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

Monday, December 21, 2009

ROTT: Arne Duncan's "Moon Shot" Turns into a Scud Attack

The education deformers' lapdog, Arne Duncan, has sent Newt and Rev Sharpton home for the holidays, and all is quiet around Washington except for the continued quiet counting of health industry dollars in the back rooms of the Senate Building. Even so, Duncan's inspiring rhetoric regarding his Race Over the Top (ROTT) still rings out in the messages from political prostitutes like Governor Phil Bredesen, who has called for a special one week session of the Tennessee Legislature in early January to change state law to force teacher pay and tenure to be decided by a test score.

If Tennessee lawmakers bow to the Governor's brass-knuckled tactics, it will constitute an act that defies the best scientific evidence and advice regarding the Oligarchs' unproven and reckless strategy that has almost no backing among most everyone who knows anything about schooling. Today's Ed Week piece announces, yet, another smackdown for the irresponsible, unethical, and grossly underfunded moon shot that looks every day more like a reckless Scud attack:

A Washington research group is raising questions about the wisdom of the U.S. Department of Education’s favored strategies for turning around the lowest-performing schools with stimulus funding, saying that its research shows that similar federal approaches to school restructuring have not been effective.

The questions raised by the new study were on the agenda last week as the Center on Education Policy , which issued the report, hosted a forum on its findings that included a top Education Department official. . . .
Bredesen, like many other governors hungry for cash, pushes on. From the CityPaper:
. . . .Last week, Bredesen called a surprise seven-day special session of the legislature beginning Jan. 12 to adopt this sweeping change. If lawmakers refuse to go along, the governor warns, the state will blow its opportunity to cash in on up to $400 million in federal economic stimulus money in the Race to the Top competition.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls it “education reform’s moon shot.” Across America, state governments are scrambling to make reforms to qualify for shares of the $4 billion available. The deadline for entries from the states is Jan. 19, the last day of the special session.
Yes, the moon shot--Arne's $4.3 billion moon shot. The real moon shot cost $25 billion in 1969 dollars, which means that in 2005 dollars, it would cost $135 billion--which is $565 billion less than the Wall Street Shot that was launched in 2008. Looks more like a mooning than a moon shot, Arne.

Obama’s initiative, Bredesen said, “has made the stars line up to create some opportunities that no one has really expected. I have a little sign on my desk. It says ‘carpe diem’ — seize the day — and that’s what I’m trying to do here with education. … There is a lot at stake here.”

Pulled in two directions

Bredesen’s high-pressure gambit — giving lawmakers one week to act, with hundreds of millions of dollars on the line — puts the statewide teachers’ union, the Tennessee Education Association, in a nearly impossible position. Either the TEA caves and accepts legislation that’s anathema to much of its membership, or the union could look like the villain in the loss of federal aid.

Teachers are complaining about strong-arm tactics from the White House all the way down to the governor’s office. On its Web site, the TEA is asking its members to complain to their state legislators. Lawmakers are themselves grousing over the speed of the special session.

The crux of the controversy is how much weight should be given to student test scores in evaluating the performance of teachers.

. . . .

The governor insists, therefore, that tests should be made the largest factor in tenure decisions and teacher evaluations. The TEA says that’s unfair and would force teachers to “teach to the test” — that is, restrict instruction to the subject matter that’s going to be tested, at the expense of all the other things students need to know. The Obama administration’s guidelines for the stimulus money are vague, asking only that tests play a significant role.

Governor plays tough

“I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say it’s heavy-handed,” TEA lobbyist Jerry Winters said of Bredesen’s call for expedited new legislation. “It’s really a lot of pressure. … Our position is we can’t sell our souls in this process. If there are some changes that we can make that will make the state eligible for $400 million, we don’t want to be viewed as the obstructionist in that process. But on the other hand, we can’t throw our members under the bus. I firmly believe that’s it’s totally unfair to take one test score, one snapshot, and base a teacher’s future on that one particular day.” . . . .

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