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

Monday, April 30, 2007

Superintendents On NCLB at Legislative Advocacy Conference

A really solid piece of reporting from eSchool News that the mainstream media could learn from:
By Corey Murray, Senior Editor, eSchool News
April 24, 2007

As Congress sets about the difficult task of revamping the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the six-year-old education law once considered a hallmark of President Bush's presidency, several school superintendents are calling for wholesale changes to the bill.

Speaking at the American Association of School Administrators' annual Legislative Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., on April 20, members of Public Schools for Tomorrow (PSFT), a group of current and former school administrators in favor of educational reform, said NCLB, though well-intentioned, has failed to close the achievement gap between rich and poor students and has not delivered on its promise of measurable academic gains for all children.

"In fact, we are convinced that NCLB is harming the education of many of the children it is intended to help," wrote the group in a statement.

Like many of the law's critics, members of PSFT--led by Columbia Teachers College President Tom Sobol--say NCLB places too great an emphasis on standardized testing, while doing little to measure students' progress effectively over time.

Rather than continue along a path they deem destructive, reformers have identified six core problems with the law and, in each case, have offered potential remedies.

Their suggestions come about two months after a high-profile bipartisan commission co-chaired by former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, a Republican, who served for 14 years as the governor of Wisconsin, and former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, released a report outlining some 75 recommendations for lawmakers to consider as they reform the legislation. (See story: http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showstory.cfm?ArticleID=6871.)

Though many Washington insiders believe it's unlikely Congress will vote on a new education bill before the 2008 presidential election, members of PSFT say now is the time for educators in favor of change to voice their concerns.

"The goal really is to marshal a bully pulpit of superintendents everywhere to make sure NCLB represents what it means to be an effective citizen," said PSFT member Judith Johnson, superintendent of the Peekskill City Schools in Peekskill, N.Y.

Among the problems identified by the group are standards, testing, teachers and teaching, sanctions for struggling schools, community involvement, and funding.

"We believe in standards, but the existing system does not work," declares the PSFT statement handed out during the April 20 event. "In many places, standards are not aligned with testing and accountability, thus frustrating their purpose. Further, standards vary from state to state, making comparisons useless."

To better align existing federal testing and accountability rules with state benchmarks, the group suggests that a commission be established to craft a set of national standards for learning. Set by leaders representing various educational groups, with participation from state and local governments, these national standards "should be broad and challenging enough to encourage a wide variety of curricular and instructional practice," PSFT says.

Unlike past proposals, the group says, this is not something the federal government should have a hand in. "Nothing in what we say suggests that this should be turned over to the federal government to create these things," said Robert Rochelle, superintendent of the Ossining Union Free School District in Ossining, N.Y.

Testing is another prominent aspect of the law the superintendents' group takes issue with.

"Too much testing is corrupting the educational process and is driving the curriculum downward, especially in middle and high school grades," it said.

Rather than rely almost exclusively on students' standardized test scores, as is the case with NCLB, these superintendents suggest that states employ new and different means of assessing educational progress, looking at students' success on a longitudinal basis as well as through grade-by-grade comparisons.

An outspoken critic of the law--and the federal Education Department in general--writer and independent researcher Gerald Bracey told attendees during a morning presentation that there is little scientific evidence to suggest students' performance on standardized test scores is an effective indicator of future success.

Though U.S. students often test in the middle of the pack when compared with students in other industrialized nations on standardized tests for such core subjects as reading and mathematics, he says, a host of other factors contributes to a student's ability to succeed in life--few of which can be accurately predicted by existing forms of academic measurement.

"A lot of what we value in this society is difficult to measure in the form of a standardized test," noted Bracey, who said students in other countries often are not encouraged to develop certain intangible traits such as creativity, diplomacy, and entrepreneurship--even though these attributes are known to be just as, if not more, critical to their ability to live and work in the 21st century.

Bracey chided U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings for encouraging American educators to teach to the test. He said much of what sets U.S. schools apart from their counterparts in other nations is the inquisitive nature of their classrooms. It is teachers encouraging students to speak out, to voice their opinions and engage in a form of two-way dialogue that fosters higher-order thinking, he said, adding: "Taking a test is almost the exact opposite of asking a question."

As a supporter of NCLB and one of the legislation's founding architects, Danica Petroshius, senior vice president of Collaborative Communications Group in Washington and former chief of staff to Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., was scheduled to refute Bracey's argument that the law is ineffective. But a scheduling conflict reportedly kept her from presenting.

PSFT also criticized NCLB for failing to train and promote a larger number of high-quality instructors.

"The quality of students' achievement is closely related to the quality of their teachers, but we lack the number of well-trained teachers that we need, especially in difficult teaching situations," explained the group's report.

Despite an increased effort to train and retain high-quality teachers, critics say, schools must do more to ensure the best teachers are up to the challenge of working in America's toughest classrooms.

As part of its movement, PSFT is asking Congress to fund a nationwide campaign "to recruit, train, support, and retain" a larger crop of experienced, committed, high-impact instructors.

The group also came out strong against the law's current policy of leveling sanctions-- including withholding federal funds--on schools that fail to meet its stringent requirements for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), a controversial stipulation that sets national benchmarks for students in reading, math, and more recently, science.

"The sanctions for not achieving AYP are flawed and unfair … No serious person believes that all children will be proficient in reading and math by 2014," wrote the group in its outline.

Presenters went on to criticize the federal government for singling out and "embarrassing" struggling schools and said a better approach would be to revise AYP to reward schools for "substantial progress," as opposed to punishing them for perceived failures.

Whereas schools are the "chief instruments" of any student's formal education, PSFT said, local communities also have a responsibility to help students become better learners. As part of its reform effort, the group is encouraging schools to work with health and social services to better meet students' needs and, in turn, improve the mental and physical conditions under which they are expected to learn.

As a final condition of its report, PSFT says Congress should work to fund NCLB at the level originally intended. Since the law's inception in 2001, educators have criticized NCLB for saddling historically cash-strapped schools with what amounts to a bevy of unfunded mandates, arguing that the amount of money schools receive to implement NCLB programs still is billions of dollars less than what originally had been promised.

"Money alone will not reform the schools, but the schools will not be reformed without it," said the report.


Public Schools for Tomorrow

American Association of School Administrators

No Corporate Sponsor Left Behind by Spellings

We know about the thugs running Reading First who pressure states to adopt their preferred approach for intellectual lobotomies for poor children. Now we find out that a similar kind of bullying has broken out during discussions between Maggie's Higher Ed Commission and those in academia who resist the manipulation of accrediting agencies to advance the agenda of the Business Roundtable and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce.

Inside Higher Ed has a detailed piece
, exposing the intimidation used by ED officials at last week's meeting, which eventually broke down after late-night phone calls from ED officials suggesting resignation of Judith Eaton, the remaining dissident on the committee. Pulling the strings, of course, are the for-profit online diploma mills that were approved last year (thanks to Congressman Boehner) as legitimate recipients of federal student loan money. Their angry eyes are now on the real prize--to join the ranks of the those legitimate universities who have thus far resisted the use of the for-profit phony credits toward legitimate degrees from regionally-accredited colleges and universities.

Today's Inside Higher Ed carries a story with a new twist from the government privatizers and corporate socialists: corporate sponsorship for the upcoming regional summit meetings of the Higher Ed Commission. The first one in Atanta is appropriately sponsored by Coca-Cola, whose the policies are the real thing in union crushing. Never mind that some campuses have outlawed Coke products in protest of their labor policies--that fact only makes Coke more attractive to Spellings:
Corporate sponsorship is pretty common these days — walk around campus, tour an art museum, listen to NPR, and you’ll quickly encounter the name of some benefactor. But should Education Department meetings about the future of higher education have corporate sponsors?

That’s the question some academics have been asking since invitations went out to the summit that will take place in June in Atlanta to discuss the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education. The invitations indicate that they are coming from Margaret Spellings, the secretary, but that the event is “hosted by the Coca-Cola Company at the Hilton Atlanta.” A similar reference to Coke as the host of the meeting appears on the department’s Web site. The Atlanta meeting is one of a series of regional conclaves the department is holding to follow up on a national summit it held in March.

One reason the apparent corporate sponsorship of the Atlanta meeting is drawing snickers is that the national meeting was held at the Willard Intercontinental — a landmark Washington hotel known for its exclusivity and luxury, not the transparency and frugality of the sort the secretary advocates for higher education.

Several people who have been attending Education Department forums in various places around the country through several administrations said that they could not remember seeing a department event that appeared to have a corporate sponsor like the Atlanta meeting (or one with hors d’oeuvres as nice as those served at the Willard).

While the Atlanta meeting is the only one identified as having a corporate host in a sponsorship style, the Boston regional meeting will take place at the headquarters of the EMC2 Corporation, a company whose software and services are used to secure and store information; the Kansas City meeting will take place at the headquarters of H&R Block; and the Seattle meeting will take place at Microsoft. No setting has been identified yet for the Phoenix meeting. . . .

Might I suggest the Phoenix meeting be held at the U. of Phoenix's home office, the Apollo Group, Inc.? That $3 billion that UP has received in federal student loan money should be enough to buy a few hundred shrimp cocktails, right?

Texas Schoolchildren Told to "Scream as Loud As You Can"

Down in the heart of non-stop testing, in the belly of the bubble sheets, where the national testing hysteria first freaked out, etc., there is an edu-business move afoot to get rid of the high school TAKS exit exams in order to create a system even more driven by more high-stakes tests in grades 9, 10, and 11.

Yesterday the Waco Tribune-Herald ran this op-ed on the issue:

Sunday, April 29, 2007

State-mandated testing finally was over at one elementary school I know. Over the intercom, the principal asked the students to stand.

What? Had the Texas Legislature decided to order students to pledge allegiance to TAKS, as it requires of the Texas and U.S. flags?

Maybe this was a state-mandated benediction (like that state-mandated silent moment): “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the commissioner of education . . . Amen.”

What was the state ordering the children to do now?

“For the next 15 seconds,” the principal told the children, “I want you to scream as loud as you can.”

To my knowledge, this was neither a state nor a district mandate.

(If it were, a test would have followed: “In 150 words, tell us what you thought while screaming.” Teachers would be required to fill out triplicate forms noting how many “TAKS elements” were met.)

No, the principal was just letting the children vent. Did you hear them?

You wonder. You wonder if anyone hears amid the din in Austin, larynxes straining for more “school accountability.” (Later, the larynxes will take to the campaign trail and tout “local control.”)

In fact — and it has taken forever — but I think someone is listening.

State Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, has authored a bill to do a complete review of Texas’ school accountability system. It would set up a Select Committee on Public School Accountability. It would have hearings throughout the state.

The bill, which is languishing in the House Education Committee, needs a floor hearing, just as those directly affected by state school policies need to be heard.

If the statewide review happens, I hope parents, teachers and students scream real loud.

One thing the committee should quantify for Texans is how much instructional time is lost to testing, not just state-mandated exams but also district “benchmark” tests to see if teachers are keeping up with the often-brutal pace the state sets for them.

But there’s so much more to examine.

Texans have been given a false choice for years: Either accept top-down, state-mandated standardization with an overemphasis on testing, or accept inferior schools. That is utter baloney. The opposite is the result. Overemphasis on standardization brings a lot of achievers down to what should be considered an unacceptable mean.

Overemphasis on TAKS puts a faceless someone in Austin in absolute control of what teachers teach. Some teachers find themselves essentially working off a script to meet each “TAKS objective.”

Texas lawmakers are acknowledging one folly of TAKS right now with a bill that would abolish the state high school exit test in favor of a battery of end-of-course tests.

It has never made any sense for the state to pin graduation on advanced concepts — and that’s what TAKS is in some areas — that a student might not have studied for two years.

Then again, with end-of-course exams we would have more state-mandated testing and more micromanagement from Austin, more guessing games for teachers about “what’s on the test?” (Sadly, that’s become the essence of education in the age of “accountability,” and that’s not right.)

The only problem I see with the review that is proposed for Texas’ accountability system is that the select committee would have too many of the usual suspects, the same lawmakers — too tied to their own creation and their own rhetoric, too divorced from the classroom, too wed to the TV cameras. The committee would have some educators. That’s good. It would have some business leaders.

Some or all of these might be parents of children in public schools. That would be good. But the bill, HB 3425, specifically calls for only one — one — parent, otherwise.

If lawmakers are really interested in getting it right, the committee would have one parent for each policy maker or professional, and it would have students as well. I’ve heard eloquent appeals from students to stop taking so much learning time away for testing, and to stop whittling education down to the nubs of what a few nameless educrats can pronounce as “essential.”

Please, lawmakers. Ask. Ask students. Ask parents. Then stand back, because it’s going to get noisy.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fenty Still Hasn't Gotten the Lead Out

For a man who would want absolute control over the public schools in D.C. , it would seem small matter to make sure that, after 6 years, the lead could finally be taken out of the water that children drink at school. Apperently not:

A group of Washington area parents and environmentalists has formally demanded that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency order new tests of water in D.C. public schools, saying they don't trust local officials' assurances that some unusually high lead levels detected in school water in recent months were "isolated" findings.

The parents contend that they've been misled before about the severity of lead problems in the city's water supply. In a letter last week to the EPA, they argued that the D.C. school system's method for broader systemwide testing in February was skewed to register artificially lower lead levels. They said local and federal officials have given unclear and conflicting answers when questioned about the testing method's accuracy.

"We are very alarmed about the safety of our children, and nobody is giving us any straight answers," said Yanna Lambrinidou of Parents for Non-Toxic Alternatives, which joined in urging the EPA to intervene. "I have a basic question as a parent: Is the water safe for my child to drink at the fountain?"

The letter was sent on behalf of 50 parents, joined by organizations such as Clean Water Action, the D.C. chapter of Friends of the Earth and the Center for Health Environment and Justice.

The parents expressed concern that high lead readings in drinking water at five schools could signal a citywide problem. High lead levels are often a sign of dangerously corrosive water and posed a major health hazard in the city from late 2001 to 2004, after which the water utility changed the chemicals it used to treat the water. . . .

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Enterprise Florida Redefines Social Studies

Just days ago Florida social studies teachers were crying for their own FCAT test in order to be taken seriously by the corporations who own Florida schools. Now it seems that Enterprise Florida, the organization where Florida government and business go to breed, has come up with an answer to that request that could been inspired by the education policies of pre-war Germany:
TALLAHASSEE -- Lawmakers are hailing a plan to overhaul the state's education standards and bring experts from around the world to weigh in on what Florida's students should be learning.

By moving from "Sunshine State Standards" to "World Class Standards," they hope to shift the state's guiding education philosophy to prepare students for careers in the world, not just Florida's marketplace.

A popular centerpiece of the proposal is the expansion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to include testing in social studies, which is defined to include geography, economics and "United States patriotism and national sovereignty."

The proposals have moved through the Legislature in recent weeks, with some lawmakers saying the bill is the most important education initiative this year.

The full House plans to take up the bill early next week. A procedural error in a Senate committee earlier this week means it will have a more difficult time making it to the Senate floor. If it does not make it in the Senate, the proponents, some of the Legislature's leading education delegates, promise to bring it for approval again next year.

The legislation broadens the group of leaders deciding what a Florida education should be beyond officials in the Department of Education.

Under the proposal, the new standards would be shaped by input from Florida classroom teachers and administrators, and from community colleges and universities. It would also include representatives from the business community selected by Enterprise Florida, a public-private group operating under the state's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development.

The standards would also have to pass muster with more than one nationally recognized foundation, institute, organization or board with expertise in performance standards for kindergarten to 12th-grade curriculum.

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, former school superintendent in Okaloosa County and a proponent of the plan, called the current process of defining standards at the Department of Education "intellectual incest."

"Instead, we would look to the world and to the best performance in the world and try to leverage the best teaching methods and highest standards, wherever we find them," Gaetz said. . . .

Prince Mike and His Futile Feudalism for NYC Schools

The Times reports that Prince Mike cannot find even reluctant lieges to fill his education councils, especially since the pledge to serve requires public knowledge of the economic condition of every vassal. Will the next mayor restore the public to the public schools, or will parents wait that long?:

The stage was set for the candidates’ forum. Andrew Baumann, one of nine candidates on the ballot for a school parent council in southwest Queens, was the first person to arrive.

And he was alone.

“Not a single person,” Mr. Baumann said disgustedly of the recent nonevent in Community School District 27. “One candidate showed up. Me.”

Elections begin on Monday for the 34 parent councils that replaced New York City’s community school boards when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg won control of the school system in 2002.

The councils are intended to give parents a voice in running the schools, and to be even more representative of their interests than the old school boards, which were often criticized as rife with political patronage and corruption.

But with parents fuming that the councils have no real authority, no power to institute policy and no influence with the Department of Education, the elections, which run through May 8, have been foreshadowed by skimpy attendance at candidate forums. And in some cases, there is a distinct lack of candidates to run for vacant seats.
. . . .

Mr. Baumann of District 27, who by day is the president and chief executive of New York Families for Autistic Children, said that to lure parents to the meetings in the past, he invited their children to sing, dance and even recite poetry. Parents still grumbled that their attendance was pointless, he said, because the Department of Education did not listen to their complaints.

“The mayor and the chancellor really don’t want us involved,” said Mr. Baumann, who calls himself a reluctant candidate for a third term. “When you’re running a big corporation, you don’t ask the guys on the loading dock what their opinions are. The way I see it, we’re just pushing a box from one side to the other in a warehouse.”

Bubble Fillers or Thinkers? Izzo Knows

We now need 4 million more Marguerite Izzos:
April 26, 2007, 9:52 PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- New York State's Teacher of the Year, a fifth-grade instructor at a Malverne school, was honored by President George W. Bush in a White House ceremony Thursday, as her union got ready to lobby Congress on changes to Bush's flagship education policy.

The teacher, Marguerite Izzo, 52, said after the ceremony that she was less than enthusiastic about the testing requirements imposed by Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.

"I don't think we want a nation of bubble-fillers," she said. "We want a nation of thinkers."

Bush praised award-winning teachers from across the United States as "some really fine public servants and great Americans" before urging the reauthorization of the act, which he first signed in 2002.

Bush said the law, which tracks student performance through standardized tests and imposes sanctions on poorly performing schools, was working. "Measurement is not a tool to punish," he said. "Measurement is a tool to correct and reward."

The law rates Izzo's school, Howard T. Herber Middle School, as successful, but Izzo said she would rather see fewer tests, with students assessed through individual work portfolios.

Her students are tested on social studies in November, on language arts in January and on math in March. "One snapshot of a child, one standardized test, doesn't tell us how that child has progressed from September to June," she said.

Her union, New York State United Teachers, is calling for changes in the law to "acknowledge different rates of student learning."

Still, Izzo said, it's "possible to keep the magic" in teaching. She credited her school district with helping her find creative ideas that also meet testing requirements. She said she taught about branches of government by having students move into different corners of the room representing legislative, executive and judicial branches. They learned a song to explain nouns and verbs.

And after research on Michelangelo, paper and art supplies were put under students' desks where they lay on their backs, replicating Michelangelo's painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. "We're so busy teaching reading and writing that we sometimes leave out the arts," she said. "These are the magic moments that they'll never forget."

Friday, April 27, 2007

300 Arkansas Students Boycott State Tests

What did officials worry about when 60% of black students in Brinkley, Arkansas staged a boycott to protest the loss of black administrators and the loss of their dignity in school? They worried about AYP, of course. When 3,000 students stay home, will they listen? How about 300,000? How about 3 million? Will this be the beginning of the end for the New Eugenics?

BRINKLEY, Ark. -- School Superintendent Randy Byrd says students who are staying away from classrooms can still take the state's benchmark exams if they return by next Wednesday.

Hundreds of black students in the Brinkley School District continued a boycott for a second day Thursday, while school officials tried to maintain a normal routine for the remaining student body, Byrd said.About 300 of the 842-student district began the boycott Wednesday to call attention to racial problems in the schools, including a lack of black administrators next school year and how black students are treated, according to some black community leaders. Sixty percent of the student body is black.

As of late Thursday morning, the superintendent said he hadn't been contacted by anyone to discuss the students' concerns. He said school officials were focused on administering the Arkansas benchmark exams and other previously scheduled school work.

What Teachers Are Thinking

Here is a round-up of recent research on teacher opinions and teachers' views on NCLB and high-stakes testing.

From PEN Weekly Newsblast: “The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher (pdf), conducted by Harris Interactive each year since 1984, explores teachers' opinions and brings them to the attention of the American public and policymakers.”

And a link to a large 50-state survey by TeacherNetwork.org, which showed that "Survey Reveals that Only 1% of Teachers Find No Child Left Behind an Effective Way to Assess the Quality of Schools and 69% Report It’s Pushing Teachers Out of the Profession."

And below are the results of two other recent surveys noted by Monty Neill:

NY State Union of Teachers has released a survey (pdf) showing strong opposition to NCLB and exposing the detrimental effects of high-stakes testing on teaching and learning. And from that you can link to the survey report, which is worth looking at for the details on the kinds of damage teachers see being caused by high-stakes testing and NLCB.

And, finally, a survey and in-depth interviews with teachers in Southern CA finds similar concern and opposition.

NCATE: An Early Study in Accreditation and Appeasement

There is post by Dan Butin at Education Policy Blog that takes issue with the ongoing right-wing war against the educational goals of social justice and participatory democracy. Here is a clip:
A recent article in Education Next continues the attack on “social justice” in schools of education. Laurie Moses Hines, an assistant professor of education at Kent State University, Trumbull (in Cultural Foundations, of all areas, for goodness sake), published “Return of the Thought Police” that made the basic argument that “The screening of prospective teachers for maladjustment 50 years ago and the dispositions assessments going on today have remarkable similarities.” Both, she argues, are useless and politically regressive.

Oh, it is just all too easy to pick on teacher education programs and dispositions. Us, bad, bad, indoctrinators.

I am not going to argue about the historical data; for all I know she is right. What I deeply, deeply reject and resent is that she takes a situation of dire educational consequence—the drastic education gap across racial, ethnic, SES, and immigrant status categories—and slams the easy targets of educators trying to figure out how best to solve the dilemma. Moreover, she does this in an extremely sloppy manner—full of errors and misunderstandings—all, it appears, to get embraced by the right type of crowd.

Let me throw out the most blatant problems.

The first is that she just cherry picks the easy fruit, the issues that have gotten oh so much attention:
1. A prospective teacher expelled because he advocated corporal punishment (such as spanking) in his philosophy of education paper
2. Incidents at Brooklyn College, which included being shown Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11 and an occasion where students in a class on language and literacy development told to accept that “white English” is the “oppressors’ language”
3. A prospective teacher asked to attend a “sensitivity training” session because he wrote, among other things, that there was no such thing as “male privilege”

None of these occurrences, I should be clear, are defensible on the part of the faculty. Students should not be graded on whether they correctly parrot back the professors’ ideology.

But exactly because she picks the easy fruit allows her to glide over the big picture, which is that there is no data that such occurrences actually happen on any scale in higher education. Pennsylvania was the only state that actually held hearings on Horowitz’s claims of students being indoctrinated. The panel, after a year, concluded that there was absolutely no basis upon which to make such egregious claims. As the Chronicle reported, “While the draft report says the panel was urged to endorse a statewide policy guaranteeing students' rights, it says the committee felt such a step was "unnecessary" because violations of students' academic freedom "are rare."”

The second, related to the first, is that in her haste to grab the easy fruit, she misses the issue. Her use of NCATE as an example is telling. She states that “social justice” was “Within the list of [NCATE] dispositions” and then takes a swipe at Arthur Wise by stating that “he maintains that social justice was never a required disposition.”

Oh, if only she would read. NCATE mentioned social justice as one example among many in the glossary section that defines terminology. Social justice was never, ever, ever, a disposition that NCATE “tested” for.
Dan's use of the past tense "mentioned" is exactly correct, for what has happened is that NCATE has become an early case study in the use of federal intimidation to shape university programs in the image of political ideology. In this case, it is ED that accredits the accreditors, and so it through the accreditors that ED will enforce its 19th Century social agenda.

NCATE, in fact, has folded in a spineless acquiescence to the anti-political-correctness political correctors. From the Chronicle of Higher Ed (12/16/05):
Last month, in the midst of the controversy, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education sent a bulletin to the 614 programs it accredits, saying that education schools should not evaluate students' attitudes, but rather assess their dispositions based on "observable behavior in the classroom." It also said it does "not expect or require institutions to attend to any particular political or social ideologies.
Beliefs, values, philosophy, or ethical commitments don’t matter anymore unless we observe them after they are allowed to do damage in the classroom? If a teacher can teach math, it does not matter if she is an avowed skinhead, fascist, or a dangerous liberal?

And then from the Chronicle, 6/16/06:
The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education won a key endorsement last week in its quest for continued federal approval of its accrediting power after announcing that it would drop controversial language about social justice from its accrediting standards for teacher-preparation programs.

The council, which is the nation's largest teacher-education accrediting group, has come under fire from conservative activists for the wording of a glossary appendix to standards for candidates in education programs.
NCATE has, then, just attempted to acknowledge the meaninglessness of a foundational element of what constitutes the foundations of education--the inclusive and factual intellectual and social history, and the advocacy for education for democracy and social justice. Sure does seem to open the door for TEAC or another accrediting body that is not afraid to take a stand for an inclusive, multicultural democracy.

By the way, did you ever wonder how it happened in Germany? This offers a perfect contemporary example of the universities taking the lead role of appeasor for an increasingly-bold rightwing fanaticism.

Bill Collecting the Sallie Mae and Nelnet Way

In today's loangate installment, Cong. Miller has asked for personnel files on 27 ED employees. Even more interesting is Kennedy's look into the hoodlum tactics used by Sallie Mae and Nelnet bill collectors:

Mr. Miller’s letter follows one sent Wednesday by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the Senate education committee, asking for “complete personnel files” for 27 department employees.

Mr. Kennedy has also begun to explore how student loan companies collect repayment.

In a letter, he said that two large lenders, Sallie Mae and Nelnet, may have made harassing phone calls to borrowers; tried to collect from elderly or disabled borrowers; and refused to negotiate with borrowers on repayment deferrals, among other tactics.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Charter School Data that George Bush and Jay Mathews Ignore

(Photo by Gerald Herbert, AP) The same day that the Deluder was in Harlem talking about universal support for NCLB and chatting up his voucher and charter school privatization plan, Jay Mathews was back home in D. C. pumping charters in WaPo and generally treating his readers, as always, like mushrooms, i. e., feeding them manure and keeping them in the dark. While Mathews contributed to the big story yesterday heralding the growth of charters in D. C., he contributed no references at all to the body of research that shows charters academically weaker or no better than the the public schools they would pretend to replace. Here is the bottom line on achievement from the 2003 Rand Study:
. . . our analysis suggests that charter schools generally have comparable or slightly lower test scores than do conventional public schools. Achievement, however, varies by type of charter school. Conversion schools that deliver their instruction in class- rooms had mixed results, with some scoring the same, higher, or lower than conventional public schools. Start-up schools using classroom instruction had slightly higher test scores in everything but elementary math, where the scores are slightly lower. Conversion or start-up schools that deliver at least a portion of their instruction outside the classroom, also referred to as nonclassroom-based schools, had lower test scores across the board (Summary, p. xxii).
The 2002 AFT study found essentially the same results in terms of achievement. They also turned up these disturbing facts:
  • Charter schools contribute to the racial and ethnic isolation of students.
  • Charter school teachers are less experienced and lower paid than teachers in other public schools.
  • Charter schools were supposed to experiment with new curricula and classroom practices,but they have proven no more innovative than other public schools.
  • School districts with growing enrollments feel little competitive pressure and sometimes view charter schools as a solution to over-crowding.
  • The problems associated with charter schools identified in this report are exacerbated in the charter schools operated by for-profit companies. The company-run charter schools enroll fewer students with disabilities and spend less on special education services than other charter schools (AFT Study, pp. 5-7).
In 2004 AFT released another study, "Charter School Achievement on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress, based on NAEP data that ED had attempted to keep hush-hush. This is from Education Week, 9/01/04:
In 2003, for the first time, federal officials collected data on a nationally representative sample of 167 such schools [charter schools] as part of that assessment. They put the scores online in November, along with the regular state-by-state results.

But the Education Department never advertised the figures’ availability. In reports to the national board that sets policy for NAEP, officials said they planned instead to do a more finely grained analysis of the data and publish the findings in January 2004—a date that has since been moved to the end of this year.

The delay prompted union analysts to mine the data themselves. They found that 4th graders attending charter schools performed about half a year behind students in other public schools in reading and mathematics. In 8th grade, charter school students trailed in math, but for reading, the differences were not statistically significant.

Those patterns remained when researchers adjusted the numbers to account for the higher proportions of poor students who attend charter schools and for the fact that the schools are clumped in inner cities, where achievement is generally lower.

Students in charters and regular public schools scored about the same, however, after researchers controlled for differences in the racial makeups of the schools. Likewise, achievement gaps between poor students and their better-off peers were wide in both charter and traditional public schools, the report says.

And let's not forget the Lubienskis' study published in 2006 by the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University. This study used NAEP data to examine public school math performance in comparison to religious schools, non-sectarian private schools, and charter schools:
This analysis of US mathematics achievement finds that, after accounting for the fact that private schools serve more advantaged populations, public schools perform remarkably well, often outscoring private and charter schools (Executive Summary, p. 1).

Spellings Scheduled to Tesitfy May 10 in Latest Corruption

From NY Times:

WASHINGTON, April 25 — New York’s attorney general on Wednesday accused the federal Education Department of being lax in regulating the student loan industry and said that criminal charges might result from his continuing investigation into ties between universities and lenders.

In testimony before the House education committee, the attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, said that as the housing secretary in the Clinton administration he was “not quick to criticize” a federal agency.

“However,” he said, “I believe in this case, the Department of Education has been asleep at the switch.”

Mr. Cuomo also announced that two more banks, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, had signed on to a code of conduct barring lenders from giving financial incentives to universities, or payments or trips to university officials, to win favor for the lender.

Representative George Miller, the California Democrat who is chairman of the committee, said that he had asked Education Secretary Margaret Spellings to testify and criticized the department’s “slowness to react to the situation.” Ms. Spellings is scheduled to appear May 10. . . .

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Fifth R of Test Prep: REFUSE the Test

In Kentucky as elsewhere, the testing hysteria is in full swing, and schools have brought in some old-fashioned fun. But don't worry, Secretary Spellings--this fun is to help students prepare for the next round of CATS. Remember, boys and girls--no fun for just for the fun of it!

The only thing that is going to bring this madness to a screeching halt is for parents and teachers and grandparents to adopt the fifth "R" of testing. So after getting rested, receptive, relaxed, and ready, let's do statewide and nationwide REFUSE. All of the Gates money and all of the Broad money cannot stop the crashing sound of this house of cards if parents simply keep their children home on test days.

Otherwise, enroll your child today in the latest craze, Yoga as Test Prep. Here's a testimonial from Louisville 8 year old, Jazzman Jefferson: "Whenever I get a little stressed and feel that I don't know the answer, I just stop and do some of the yoga skills, and it helps me feel relaxed," Jazzman said. "I think it will help me stay focused during testing."

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

Dressed in a black trench coat, sunglasses and a plaid snap-brim hat, 11-year-old Jerry Corder sat on the floor of his classroom, trying to solve the next big crime.

Only instead of cracking the case, Jerry and about 60 of his fifth-grade classmates at John F. Kennedy Montessori Elementary School were tackling multiple-choice and open-ended practice questions similar to those they will encounter on state tests, which will begin today for more than 60,000 students in Jefferson County and 400,000 more across Kentucky.

The "mission" began about two weeks ago, as teachers Francine Chandler and Connie Mattingly searched for a way to get their students excited about Kentucky's annual tests, which are part of the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System.

"I was looking for a fun way to get them comfortable with taking the test so that they don't freeze up," Chandler said. "The ultimate goal is for them to realize that they know much more than they think they know."

Dozens of Jefferson County schools have spent the past few weeks engaging in innovative activities to get children excited and ready for what many educators and parents agree is the most stressful time of the year.

Games, pep rallies, even yoga -- they're all being employed to get students ready for the following two weeks, when students in third through eighth grade and 10th and 11th grade will be tested in as many as five subjects -- from reading and writing to math and social studies.

At stake is their school's academic reputation, as well as more serious repercussions, such as allowing students to transfer to better-performing schools.

The tests, each 50 to 70 minutes long, will also be used to judge schools' performance on reading and math standards that are mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Schools that don't meet those standards several years in a row can be taken over by the district or state and reorganized -- which is what's happening with Iroquois Middle School and Southern Leadership Academy in Jefferson County.

Add to that pressure the mounting time taken for test preparation and testing itself, and the result is a growing number of educators who complain that testing has gone too far.

"When you think about it, a fifth-grader over the next two weeks will go through 12 to 15 hours of testing. I don't even think I had that much testing when I was getting my doctoral degree," said Bob Rodosky, director of research, planning and assessment with Jefferson County Public Schools. . . .

Let's spell it together: R-E-F-U-S-E!

"Strong American Schools" or Strong-Arming American Education While Shipping the Economy To Cheap Labor Markets?

In a ramped-up effort to further divert attention from the corporate-inspired third-worlding of America and the Walmartization of American workers, Bill Gates and Eli Broad have committed $60 million for a media blitz and pocket-stuffing campaign aimed at blaming the public schools for economic insecurity. Following in a long history of crisis- mongering that hopes to keep attention away from the real source of economic uncertainty and increasing debt, Gates and Broad serve as front men for a rapacious and under-handed corporate America that continues to execute and plan an unending exportation of any American job that isn't nailed down to cheap foreign labor markets. Look, look, see the failing schools!!!

With three times as much to spend as the Swiftboat Diversion Team of '04, this $60,000,000 Madison Avenue campaign represents an unprecedented attempt to buy the future of American education. Besides the scary ads that are being planned to show the meltdown of public schools, there is the declared and undeclard agenda: 1) longer school year leading to year-round schools (future workers should not be getting summers off), 2) a national curriculum imposed by the Business Roundtable and Achieve, Inc., and 3) pedagogical piece work based on teacher bonus pay for choking higher test scores from children who are showing clear signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. From the New York Times:

Eli Broad and Bill Gates, two of the most important philanthropists in American public education, have pumped more than $2 billion into improving schools. But now, dissatisfied with the pace of change, they are joining forces for a $60 million foray into politics in an effort to vault education high onto the agenda of the 2008 presidential race.

Experts on campaign spending said the project would rank as one of the most expensive single-issue initiatives ever in a presidential race, dwarfing, for example, the $22.4 million that the Swift Vets and P.O.W.s for Truth group spent against Senator John Kerry in 2004, and the $7.8 million spent on advocacy that year by AARP, the lobby for older Americans.

Under the slogan “Ed in ’08,” the project, called Strong American Schools, will include television and radio advertising in battleground states, an Internet-driven appeal for volunteers and a national network of operatives in both parties.

“I have reached the conclusion as has the Gates foundation, which has done good things also, that all we’re doing is incremental,” said Mr. Broad, the billionaire who founded SunAmerica Inc. and KB Home and who has long been a prodigious donor to Democrats. “If we really want to get the job done, we have got to wake up the American people that we have got a real problem and we need real reform.”

Mr. Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, responding to questions by e-mail, wrote, “The lack of political and public will is a significant barrier to making dramatic improvements in school and student performance.”

The project will not endorse candidates — indeed, it is illegal to do so as a charitable group — but will instead focus on three main areas: a call for stronger, more consistent curriculum standards nationwide; lengthening the school day and year; and improving teacher quality through merit pay and other measures. . . .

Strong American Schools or Strong-Arming American Schools While Shipping the American Economy Offshore? The American people are not as stupid as these evil twins think.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cuomo to Spellings: Too Little, Too Late

From the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal task force will examine the ties between lenders and college financial aid officers amid growing concerns about student loans, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said Tuesday.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, scheduled to testify before Congress on Wednesday, has been leading an investigation into the issue, and other attorneys general are joining him. Cuomo said Spellings' move was "too little, too late."

Cuomo says his investigators uncovered numerous arrangements that benefited schools and lenders at the expense of students. For example, investigators say lenders have provided trips for college financial aid officers who then steered students to the lenders.

The department's task force will be made up of Education Department officials. A panel of outside experts that included lenders, colleges and student representatives failed last week to agree on how the department should proceed with regulations covering relations between colleges and lenders.

Luke Swarthout, who lobbies on higher education issues for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, represented students on the now-defunct panel. He said the process was doomed from the start. "There's only so much real reform you can push if the industry that needs to be reformed has a veto," he said.

The department's internal task force has been asked to look at preferred lender lists, in which colleges recommend certain lenders to students; inducements lenders make to colleges to gain preferential status and a federal database that has raised worries that lenders have mined it for financial information about students. The department recently banned lenders from accessing the database.

Spellings said she wants the task force to report back in about a month with recommendations for new federal regulations.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress also are pushing legislative fixes to the kind of problems Cuomo highlighted. Some lawmakers want to write into law a code of conduct that several schools and lenders recently agreed to abide by as part of a settlement with the attorneys general.

The code would ban lenders from paying colleges in exchange for being designated a preferred lender. It also would ban lenders from paying for trips for financial aid officers and other college officials. Lenders also would not be allowed to pay college employees to serve on advisory boards.

"The reforms we are pursuing in Congress, together with the work of the secretary's task force, will provide added help to families paying their college bills, restore trust in our student loan program and make abuses within the system illegal," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who chairs the Senate education committee.

But California Democratic Rep. George Miller, who chairs the House education committee, said Spellings should do more than form a task force. He has urged her to temporarily ban the use of preferred lender lists. He isn't alone in questioning how much the task force will accomplish.

Jon Oberg, a former Education Department researcher who uncovered a scheme in which lenders improperly sought an artificially high rate of return on loans, said the department's oversight of the industry has been weak.

"I'm happy that the attorney general of New York and now others are exercising some oversight," Oberg said. "Actually the problem should have been addressed much earlier by Congress and the department, because these problems have been known for some time." . . .

Schools Won't Matter Unless

And where are the vast resources of the U. S. Department of Education when it comes to educating our children and their parents on how save our planet, our country, our economy, our lives?
Reprinted at Common Dreams:

Acting Now to Save the Earth
by E.O. Wilson

Except for giant meteorite strikes or other such catastrophes, Earth has never experienced anything like the contemporary human juggernaut. We are in a bottleneck of overpopulation and wasteful consumption that could push half of Earth’s species to extinction in this century.As the newest reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stress, we are carelessly destabilizing the planetary surface in ways harmful to our own welfare. Paramount is the irreversible loss of natural ecosystems and species that make up the human life-support system.

Humanity must make a decision, and make it right now: Conserve Earth’s natural heritage, or let future generations adjust to a biologically impoverished world.

There is no way to weasel out of this choice. Some quixotic writers have toyed with the idea of last-ditch measures. They say, “Let’s conserve the millions of surviving species and races by deep-freezing fertilized eggs or tissue samples for later resurrection.” Or, “Let’s record the genetic codes of all the species and try to re-create organisms from them later.”

Either solution would be high-risk, enormously expensive and, in the end, futile. Even if Earth’s threatened biodiversity could be reanimated and bred into populations awaiting return to what might in the 22nd century pass for the “wild,” the reconstruction of independently viable populations is beyond reach. Biologists haven’t the slightest idea of how to build a complex autonomous ecosystem from scratch. By the time they find out, conditions on Earth may make such a reconstruction impossible.

Another option some have posed: Go ahead and pauperize the biosphere, in the hope that scientists may someday be able to create artificial organisms and species and put them together in synthetic ecosystems. Let future generations refill the niches of vanished nature with tigeroids programmed not to attack humans, synthetic tigers burning artificial bright in forestoids amid insectoids that neither sting nor bite. There are words appropriate for artifactual biodiversity: desecration, corruption, abomination.

All these default solutions are fatuous dreams. This is the time not for science fiction but for common sense. The only way to save Earth’s biodiversity is by preserving natural environments in reserves large enough to maintain wild populations sustainably.

The bottleneck of overpopulation can open out by the end of the century, when the global population is expected to peak at around 9 billion — 50 percent more than what it was in 2000 — then commence to recede.

During the remainder of the bottleneck period, per capita consumption will also rise, increasing pressure on the environment. But it too can be brought under control, in large part by already existing technology that raises production while recycling materials and converts to alternative energy sources.

This shift seems inevitable anyway because of a corporate-level Darwinism: Those corporations and nations committed to further improvement and application of the technology will be the economic leaders of the future.

If we wish, a greater part of the ecosystems and species that still survive can be brought through the bottleneck. The methods to save them exist. They are being applied at local and national levels around the world, albeit sporadically. The ongoing effort is still far from enough to save the bulk of critically endangered species. But it is a beginning.

The choice now is simple: Save biodiversity during the next half century or lose a quarter or more of the species. Realization that this Armageddon can be quickly won, or lost, is based on knowledge of the geography of life, a key principle of which is that species do not occur evenly over the land and sea, but in concentrations called hot spots.

The hottest of the hot spots, those in most critical need of immediate attention, are scattered around the world. A large majority of the species classified in the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as “endangered” or “critically endangered” live within the 34 hottest spots.

The results of global biodiversity studies are now sufficient for a successful application to conservation practice. Biologists know the size of the problem and can project many of the consequences that will follow if the trends are not abated. They know how to fix the problem, at least most of it.

So let us move to the bottom line: How much will it cost?

In 2000, Conservation International sponsored a conference of biologists and economists to address this. They concluded that putting a protective umbrella over the 25 hottest spots on the land then recognized, plus core areas within the remaining tropical forest wildernesses, would require one payment of about $30 billion. That is approximately one-tenth of 1 percent of the gross world product (the gross domestic products of all countries combined) in a single year.

The benefit, if the allotment is joined with wise investment strategy and foreign policy, would be substantial protection for 70 percent of Earth’s land-dwelling fauna and flora.

A parallel study, made in 2004, estimated the cost of protecting marine areas. If reserves were set up over the whole of the coastal zones and open seas and expanded sufficiently in area, the result would be security for countless threatened species.

To regulate a reserve network covering 2030 percent of the ocean surface would cost between $5 billion and $19 billion annually. That outlay could be met by eliminating the current perverse subsidies given to the fishing industry, which fall between $15 and $30 billion annually — and are responsible in the first place for the overharvesting and falling yield of preferred species.

Life on this planet can stand no more plundering. Quite apart from obedience to the universal moral imperative of saving living nature — the Creation — based upon religion and science alike, conserving biodiversity is the best economic deal humanity has ever had placed before it since the invention of agriculture.

The time to act is now. Those living today will either win the race against extinction or lose it for all time. They will earn either everlasting honor or everlasting contempt.
E.O. Wilson, world-renowned biologist and Harvard University professor, is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning books “On Human Nature” and “The Ants.” This essay was adapted from his new book “The Creation,” published by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

An Ownership Society on Wages That Can't Even Pay the Rent

Las Vegas school officials are puzzling over how to get enough teachers to open schools next year. (Click chart from Las Vegas Sun at right to enlarge). Could the shrinking applicant pool have something to do with a $33,000 starting salary where the median home price is $317,400? Do you think?

Spellings and the Texas-Sized Corruption She Inspires

With Fredo's Justice Department in bunker mode and Maggie's ED unwilling to put pressure on the loan-leech corporations that own the Administration and major players in the House and Senate, the NY Times reports today that state attorneys general have taken the lead in student loan corruption investigation:
The state-by-state regulatory action, so far limited largely to efforts by Democrats, comes at a time of little progress in the development of federal rules on lenders’ dealings with colleges. A bid by the Education Department to negotiate such rules collapsed on Friday in disagreement among representatives of colleges, banks and other groups.
One sad part of this story so far is that these crooked corporations are not being taken to court and convicted of their crimes, but, rather, they are allowed to pay out measly settlements that have been worked into their business plans, anyway, and for which they doubtless find ways to deduct from their tax obligations.

In other Spellings news, Ed Week is reporting that a federal audit released in March shows that ED, in a debt of gratitude for poor performance, doubled the amount in an ED technology contract to $45,800,000 for the multinational Computer Services Corporation (#163 on the Fortune 500), while lowering the standards of future performance so that CSC would be more likely to keep their contract.

Now there's real Bushie accountability, even if only slightly tinged with the bigotry of low expectations:

The Department of Education received an “unacceptable” level of service under a $20.6 million technology contract, but instead of penalizing the underperforming vendor, department officials extended the contract by a year and eased its performance requirements, according to a federal audit released last week.

Computer Sciences Corp., an information-technology company based in El Segundo, Calif., holds the contract to run the Education Department’s information system, called the Education Network, or EDNet. The company maintains computer servers and provides messaging services, including BlackBerry service, as well as support for hardware and software under the contract, according to the audit by the department’s inspector general’s office.

The original contract, running from May 2005 to July 2006, set performance targets to measure whether the company helped the department improve delivery of its service commitments to school districts, colleges, and others. The company performed poorly as measured by those targets, according to the April 17 audit.

But last July, the department extended the EDNet contract for a second year, increasing the total contract to $45.8 million.

The Education Department also agreed to changes in the contract that “significantly increased the contractor’s chances of obtaining a higher performance rating without increasing its actual level of effort or performance,” the audit said.

In a March 26 letter appended to the audit, David L. Dunn, the chief of staff to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, said the department concurs with the findings, and that the department had submitted a plan to address the problems, based on the audit’s 19 recommendations.

Computer Sciences Corp. said it was studying the report and had no other comment.

Monday, April 23, 2007

From Educational Assessment to Customer Service at Harvard and Beyond

There is an interesting, if misleading, article in the Boston Globe today on the growing "accountability" pressures in higher education. Unfortunately, the piece conflates what Eric Mazur is doing in his physics class at Harvard, which is using formative assessments to improve teaching and learning, with what is being proposed by Spellings' bean counters, profiteers, and theocrats currently controlling the agenda at the U. S. Department of Education. In short, all accountability measures do not measure accountability, and the ones that Mazur and other professors have elaborately developed over recent years will go "poof" if/when the efficiency zealots of the Business Roundtable turn educational assessment into customer service, and, thus, the liberal arts university into corporate training schools.

Look to K-12 for an analogy of how to reach the dumbest common denominator in just a few years. In the late 80s and early 90s, states such as Vermont and Kentucky developed elaborate state-wide assessment systems that used portfolios and performance assessments to measure the progress of learners. In Tennessee, Bill Sanders introduced a quantitative algorithm to measure learning gains over time on standardized tests. It did not take long for these more nuanced approaches to assessment to be swamped by a rising political tide that washed together the bottom-line thinking of business efficiency zealots and the ideological confabulations of the education privatizers and theocrats to create the current suffocating flood of NCLB. Can the same outcome for higher ed be far behind?

Arthur Kleinman, a Harvard professor of medical anthropology, is particularly worried about the effect of more testing and of publicizing the results on higher education. He fears the outcome could be standardization and unhealthy competition.

"We live increasingly in an audit world, in a regulatory world," Kleinman said. "Once you start this, there's no stopping it. It's going to become a part of the culture of higher education."

It is past time for the those tenure lines up in their once-safe ivory towers to look out the window--the levee's almost topped, and the corruption and ideological thuggery is rising fast. Time to call out all hands and minds to stem this flood. And get ready for lots of unpaid overtime.

Signs of Sanity Emerging in Washington State

From the Seattle Times:

OLYMPIA -- Students won't have to pass the math portion of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning in order to graduate until 2013.

That's the bottom line of a messy deal reached Sunday in the Legislature shortly before lawmakers adjourned for the year.

The agreement, passed by the House and Senate, also pushes back the deadline for passing the science WASL to 2013.

The bill has a provision that would allow the state Board of Education to set an earlier date for either test.

Legislative leaders spent their final days in Olympia battling over the issue, which at times threatened to drag lawmakers into a special session.

Key Democrats wanted to delay the reading and writing portions of the test as well as math and science, but Gov. Christine Gregoire balked at that.

In the end, the governor won. Legislators passed a bill that delayed only the math and science portions of the test. Students in the class of 2008 would still have to pass the reading and writing portions.

Lawmakers also included other provisions, such as an expanded appeals process for students who fail one or more sections of the test.

Marty Brown, Gregoire's legislative liaison, said that although the governor supports the delay for the math and science requirement, it's not clear what other parts of the bill she might keep or veto. . . .

. . . . Students in the class of 2008 were supposed to be the first group required to pass reading, writing and math on the WASL (or an approved alternative) to graduate.

Students in the class of 2010 were supposed to pass the science portion of the test as well.

To date, nearly 85 percent of them have passed the reading section of the exam, and about the same in writing.

It's a different story in math and science, with just 56 percent passing math and 38 percent passing science. And that doesn't include about 3,500 students who had not yet taken the test as of this school year.

Gregoire, along with Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson, had pushed for a delay in math. But both were strongly opposed to delaying the year in which students must pass the reading and writing sections of the exam.

Many Democratic lawmakers wanted to delay reading and writing. School districts with large numbers of low-income children and students who speak English as a second language asked for the delay. . . .

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Criminalizing and Warehousing of Children in Caddo Parish, Louisiana

The Shreveport Times has an important story today on some of the collateral damage being sustained by children and parents as a result of NCLB and the high stakes LEAP test-prep gulags that have replaced schools in Louisiana's poor and working class neighborhoods.

The story is from Caddo Parish, Louisiana, which now has a 15-20% retention rate in 4th grade and a 25-30% retention rate in 8th grade due to a policy that requires students to pass reading and math tests in those grades before they can be promoted. In poor schools, the percentages range from 40-50% of students failing every year.

With pressure building to make the annual testing targets, students are melting down and schools are referring 3,500 students a year to juvenile court, with 80% of those charges originating at schools. Caddo Parish only enrolls 44,000 students.
John Gianforte, a licensed counselor who works with children, . . . .became involved with the school system after volunteering to provide free mental-health screenings for children sent to juvenile court. In the past three years, Gianforte said, 80 percent of the 3,500 students a year referred to the court were sent because of charges that started at a school.

He discovered that numerous children referred to the court were diagnosed with disabilities that qualified them for special education services or that they were supposed to be receiving services. As a counseling provider, he started attending the students' Individual Education Plan conferences.

"I had this vision the school system would welcome me with open arms," Gianforte said, laughing ruefully.

Instead, he said he encountered school employees who shoved prewritten behavior or counseling plans at him and expected him to sign off on them. When he asked for information to show the school system was providing required services, "I was told I was not entitled to have the data.

"I found in many instances there was no data in support of the IEP," Gianforte said.

He's seen interagency agreements between his counseling practice and the school system suspended, then reinstated, because he fought for his clients. His counselors have been told they couldn't visit school campuses, even though they were providing counseling at lunch, recess or other times students were in class.

Gianforte said he believes the school system is failing children with emotional and behavioral problems.

"What (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) says is that it's incumbent on the school system to identify children who are having difficulty," Gianforte said. "At least with respect to this class of individuals, (it) is not working.

The school system is facing a chorus of complaints from all directions about how it handles students with emotional and behavioral disturbances as well as other special education needs.

A group of parents alleges the school system is shipping emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children to alternative schools or putting them off campus instead of providing services. The state Education Department is investigating the complaint, which is similar to complaints filed against the Jefferson and East Baton Rouge Parish school systems.

At the same time, Jackie Lansdale, president of the Caddo Federation of Teachers and Support Personnel, says the school system is failing to appropriately place students who pose a threat to themselves and others.

Lansdale said her office is flooded with calls from teachers who are concerned about their safety because some special education students are not put in the appropriate environment for their disability. Lansdale said there are several students in the system who have not been placed in an atmosphere where they can receive special services.

As a result, she said, students who have emotional disorders are acting out in the classroom, making it potentially dangerous for the student, their peers and teachers.

Lansdale told the Caddo Parish School Board it needed to reconsider how they determine the placement of special education students in the system. During the board's March 5 meeting, she said the school system was misinterpreting laws that regulate the class placement of special education students.

Lansdale told The Times she'd like the School Board to form a special committee to ensure every child in the parish is placed in an environment that would be conducive to their learning and safe for everyone.

"This is about environment and placement," Lansdale said. "We have teachers, school employees, administrators and students who are in danger because there are students in our school who present a danger to themselves and others. Parents want their kids to be in a safe environment, but there has to be some middle ground where our teachers can be safe too."

Another part of the problem is that students who have disabilities like dyslexia are causing bodily harm to teachers. When this happens, the teacher can request to have the student removed or placed in another school but Lansdale said these requests are going unfulfilled.

Louisiana statues say when a teacher is abused by a student, the student has to be suspended and removed from school grounds. The student cannot be considered for readmission to the school until all hearings and appeals associated with the alleged violations have been exhausted and the student cannot return to the same school where the employee is located unless it is the only place where the student can receive the services.

Lansdale says the board isn't acting on this because they've misinterpreted the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the laws that govern how school systems treat special education students.

There is nothing that prohibits the Louisiana statues law from being enforced, Lansdale said during the March 5 meeting.

Federal IDEA laws allow administrators to examine cases individually and if there is not a direct linkage between the student's exceptionality and the disciplinary infraction the student must stand accountable just like any other student.

"There is an interpretation that just because you have a special need your rights transcend everyone else's, and that's not what we ought to be communicating to our students," Lansdale said March 5. "Every time we raise our voice, we are told that nothing can be done. "» We are not satisfied with this answer."

Reading First Preferred Program In Violation of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

One of my students last week reminded me of this from Article 26.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as adopted by the UN:
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
If there is any more egregious and systematic violation than the Direct Instruction re-education RF camps all across America with their torturous scripts and unceasing manipulations within an intellectually-starved curriculum of basic reading and math, then I can't think of one. We would call it what it is, child abuse, if we were not doing it ourselves.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The New Eugenics: From Reading First to the American College of Education

Updated 2:36 PM 4/21/07
Amit Paley has a nice piece in WaPo today of the Reading First law breakers (comments interspersed):

The Justice Department is conducting a probe of a $6 billion reading initiative at the center of President Bush's No Child Left Behind law, another blow to a program besieged by allegations of financial conflicts of interest and cronyism, people familiar with the matter said yesterday.

The disclosure came as a congressional hearing revealed how people implementing the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program made at least $1 million off textbooks and tests toward which the federal government steered states.

"That sounds like a criminal enterprise to me," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House education committee, which held a five-hour investigative hearing. "You don't get to override the law," he angrily told a panel of Reading First officials. "But the fact of the matter is that you did."

. . . .

The intricate financial connections between Reading First products and program officials extend beyond issues the committee explored yesterday.

Another researcher, Sharon Vaughn, worked with Kame'enui, Simmons and Good to design Voyager Universal Literacy, a program that Reading First officials urged states to use. Vaughn was director of a center at the University of Texas that was hired to provide states advice on selecting Reading First tests and books.

The publisher of that product, Voyager Expanded Learning, was founded and run by Randy Best, a major Bush campaign contributor, who sold the company in 2005 for more than $350 million. Now Best runs Higher Ed Holdings, a company that develops colleges of education, where former education secretary Roderick R. Paige is a senior adviser and G. Reid Lyon, Bush's former reading adviser, is an executive vice president.

"I'm very disappointed and saddened by the information that was provided at the hearing today," said Lyon, who had been a strong defender of Reading First, which he said had nothing to do with his new job. "The issues appear much more serious than I had been led to understand."

Lyon, of course, is now trying to dissociate himself from an operation that he, Carnine, and Spellings ran. Chris Doherty, in fact, was a protege of the two kingpin ideologues (Carnine and Lyon), and, of course, he is one being thrown under the bus here, just as Brownie was after Katrina. Their code-breaking junk science approach to reading instruction amounts to a socially-engineered and scientized form of brainwashing that turns low-income children into passive drones at an early age. See video clips here of this neo-eugenics system of cognitive decapitation in operation.

Now it seems that Lyon, Carnine, Best, and Paige have even bigger plans at Higher Ed Holdings and the online American College of Education: they want to prepare the next generation of teachers with Masters degrees in Lyon's and Carnine's neo-eugenics teaching methods. Here is a Lyon quote from the introductory ACE Video, which introduced by Rod Paige, by the way:

What I learned at NIH and what guides our course development at American College of Education is that children's brains can literally be molded, changed, by the teaching they receive. Our goal now is to close the gap between our science tells us about learning and what our teachers apply in the classroom. A graduate degree from American College of Education means that teachers know the science behind how children learn . . .

Obviously, Lyon has decided that his desire to blow up the colleges of education is not practical. The next best thing, then, is to replace those Dewey-spouting, inquiry-based education professors with his own pre-screened canned lectures in how to intellectually sterilize millions of American children every year. If you think I am kidding, I am not. More from WaPo:

Despite the controversy surrounding Reading First's management, the percentage of students in the program who are proficient on fluency tests has risen about 15 percent, Education Department officials said. School districts across the country praise the program.

Yes, very interesting data, indeed. And it was released on April 19, the day before yesterday. Hmm. Also interesting is the fact that the data is from state tests that ED has castigated as unreliable for the past five years. It seems that state tests may be reliable if they can be manipulated to show the original desired outcome for the larger ideological purpose. Most telling, however, is that this data purporting to show that Reading First is working is not compared to any data from any schools not receiving Reading First programs and money. So, compared to what, asks Dick Allington at UT in an Ed Week article: “There are some small gains, yes. But are they larger than gains in non-Reading First schools?” said Richard A. Allington, a professor of education at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. “We don’t know whether improvements are related to the Reading First model or to general improvement trends across all schools.”

More from WaPo:

Members of both parties continue to support the goals of Reading First even as they attack its management. Miller and Senate education committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) joined Republicans yesterday in pledging to tighten restrictions on conflicts of interest in No Child Left Behind.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who declined to comment yesterday, has said management problems with Reading First "reflect individual mistakes." But Doherty said nearly every aspect of the program was carefully monitored by the department and the White House, where Spelling was Bush's top education adviser.

"This program was always firmly under the watch and control of the highest levels of the government," Doherty said.

This last statement by Doherty is one of the rare truths to be uttered by him yesterday. It should, in fact, be a clear signal to Miller and the other Congressmen that Doherty was getting his marching orders by the generals in the White House. Will Miller go there???