By GEOFF BERNE
On May 1, 2009, Michigan's Board of Education, like boards in most of the other states across the U.S., issued a resolution "recognizing that teachers are vital to the very fabric of our society" and declaring the week of May 4-8 Teacher Appreciation Week.
Three days later, on May 4, President Obama, in what could only have been intended as a face slap to the week's traditional teacher-centered theme, issued a proclamation designating May 3 through May 9, 2009, as National Charter Schools Week. Rather than honor the contributions to our society of American teachers in our 95,000-plus public schools, and teaching as a profession, as has become customary, he chose to salute only the personnel of the 3,500 charter schools that though publicly financed have been allowed to exist like private businesses, independent from and competitive with the public system.
Here are his exact words of selective praise:
"I commend our Nation's successful public charter schools, teachers, and administrators, and I call on States and communities to support public charter schools and the students they serve."
How ironical, then, that in the very state that gave birth to publicly funded private education, Ohio, with the establishment of a pilot program in Cleveland of giving vouchers to parents to use for private schools in 1992—the state that has the greatest number of privately run charter schools, 330—a growing backlash against the privatization concept is being led by none other than the state's governor, Ted Strickland.
Strickland rode into office in 2006 on a platform pledging to remove the exemptions from government oversight and academic accountability requirements that have given the private schools an unfair advantage in the marketing of their undocumented and unproven "product," enabling a myth to grow of charters' academic superiority that, in Ohio anyway, as my co-author Todd Price will show in his interview in Part II with Ohio Federation of Teachers president Sue Taylor, couldn't be further from the truth. Strickland vowed in his campaign to shut down rogue schools that had proliferated to siphon public funds under the pretense of educating kids—and he won in 2006 with a landslide majority. In the two years since his win he has made no bones about his determination to honor his crackdown pledge.
As if to hammer home how unswerving Strickland looks to be in his mission to uphold government's obligation to public over private education, the governor chose the very same week that President Obama was placing the imprimatur of his administration on America's charter schools, to hold a rally in Ohio's capitol, Columbus, to call for the strengthening, rather than abandonment and replacement, of the public system and inviting none other than the president's famously pro-charter Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to participate, which he did with something falling slightly short of avidity, as the day's featured guest!
On May 8, 2009, against a backdrop of the majestic Schottenstein Arena at Ohio State University, the largest public university in the United States, Governor Strickland hosted a Rally for Education that capped the sixteen month-long "listening tour" he has been conducting to promote his plan to restore Ohio to its once-top place among state economies through education. His plan, widely criticized by Republicans for its reliance on federal stimulus money that, they predict, will require replacement with taxation when it runs out at the end of two years, calls for greater monetary investment, expanding programs connecting education to work, supporting creativity and curricular innovation, and ending the open door policy that has allowed charter schools to obtain state funding without oversight or accountability, by shutting down those found to be mismanaged and academically substandard.
There was a certain poetic justice, which one suspects Gov. Strickland may have intended to bring out in extending his invitation for the secretary to be the headline speaker at the event, in the spectacle of Sec. Duncan, a man whose name has become synonymous with advocacy of privatized education, addressing an assemblage of public education celebrants including union leaders, teachers, parents, students, legislators, and administrators.
As the final speaker, Secretary Duncan found himself obliged to wait patiently on the speakers platform through a succession of speeches resolutely supporting public education before delivering the speech he had himself come to give, the highlight of which would be an offer to bestow five billion dollars in federal money on states (hint to Gov. Strickland: this could be YOUR state) exhibiting the greatest commitment to education "reform." Given that Duncan's own record as head of Chicago public schools for seven years prior to his 2008 cabinet appointment consisted of shutting down rather than rebuilding the public schools, and replacing them with new academies that, though ostensibly within the public system, were privately run, when Sec. Duncan uses the words "education reform" what he specifically means by them is in the words of the Associated Press’s Libby Quaid, closing public schools, firing their staffs and principals, and “turning the school over to a charter operator.”
The speaker directly preceding Duncan was the man who had invited him to speak and who was there to introduce him, none other than Governor Strickland. What Strickland did first off, prior to delivering his own remarks, was to yield the stage to two figures who wound up overshadowing all other speakers on the program including Secretary Duncan and (as was surely his intention) the governor himself, namely Dale and Nathan (“Nate”) DeRolph, the father and son who have come to symbolize the struggle for educational improvement in Ohio through eighteen years and four challenges in the Ohio Supreme Court to Ohio's abysmally unequal educational system.
Unlisted in prior publicity for the program, the DeRolphs were artfully brought there by the governor to tell the story of a challenge in 1991 to the primitive conditions in their home area of southeastern Perry County that became a crusade to overturn the state's neglect of schools in low income areas, a crusade that resulted in four judgments in the Ohio Supreme Court since 1997 that were in their favor, pronounced the Ohio funding of schools with local tax levies unconstitutional, and culminated in the election victory of Ted Strickland for governor in 2006.
Dale DeRolph, the quiet-spoken hero of the crusade, spoke of discovering his son taking a final history examination cross-legged on the Sheraton High School gymnasium floor, and resolving that while his son found nothing out of the ordinary or wrong in doing so, he, as a father, found it wrong and would seek legal help to do something about it. He described conditions in the county schools at the time:
“. . . split classes in elementary, reusable textbooks, labs without equipment or working equipment, and buildings that were under constant repair, . . . teachers (who were often) our third and fourth choices of teacher applicants.”
Nate DeRolph, in whose name the court challenges had been waged, and who had been fifteen years old and a high school freshman at the time of the initial filing, spoke next.
"Once my dad and I got involved," he said, "we traveled to some of the wealthier districts in Ohio and some of the poorest. I think I can speak for both of us when I say we were shocked. The wealthier schools had every college prep class you could imagine and extracurricular activities I thought only colleges offered. They had facilities and learning materials rivaled by none, then we visited some of the poorest schools and it was like being in a third world country. Buildings falling down, textbooks from the 60s and 70s, and minimal college prep courses, if any.”
Confessing amazement at the failure of even four Supreme Court decisions to budge the all-Republican state legislatures of the 1990s and early 00s toward making a more equitable school funding system, the younger DeRolph speculated, "I hate to think what would happen if you or I ignored the Supreme Court. I thought with each ruling that they would have to fix school funding. How could they say no to the children of Ohio? But with each ruling came more backlash and more politics. More people saying that school funding couldn't be fixed and that there was no good solution. The DeRolph suit was originally filed 18 years ago. The graduating class of 2009 was born when the lawsuit started. I'm now 33, married, with two kids of my own."
So here is Ohio with its first governor to target a top-to-bottom housecleaning in Ohio's prehistoric education funding system, and already the traditional Ohio attitude that "school funding can't be fixed and that there is no good solution" is coming back and threatening to take ascendancy over the governor's unprecedented pro-public education campaign.
Cox Newspapers, a national newsgroup of 43 newspapers including The Dayton Daily News, Hamilton Journal-News, and six other papers in Southwestern Ohio, pronounced the Republican majority in the state Senate an opposition too formidable to overcome. In addition the governor faces opposition from Ohio newspapers themselves, whose failure to hold the entrenched Republicans' feet to the fire on education has been no small part of the state's festering educational inertia, going back so many decades.
"Governor Ted Strickland is not going to get his way on changing how Ohio pays for schools. Nor should he," Cox proclaimed in its syndicated editorials, rebuking Strickland for placing education above other equally compelling funding needs of the state, such as prisons. Acknowledging that Strickland has won backing from Ohio business as well as labor, they turn thumbs down on Strickland's formula for arriving at a per-student funding number, requirements that may fit some schools in need of improvement but not others who are already here, and . . . Strickland's philosophical stance that pits him against what (in the Cox papers' publishers' eyes, at any rate) is the direction a good part of the state, for whom Ohio Republicans speak, wants to go, namely toward charter rather than public schools.
The Republicans will give no quarter toward Strickland on education reform because in making Ohio the nation's leader in creation of charter schools, it's their party's fifteen years in Ohio's political majority that have defined how to improve public schools . . . by opening up competition from an alternative system. "They think that if anybody should be credited with changing the rules in a profound way that fosters genuine reform, they have had -- and still have -- the better changes."
In Ohio, there’s a line in the sand that divides the education bashing of the past decade and a half of Republican rule from the determination to build on the good elements in the public system that has come in since the Democratic victories in the 2006 election. The pre-2006 mindset is predicated on the idea that the public education system is in an incurable crisis and needs to be replaced by schools run as private business, and by private businesses themselves. Since the 2006 Democratic victory in the General Assembly (lower house) and governorship, a steadfastly opposing pro-public school philosophy has come in to take center-stage. To the astonishment, and discomfiture, of the makers of opinion who have helped condition the public’s mind for the demise of public education in recent decades, the championing of public education over charter education by the irrepressible Governor Strickland has been heard in every corner, and every newspaper, in the state. His message, that performance of the state's charter schools has been a scandalous failure compared to that of the publics has stopped the piling on of the public schools in its tracks and for the first time put the Ohio charter movement on the defensive. His proposed program of rehabilitating the public schools with proper funding rather than junking them and “outsourcing” their students to privately chartered institutions, has held out the tantalizing, and prior to now long-lost, hope that Ohio schooling would turn the state into a paragon of learning and achievement. In the two short years since his election, Strickland has made the debate over Ohio’s educational future two-sided rather than one-sided and brought hope of a reprieve for a public system that had prior to his arrival seemed on Death Row.
When Ted Strickland took office as governor in 2006, Ohio was 11th in mass layoffs, 48th in new companies, (was and is) 3rd in home foreclosures, 2nd in bankruptcies, 50th in job growth, and 44th in Real Gross State Product. In education, the state was 46th in equity of school resources, 50th in students per computer, 42nd in schools with unsatisfactory heating, and tuition at public universities was 46 percent higher than the national average. From 1999 through 2008, the legislature, embarrassed by the Supreme Court's rulings exposing the state's grossly deficient school environments, increased their investment in schools, and new school structures, by 47 percent. The Strickland plan calls for increase in funding by an additional 45 percent in the decade ahead.
The Strickland plan of increasing still further the money given to public education is based not on willful denial of the charter alternative's professed superior educational results, but on the ample evidence that for all their hype charter schools' actual record has been one of student failure, financial and academic mismanagement, and lack of oversight and control. In 2006, when he took office pledging to put charter schools under the microscope and to require that those performing significantly worse than the public schools lose their public funding, Strickland was riding a tide of realism in reporting the results of America's charter school experiment. A May 10, 2006, New York Times editorial, “Reining in charter schools,” cited a study showing that states with charter programs dominated by for-profit education companies have poorer results for those schools in terms of performance and accountability.
A July 15, 2006, Times article by Dianne Schemo reported an Education Department study documenting that children in public schools generally performed "as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools."
Revelations of misreporting of student academic performance and of school financial records by a significant percentage of Ohio charter schools have fueled the Strickland pro-public education fire, but they have not altered the fact that already 43 percent of the students in the Dayton school district attend private or charter schools, nor has Strickland made a dent in the Ohio choice movement's single-minded goal of breakup of the public school system and privatization of the entirety of the state's schools.
The problem with a charter system putting choice of schools in the hands of parents is that the market theory it’s based on assumes that the parents, viewed economically as “consumers,” will make choices that are rationally based and that therefore the best schools, as in Darwin’s natural order, will survive and bring overall quality and improvement to the system. But what if parental choice is based on the schools’ advertising packaging rather than academic factors. A 2007 study by Christopher Lubienski showed that “the information made available to families through commercial-style materials challenges the notion of parents making reasoned choices based on institutional effectiveness. Instead, more emotional themes and images dominate school marketing strategies.” In other words, the system as a whole can wallow in chronic mediocrity with slickly packaged lemon schools “out-selling” ones that are academically superior.
It's interesting to note that supporters of privatized education also lament the failure of parents to make enlightened choices of schools when allowed to do so. Instead, it's been shown that they tend to stick with their customary public schools against all evidence of their inferiority.
Inasmuch as schooling is the single largest employer in the United States, once education is looked at as an industry, and one of America's biggest industries at that, then its product becomes viewed as a manufactured one, and education degenerates into an economic competition to establish which system (the government-run “public” system or the privately run charters system) will do a better job of selling the population of “consumers” (formerly known as “parents”) on their product.
Despite concerns like this—expressed increasingly even by friends of charterization—that charter schools may fail to fully get off the ground for want of parent support and/or willingness to change schools, and only a few months prior to release of the Stanford University study, indicating that 37 percent of charter schools offer education that's inferior to that of the public schools . . .
. . .the long-standing infatuation with the idea of choice and "free-market"-based education, education that allows the wonderful sink or swim anarchy of American business to reign in the previously state-controlled sphere of education, finally found itself seated at the very head of the table in Washington with the advent of Barack Obama to the Presidency and the installation of his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
With his only professional pedagogical experience having been as a tutor helping minority children with their homework in his mother's tutoring program in Chicago and an A.B. in Sociology that numerous information requests to see by charter school critics have failed to produce, Duncan has cut a swath through public education as “C.E.O.” (formerly known as “Superintendent”) of Chicago Public Schools, where since 2001 he closed over 20 elementary schools, most privatized into charter schools, and six high schools, while showing his commitment to school reform by forcing a legion of career teachers and principals out on the job market.
In a recent essay by Henry Giroux and Kenneth Saltman, former Chicago top school official Duncan was taken to task for identifying closely with blatant privatization efforts associated with Chicago's Renaissance 2010 plan:
“The Commercial Club hired corporate consulting firm A.T. Kearney to write Ren2010, which called for the closing of 100 public schools and the reopening of privatized charter schools, contract schools (more charters to circumvent state limits) and “performance” schools.”
Replacement of 100 of Chicago “underachieving” (i.e. underfunded) public schools, 15 percent of the city's total, with new experimental schools “in areas slated for gentrification” was the goal of the Renaissance 2010 education plan created by these Chicago businessmen for Mayor Daley.
In point of fact, Charter education has become the idée fixe of the U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan who, building on what he started in Chicago on the national level in Washington without missing a beat, gives every appearance of credence to the idea that if business does it, it’s good and children will excel; if unions are involved, mediocrity and child failure will befall.
In Chicago, the schools closed under Duncan were replaced with new institutions that were non-union. The idea of replacing “union” schools with schools put in the hands of business was put in motion by Duncan in conformance with the previously mentioned Chicago Renaissance 2010 study. A.T. Kearney, the author of the Chicago study, hailed by Duncan as a national role model for school reform, is unapologetic about its business-oriented notion of leadership. Kearney’s website cites this importation of the business model as Renaissance 2010’s key achievement:
“Drawing on our program-management skills and our knowledge of best practices used across industries, we provided a private-sector perspective on how to address many of the complex issues that challenge other large urban education transformations.”
We recently asked John Duffy, a longtime Chicago area teacher and observer of education interviewed by Todd Price for the article “Bailing Out The Foes of Public Education,” what he sees as having been the true motivation of Renaissance 2010. In reply, he zeroed in on the classic business goal of disenfranchisement of union labor, in this case teacher union labor:
“Renaissance 2010 is the most visible of the Chicago corporate elite’s authoritarian plan to close neighborhood schools, undermine and dismantle teacher unionism, and further aggravate the inequitable allocation of school resources away from schools that disproportionately serve impoverished communities.”
According to Duffy, out of the ashes of what he called the “undemocratic, centrally orchestrated closing of arbitrarily determined ‘under-performing’ local schools” would arise both charter schools and “centrally controlled re-organized schools” where, stripped of union protections, “teachers (and teachers’ programs and curriculums) are directed and constrained in ways that would never be imagined or tolerated in middle class and upper socio-economic communities.”
On May 11, 2009, as predicted by those who have watched him in Chicago, Duncan wasted no time in announcing in an Associated Press interview the intention of the Obama administration to close 1,000 so-called “underperforming” schools in each of the next five years, 5,000 schools in all. The “war” against public education that many have seen coming for more than two decades has now been declared and is out in the open.
Introducing the market model into education at, you’d think, an unpropitious time, when the market model has brought down the house on people’s heads worldwide and, most especially, in this country, Messrs. Obama and Duncan cannot be assured of smooth sailing.
First they face a growing consensus in Ohio, amongst the public who, unfazed by the negativity about him being spread by the pro-charter Republican Senate and the state’s charter-friendly newspaper editorial boards, support Gov. Strickland and his message of fixing the state’s stagnating economy by finally fixing the state’s unconstitutionally unequal funding of schools. Win or lose in his effort to push his plan through the recalcitrant Republican State Senate, Ted Strickland has become a symbolical leader, in Ohio and increasingly on the national stage, of resistance to the charter movement for which Duncan speaks.
In Part II of this series, Todd Alan Price reports on his interviews with key players in the battle to which Ted Strickland has dedicated his governorship, to rebuild Ohio public education and stave off the charter phenomenon.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Third graders in Virginia will be getting a new standardized history test. Despite a recommendation from the State Superintendent of Instruction (what does she know about educating third graders?) to scrap the test and public opinion against the tests, Board members decided to spend more money on tests.
From the Richmond Times Dispatch:
Here's the reason the Washington Post cited for the Board's decision to keep the tests for third graders in history and social sciences despite the huge cost:
Board members yesterday gave the state education department the go-ahead to begin developing a new third-grade history and social-science assessment and to administer the current test until the new one is ready. They also approved weaving content from other SOL subject areas into the third-grade reading test.
The board followed the recommendation of State Superintendent of Instruction Patricia I. Wright. She originally proposed eliminating the third-grade history exam, which covers material in kindergarten to third grade, but withdrew the proposal after bipartisan outcry.
Wright said doing away with the test would save about $380,000 annually and eliminate a test that is not federally mandated.
It cost the state about $35 million to develop, administer, score and report the SOL and alternative tests for the 2007-2008 school year, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Julie Grimes. That does not include state education department personnel costs or any costs incurred by the local school systems.
The decision Thursday came about a week after state Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright withdrew a controversial proposal to scrap the exams. Wright reversed her position after heated criticism from history advocates and state legislators who said cutting the tests would allow elementary schools to devalue history and social-studies educationWho are these history advocates? Oh, yes, they probably work for Kaplan or McGraw Hill - you know, the ones who write the tests. Wouldn't want to jeopardize the learning of history and social studies for third graders so let's test it so it looks like and important subject. In fact, let's test every student every year in history and social studies -- why not start in first grade and go all the way to 12th grade? Just think how $ valuable $$$ that would be.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
While acknowledging that there is room for improvement in the district, Deer Valley High School teacher J Myers said he thought the reform training's top-down approach of trying to fit every district and every school into one model for achievement actually hurt some Antioch schools where unique programs were getting results.
"We were doing a tear-down when we needed a remodel, which I think is what got people upset," Myers said.
Sims’ tenure has been marred by several controversies in the past year: contract negotiations with the teachers union that dragged on for 17 months before finally reaching a settlement; failure to notify police in a timely manner about a Carmen Dragon teacher searching for child pornography on a school computer, preventing a possible prosecution; announcing that Antioch High would go to a co-principalship, then, when it faced a backlash, citing the board for the decision and rescinding it.The AUSD school board, which attended a number of retreat-style training sessions put on by McAdams and his crew of education privatizers, called the resignation and severed ties a "blessing in disguise." The real disguise is the one Broad and McAdams continue to wear as they parade around the country peddling their reform agenda, masking their clear desire to dismantle public education. McAdams, if you remember, was on the HISD board that helped spawn Rod Paige and created the so-called "Houston Miracle" that Bush used to justify No Child Left Behind. McAdams calls for vouchers, charter schools, high-stakes testing, privatization of school functions (labeled as "outsourcing"), and decentralization - a term he uses synonymously with privatization (see his book, "Fighting to Save our Urban Schools...And Winning!"). It shouldn't come as a surprise that Broad loves this guy. But fortunately, Broad and McAdams have lost their grip on one school board; this is a little bit progress we can measure.
Sims, who earns $182,712 per year, has also been criticized for not sufficiently engaging district employees in decision-making, for allowing student discipline to slip and for not making sufficient progress in raising student test scores in a district in which nearly a third of students drop out before graduation.
“The resignation of Dr. Sims … reflects her approach to leadership: her absolute lack of personal communications with employees and the board; her flawed decision-making process from a totally top-down leadership style,” said Gary Hack, president of the teachers union. “That reflected in everything from bargaining to discipline to curriculum to morale. This year it became more obvious and public, based on the issues the union brought forward, but also the awareness of what was happening in the district – or not happening.”
|Stimulus Funds Used to Close Achievement Gap in Conn. Schools|
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The bottom line, there is no money for education. States across the country reeling from the economic depression are struggling to maintain the current level of education services and programs OR they are actually cutting teachers, programs, services and increasing class sizes.
The stimulus money is basically plugging up holes in what is a sinking ship especially in the poorest communities like Hartford Connecticut where any real progress that has been made is in serious danger.
Meanwhile, Arne Duncan and the education industrial complex is busy trying to find ways to increase the shareholder value of technology companies. That's who will benefit from dollars for data gathering along with the testing companies who will benefit from creating "better" more standardized tests.
All this taxpayer money being wasted to make the rich richer while a little basic common sense would go along way to improve the lives of children. Hypocrisy is obviously not limited to the personal lives of politicians.
Watch this video to see how the image and the reality has become intolerably wide.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Several years ago historian James Anderson suggested that if charters and vouchers continued to eat away at the public schools that we would likely see a remaining public system of children that no one wants, from low performers to handicapped to the mentally impaired. It would seem that the rush toward corporate charters is creating just such a reality, even though the most reliable research available shows charters doing more harm than good, even when it comes to academic achievement. As Jerry Bracey noted in a HuffPo post the other day:
. . . . if the CREDO results are true, Arne, why are you blackmailing states with threats to withhold stimulus money unless they permit charters or lift charter caps? The logic here is astonishing. Suppose I invent a medicine and find it helps 17% of people, doesn't do anything for 46% and hurts 37%. Would the FDA approve and tout my medicine? CREDO is a Stanford University-based think tank and its findings were that kids in charters did better than matched peers in publics in 17% of the cases, worse in 37% and neither better nor worse 46% of the time. As I closed my chapter on charters in Setting the Record Straight (second edition), "Charter schools were born of perceived failures in public schools. So, if the charters are doing worse than the publics, where is the outrage about them?" Where indeed, Arne?
Now WaPo, in its Saturday edition that most people don't read, has the story on a new report showing a continuation of Rhee's corporate charter school creaming of the most able students:
Some D.C. public charter schools continue selective admissions practices that discourage special-needs students from enrolling, and students citywide with possible disabilities still face delays in special education evaluations, a federal court monitor said this week.
"Charter schools . . . generally have not enrolled students with significant disabilities who required extensive hours of special services or education," the monitor, Amy Totenberg, wrote in a report prepared for a court hearing yesterday.
The report casts a somewhat harsh light on a fast-growing sector of public education in the city. Charter schools, which receive public funding but are independently operated, have siphoned many students from the city's troubled public school system and have posted somewhat higher test scores than regular schools in recent years.. . .
But Totenberg said some charter schools explicitly limit the number of hours of special education they will provide and counsel parents to enroll their children at regular public schools or at private or other public charter schools that focus on students with disabilities. D.C. law prohibits charter schools from asking about learning disabilities or emotional problems during the admission process.
"What I heard, I couldn't believe to start out with, but it turned out to be true," he said. "A group of dedicated teachers and across-the-board fifth grade students got together and started a school effort about five or six years ago. Those same students who were testing in the bottom one-fifth percentile were now testing in the top one-fifth percentile."If Mr. Luckett is in neither of the above categories of politicians, surely he won't hesitate to look at the SRI study done last year in five Bay Area KIPP schools, where researchers found that 40 to 60 percent of KIPPsters in the five schools "chose" to leave KIPP between grades 5 and 8, and that most of the students who were ridden out were the low scorers who could have damaged the KIPP brand if they had stayed. Or Mr. Luckett may be interested to know that the five schools from the Bay Area lost 65 percent of their teachers over 3 years. From the SRI study:
Helena and the Arkansas Delta are demographically almost identical to the Mississippi Delta, and parts of Mississippi are very similar to Helena, Luckett said.
Since 2003-04, the five Bay Area KIPP school leaders have hired a total of 121 teachers. Of these, 43 remained in the classroom at the start of the 2007-08 school year. Among teachers who left the classroom, at four of the schools they spent a median of 1 year in the classroom before leaving; at one school, the typical teacher spent 2 years in the classroom before leaving (32).Mr. Luckett, I hope you have some plans to build some TFA teacher barracks along the Delta because without a constant re-supply of Ivy League missionaries you will never keep your KIPP chain gangs staffed.
"It points out that you can make a difference with the right set of dedicated teachers and students," Luckett explained. "With a will to learn, you raise the bar and raise the expectations and they've done a tremendous job at the KIPP school. That really sold me on charter schools."Yes, yes, the old sledgehammer. One may wonder what Mr. Luckett has in mind for those children who can't make it in the KIPP mines, the ones who can't carry the tune of "Sixteen Tons," those children of low-production value who are likely to damage the output numbers if they hang around. But, then, Mississippi has another chain gang for those youngsters, one that has been perfected over the past 150 years.
He said that charter schools would only be necessary in regions where the existing public schools have repetitively exhibited underperformance.
"There are great schools in Mississippi, like right here in DeSoto County," he said. "It's not to say that the public school administrations (of underperforming schools) aren't trying to do something, it's to what degree sometimes. I see them attacking the problem and chipping away, but I think it's time for a sledgehammer now. We've got to do something a little more significantly."
Friday, June 26, 2009
I recently received an email from Wade Tillett, a teacher, parent and activist in Chicago Public Schools, about a 2-minute statement he made he made June 24th, and included an additional statement he made at a public hearing at Arne Duncan's last Board meeting in December. He informed me that
I spoke about how CPS is using test scores to fail individual students (the data I sent you and which you posted earlier), and to fail entire schools.
CPS uses standardized test to override teachers, students, parents and the community to fail entire schools. The policy the board voted on today will further “raise the bar” (4), which means they will put more schools on “probation” - as if they are criminals (5). This sets the stage for further school closings and privatization. If CPS really believes that this policy is a fair measure of a school, why doesn't it apply to charter schools (6)?
With his permission, I am posting below his complete statement as delivered, with associated footnotes. I will offer a few comments of my own at the end.
Statement by Wade Tillett, Chicago Public School Parent and Teacher.Now for a few words of my own:
Chicago School Board Meeting
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
125 S. Clark St., Chicago
Hello. I'm Wade Tillett. I am a Chicago Public School Parent and Teacher.
In 2000, The Cato Institute published "Edupreneurs": A Survey of For-Profit Education which talks about how 90 percent of the “$740 billion education market” is not yet used for profit. Further they stated:
“The failure of government-run schools to prepare students for the rigors of the modern economy is a pressing policy problem, but it is also an opportunity for the private sector. ”
Let's read that again.
“The failure of government-run schools to prepare students for the rigors of the modern economy is a pressing policy problem, but it is also an opportunity for the private sector. ” (1)
Wouldn't this opportunity be even greater then, if there were greater failure?
Susan Neuman seems to think so. She should know because she was there when they were drafting NCLB. She served “as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education during George W. Bush's first term, .... she says... there were others in the department...who saw
NCLB as a Trojan horse for the choice agenda — a way to expose the failure of public education and "blow it up a bit.” "There were a number of people pushing hard for market forces and privatization."” (2)
(In other words, the wolves are circling.)
The point of NCLB, to some involved in its creation, was not to fix public schools, but to destroy them. Constantly rising scores inevitably force many schools to be labeled as failing.
And once these forces are set in motion, they sort of perpetuate themselves.
Selective enrollment, magnet schools and charter schools often accept only students with a certain score on the bubble tests. (“Diamonds in the rough” as Mr. Duncan just called them.) Thus, neighborhood schools are left with more students with lower scores, while other schools start out with more students with higher scores. A vicious cycle is set in motion.
This, of course, does not matter to CPS or NCLB. In fact, that's how some people wanted it to work. You know, to blow it up a bit.
Mr. Duncan and the school board here continue to pretend that blowing up schools is the way to save them. Let's remember that the real reason people wanted to blow up schools was to get at that $700 billion dollars.
And wasn't that the same amount we spent to bail out the financial industry? Is this the right time to implement the business model for education? Look around us!
When all the dust settles, we're going to be left with what others regard as the crumbs of a public education system.
If you don't believe me, perhaps you'll believe two former assistant,secretaries of education, Chester Finn and Diane Ravitch, once prominent NCLB advocates, who now write:.
“[If NCLB continues,] rich kids will study philosophy and art, music and history, while their poor peers fill in bubbles on test sheets. The lucky few will spawn the next generation of tycoons, political leaders, inventors, authors, artists and entrepreneurs. The less lucky masses will see narrower opportunities.” (3)
Stop destroying neighborhood schools.
1. "Edupreneurs": A Survey of For-Profit Education, Carrie Lips, November 20, 2000, Cato Policy Analysis No. 386. http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-386es.html
2. No Child Left Behind: Doomed to Fail?, Claudia Wallis, Jun. 08, 2008, Time. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1812758,00.html
3. Leaving "No Child Left Behind" Behind, Richard Rothstein, December 17, 2007, The American Prospect. http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=leaving_nclb_behind
Notes from today's meeting:
4. Monique Bond, CPS spokeswoman. http://www.chitowndailynews.org/Chicago_news/New_performance_policy_would_raise_bar_for_CPS_schools,29028
5. A CPS representative explaining the proposed policy stated that approximately 40% of CPS elementary schools and 60% of high schools are now on “probation” or level 3.
6. Proposed school performance, remediation and probation policy for the 2009-2010 school year. http://bubbleover.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/schoolclose.pdf
First, it is worth reminding people of the previous role played by Susan Neuman given her visibility in the new Bolder, Broader approach which is currently getting so much attention. And is critically important to remind people that at least some of those who advocated for No Child Left Behind did so because they saw it either as a means of decreasing legitimization of public schools and/or they wanted access to the public funds being spent on education in order to profit therefrom.
Second, the impact of NCLB in narrowing educational opportunities in arts, music,philophy, etc., for those schools with high poverty - when those schools are often the only access these students have to such things - is already ongoing. Similar impacts are now beginning to creep into middle class schools because of the financial crisis and the impact it has on school funding, which we should remember at the local level is heavily dependent upon real estate values that have plummeted as a result of the series of financial blows, including but not limited to the impact of subprime mortgages and securitizing of mortgage-backed assets. Tillett rightly points out how much we seem willing to bail out financial institutions that largely created the crisis - with the great assistance of those in government of both parties who abdicated responsibility for ensuring oversight and financial stability - while too many seem unwilling to cushion the blows affected on others, whether homeowners in trouble or local governments in crisis. Yes, ARRA helps some, but merely in holding part of the status quo ante, and not in addressing the damage already being done by NCLB.
It is important that voices that speak clearly - as parents and teachers - be included in the ongoing discussions about our schools and their future. And remember, the longer we delay addressing the critical issues before us, the more our future in the form of those students currently being deprived of a quality and complete education will suffer, now and in the future.
Studies have shown that teacher quality is the single most correlate of student achievement; at the same time, it is the primary factor driving the achievement gap between rich and poor students, minority and non-minority students, and native English speakers and English language learners.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Rendell administration Monday temporarily shelved plans to develop graduation competency exams for Pennsylvania high school students in hopes of making peace with legislative critics who felt the administration was moving too fast.
"Under the current circumstance and to allow the emerging consensus to develop, we will not spend funds for state-mandated graduation test development" under a seven-year contract signed last month, Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak said in a letter to ranking members of the House and Senate education committees.
Some lawmakers were upset last month when the department signed a contract with the Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corporation to develop the proposed Keystone Exams before they approved a testing method.
In last year's state budget, the Legislature included a provision barring the state Education Board from developing regulations to implement the exams through the June 30 end of the fiscal year.
Efforts to reach a compromise on the politically touchy subject were in progress when administration officials signed the contract, said Rep. James R. Roebuck, chairman of the House Education Committee.
"It served really to disrupt that entire process," the Philadelphia Democrat said. "It was as if they were in another world."
The proposed exams would be administered in grades nine through 12 to gauge students' progress in specific subjects and, pending federal approval, would replace the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests currently given in the 11th grade. School districts could continue to substitute their own tests, but they would require advance approval by the state, said department spokesman Michael Race . . . .
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
June 24, 2009By Kevin O'FlynnMOSCOW -- "Exams Are Over, The Problem Remains."
That was the message as a dozen teachers and high-school students braved cold, wet weather to gather in central Moscow last week to protest a recent initiative by Russian education officials.
The source of their discontent is the Unified State Exam, or yediny gosudarstvenny ekzamen (EGE), a new standardized test introduced in Russia for the first time this year.
Critics say the EGE is a poor measure of academic aptitude, and is already having a detrimental effect on learning in schools.
"Study in 11th class in any Russian school has become a mass preparation for the EGE," said Ilya, a high school history teacher who was leading last week's protests. "There is no education in 11th class anymore. All that the students think about is how they have to take the EGE. And all the teachers think about is how to ensure that the school gets good results."
The test, which is administered to students before they can graduate from high school, also ostensibly aids their placement in higher education institutes -- much like the SAT, formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, in the United States. . . .
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
. . . .Well, among those who also addressed the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools yesterday was the lead author of that Stanford University report, Kenneth Surratt. He is assistant director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford. He joins us also from Washington, DC.
And we’re joined by Bob Peterson, the founding editor of Rethinking Schools. He teaches fifth grade at a public school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, co-editor of the book Keeping the Promise?: The Debate over Charter Schools, joining us from Milwaukee.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Kenneth Surratt, let’s begin with you. Your major findings in this report?
KENNETH SURRATT: The major finding is that, on average, charter school students in the sixteen states that we looked at are performing a little bit below their traditional public school peers.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Bob Peterson, could you expand on that? Because that is definitely going against the grain of what most charter school—the charter school movement is telling the public.
BOB PETERSON: Yeah. I think it’s really important to see that, on page thirty-two of their report, they reported that black and Hispanic students scored significantly lower in charter schools, significantly lower than their counterparts in public schools. That’s just in math and reading.
I mean, there’s good charter schools, and there’s bad charter schools, just like there’s good public schools and bad public schools. The question is whether or not charter schools can be an engine for reform of public education. Obama and Duncan seem to think so. I’d completely disagree.
AMY GOODMAN: Kenneth Surratt, this report that you came out with, it was more being framed by Arne Duncan that there are some problem schools. But the fact that your report found that, on average, kids in these schools across the country are doing worse, isn’t this a major blow to the charter school movement?
KENNETH SURRATT: I don’t think so. One of the findings—we looked at over 2,400 schools within our study, and on average—and we did what we call a quality curve, and 46 percent of the charter schools are doing statistically insignificant differently than their traditional public school peers. Seventeen percent are outperforming. But the sobering part is that 37 percent are underperforming compared to their peers.
But, you know, what we feel is that charters, once they get back to this focus of the trade-off that they had for flexibility, for accountability, you know, and closing those underperforming schools and finding ways to replicate the higher-performing ones, that the movement could continue to grow.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Kenneth Surratt, I’d like to ask you about the mix of schools that you analyzed. I know you had numerous states. But it’s been my experience, at least with the charter school movement here in New York City, that most charter schools start out at the lowest grades. There are some high school, but most start out at kindergarten, first and second, and then build up. And those are generally the easiest grades to deal with. Not as many start at the intermediate or high school level, where you could really gauge whether a genuine substantive progress is being made. What is your—in your study, what was the mix between primary, intermediate and high schools that you looked at across the country?
KENNETH SURRATT: You know, I don’t have an exact breakdown of the number of schools in each one of those. But what made our analysis—we did look at performance at elementary, middle, high school and multi-level schools and found that actually elementary and middle schools were actually outperforming their traditional public school peers.
The way—the measure that we used is growth on their—each state’s test. And because testing is generally from third to eighth grade, so we can’t even really look at the schools who just have kindergarten through third grade, because we haven’t gotten a growth score on those yet.
AMY GOODMAN: Bob Peterson, talk overall about the growth of the public charter school movement, where it’s come from, who is behind it, and then how you’re organizing with public school teachers around the country.
BOB PETERSON: Yeah, the charter school movement started, I think, with very well-intended individuals who wanted to be free from what they considered bureaucracy and some rigid union contracts and that their core beliefs or their assumptions were that once they had that freedom, they would increase academic achievement and that they would be innovative and that, furthermore, that those lessons would be shared with the public schools. That just hasn’t been the case. There’s no state or district where charter school policies have really been transformative in that way. And that, in fact, is why we need a public education. In a democracy, we have to service all kids. And oftentimes we find in charter schools there is some picking and selecting of children through rigorous or complicated application forms, and so on and so forth.
The other thing that’s really important to keep in mind is that while the charter school movement includes some very well-intended individuals and some quality schools, it’s also become a favorite of conservative forces and conservative foundations that have really championed charterizing and the marketizing, as I say, the whole public sphere of public education. And so, they would like to see more private control of schools, less union, quote, “interference.” And it’s a very disconcerting problem, because those of us who have the interests of all kids at heart know that there’s inherent problems in a market solution.
And so, what we really need to do is to challenge this notion that the charters are the engine of reform. There are a lot of different ways that schools can be reformed. There’s no silver bullet. But it’s not—unfortunately, it’s not the charter movement, which apparently Obama and Duncan have seen fit to say is the silver bullet.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Arne Duncan, his background in Chicago?
BOB PETERSON: Yeah, Arne Duncan, we did a cover story in our Rethinking Schools magazine, “The Duncan Myth,” just in our spring issue. And Duncan was basically the CEO, as they’re called, of the Chicago school system. He championed—he worked with the mayor, of course, and in fact he says that he’s for mayoral control of many school districts—in my mind, an anti-democratic tendency, if we’ve ever seen one.
He did a number of things. His claim to fame was really closing down schools that didn’t work, although, in the process, he alienated huge swaths of the community in Chicago. There were supposed to be public hearings, which he never attended. I mean, there were hearings, but he didn’t go, his people didn’t go. And these number—over twenty schools were closed down and then reopened up under a plan of Renaissance 2010. The problem is, a lot of the neighborhood kids who were served by these schools, whose parents wanted them to stay open, were excluded through a variety of means in the new schools that opened up, the more boutique charter schools that sometimes occur throughout this country.
The question—and the other thing that he did that’s of interest to many of your viewers, I’m sure, is that he opened up five military academies, schools, and expanded the ROTC program in middle school or junior high school, something which some of us have some serious concerns about, whether or not that should be how we channel students through the public schools.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, then come back to this discussion. We’re talking to Bob Peterson, founding editor of Rethinking Schools, fifth grade teacher at a public school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And we’re joined by one of the lead authors of the Stanford University report “Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States,” that Education Secretary Arne Duncan cited yesterday in his meeting with schools around the country, Kenneth Surratt, assistant director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: In a few minutes, we’re going to be talking about the censorship of the internet in Iran and the European companies that are providing the technology for that, well, there in Iran and here at home in the United States. Then we’re going to look at the Guantanamo prisoners, the Uyghurs, and a video that just has come out showing one of those prisoners, who has been held for years at Guantanamo, was tortured by al-Qaeda and held by the Taliban for a year and a half, before being held at Guantanamo.
But we’re continuing now on charter schools. Kenneth Surratt with us, assistant director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, just came out with a big report, “Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States.” And Bob Peterson, a fifth grade teacher in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, founding editor of Rethinking Schools. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Kenneth Surratt, I’d like to ask you again about your study. Again, my experience in reporting on the charter school movement here in New York City is that the charters tend to have far fewer percentages, compared to the public schools, of special education children or children—immigrant children, perhaps—who are limited English proficient. I’m wondering if, in your study of other states around the country, you found a similar situation that may, to some degree, skew the actual performance, the achievement levels, of the students in those charter schools?
KENNETH SURRATT: Actually, our study found that students with special needs in the charter schools are outperforming their peers in math and on par with their traditional public school peers in reading. English language learners, we actually found, are doing better than their traditional public school peers in both reading and math at significant levels.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But are the percentages in the charters comparable to those in the public school systems from which they come?
KENNETH SURRATT: You know, I think it varies state by state. In each location that we looked at, I believe there were some that were higher. Most were about on par. But I didn’t see a significant difference in any of the states that we looked at.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Bob Peterson, I’d like ask you, in terms of the fact that most charter schools are also nonprofit—run by nonprofit organizations and can bring in foundation and other funding, I found increasing problems in disparities in the pay scales of the directors of these nonprofits, much higher salaries than your normal public school principals would have. I’m wondering, your concern about the accountability factor of these charters, since they are not directly controlled by the local public school system?
BOB PETERSON: I agree. There’s real accountability factors.
And I just want to go back to the special needs issue. I mean, if you look at the Stanford report on Illinois, for example, 15 percent is the average number of special needs students in public schools, and only ten percent in the charter schools. Now, that actually is significant. And it’s not just a matter of how well those students are doing; it’s the impact on the classroom teacher. I’ve taught for nearly thirty years. I know the difference between having just a few special needs children in a classroom and having a lot more. And we find this in Milwaukee, too, where not only the charter schools, but we have a publicly funded private voucher program, which have very few special needs kids. And the concern I have is that we’re setting up a two-tier system, where there is the most difficult-to-educate kids, a higher percentage of special needs, English language learners, kids who are counseled out of charter schools and voucher schools because of discipline problems—they end up in the public schools, where there’s a self-selected group in the charter schools. That’s not right.
We should really hold public charter schools—coming back to your question about accountable—to serving the children of all families in our district and having transparency, so we know when kids are being counseled out, when kids are basically being kicked out of schools. Just, we should not have charter schools emulate some of the worst aspects of public schools, because in some public schools there are admissions standards, there’s basically discrimination, not full access towards the kids who need it most. We should be trying to reverse that trend, not accentuate it by promoting these kind of charter school solutions.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there, but we’ll continue, certainly, to follow this issue. Bob Peterson, founding editor of Rethinking Schools, teacher of fifth graders at a public school in Milwaukee, co-edited the book Keeping the Promise?: The Debate over Charter Schools. And in Washington, DC, where the big public school—public charter school conference took place yesterday with the Education Secretary Duncan, is Kenneth Surratt, assistant director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, co-author of “Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States.”
Arne Duncan is now busy rebranding the law because the name apparently has become "toxic." Perhaps he should call Karl Rove to find a new name to push through the new version of NCLB on steroids. This way the public might never notice that it's the same old failed policy.
There's a contest to come up with a new name for the law - hmmm... this should be fun.
Arne Duncan is determined to take us back to an era when the United States was the leader in the global economy. The problem is he just rode in to Washington on the same Trojan horse that Bush and Spellings left behind. If he would stop talking for five minutes and start listening, he might come to realize the gig is up. The image and the reality have become intolerably wide.
I couldn't help but laughing out loud as I read this story from the Washington Post about the little red schoolhouse being removed from the Department of Education because of its symbolism. If the entire thing wasn't so sad, and if the devastation to public school education, the teaching profession and students wasn't so great - this would be quite funny.
The Obama administration has made clear that it is putting its own stamp on education reform. That will mean a new name and image for a law that has grown unpopular with many teachers and suburban parents, even though it was enacted with bipartisan support in Congress."It's like the new Coke.
This is a rebranding effort," said Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. "The feng shui people believe you need to take the roof off buildings to allow bad chi to escape. Let's hope this helps.
"The 2002 law dramatically expanded the federal role in public schools. It mandates math and reading testing for millions of students and penalizes schools with too many youngsters who fail those exams.During his run for office, President Obama said he wanted to change the law to do more to help schools, "rather than punishing them."
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called the law's name "toxic.
"Toxic or not, is No Child Left Behind headed for extinction? Lawmakers have yet to tackle an overhaul, and Duncan has not offered specifics on how he would like to see the law revamped.
But the administration has said it will not back down from testing students or holding schools accountable. Duncan has said he wants even higher standards that measure U.S. students against peers worldwide. But he said states and schools should have more flexibility in achieving goals.
Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said Duncan sometimes sounds a lot like former Bush education secretary Margaret Spellings.
Like Spellings, Duncan has been promoting charter schools and merit pay for teachers."Other than kind of the aesthetics of it, it's not clear the schoolhouse represents anything more substantial," Hess said.One thing is clear: Federal education law will soon have a new name.
"Non-charter schools that provide space for expanding charters may include the charter school's test scores in their calculations of adequate yearly progress to meet state accountability objectives for annual growth."DFER treats test scores as a tradable commodity - a commodity that can further spread charter chains. And what if the charter school's test scores would bring down the AYP of the existing school? I have no idea if this bargain has been tried in the past. The "super-charter" idea proposed by DFER would benefit tremendously from this trade-off: the corporate charter movement desperately needs space - and those pesky public schools are occupying prime real estate.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Dunc will now call for strict accountablility, it seems, but, per usual, he offers no clue, cash, or, otherwise, vague hint for how such a plan for oversight or accountability might work. Oh yes, I forgot, too many details on oversight or accountability might cripple the entrepreneurial spirit that is driving the charter innovation and plutocratic inspired pedagogy further and furhter, it would seem, into bygone eras.
The relevant parts:
. . . .The Stanford study, by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, used student achievement data from 15 states and the District of Columbia to gauge whether students who attended charter schools had fared better than they would if they had attended a traditional public school.
“The study reveals that a decent fraction of charter schools, 17 percent, provide superior education opportunities for their students,” the report says. “Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options, and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their students would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.”
Reports on charter schools often arouse impassioned debates, because charter schools in some cities have drawn millions of dollars in taxpayer money away from traditional public schools, and because many operate with nonunion teachers. The Stanford study was no exception; some charter school advocates asserted that it was slanted to favor traditional public schools.
Nelson Smith, president of the charter school alliance, said that the authors of the Stanford study could have phrased their findings more positively, with no loss of accuracy, but that he considered the center a “very credible outfit” and its director, Margaret Raymond, “an esteemed researcher.” . . . .
It is widely agreed that the U.S. should: raise academic standards, in-line with global economic demands for a college-educated, high-tech workforce; move toward a system of common standards across states; and improve academic assessments so that they rely less on multiple choice or "fill-in-the-bubble" questions and tap a broader range of student knowledge and skills.DFER has defined a quality education as one that prepares workers for the "global economic demands for a college-educated, high-tech workforce"(p.3). This is a pretty bold statement that is not supported by any data. The myth that we'll one day all be working as symbolic analysts is exactly that: a myth. I'm not arguing against high standards or teaching students how to use technology; but to suggest we need high standards because of the global economy is not only a lie, but it is a lie that is used to justify more testing and a narrower curriculum. Defining a solid education as one that prepares workers for a global economy is a hallmark feature of the neoliberal reform movement. Once again, democracy is subjugated to the global economy and corporate interests.