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

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Duncan Names Republican Charter Crusader to NAEP Governing Board

From WCTV:
ATLANTA – U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has appointed Governor Sonny Perdue to the National Assessment Governing Board. The board sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), sometimes referred to as “The Nation's Report Card.”

The 26-member panel includes a bipartisan group of governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators, business representatives and other citizens. While members are chosen by the secretary of education, the board remains independent of the department.

“Governor Perdue will be a great addition to the board,” Secretary Duncan said. “During his two terms as governor, he has maintained and expanded on ambitious initiatives to improve education for children from the cradle to college. We look forward to his contributions to the board.” . . . .
With the Dunc so intent upon accurate data systems, how could anyone be a better pick than Sonny? From last year:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/25/08
About 36,000 Georgia eighth-graders tried but never passed the math test required for high school admission in 2006 and 2007. After that, state officials have no idea what happened.

The state doesn't know how many of those students were promoted despite failing the mandatory test. It doesn't know how many repeated the eighth grade. It doesn't even know how many of them dropped out of school.

Despite the high-stakes nature of Georgia's Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, which cover subjects that students in certain grades must pass before moving up, the state doesn't track the ultimate outcome of those who fail.

Instead, the state lets each of Georgia's more than 180 local school systems decide whether to promote students who fail the required tests, after an appeals process that may vary from district to district. But some school systems — such as Gwinnett County, the state's largest — say they don't keep up with the failing students, either.

As a result, while state officials suggest that most of the 36,000 students were promoted, they acknowledge that's just an assumption.

. . . .

The fate of students who failed since 2006, the first year the math test helped determine promotion to high school, took on new relevance as details emerged last week about a colossal failure rate on this year's exam.

Forty percent of the state's eighth-graders — roughly 50,000 students — failed the math test this spring, twice as many as in each of the past two years. The state's schools superintendent, Kathy Cox, said the math results, which are preliminary, would stand.

But Cox invalidated social studies scores for sixth- and seventh-grade students, 70 to 80 percent of whom failed. Unlike eighth-grade math, the social studies exam does not count toward promotion.

Cox blamed a vague curriculum for the social studies results, but she defended the math test as appropriately rigorous. . . .
The high failure rates have enraged parents and teachers and created uncertainty for tens of thousands of students who must decide whether to go to summer school before taking the test again. . . . .
But we know its not Sonny's management skills that impresses Duncan. It is Perdue's backroom expertise to get passed huge expansions of the state charter school law, the most impressive, perhaps, allowing whole school systems go convert to charter systems. Teacher contracts, staffing requirements, libraries--poof! Now that's the kind of change that Gates and Broad can believe in.

Again, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sonny's charter exploits in Georgia, where even supporters of charters find his actions appalling:

Published on: 02/18/08

In what might be the biggest "bait and switch" in many years, Gov. Sonny Perdue's three-year-plus effort known as Investing in Educational Excellence (IE2) has been translated into legislation sponsored by House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth).

Something got lost in translation.

Launched as a way to revisit the 20-year-old Quality Basic Education funding formula for the state's public schools, the IE2 task force spent more than three years gathering information, traveling the state, holding public hearings and visiting schools. Their work, they told us, was to develop new cost models based on best practices in the elementary, middle and high schools.

The questions they were asking seemed reasonable: What are the current best practices in our schools? What does it cost to operate such a school? What should be the state share and what should be the local share of those costs?

They were also going to re-examine the funding partnership between the state and local districts, a relationship that has grown increasingly tense as the state share of education funding has retreated substantially, forcing local systems to seek additional funding to replace vanished state funds.

Some months ago, the IE2 group released a cost model for the elementary schools. While not perfect, the model seemed to be a substantial improvement from current practice. We praised the work of the task force at that time. Education leaders across the state anxiously were awaiting the cost models for the middle and high schools as well as the other items on the IE2 agenda such as recommendations for innovations in funding high-cost programs for special education students or students from impoverished backgrounds.

Instead, Coleman's legislation, touted in a news release issued by Perdue's office, "sets up a system of performance contracts that allow for greater flexibility in return for increased accountability."

Say what? Who changed the subject? How did we go from funding to flexibility?

There is already plenty of charter school (read flexibility) legislation on the books — most of which we have supported. The "flexibility" Coleman's legislation refers to would give districts a choice of the current local-state relationship, a charter-schools relationship similar to legislation passed a few years ago, or a systemwide charter system based on the 2007 bill passed at the behest of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

Flexibility in how districts spend state funds that have been decreased over the past four years by more than $1.6 billion is a pretty thin product for a three-year "investing in educational excellence" task force. What investment? While overall funding for student growth and the faculty required to teach the added students has increased, virtually all other aspects of education funding have been neglected or substantially reduced.

We are operating our schools in 2008 using a funding formula created in the mid-1980s. Does this make sense to anyone? Through IE2 and Coleman's legislation, Perdue and his task force have not only "kicked the can down the road" for more than three years, they have, with the collusion of Coleman — at the 11th hour — changed the subject. Our public schools, and the 1.6 million students who attend them, deserve better.


  1. Sigh. I don't know if I can take 4 more years of this.

  2. Reading these items from day-to-day, one is reminded of 1-sided battles (massacres?) in history like Dienbienphu, Gallipoli or Custer's Last Stand.

    If so, Public Schol supporters are like, respectively, The French, Custer and
    The Brits/Aussies.

    I suppose the propaganda will progress
    to rats and vermin.

    I can just hear the smears now...

    "...and Public School People carry Cho-le-ra,
    Ty-Phoos", etc etc