Child Left Behind Act. That's left a huge expectations gap between the two main sets of adults in children's lives.

An AP-AOL Learning Services Poll found nearly eight in 10 parents are confident their local schools will have students up to state standards by the 2013-14 school year target. Yet only half of teachers are confident the kids in their schools will meet that deadline.

The finding underscores a theme in the poll. Parents and teachers often disagree on daily aspects of education, from the state of discipline to the quality of high schools.

Now try the beginning of Version 2:

Setting high expectations for students has become such a priority that Congress passed a law about it. Now schools must make sure all children succeed in math and reading, no matter what their language barrier or level of poverty or support at home.

Realistic? Many parents seem to think so. But plenty of teachers do not.

Almost eight in 10 parents are confident their local school will get all students up to state standards in reading and math by 2013-14, an AP-AOL Learning Services poll finds.

Yet only half of teachers are confident that all students in their school will meet that deadline, which was set by the No Child Left Behind Act that Congress passed in 2001.

That means the two major groups of adults in kids' lives have a huge expectations gap.

The second one has more Maggie Spellings about it, don't you think? Whichever version you prefer, the wedge is the prominent theme in both. Just as the Deciders and Dividers have cynically used a "high expectations" for all to recruit minority support for their own subjugation in chain gang schools, Feller's Williams-esque pumping of this "expectations gap" is intended to recruit parents in the continued support of the dismantling of their own public schools. Predictably, Feller would rather castigate with the "bigotry of low expectations" charge than to admit to an implacable racism that exudes from a policy based on impossible demands that is intended to undercut support for public schools.

If Feller had bothered to look at a real survey, rather than one conducted online by AOL, he would have found that the expectations gap begins to narrow quickly as parents know more about NCLB. The more parents know about NCLB, the less they like it. (What is surprising to me in the AOL survey is the number of teachers who still believe that the impossible demands can be met). And, course, that is why blaming the states or blaming teachers remains the critical strategy in keeping parents ignorant of what the Law's intent and effects.

Here are some clips from the Executive Summary of the 37th Annual Gallup Survey, published September 2005 in Phi Delta Kappan, which show that the American public has not lost its senses, but, rather, needs more good information to help them make informed decisions. Ben Feller and his band at the AP are working to block that. Note the links to the data tables:

12. The fact that so much of the public still considers itself uninformed regarding No Child Left Behind (NCLB) can be taken as reason to regard current opinions as preliminary. The public’s final judgment of NCLB is presumably yet to be made. While the number saying they know a great deal or fair amount about NCLB has grown from 24% in 2003 to 40% in this year’s survey, 59% say they know very little or nothing at all. (See Table 23.)

13. We drew the conclusion in 2003 that the public’s dissatisfaction with the strategies used in NCLB gave reason to believe that greater familiarity with the act was unlikely to bring approval. Based on the findings in this year’s poll, that conclusion is even more valid today. Forty-five percent in the current poll still say that they do not know enough about NCLB to express an opinion. Twenty-eight percent of respondents say that their view is either very favorable or somewhat favorable, while 27% say that it is somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable. More significant is the fact that among those professing a “great deal” of knowledge about NCLB, 57% view it unfavorably, while 36% view it favorably. (See Table 24.)

14. The NCLB strategies are frequently out of step with approaches favored by the public.

  • NCLB uses a single test to determine if a school is in need of improvement. Sixty-eight percent say that a single test cannot give a fair picture. (See Table 25.)
  • NCLB tests only English and math to determine if a school is in need of improvement. Eighty percent say testing English and math only will not give a fair picture. This rises to 87% within the "great deal" of knowledge group. (See Table 26.)
  • NCLB gives parents of a child attending a school found to be in need of improvement the chance to transfer their child to a school making "adequate yearly progress" (AYP). Seventy-nine percent say they would prefer to have additional help given to their child in his or her own school. (See Table 28.)
  • NCLB requires that test scores be broken out into eight groups based on ethnicity, English-speaking ability, poverty level, and disability status and reported separately by each group. A plurality of 48% opposes this requirement, with most of that group saying that they do so because they believe all students are equal -- and presumably should be treated in the same way. Support for reporting scores separately, however, is strong among those claiming knowledge of NCLB. (See Tables 29 and 30.)
  • With limited exceptions, NCLB requires students enrolled in special education to meet the same standards as other students. Sixty-eight percent say these students should not be held to the same standards. (See Table 31.)
  • NCLB includes the scores of special education students in determining whether a school is or is not in need of improvement. Sixty-two percent say these scores should not be included. (See Table 32.)
  • NCLB designates a school in need of improvement if one group fails to make AYP for two consecutive years. The public is evenly split on whether this should happen if the special education group is the only one failing. However, a majority of the “great deal” of knowledge group says that scores of the special education group alone should not determine the designation. (See Table 33.)
  • NCLB determines whether a school has made AYP based on the percentage of students meeting fixed goals in passing English and math. Eighty-five percent believe that it would be better to base AYP on improvement shown during the year. (See Table 35.)
  • NCLB requires that all of the groups meet the same fixed goals regardless of how far a given group starts from the goals. Sixty-three percent say the goals should vary according to where the school starts. (See Table 36.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bush Announces "Math Now"

Reading First and the National Reading Panel are tough acts to follow. But it looks like Fearless Leader, aka "The Decider"* is up to the task.

According to an Ed Week article from February, "at issue, in broad terms, is whether teachers should focus more on building students’ conceptual understanding of the subject, or emphasize nurturing their mastery of basic math skills."

Here we go again. So, barring a conversion reminiscent of water into wine, it's not hard to guess how this one will shake out. So why waste the tax-payers' and panelists' time? Can you say "fait accompli"? Or how about "done deal"? And if those don't work, how about "self-fulfilling prophecy"?

See, we've been burned on this stuff before. We haven't quite finished sublimating our rage about the last report on "research-based practices" sponsored by the NICHD. We haven't quite gotten used to the fact that "scientific evidence" is whatever The Decider says it is. In my mind, rage is an appropriate response to deliberate deception. It may be the only appropriate response.

Here are some of my favorite parts from the ED press release:

1) "To Encourage Private-Sector Investment In Technology, The President Supports Making The R&D Tax Credit Permanent. America's private sector funds two-thirds of all R&D conducted in America—about $200 billion a year. This tax credit encourages R&D spending by allowing businesses to deduct part of those investments from their taxes. The tax credit has been allowed to expire in the past. The R&D tax credit should be made permanent, so that companies have greater certainty in their tax planning and therefore can be bolder in their R&D investment strategy."

To his credit, The Decider is no longer making any attempts to conceal the relationship between corporate America and public education. In very clear language, His Deciderness has included tax cuts for businesses in with a teacher education plan. In the good old days, tax cut bills and public education bills were separate. But, since he only has two and a half years left in office, I suppose Decider has elected to make things more efficient and role them into one. The irony, of course, is that tax cuts for businesses means less money for teachers.

2) "Adjunct Teacher Corps: This initiative would provide children with the opportunity to learn from people with real-life experience by encouraging up to 30,000 math and science professionals over the next eight years to teach in our Nation's classrooms."

I was an adjunct instructor in higher ed settings for years. Yes, I brought real-life experience to the classroom. But in exchange for my real-life experience, the institutions that I worked for payed me a fraction of what they had to pay full-time instructors. And, as an adjunct, I was not part of a union. I was hired easily. I could have been fired just as easily. 30,000 underpaid, non-union math and science "professionals" would constitute a very large foot in a very large door.

-- Peter Campbell

*"I'm the decider, and I decide what's best."
President George W. Bush, 4/18/06 (speaking about Donald Rumsfeld staying on as Secretary of Defense)

Welcome, Peter Campbell

Long-time activist, instructional designer, child advocate, and all-round good guy will be adding his estimable talents to SM. Welcome, Peter.

NCLB Uses Media to Blame States for NCLB

Ben Feller, longtime shill for the Bush’s Department of Ed. is at it again. In an artful dodge to escape the hard light that is now focusing on the inherent racism of NCLB, Feller returns to action with a big AP exclusive on how states are allowing schools to slip the accountability noose by not reporting test scores for student cohorts that are too small, based on federal guidelines (not state ones), to report.

Allowing his co-authors (here and here) to take turns in the spotlight, two stories appeared with hours of each other making the case that state departments of education are leaving poor and minority children behind by not reporting their scores for federal accountability purposes. The first piece went straight for the jugular:
States are helping public schools escape potential penalties by skirting the No Child Left Behind law's requirement that students of all races must show annual academic progress.
Laced within these stories are comments by poor parents who have come to be convinced that NCLB's guaranteed failure for their own children offers the solution to their continued oppression, in schools that are aimed at the further cognitive decapitation (Kozol) and emotional genocide of a generation of poor and brown children. Should we declare, then, that no test score will be left behind if it can be used to further demoralize and regiment children in the new Skinnerian re-education camps that are spreading like wildfire under such lofty names as Success for All and Open Court and Direct Instruction.

Here is a case, we may surmise, of first-class Rovian ingenuity funneled through the IES sweatshop and then squeezed into the lap of Ben Feller, who has shown that he can be depended upon to do for free (we must assume) what others in the ED propaganda campaign have demanded a wage to do. (See here an example of how Feller spread the propaganda from the AIR manipulation of college literacy rates in order to justify the soon-to-be-announced federal intrusions of Spellings' Higher Ed Commission). The two most recent AP stories, in fact, have Rovian strategy written all over them: use the media to take the hot lights off the perpetrator (NCLB and IES) by putting the blame on the victim (the public schools). Perfect.

In examining some of the documents used to come up with the number of student scores purportedly excluded from the NCLB crucible (almost 2 million), I came across these numbers that somehow don' t get much airplay when we talk about the same color-blind high expectations and color-blind test scores for all, whether or not your child has to dodge bullets on the way home to a shack apartment, or whether your child drives home in his new Accord to a house that takes up more air than ten of those shack apartments that our color-blindness insists is of equal value when it comes to contributing to success at school:

Total No. of K-12 Students: 48,500,000

No. Free/Reduced Lunch: 17,548,682 (36.3%)

No. of [special ed.] students with IEPs 6,015,545 (13.6%)

No. of students ELL (English Language Learners) 3,829,284 (10.6%)

And just a single indicator of the link between income and test scores, information that FairTest obtained from the College Board in 2002. These same correlations, by the way, can be found in any set of state test scores or in international comparisons, regardless of grade level.

Family Income----Verbal/Math Scores

Less than $10,000/year------417/442
$10,000 - $20,000/year-----435/453
$20,000 - $30,000/year-----461/470
$30,000 - $40,000/year-----480/485
$40,000 - $50,000/year-----496/501
$50,000 - $60,000/year-----505/509
$60,000 - $70,000/year-----511/516
$70,000 - $80,000/year-----517/524
$80,000 - $100,000/year----530/538
More than $100,000/year----555/568

All of this is being ignored, of course. The sub-text for this blame-shifting to the states, by the way, can be found in the call, very near the end of the first AP piece:
The solution may be to set a single federal standard for when minority students' scores don't have to be counted separately, said Ross Wiener, policy director for the Washington-based Education Trust.
By next year, all of the politicians now harumphing about this scandalous situation (brand new story here with Big Ben Feller taking the lead) will be coming to the rescue of these children whose failure we have not given them credit for. We will likely see a call for a national test (NAEP) in order to concentrate power (and to do the right thing, of course), and we will see the call for growth models to be used in order to hide the effects of income disparities on test performance (and to give credit for progress, of course). In the meantime,

Former Bush Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who now serves on a private commission studying the law, issued a joint statement with his co-leader of the commission calling the AP's findings alarming.

"If the goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is to ensure that all children meet state standards, then allowing large numbers of the most disadvantaged children to fall between the cracks is unacceptable," Thompson said with commission co-chairman Roy Barnes.

Yes, those cracks.