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

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Economic Disparities and the Death of the Teaching Profession

by Daniel Brook at Huffington Post:

For my new book, The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, I interviewed scores of frustrated professionals, toiling away in jobs that paid the bills but that they didn't care for or believe in. A few weeks ago, I came across another. Too late for the book, sadly, but still a story worth telling. Let's call him Tom.

Tom is 10 years out of art school and he's found his passion -- teaching Shakespeare to kids. If he could just do that full-time, he says, he'd be satisfied with his working life. But instead of being a teacher, he's a human resources consultant.

Tom's supporting three kids and his wife who stays home to raise them. (I didn't pry dollar-by-dollar into the family's financial situation, but the exorbitant cost of childcare makes it a wash for many women with several small children to work.) Tom doesn't have a huge house or huge expectations, but he does expect to own a home and send his kids to college. And the new math of raising a family scares him. For a baby born today, the estimated total tuition for a B.A. is now $150,000 for a public college, $300,000 for a private one, like the art school Tom attended.

When Tom talks about his aspirations as "teaching Shakespeare to kids" it has a kind of airy-fairy sound to it. What do you expect from an art school alum? But when you think about it, all he's asking for is the chance to be an English teacher or drama teacher and make enough to support a family. Teaching is a real, professional, middle-class job -- it's not like trying to make it as a comedian or a rock guitarist where you could strike gold or strike out. There are thousands and thousands of positions for people who do just what Tom wants to do. But in many parts of the country, teaching doesn't buy a middle-class lifestyle anymore. The question is, why not?

The answer is rising economic inequality. It's not that teachers are making less; it's that other professionals are making more. While teacher salaries have remained stagnant in recent decades, professional salaries in corporate America have gone through the roof. In 1970, starting teachers in New York City made just $2,000 less than starting Wall Street lawyers; today, they make $100,000 less. And the Reagan and Bush tax cuts for the well-off have allowed the have-mores to keep more. This has bid up housing prices wildly to the point where teacher-headed households -- what Tom aspires to lead -- can no longer afford to buy homes in many parts of the country. In San Francisco, teacher-headed households have been priced out of homeownership in 99.7 percent of the region's census tracts. In Boston that figure is 91.7 percent and in New York it's 92.4 percent. (The Brooklyn home where my grandparents raised their family on teachers' salaries now lists for $1 million -- and it's a decidedly un-trendy location.) What's even scarier is that even in the so-called affordable metro areas like Dallas and Phoenix aren't immune. Teachers are priced out of about half of each. Which brings us back to Tom. He's not from some high-priced enclave like Hollywood or Aspen -- he's from Philly.

Today, we're asking too much of would-be teachers. In the late 1980s, when Jonathan Kozol was researching Savage Inequalities, his book exposing the unequal funding between city and suburban schools, many of the inner-city teachers he interviewed sheepishly confessed to him that they sent their own children to private schools or well-funded suburban public schools. Now that teachers can't afford to move into the good suburban districts or pay the spiking tuition of private schools, becoming a teacher often requires sacrificing the quality of one's own children's education. This is a sacrifice few will make and it is an unfair demand to make of those, like Tom, who are so eager to serve.

Moyers on Murdoch and the Greed That Consumed Us

Bush and Spellings Go After Diversity Standards in Law Schools

We have already seen how the Bushies plan to reshape higher education by making the survival of college accrediting agencies dependent upon adoption of the political goals of the crooks, theocrats, and oligarchs who now own the White House. Inside Higher Ed reports the latest threat-down, with the ABA's accrediting body for law schools now on the grill for its diversity standards. A clip:

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has upheld the recommendation of a federal advisory committee that she extend for 18 months her department’s recognition of the American Bar Association body that accredits law schools. But the secretary, expressing clear disapproval of the accreditor’s controversial new “diversity” standard, is also — against the recommendation of the advisory panel — requiring the law school accreditor to report about how it applies the diversity standard.

In December, when the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions appeared before the department’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, the Education Department’s staff — at the urging of political appointees at the department, according to several people familiar with the situation — was told that it faced punishment if it did not alter a standard it used to ensure racial and ethnic diversity among law school student bodies. . . .

KIPP Cuts and Runs, Again

There was this story recently about a charter school in Buffalo losing its KIPP franchise when it ran into performance problems (KIPP only allows success, you see). It seems that when KIPP has a steady revenue stream, a public facility provided to them, a steady supply of Teach for America temps, a good overseer, and a dependable crop of self-selected children whose parents are eager to have them KIPP-notized, then we are likely to see the KIPP magic in action.

When faced with problems as in Buffalo or Atlanta, however, we see KIPP only ready to retreat to greener pasture$. Here is another example from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/27/07

Atlanta Public Schools officials want to close a charter campus — which opened four years ago with hopes of getting more inner-city children into college — even though the principal says his students are outperforming their traditional public school peers.

In a daylong, testy public hearing Tuesday on terminating Achieve Academy of Atlanta's contract, school system officials laid out why the campus for fifth- through eighth-graders should be shuttered, including repeatedly not paying teachers on time.

But the fledgling school's supporters gave a feisty defense, objecting to the proceeding and nearly every piece of evidence presented.

"We have not had adequate time to prepare for ever-moving, ever-changing allegations," Glenn Delk, Achieve's attorney, told the hearing officer. "This is not adequate notice, due process and an opportunity to be heard."

The academy, which the Atlanta Board of Education had approved as a new alternative to the area's traditional public schools, has struggled since opening. Envisioned as part of the Knowledge is Power Program, or KIPP, the campus was supposed to emulate the practices of an oft-lauded network of tuition-free public schools, which specialize in providing an academically demanding environment in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

But KIPP pulled its powerful name and canceled its licensing agreement with the school last year, citing financial and management problems at the campus. Supporters successfully sued to keep the school open without the KIPP moniker and continued this past school year without the nonprofit group's backing.

Now, Atlanta officials say Achieve must be closed because of multiple violations of its charter or contract, which dictated the terms under which the taxpayer-funded school would operate. They say Achieve has a long history of serious management problems and that it would be irresponsible for them to keep the campus open.

"Teachers don't get paid. Services don't get provided," Sharron Pitts, Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall's chief of staff, said in an interview. "We think they've shown they've really been incompetent to run a school."

Every year, Achieve has been forced to move to a new location. While it first opened in the southeast area of the city, the campus now is located on the west side. Principal David Morgan, who has led the school since KIPP left, blames many of the problems on the school system, which he said has needlessly pulled building leases and withheld money for teachers' salaries — both of which system officials deny.

"There's a difference between dereliction of duty and you just don't have the means to do it," said Morgan, whose campus has sued the system for inadequate funding.

During Tuesday's hearing, which took place at the system's headquarters, an Atlanta official and former Achieve employees testified, among other things, that the campus was not using certified teachers, was not regularly providing special education or guidance counseling to students, and was not paying faculty members on time.

The school has met federal standards under the No Child Left Behind Act, unlike many of Atlanta's middle schools. But Jean Cohen, who oversees the system's charter school agreements, testified that Achieve hasn't met many of the academic goals in its own contract, including that students meet or beat the state's test score averages. . . .


Even though KIPP has cut and run in Atlanta, don't expect the Bushies to give up so quickly. After all, they never saw a charter school, failure or otherwise, that they did not prefer to a public school that costs a third more to operate. In fact, yesterday ED announced another $36.5 million (on top of last year's $21.6 million) to fund facilities for charter schools, even as large numbers of public schools are crumbling. Amount laid out by ED in capital building funds for America's public schools? $0.00.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Integration Evisceration Expert

More analysis from the NYTimes:

. . . . Writing for the other four justices in the majority, Chief Justice Roberts took a harder line. In an unusual effort to cement his interpretation of Brown, he quoted from the transcript of the 1952 argument in the case.

“We have one fundamental contention,” a lawyer for the schoolchildren, Robert L. Carter, had told the court more than a half-century ago. “No state has any authority under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to use race as a factor in affording educational opportunities among its citizens.”

Chief Justice Roberts added yesterday, “There is no ambiguity in that statement.”

But the man who made that statement, now a 90-year-old senior federal judge in Manhattan, disputed the chief justice’s characterization in an interview yesterday.

“All that race was used for at that point in time was to deny equal opportunity to black people,” Judge Carter said of the 1950s. “It’s to stand that argument on its head to use race the way they use is now.”

Jack Greenberg, who worked on the Brown case for the plaintiffs and is now a law professor at Columbia, called the chief justice’s interpretation “preposterous.”

“The plaintiffs in Brown were concerned with the marginalization and subjugation of black people,” Professor Greenberg said. “They said you can’t consider race, but that’s how race was being used.”

William T. Coleman Jr., another lawyer who worked on Brown, said, “The majority opinion is 100 percent wrong.”

“It’s dirty pool,” said Mr. Coleman, a Washington lawyer who served as secretary of transportation in the Ford administration, “to say that the people Brown was supposed to protect are the people it’s now not going to protect.”

But Roger Clegg, the president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a research group in the Washington area that supports colorblind government policies, disagreed, saying the majority honored history in yesterday’s decision.

“There is no question but that the principle of Brown is that a child’s skin color should not determine what school he or she should be assigned to,” Mr. Clegg said.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote that Brown not only supported but also required yesterday’s decision striking down student assignment plans in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., meant to ensure racially balanced schools.

Justice John Paul Stevens, in dissent, said Chief Justice Roberts’s discussion of Brown “rewrites the history of one of this court’s most important decisions.” Justice Stephen G. Breyer, also dissenting, said the opinion “undermines Brown’s promise of integrated primary and secondary education” and “threatens to substitute for present calm a disruptive round of race-related litigation.”

Professor Greenberg said he was also wary of the reaction to yesterday’s decision. “Following Brown, there was massive resistance” that lasted some 15 years, he said. “This is essentially the rebirth of massive resistance in more acceptable form.”

Mr. Clegg, by contrast, said the decision’s practical consequences should be minimal. “Kennedy does leave the door open to some degree of consideration of race,” he said, “but it’s not very clear what that would be.”

As a consequence, Mr. Clegg said, most prudent school districts would shy from any use of race in assigning students for fear of costly and disruptive litigation.

Professor Greenberg suggested that more than law was at play in yesterday’s decision.

“You can’t really say that five justices are so smart that they can read the law and precedents and four others can’t,” he said. “Something else is going on.”

NAEP Failure or the Failure of NAEP?

Every time neoliberals or conservatives drag out the NAEP scores to justify their attacks on public education, please refer back to this essential summary by Dr. Bracey on how this tactic came to be. From Huffington Post:

The 2005 NAEP results will arrive shortly and more tongues will cluck about them this time than in the past. That's because some reformers have made the NAEP achievement levels -- basic, proficient, and advanced -- more prominent by calling for them to be used to validate state achievement results reported for NCLB. Such use would be a disaster. The NAEP achievement levels are "fundamentally flawed" to use the words of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

If fact, everyone who has studied the NAEP achievement levels has said, essentially, "These things are no damn good." Those who have studied them include the NAS, the Government Accounting Office, the Center for Research in Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing, and the National Academy of Education. Even the NAEP reports themselves contain a disclaimer quoting from the NAS study: "NAEP's current achievement level setting procedures remain fundamentally flawed. The judgment tasks are difficult and confusing; raters' judgments of different item types are internally inconsistent; appropriate validity evidence for the cut scores is lacking; and the process has produced unreasonable results."

Fundamentally flawed? Judgments inconsistent? Validity evidence lacking? Can you imagine the howls of outrage that would greet ETS or CTB/McGraw-Hill if they dared bring to market an instrument with such basic failures?

So why are we still using the achievement levels? The official story from the U. S. Department of Education is that "a proven alternative to the current process has not yet been identified." That was written in 1998. One would think that a Department as obsessed with applying "scientifically based research" as the current one would have screamed in horror at the flawed achievement levels and rushed to fix them.

The truth is, though, neither the Department nor anyone else is trying to develop a "proven alternative." Indeed, many observers believe that the NAEP achievement levels, created by the National Assessment Governing Board under its then-president Chester Finn, were deliberately set too high in order to sustain the sense of crisis created by 1983's "A Nation At Risk." There is no rush to develop new achievement level setting procedures because much political hay can be made by alleging that American students are performing poorly.

Here's what NAS meant by "unreasonable results:" The NAEP achievement level results do not accord with any other performance evaluations, especially results from international comparisons. For example, in the 1996 NAEP science assessment, only 30% of American 4th graders scored proficient or better. In that same year, though, the Third International Mathematics and Science Study found American 4th graders third in the world in science among 26 nations. Such "unreasonable results" as the NAEP-international comparisons discrepancy consistently appear.

The 2005 results will get more attention than usual because of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Currently, under NCLB, each state uniquely defines "proficient." To some, this creates a Babel of incomparable results. We need a common yardstick, they say, that will let us compare states. NCLB made state-level NAEP mandatory and it ever so conveniently has an achievement level named "proficient."

Rod Paige said he would use the NAEP achievement levels to "shame" states into doing better. Others, such as the American Enterprise Institute's Frederick Hess and Finn have proposed that NAEP be the NCLB test used to evaluate schools in reading and math. And Hess and Paul Peterson of Harvard have developed a procedure to grade all states based on the discrepancy between the percent proficient on the state test and the percent proficient on NAEP.

Few states do well by Peterson-Hess. Only 5 get A's and only 2 get B's. The scale doesn't strike me as particularly sophisticated or accurate. For instance, South Carolina gets an A because there's little difference between the state test and NAEP: The state is low on both. Connecticut, on the other hand, gets a C-. Yet Connecticut has the nation's highest proportion of students proficient on NAEP reading. The "Texas Miracle," on the other hand, disappears. Texas gets an F because it claims that 87 percent of its 4th graders are proficient in reading while NAEP says only 33 percent.

But you can rest assured that when the NAEP results appear, school critics and reporters both will point to the NAEP-state discrepancies and imply that the state is lying about how well its kids are doing. In some quarters, it will be argued that the discrepancies mean we need vouchers and more charter schools.

The Massive Step Backwards

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

By Suzy Post
Special to The Courier-Journal

Today's Supreme Court decision undermining Jefferson County’s student assignment plan, adopted after a federal court of appeals ruled in 1975 that our schools were racially segregated, is a massive step backwards for all of our parents and children who prize educational excellence.

The 1975 lawsuit was brought by the Kentucky Civil Liberties Union and then merged with another brought by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. The reason the lawsuit was brought was that Louisville and Jefferson County public schools were racially identifiable. That is, you could look at a school’s student population and identify it as white or black by the racial preponderance in a specific school.

Experience has shown that segregating students in this manner insures inequity to the student population with the fewest resources. For example, white students in white schools disproportionately came from relatively financially secure families. However black students in black schools came disproportionately from families with fewer financial resources.

This inequity translated into unequal school resources. For example, when the lawsuit was filed, Central High School had broken or missing seats in its auditorium. Many of its windows were broken, and there was no vegetation surrounding the school. After U.S. District Court Judge James Gordon ruled that the board must design a student assignment plan that allowed schools to escape from the racially identifiable tag, white parents whose children would be bused to Central got busy, and voilĂ ! Almost overnight the chairs had seats, the broken windows were replaced, and trees were planted on the school playground.

Maybe more important, students who had had no experience with kids of different races were going to the same classes together. The busing plan, which was implemented three years after the filing of the lawsuit, was one that the majority of this county’s population soon endorsed.

Yes, there was white flight, and some kids left public school altogether. But the vast majority stayed, and after a tense opening, and some minor problems related to the busing of students, the plan was accepted by our community. The present Supreme Court’s treatment of Brown v. Board of Education — in which the Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that “separate was not equal” when it came to the delivery of public education — is in a word, despicable.

This decision will undo years of good community relations among different races in our city, it will adulterate our educational goals once again, and it will be a tragic step back to a time when we lived segregated lives, with segregated schools and segregated relationships.

Make no mistake: Black, white, Latino and Asians interacting on a daily basis has a profound relationship to the vitality of our community and to positive community growth. Just as immigration has made this country vibrant, so has integrated education made it more possible. We will not be grateful for this decision or for the capriciousness of the lawsuit that produced this outcome. Tragic may be too dramatic an adjective to use in describing this giant step backward, but to my mind, it fits.

An Antidote to Supreme Racism

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, But shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due. U. S. Constitution, Article 4, Section 2; 3
Despite the objections of Justice Thomas to the contrary, Article 4:2, 3 makes it clear that the Constitution was not conceived and executed as a color-blind document. If it had of been, then Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Harrison, Van Buren, Jackson, and Polk could not have legally sent their bounty hunters across state lines in order to retrieve their flesh and blood black African properties who were seeking the freedom that the Founders could not afford to offer them in an, otherwise, color-blind Constitution.

Justice Thomas, of course, was in agreement yesterday with the Majority's Orwellian decision that concluded that if your school wants to make sure that black, brown, yellow, and white children go to school together, then you cannot use the color of their skin as a criterion to help you to achieve that end.

What remains for those seeking integrated schools and an integrated society? In an analysis of yesterday's Orwell Decision, the Times has a bit to say about socioeconomic integration, as is used in Wake County, NC and other districts. Essentially, it is school integration based on family income (socioeconomic integration), and it appears to be a very promising practice, as noted by Richard Kahlenberg.

SF Chronicle For Postponing NCLB Reauthorization

Editorial:

THE ON-AGAIN, off-again debate on immigration reform threatens to overshadow almost every other key legislative challenge in Washington, D.C. -- including just how involved the federal government should be in our schools.

Few Americans are aware that the most important piece of education legislation in decades -- the federal No Child Left Behind law, which went into effect in 2002 -- is up for "reauthorization" this year.

The Bush administration continues to insist that the law is "working," despite the lack of convincing evidence to support such claims.

This month, a report from the Center on Education Policy, an independent think tank, concluded that student scores on state tests have improved since the law went into effect -- which allowed President Bush to once again trumpet its virtues.

But the report repeatedly cautions that there is no way to know whether the test score improvements are related at all to the federal legislation. What's more, the findings were based on results from only 13 states -- and of those only 9 reported upward trends in test scores. More important, the results of the study were based on student performance on tests devised by individual states. The rigor of those tests varies tremendously from state to state.

. . . .

The best approach would be to postpone reauthorizing the law this year, and to leave it until 2009 to revisit the issue. By that time, there should be more data on which to make a decision on the law. We are still a long way from having solid evidence to justify inflicting well intended, but intrusive, federal legislation on our schools for another five years.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Day of Shame

Comments in the NY Times by dissenting justices in today's Supreme Court reauthorization of segregation:

. . . The four dissenters wrote, in effect, that the majority was standing history on its head. Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that today’s result “threatens to substitute for present calm a disruptive round of race-related litigation, and it undermines Brown’s promise of integrated primary and secondary education that local communities have sought to make a reality.”

“This cannot be justified in the name of the Equal Protection Clause,” Justice Breyer went on, alluding to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which bars states from denying people “the equal protection of the laws.”

Today’s ruling threatens the promise laid out in the 1954 Brown decision, Justice Breyer lamented. “This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret,” he wrote.

Justice Breyer’s dissent was joined by Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens, the tribunal’s longest-serving member, who wrote a separate dissent that was remarkable for its feeling.

“While I join Justice Breyer’s eloquent and unanswerable dissent in its entirety, it is appropriate to add these words,” Justice Stevens wrote. “There is a cruel irony in the chief justice’s reliance on our decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.”

Today’s ruling breaks faith with the 1954 ruling, Justice Stevens asserted. “It is my firm conviction that no member of the court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today’s decision,” he wrote. . . .


Spellings Serves Up Privatization Lite

(Photo Leslie Smith, USA Today). With immigration legislation dead (again), and with the majority of the American people disapproving of the NCLB debacle, the Bushies are already trying to make nice in hopes of salvaging something that might leave the Decider with a legacy other than corruption, incompetence, and greed. Nice try, Maggie, but---write Congress and urge them to say, NO THANKS!! We can do better than to give in to the privatization of the poor schools! We need a plan to make them better, not to turn them over to corporations and churches. From USA Today:
U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings on Wednesday proposed "a more nuanced" way of evaluating schools under President Bush's No Child Left Behind school reform law — one that would differentiate between schools that are close to meeting state math, reading and science standards and those that are "chronic, chronic underperformers."

Under the proposed change, public schools with just a few struggling students could help students without being labeled underperforming. In the bargain, they'd avoid sanctions that can include firing staff, privatizing or even closing their doors.

The law currently doesn't differentiate between the two. It breaks down schools' test scores by at least 36 categories, and if even one group of students — for instance, Hispanic or disabled students — doesn't improve, the entire school misses its "adequate yearly progress" goal.

That has been a major source of heartburn for educators. Recent figures show that about 2,300 of the nation's 90,000 public schools are being "restructured" under the law. That number will likely grow as more students miss progress goals.

The change, which Spellings floated during an interview with USA TODAY's editorial board, could quiet critics and help make No Child Left Behind more palatable as Congress prepares to reauthorize it. Spellings' spokeswoman, Katherine McLane, says Spellings has discussed the proposal with lawmakers.

The law requires schools that get federal money to test about half of their students annually in math, reading and science. If even one group doesn't improve, the school must offer all students free transfers to another public school; after another year, it must offer free tutoring. After five years, states can restaff schools, reopen them as privately managed charter schools or close them. In 2004, 41% of schools narrowly missed their goals.

Under the new proposal, schools that miss the mark because of just one or two groups could limit tutoring and transfers to these students — and avoid other sanctions.

Several education groups have suggested such a change, but Spellings hasn't discussed it in detail until now. Mike Casserly of the Council of the Great City Schools has proposed a similar change. He says it makes sense: "The strategies you use to address one set of schools ought to be different from the strategies that you use to address another."

Kati Haycock of The Education Trust, an advocacy group for poor and urban students, says restaffing or closing marginally struggling schools "undermines public support and doesn't really make any sense."

Mary Kusler, a lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators, welcomed the idea: "We are delighted to see that the secretary recognizes the need for a graduated accountability system, where all schools and school districts are not considered the same."

But Rosemarie Young, principal of Watson Lane Elementary School in Louisville, says the law still usurps states' roles in education and mandates solutions that may not fit all schools: "I'm just really cautious about broad strokes."

R.I.P. Brown vs. Board of Education

Over 50 years ago the the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that separate schools are inherently unequal. Today in the cruelest of ironies, desegregation plans in Louisville and Seattle schools have been struck down by conservatives in a 5-4 vote by the Court.

This comes as I listen to the slithering chancellor, Joel Klein, rationalize the continuation of apartheid schools in New York City. Thurgood Marshall must be turning in his grave today.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected school assignment plans that take account of students' race in two major public school districts. The decisions could imperil similar plans nationwide.

The rulings in cases affecting schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle leave public school systems with a limited arsenal to maintain racial diversity.

The court split, 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts announcing the court's judgment. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent that was joined by the court's other three liberals.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion in which he said race may be a component of school district plans designed to achieve diversity.

He agreed with Roberts that the plans in Louisville and Seattle went too far. He said, however, that to the extent that Roberts' opinion could be interpreted as foreclosing the use of race in any circumstance, ''I disagree with that reasoning.''

The two school systems in Thursday's decisions employ slightly different methods of taking students' race into account when determining which school they would attend.

Federal appeals courts had upheld both plans after some parents sued. The Bush administration the parents' side, arguing that racial diversity is a noble goal but can be sought only through race-neutral means.

Louisville's schools spent 25 years under a court order to eliminate the effects of state-sponsored segregation. After a federal judge freed the Jefferson County, Ky., school board, which encompasses Louisville, from his supervision, the board decided to keep much of the court-ordered plan in place to prevent schools from re-segregating.

The lawyer for the Louisville system called the plan a success story that enjoys broad community support, including among parents of white and black students.

The Seattle school district said it used race as one among many factors, relied on it only in some instances and then only at the end of a lengthy process in allocating students among the city's high schools. Seattle suspended its program after parents sued.

The opinion was the first on the divisive issue since 2003, when a 5-4 ruling upheld the limited consideration of race in college admissions to attain a diverse student body. Since then, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who approved of the limited use of race, retired. Her replacement, Justice Samuel Alito was in the majority that struck down the school system plans in Kentucky and Washington.

Affirmative action has to be the next big target for the segregationists, now returned to power.

NAACP Will March Saturday Against LEAP Testing

In 2000 Louisiana became the first state in the Union to use once-a-year tests in reading and math to make promotion decisions in the elementary school. Fourth and eighth graders have to pass them both to be promoted. In the Title I school I was studying in 2000 (see PDF Full Text), 70% of the fourth graders were failed that first year. Now seven years later the failure rate in Title I schools ranges from 40 to 60 percent each year.

The Louisiana NAACP has decided to act. One can hope that the New York City NAACP might give them some support, particularly since Bloomberg has adopted the same guaranteed failure program for the poor in NYC.
The Louisiana NAACP is calling on parents and interested people to come to the State Capitol Saturday morning in protest of the state's new school testing requirements.

Ernest Johnson, president of the Louisiana National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, says that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education recently made it a requirement that students pass standardized tests in order for them to move on to the next grade, regardless of how they did with their school grades.

In the past, Johnson says there were stipulations that allowed students who failed the tests to go to summer school and continue to the next grade if they met the standard at some point during the year.

Now, students who don't pass the tests during summer schools will not be allowed to continue to the next grade.

Johnson says the NAACP discussed its concerns with BESE and asked for the promotion requirement to be suspended for this year. He said it didn't get a favorable reaction.
Johnson says that with this requirement, BESE has gone beyond its administrative powers.
To raise awareness about the issue, the NAACP will hold a march and rally starting at 9 a-m Saturday at the Governor's Mansion.

Johnson says the group will then march to the State Capitol to draw attention to the fact that there is no state law that mandates that the tests be tied to promotion to the next grade or graduation.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Phoenix Ready to Crash and Burn?

Despite the fact that their stock price has gone south and the scandalous fact that their unfortunate students show a four year completion rate of 7%, the for-profit diploma mill, University of Phoenix, continues to soak students of $2,000,000,000,000 a year in tax-subsidized student loans. All that could change if the courts hear the whistleblower suit brought by former UoP counselors who were, according to the suit, instructed to ignore student transcripts when enrolling new students.

From the Los Angeles Times:
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The United States' largest vocational school chain asked a federal judge here on Monday to dismiss a massive fraud case against it, saying it already had paid the government to settle similar claims.

Two former University of Phoenix enrollment counselors, Mary Hendow and Julie Hendow, allege that the University of Phoenix, with 180 campuses and more than 310,000 students across the country, violated federal rules by offering incentives to employees based on the number of students they enrolled, including bigger salaries and more benefits.

The suit was filed in 2003 under the "Qui Tam" False Claims Act, a statute which permits whistle-blowers to sue on behalf of the government and share in the recovery if the suit is successful. "Qui tam" is legal term and an abbreviation of a Latin phrase which means, "he who sues for the king as well as for himself."

The suit, if it goes forward, could cost the university many millions in damages. About 80 percent of Phoenix's students, at campuses around the country, are on federal financial aid, and the school collects about $2 billion a year from those taxpayer-subsidized students, according to government records.

A June 2005 study by the National Consumer Law Center found that Phoenix's first-year completion rate for students enrolled in four-year programs was only 7 percent.

The university urges counselors "to enroll students without reviewing their transcripts to determine their academic qualifications to attend the university," the suit asserts.

Upheld in appeals

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell already dismissed the suit once, holding that the plaintiffs' allegations were beyond the scope of the False Claims Act. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision and the U.S. Supreme Court, in April, upheld the appeals court, setting the stage for a trial.

But a few months later, Phoenix filed a motion seeking to have the case dismissed on new grounds: that it already had paid $9.8 million to the U.S. Department of Education, to settle allegations similar to those made in the lawsuit -- numerous violations of the regulations prohibiting incentives based solely on enrollment numbers. . . .

Action Alert from FairTest

From Monty Neill:

The House Education Committee is about to adopt language for the next version of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)/No Child Left Behind (NCLB). It could approve a bill in early July, with the full House voting later in July!

Now is the time for assessment reformers like you to act. The next steps include:

1) Keep pressure on the leadership, especially Chairman George Miller. Demand they make needed major improvements (as outlined below) and allow substantial time for discussion and amendments. Tell your Rep. to deliver this message to Mr. Miller. (See contact info at the bottom.)

2) If your Representative is on the Education Committee, ask her or him to vote “No” to any bill or parts of the bill that do not make sufficient changes in the law. Ask them to propose amendments to advance the key changes and to take leadership on these issues.

3) Focus on key changes needed in the law:

• End unrealistic "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) requirements. Expect schools to make reasonable progress based on real-world rates of student improvement.

• Require testing once each in elementary, middle and high school, scrapping requirement to test in grades 3-8. Over-testing takes time away from real teaching and learning.

• Assess academic progress using multiple sources of evidence, not just standardized test scores. Provide funding to help states and districts develop locally-based, performance and classroom assessments to improve teaching and learning as well as accountability.

• Replace the test-and-punish approach with support for improving educational quality. Expect all schools to take reasonable steps to improve, including use of high-quality professional development and strong parental involvement. Replace current sanctions-based system with a focus on targeted assistance.

4) Get other people and organizations to fax, call, or write Congress. Tell your Representatives and Senators to rely on the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB and the legislative recommendations of the Forum on Educational Accountability to guide their votes on reauthorization of NLCB. http://www.fairtest.org/FEA_Home.html.

House contact info:


Rep. George Miller, Chair, House Education Committee, 2181 Rayburn, Washington, DC 20515; 202-225-3725; fax 202-226-5398.

Find your Rep at www.house.gov and Ed. committee members at http://edlabor.house.gov/about/members.shtml

  • Your Rep. may be home over July 4 week – try to meet with her or him!




Hitman Gene Hickok Goes After Spellings

The education privatizers' leading hatchet man, Gene Hickok, has emerged after a timeout that followed his $50,000 fine in March to clear himself of criminal charges related to his unreported Bank of America interests while he was Deputy Secretary of Ed under Paige.

Suddenly, Hickok is giving voice to what the "back of his mind" was telling him when he the lead enforcer of NCLB:

. . . .Bush might have expected that Eugene W. Hickok, a relative of the legendary frontier lawman Wild Bill Hickok and the original sheriff of No Child Left Behind, would support his drive for renewal. As the No. 2 Education Department official in Bush's first term, Hickok wrangled states and schools into compliance with the law so forcefully that foes called him "Wild Gene."

But Hickok, who is now urging Congress to revamp the initiative, said in a recent interview that he always harbored serious doubts about the federal government's expanding reach into the classroom.

"I had these second thoughts in the back of my mind the whole time," said Hickok, a former deputy education secretary. "I believe it was a necessary step at the time, but now that it has been in place for a while, it's important to step back and see if there are other ways to solve the problem." . . . .


And what else? It seems that Hickok has been loosed to go after Spellings, herself, who now we find has never been nearly so flexible as she has seemed to us through the mainstream media lens:

. . . .Hickok and his colleagues said they supported the law at the time, despite misgivings, in part because it focused unprecedented attention on public education and achievement gaps between privileged and disadvantaged students.

But former officials said Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, the top White House education adviser in Bush's first term, stymied efforts by top department officials to grant states more control over how they carried out the law. "Margaret wasn't very interested in flexibility," Hickok said.. . . .


You can run, but you can't hide from Wild Bill.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Alaska Exit Exam Ruled Unconstitutional

From the Anchorage Daily News:

Alaska spends enough money on schools to meet constitutional standards, an Anchorage judge ruled Thursday.

However, the state fails to adequately supervise local school districts to insure they do their job properly, said Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason. Therefore, it is violating some high school students' rights by requiring that they pass a state exit exam to get a diploma, Gleason said in a split decision in the Moore v. Alaska school funding lawsuit. There are schools “that are not according to children a meaningful opportunity to acquire proficiency in the subject areas tested by the state,” Gleason wrote, in her decision.

“It is fundamentally unfair for this state to hold students accountable for failing this exam when some students in the state have not been accorded a meaningful opportunity to learn the material on the exam.”

In her ruling, Gleason gives the state a year to “address the issues” and report back to her.

The Moore v. Alaska trial unfolded last October in Gleason’s sixth-floor courtroom. The lawsuit -- the first of its kind in Alaska -- charged that the state has shortchanged Alaska schools for decades and cheats children of the education promised to them by the state constitution.

The case is the first of its kind here. But nationwide, and for decades, dozens of similar lawsuits have argued that public schools aren’t funded well enough to properly educate kids. Many of those cases have won hundreds of millions in increased budget dollars for public schools, but opinions are mixed about whether that’s resulted in improvements inside the classroom.

HS Scholars to Bush: Ban Torture

When Bush brought into the White House a top group of American high school scholars for a PR event to pump NCLB, he couldn't have known that he was about to be handed a hand-written plea signed by 50 of them to end his torture policy. The Bush response? To shift from Decider to Denier, of course. (Photo by Applewhite, AP):
The Associated Press

Monday, June 25, 2007; 7:33 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to "violations of the human rights" of terror suspects held by the United States.

The White House said Bush had not expected the letter but took a moment to read it and talk with a young woman who handed it to him.

"The president enjoyed a visit with the students, accepted the letter and upon reading it let the student know that the United States does not torture and that we value human rights," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

The students had been invited to the East Room to hear the president speak about his effort to win congressional reauthorization of his education law known as No Child Left Behind.

The handwritten letter said the students "believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions."

"We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants," the letter said.

The designation as a Presidential Scholar is one of the nation's highest honors for graduating high school students. Each year the program selects one male and one female student from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Americans living abroad, 15 at-large students, and up to 20 students in the arts on the basis of outstanding scholarship, service, leadership and creativity.

"I know all of you worked hard to reach this day," Bush told the students in his education speech. "Your families are proud of your effort, and we welcome your family members here. Your teachers are proud of your effort, and we welcome your teachers. And our entire nation is proud to call you Presidential Scholar."

The scholars travel to Washington each June for seminars, lectures and workshops with government officials, elected representatives and others.

The Emerging Mood for the Exclusion of Inclusion

Yesterday during the train ride back from the City, it was not unusual to see fellow passengers reading the Wall Street Journal. What was unusual was the middle of the front page placement of an education story that ran to the bottom of the page and beyond. On, of all subjects, the problems associated with mainstreaming special education students. Why would the WSJ give over 3,000 words to a front-page education story on inclusion, and why would they then make this story one of the very few that is not tucked beyond their pay to read firewall, as I found out this morning when I did an web search for it. Why would the WSJ want so many of its readers, regular and otherwise, aware of the problems related to inclusion of special populations in regular ed classrooms?

Could it have anything to do with a new push by voucher and charter advocates to deal with a continuing annoyance that stands in the way of their neoliberal and neoconservative final cheap solutions for indoctrinating the poor, the minority, and the immigrant in church and/or corporate schools? If these efficiency zealots could return us to a time of segregating and warehousing the disabled, the autistic, the mentally and emotionally disturbed, then the biggest hurdle faced by charter and voucher advocates could be neutralized, shall we say.

Is the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal really concerned about the claim presented in the story that a significant number of veteran teachers are leaving the profession because of problems brought on by mainstreaming? Has the Editorial Board ever given this kind of attention to the other well-documented reasons that creative, ethical teachers are leaving teaching, the ones who are fed up with the new uncaring scripted testing camps we have created for urban America? Or has the Editorial Board of WSJ ever given attention to why the best and the brightest cannot afford to even consider teaching as a profession? Could this 3,000+ words signal the sawing off of the third leg of the human rights stool that Americans built during the 60s and 70s? First came the attack on desegregation, then the attack on gender equality, and now comes the attack on IDEA? What kind of country are we becoming under the philosophy of moneyism?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why Teachers Quit

By Mark Phillips in the Marin Independent Journal:

IT'S SUMMER break for teachers but, having read a report on the high dropout rate of California teachers, I've been wondering how many of our best ones won't return this fall. This should concern everyone committed to quality public education.

The best elementary teacher I ever observed was Steve Kay, my son's first-grade teacher in Santa Barbara. His classroom was a glorious six-ring circus, well organized, stimulating, caring and challenging. My son loved every day.

Despite being young, Steve was a legend among educators and parents. He quit teaching two years later. With a wife and two children, he couldn't afford to live in Santa Barbara on a teacher's salary and went into his dad's construction business.

I wasn't nearly as legendary, but I was a good teacher. I, too, left after a few years, in spite of loving the teens with whom I worked. My decision wasn't primarily based on the low salary, although I took a second job at a university and still ran up debts supporting a wife and two children on $29,000. I left because I felt suffocated by having no time between 8 and 4 to even collect my thoughts, frequently using the 38-minute lunch break to meet with students. And, spending hours at night and weekends reading student papers and preparing lessons, I was neglecting my family.

We all know there are teachers who should quit, some of whom don't enjoy teaching. But 18,000 California teachers quit each year and a large number of them are excellent teachers. One of the most critical challenges in public education is this loss of first-rate teachers.

The most obvious reason is pay. Spending time and money on years of education and training, knowing that you are doing excellent work in a socially critical profession, and then making less than most blue collar workers can eat away at your morale. Almost every teacher I know in the Bay Area who has a family and whose spouse is not working full time has a second job. Like Steve Kay, many finally decide they can't do it.

Many good teachers quit for other reasons. They enter the profession despite the pay because they enjoy working with kids, love their subject and want to make a contribution to society.

They quit because they find the workload and working conditions oppressive. They rarely have time for more than a five-minute break and many use their lunch break to meet with students. They work with an average of 125 students a day, many of whom are a continual challenge. Increasingly, they spend much of their time preparing students for state exams instead of focusing on what is most important and meaningful.

Although they generally receive more administrative support than teachers in most urban areas, Marin teachers are not immune from these pressures. Many also report a high level of stress related to the growing number of "at-risk" kids. More and more of these kids come from dual working families that have little time to provide the support children need. A far greater burden falls on teachers.

The combination of the increased needs of children and the increased testing and paperwork pressures of No Child Left Behind is a lethal one for many teachers. What started as exciting and meaningful work becomes overwhelmingly stressful and unfulfilling.

Inadequate funding, across all school districts in California, still places severe limitations on reducing class size and providing students with emotional support services.

Additionally, many districts are more concerned with the stigma of low test scores than they are with providing adequate support for teachers.

And while this may fall in the "so what else is new?" category, we all have to keep the pressure on our policy makers to change the low priority placed on money for public education and the high priority placed on standardized tests. Until this happens, Marin too will continue to lose many of its best teachers and the quality of education will deteriorate rather than improve.

Mark Phillips of Woodacre is a professor of secondary education at San Francisco State University.

The Anticultural Curriculum of the Lower Caste

From Gannett News Service:

WASHINGTON -- The federal No Child Left Behind law is prompting many schools to focus increasingly on math and reading at the expense of other subjects, new research suggests.

The trend is particularly apparent at low-performing schools in urban areas, according to a study the California-based RAND Corp. presented to a panel of education researchers early this month.

The study is sure to give ammunition to critics who contend a narrower curriculum deprives children of a rich education.

The study released June 12 concludes that subjects such as art, music and social studies, which aren't tested under No Child Left Behind, are increasingly neglected.

"If only math and reading count, then other (courses) will take second place, and we're starting to see that already," said Brian Stecher, a senior social scientist with RAND. . . .


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Manufacturing the Teacher Shortage in Order to Solve It

The Washington Post has a piece today on the teacher shortage that contributes to the myth that NCLB has raised the bar on teacher quality. While it is true that NCLB increases the emphasis on new teachers having subject matter knowledge, which is important, NCLB and Bush Co. have taken the emphasis off of new teachers having any pedagogical knowledge of how to teach, address special needs, plan lessons, assess learning, and understand children. What has occurred as a result of the emphasis on subject matter requirements is that many state departments of education have opted for alternate route certification programs such as the one that Michelle Rhee headed in New York City before her ascension to Chancellor in DC. Another example of this kind of retreat from pedagogy by ED is the infamous and corrupt history of Rod Paige’s embrace of the online certification scam, ABCTE, that got its start with a discretionary grant from ED. ED gave its stamp of approval of ABCTE before it ever offered one of its online tests to the first teacher candidate to plunk down $500.

All of this would make an interesting political story, even without the added human tragedy that urban and rural schools face increasing shortages of qualified teachers that outfits like Teach for America , with all the willing co-eds from Yale and Harvard that it can round up, cannot begin to address. In over ten years, TFA has sent about 12,000 idealistic temps into the school to do their two years. We need 100 times that number. And even if there were enough of them, these idealistic TFA candidates did their 2 years of service having vast knowledge gaps when it comes to the history, philosophy, theory, psychology, or supervised practice of teaching. Even if TFA could double its numbers by in the next 5 years, it would be a sad drop in the bucket in terms of the growing shortage, which is exacerbated by, 1) accountability systems that guarantee failure, thus decreasing the chance of recruiting the best teachers where they are needed the most, 2) bonus pay proposals that reward the teachers in the best schools, and 3) a scripted, chain gang approach in urban schools that scares away creative and ethical teachers. (None of these issues, by the way, are even mentioned in today's WaPo gloss.)

Here is a little reality therapy for the reporters like Mathews at WaPo, who continue to advance the idea that a permanent stream of replaceable temps is good enough for the weakest rivulets of the human capital stream that flows all around that shining decision-making capitol on a hill.

From the NCTAF’s new report, The High Cost of Teacher Turnover:

By allowing excessive teacher turnover to continue unabated year after year, we have been digging a deep hole for ourselves. In 1994, former U. S. Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley, warned the nation that we would need to hire two million teachers
within ten years to offset Baby Boom retirements. Over the next decade we beat that goal by hiring approximately 2.25 million teachers – but during that same decade we lost 2.7 million teachers, with over with over 2.1 million of them leaving before retirement.

. . . .

In 1999, in the School District of Philadelphia, 919 new teachers began teaching and 12,000 students began ninth grade. Six years later, 58% of those students had graduated from high school, but only 30% of those new teachers were still teaching in Philadelphia. This means that the new teacher dropout rate (70%) over six years in Philadelphia was higher than the student dropout rate (42%) (p. 1).

Senator Feingold on NCLB

From the Senator's website:

On The Issues: Education - No Child Left Behind Act

The President signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) into law in January 2002. This law, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, is one of the primary laws that govern federal elementary and secondary education programs. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is scheduled for reauthorization this year and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure needed changes are made to the testing mandates that were created under NCLB.

I voted against NCLB because it is not the best approach for Wisconsin students, teachers, and school districts. In particular, I could not support a new, largely unfunded federal mandate for annual, high-stakes testing in grades 3-8. The federal government should leave decisions about the frequency of standardized testing up to the states and local school districts that bear the responsibility for educating our children. While standardized testing does have a role to play in measuring and improving student achievement, one high-stakes test alone cannot accurately and responsibly measure our students or our schools.

There are a number of provisions in this law that I do support, such as funding for school libraries and reading programs, and increased funding for after-school programs and a number of small programs that were at risk of being cut. I was also pleased that the law authorizes specific funding levels for the Title I program and included programs to help rural school districts. This funding is vital for Wisconsin school districts. Unfortunately, levels of funding for the many programs under ESEA have not reached their promised levels.

In addition to my concerns about high-stakes testing, I am also concerned that the President's budget requests for the fiscal years since enactment of NCLB – one of the centerpieces of his domestic policy – have under-funded the programs that he signed into law and have actually eliminated funding for a variety of programs authorized by this law. The federal government has a responsibility to come through with education funds that we have promised to states and local school districts. To do otherwise sets students and educators up for failure with respect to the federal mandates we have imposed upon them.

While I certainly share the President's goal of improving education for all students and closing the achievement gap that exists between low-income students and their peers, I remain skeptical of an approach that relies on high-stakes testing. I continue to hear from people around our state about the negative impact that this law is having in our schools.

Due to the concerns raised by my constituents over the past several years, I have sent letters to the Senate, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for the past four years asking the Committee to have a series of hearings on the implementation of the NCLB and its consequences for students, teachers, schools, and school districts. I am pleased the Senate and House committees have already started to hold roundtable discussions and hearings this year as part of the reauthorization process.

A full and deliberative reauthorization process is needed and substantial changes must be made to the testing mandates of NCLB. Please click here to read the latest copy of my letter, cosigned by nine of my colleagues this year. I hope that the ongoing Senate and House hearings will be a first step to addressing the problems with this law and to ensuring that the voices of public school students, teachers, administrators, and parents in Wisconsin are heard during the reauthorization process. . . .

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bracey on the Latest Voucher Evidence

From Huffington Post:
VOUCHERS STRIKE OUT AGAIN

New York, Dayton, Washington, D. C., Cleveland, Milwaukee, Florida, and now Washington again. Kids who use publicly or privately funded vouchers to attend private schools don’t do any better in school than matched groups of public school children. You wonder how many at bats these guys are going to get. I guess when the club owners are people like George W. Bush, John Boehner, and James Leininger the answer is “infinite” (Leininger spent millions trying to influence voting in Texas to stack a legislature that would give him the vouchers he’s been chasing for 20 years. See Chapter 2, James Leininger, Sugar Daddy of the Religious Right in The Anatomy of Power: Texas and the Religious Right in 2006. Put the title in Google).

I guess if the names are George F. Will, Paul Peterson, or Joe Bast (Heartland Institute), the answer is also infinite simply due their infinite hatred for the National Education Association. Freud would have a field day with these guys.

The latest Washington debacle has to be especially disappointing to voucher proponents simply because it’s the latest. You’d think they would have learned something from all those earlier tryouts I named earlier.

Maggie Spellings was her usual inelegant self: “The report’s findings are in step with rigorous studies of other voucher programs which have not typically found impacts on student achievement in the first year. We know that parents are pleased with the success of the program in providing effective education alternatives.” And just how might you be defining “effective” Ms. Spellings?

Paul, when-the-going-gets-tough-the-Right-gets-Peterson, Peterson echoed Spellings “Kids lose ground when they change schools. Even if they may be in a better school, they’re not going to adjust right off the bat.” Well, Paul, live and learn, I guess. This is the first time I’ve heard you or any other voucher vulture invoke adjustment as an excuse for the poor showing.

And he and Maggie are wrong. Peterson’s own data show them wrong. Peterson claimed sizeable first year gains in Cleveland. Of course, he used fall-to-spring testing and had no control group so it wasn’t exactly a randomized field trial. Later, better studies by Kim Metcalf and a team from Indiana University found the public school kids starting out behind and catching up even though white students were overrepresented in the voucher groups.

In Peterson’s studies in Dayton and DC, Peterson got a “significant” effect in math—at the .10 level, a level not used by most researchers. By the second year, math had moved up to .05. Reading never showed any gain and by the third year everything had washed out.

Amit Paley’s article in the Washington Post says the Bush administration will attempt to expend vouchers nationwide in the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. No doubt. Bush had them in there to start with, lost them to Kennedy, and was unable to get them reinserted despite six old college tries by Boehner.

But, hey, in a faith-based administration (see Ron Suskind, “Without a Doubt”, New York Times Magazine October 17, 2004) what’s a little negative data among prayer-mates?

Amit Paley, “Voucher Students Show Few Gains in First Year.” Washington Post, June 22, 2007, p. B1.

Saving Higher Ed from Political Hackery

Just as Spellings and ED are directed by the political arm of the White House for K-12 policy decisions, we see the same corrupt, crony politics at work as Bush Co. surges forward in an attempt to reshape higher education. The education text-and-test industry, the student loan sharks at Sallie Mae and Nelnet, etc., the for-profit online diploma mills that feed off of federally-guaranteed student loans, and the fundamentalist church schools are allied in an attempt to gain a controlling interest in a higher ed system that has remained so far the envy of the world.

Commentary from the San Antonio Express-News:
Americans need to elect officials who care about them and their well-being. This means never again the likes of the current bunch of nincompoops.

I can forgive their lies, misappropriation of funds and even the bloody global mess they have gotten America into. But I cannot forgive their attempts to stupefy America's kids and create an environment of mediocrity in the U.S. higher education system.

The Bush administration is trying to manipulate and modify the accreditation process of the 1998 Higher Education Act. All bona fide institutions of higher learning are accredited by specialized agencies such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS. The U.S. Department of Education designates these agencies to ensure that diplomas issued by the accredited institutions are valid and course credits can be transferred.

More important, these institutions are eligible for Title IV funding, which governs federal student financial aid programs, as well as other federal funding. Hence, accreditation is the operating license for educational institutions.

A battle has been brewing between the Department of Education and the Council of Regional Accrediting Associations, or CRAC, over the language and substance of the reauthorization proposal of the Higher Education Act. The Department of Education is insisting on inserting language to reflect three interests that have little to do with serious education.

The first involves "for-profit educational corporations" that have championed school vouchers. Using its power of designation, the department is applying pressure on crediting institutions to force institutions of higher learning "to accept credits without regard to their accreditation status."

The second demand is on behalf of interests pushing for TAKS-type testing. This means that testing would most likely be done by external for-profit agencies using standards far removed from goals, objectives and missions of the institutions.

The third and most important insertion demanded by the Department of Education is a provision "requiring an accrediting agency to demonstrate that it applies its standards in a manner that does not undermine the stated religious mission of any institution of higher education."

This means that peer review per se goes out the window and the University of Texas at San Antonio or UT-Austin must accept Gog and Magog 102 from one of the institutions controlled by the Southern Baptist Conference or any other religious institution.

I have no problem with religious institutions sponsoring universities. Indeed, some of them are very good and I went to one. But mine ceased to be strictly a religious school a century ago, and so has Harvard, Princeton and others.

Secular institutions shouldn't be forced to accommodate any mumbo jumbo they do not want to accept. More important, the proposed changes open the door to accepting courses and credits from such mediocre online organizations as the University of Phoenix and the many others that have exploded on the Internet.

The question is, who is pushing this? The answer is four Bush appointees with little experience in education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is one main actor. She has a bachelor's degree in political science, and the limit of her knowledge is working on the failed No Child Left Behind program. She is in her position because she served as political director of Bush's first gubernatorial campaign and as his senior adviser as governor.

The second is Charles Miller, who has a bachelor's degree in mathematics. A successful investment portfolio manager, he was appointed to the UT System Board of Regents.

Cheryl Oldham, a lawyer from St. Mary's University who was appointed to the Department of Education after serving at the White House, joined Miller.

The fourth is Vickie Schray, who worked with vocational programs at Mount Hood Community College in Oregon.

A letter from the Education Department threatened that if CRAC does not agree with the administration's plan, the department will be "free to recommend whatever rules it wishes."

CRAC's response was to inform the administration that it would not be swayed into changing its accreditation principles.

Congress has joined the battle and negotiations have ended without agreement. America now ranks 15th in education among the developed countries.

With mediocrity like this running the system, I am surprised it isn't behind Afghanistan.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Write Congress to Say, Scrap It!

A letter by Monty Neill in The Nation:

SCRAP 'NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND'!

Cambridge, Mass.

Would that Congress had consulted Linda Darling-Hammond, Pedro Noguera, Velma Cobb and Deborah Meier when drafting No Child Left Behind ["Evaluating 'No Child Left Behind,'" May 21]. They lay out a powerful case for why NCLB needs fundamental reform if it is to help us "pay off the educational debt to disadvantaged students that has accrued over centuries of unequal access to quality education."

Darling-Hammond cites the work of the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) in building a consensus for a new NCLB that would shift the law's emphasis "from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement." The Joint Statement on NCLB has been signed by 121 education, civil rights, religious, disability and civic organizations, a constituency of more than 50 million people. These voices are beginning to be heard, but much more must be done.

Congressional committees are writing legislation. Now is the time to act. Contact your senators and Representative today. Tell them NCLB should not be reauthorized until its serious flaws are fixed. Ask them to contact the Education Committee and press for adoption of the FEA's legislative recommendations.

Rather than just test and punish, the new federal law proposed by FEA would improve schools through high-quality professional development for teachers and administrators; involve parents more deeply in school improvement; enable families to participate better in their children's education; continue to assess and report student learning but based on multiple measures, not just test scores. Expectations for achievement would be realistic, based on rates of improvement actually achieved by schools. Targeted assistance would replace sanctions (see www.edaccountability.org).

MONTY NEILL
Chair, Forum on Educational Accountability

ETS Comes Back With Spellings-Approved Findings

It's a tough season for supporters of the abusive and stupidifying No Child Left Behind Act. With 7 out of 10 Americans convinced that a yearly standardized test is an unfair way to judge schools, the ed industry and the theocrats are pulling out all stops to save their privatization plan from repeal or remaking. Enter the Educational Testing Service, the most trusted "non-profit" name in the education industry and recipient of over $600,000,000 in profits last year. Big surprise--ETS has new "research" touting widespread public support of NCLB.

Before being coached by ETS questioners, survey respondents were evenly split (43% for/41% against) on their level of support of NCLB. When respondents were provided the positive spin from ED, however, the ETS researchers got the response they were looking for (56% for/39% against). Here is the question (from Ed Week's article) that got the response that ETS was sent out to get:
“The No Child Left Behind Act provides federal funds for school districts with poor children in order to close achievement gaps. It also requires states to set standards for education and to test students each year to determine whether the standards are being met by all students. In addition, No Child Left Behind provides funding to help teachers become highly qualified. It also provides additional funding and prescribes consequences to schools that fail to achieve academic targets set by their state. Based on this statement and anything else you may have heard, would you say that you have a favorable or an unfavorable opinion of the No Child Left Behind Act?”


Compare that finding to the PDK/Gallup Poll last fall, or the more recent Scripps poll:
Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup Organization
“From what you know or have heard or read about the No Child Left Behind Act, do you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable opinion of the act—or don’t you know enough about it to say?”

Scripps Survey Research Center
“Based on everything you’ve heard, do you want Congress to renew the No Child Left Behind law, do you want Congress to make changes in the law, or do you want Congress to cancel the law?”

It will be interesting to see the new PDK/Gallup results coming out in September.

New School Voucher Study Shows No Voucher Advantage

Despite the fact that a new ED study on vouchers in D.C .was directed by the Walmart-funded Professor and 21st Century Chair in School Choice of an academic department devoted to "choice" advocacy, which was bought and built by Sam Walton and headed by Jay P. Greene (of Manhattan Institute fame);

and despite the fact that 20% of the students enrolled in the program left within the first year (and no researcher asked why);

and despite the fact that student academic performance was no better in the private voucher schools;

and despite the fact that there was students felt no more satisfied or safe than did public school students;

and despite the fact that there was no evidence found that students were, in fact, safer in terms of "actual school experiences with dangerous activities";

despite all of this, Sam Dillon chooses a headline, "Voucher Use in Washington Wins Praise by Parents," that points to the only positive finding that voucher advocates like Spellings and her researchers could dredge up.

For a more balanced account, see Paley's "Voucher Students See Few Gains in First Year" in WaPo.

Congressman Miller, I think, sums it up: "This report offers even more proof that private school vouchers won't improve student achievement and are nothing more than a tired political gimmick."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Immoral Clarity of No Child Left Behind

If NCLB were just about using the U. S. Department of Education in an attempt to break the backs of the public schools in order to privatize them, that would be reason enough to tar and feather the dissembling crooks who have been put in charge at ED. The fact that Bush & Co. are attempting this scam under the pretense of helping poor, minority children, teachers, and parents who are now being ground up and sacrificed in high stakes testing boot camps is reason to get in the faces of legislators to demand the repeal of this ideological lunacy and the firing of the functionaries who continue to perpetrate this legalized child abuse and intellectual genocide against the the poor and impoverished.

These realities, plus the reality of mass firings and school closures, are no longer abstractions for the students, parents, and teachers of 2,300 American schools. Here are some clips from an AP piece:

(NEW YORK)—The scarlet letter in education these days is an "R." It stands for restructuring — the purgatory that schools are pushed into if they fail to meet testing goals for six straight years under the No Child Left Behind law.

Nationwide, about 2,300 schools are either in restructuring or are a year away and planning for such drastic action as firing the principal and moving many of the teachers, according to a database provided to The Associated Press by the Education Department. Those schools are being warily eyed by educators elsewhere as the law's consequences begin to hit home.

Schools fall into this category after smaller changes, such as offering tutoring, fall short. The effort is supposed to amount to a major makeover, and it has created a sense of urgency that in some schools verges on desperation. "This is life and death," says John Deasy, superintendent of schools in Prince George's County, Md., where several schools are coming face to face with the consequences of President Bush's signature education law. "This is very high-stakes work."

. . . .

The 2002 education law, which is up for renewal in Congress, offers a broad menu of options for restructuring. They include firing principals and moving teachers, and calling in turnaround specialists.

. . . .

The pressure to prepare kids for high school is clear at Long Branch Middle School, a school in restructuring in a working-class New Jersey shore town.

The most obvious sign of the pressure is in a public hallway near the school's main entrance where graphs hang in full view of passing students and teachers. Each bears a teacher's name and shows a growth curve, indicating plainly whether students in a class are making progress on reading and math tests given throughout the year.

Superintendent Joseph Ferraina, a former teacher and principal at the school, acknowledges that such discomforting changes make teachers nervous. "It's difficult to change schools," he said. "What often happens is we talk about change, change, change, and we go back to what we felt comfortable with."

Ferraina says the wall charts are helping force his school to rely on testing data throughout the year, not just on the No Child Left Behind spring tests. "There are people working with data every day now," he said. "They're sitting down with people and saying, 'You know what, your class seems to not be doing well in whole numbers. We need to add a lesson in whole numbers.'" The focus on tests worries some who say teachers are focusing too much on preparing kids for exams rather than spending time on important other instruction.

Long Branch, like Far Rockaway, has been organized into small academies where certain subjects are emphasized. The middle school, in a state-of-the-art building, also has moved to block scheduling, where core courses last roughly 90 minutes — twice as long as typical classes. Louis DeAngelis, an eighth-grade English teacher, says that pushes him to be more thoughtful and creative about lesson planning. "You can't get up there and sing and dance. You should be able to go bell to bell," he said.

Whether it's the block scheduling or the other changes, student performance is moving in the right direction at Long Branch. Last year, only special education students missed annual No Child Left Behind benchmarks. Test scores for students with disabilities, for immigrants, poor children and minorities must be separated out under the law. But if one group fails to hit testing benchmarks at a school — like last year at Long Branch — the whole school gets a failing grade. . . .

Other changes the administration is pushing include giving schools in restructuring more options. The Education Department has proposed letting them become charter schools, which are public but operate more freely than traditional schools, regardless of state limits on how many charter schools are allowed. The administration also wants the federal law to override provisions in collective bargaining agreements to ensure failing schools have complete control over who works there. "These are schools where there are some significant problems," Briggs said. "Without more serious action, we're going to keep getting what we've gotten."

Regardless of whether No Child Left Behind is altered, the message is getting to schools that they must make real changes now, said Douglas Anthony, principal of Arrowhead Elementary in Upper Marlboro, Md., a suburb of Washington. During a recent visit, first and fourth graders alike were busy with math and reading basics.

It was around 2 p.m, shortly before the school day was to end, and a time when elementary-age students might typically be playing tag, working on craft projects or just easing into the end of the academic day. But at Arrowhead, a school in the restructuring planning stage, math worksheets were on the desks, kids were sounding out vowels and special-ed teachers were working with small groups of children.

Superintendent Deasy acknowledges the atmosphere at Arrowhead is more intense than at schools that aren't facing restructuring. He said lessons at schools missing testing goals have to be very targeted, and he says there often isn't time for electives and free play like at other schools. . . .