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

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Duncan Sacrifices Student Welfare to Preserve Corporate Agenda

During the summer of 2001, as NCLB was moving toward its final mark-up, testing experts were waving a red flag over the 100 percent testing proficiency target for 2014. Thomas Kane and Douglas Staiger published their red flag as an op-ed in the New York Times that pointed to what was about to happen if the bill proceeded with the the insane proficiency target intact--the poorest schools and the most diverse schools would receive the most punishment before anyone else.
Both [Senate and House] bills would be particularly harsh on racially diverse schools. Each school would be expected to achieve not only an increase in test scores for the school as a whole, but increases for each and every racial or ethnic group as well. Because each group's scores fluctuate depending upon the particular students being tested each year, it is rare to see every group's performance moving upward in the same year. Black and Latino students are more likely than white students to be enrolled in highly diverse schools, so their schools would be more likely than others to be arbitrarily disrupted by a poorly designed formula.
What Kane and Staiger could not see was that, in the black hearts of Washington ideologues, their prime motivation was disruption of public schools, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable.  Kane and Staiger didn't know those crafting the bill wanted to blow up public education and replace it with "market solutions."  They didn't know a cruel calculus and crude algorithm had been designed to prove the failure of the public schools, and it had been planted in NCLB and then covered over with the civil rights banner of leaving no child behind.  Truly a Satanic level of cynicism.

Staiger and Kane concluded:
In their current bills, the House and Senate have set a very high bar, so high that it is likely that virtually all school systems would be found to be inadequate, with many schools failing. And if that happens, the worst schools would be lost in the crowd. The resources and energy required to reform them would probably be dissipated. For these schools, a poorly designed federal rule can be worse than no rule at all. 
Needless to say, the warnings were ignored and NCLB was quickly approved in the wake of 9-11. 

And it worked like a charm.  By the time Barack Obama was elected in 2008, half of America's public schools were not making testing proficiency targets, and the mass conversion of the poorest urban schools to corporate charters was well underway.  Private tutoring companies were raking in billions, and Reading First contracts were funneling billions more to McGraw-Hill and Pearson.

To maintain the momentum of corporate takeover and to expand profitability into the technology sectors, Duncan/Gates devised a plan of extortion and bribery that would move states to sign on to new federal mandates in order to avoid the certain failure that was headed their way by 2014 if they did not.  Race to the Top offered would offer more money to states left desperate following the 2008 Crash, but to get the money, states had to sign on to Common Core (with online testing), removal of charter school caps that would allow accelerated expansion of charters, and value added test-based teacher evaluations that would be used to run off all those real teachers who refused to have the worth of their profession determined by a gain score from a junk test. 

There was a problem, however.  The National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences had issued, what's that!, another red flag, this time about using value-added test scores for high stakes purposes.  In fact, they wrote a 17 page letter during the RTTT pre-approval comment period to Arne Duncan stating the folly of using value added for high stakes purposes.  That was in the Fall of 2009.  Gates/Duncan proceeded without blinking, just as the Bush Gang had in the Fall of 2001when NCLB was ready for launch. 

In the Spring 2014, this fateful year for those who did not respond to the extortion and bribery by Duncan/Gates, the American Statistical Association underscored the NRC and NAS conclusions from 2009, with its own blistering appraisal of the continued use of value added testing for high stakes purposes.  This time Duncan/Gates responded by simply saying the scientists were wrong.

Which brings us the New York Times article today about what is going on in the state of Washington, where legislators have defied the the extortion and bribery schemes to expand the corporate takeover of public education. In doing so, they have awakened the insane proficiency mandates of NCLB, which remains in effect for those who will not go along with value-added test based teacher evaluations.  Here's a clip:
SEATTLE — Three years ago, Lakeridge Elementary School, where most pupils come from lower-income families, was totally remade. A new principal arrived and replaced half the staff, and she lengthened the school day and year. Working with a $3 million federal grant, the staff collaborated with the University of Washington to train teachers in new instructional techniques. The results were powerful: Test scores soared.

Yet just before school resumed for this fall, Lakeridge learned that it had been declared a failing school under federal education law.

In fact, nearly nine in 10 Washington State public schools, including some high-achieving campuses in the state’s most moneyed communities, have been relegated to a federal blacklist of failure, requiring them to set aside 20 percent of their federal funding for private tutoring or to transport students to schools not on the failing list, if parents wish.

The schools in Washington are caught in the political crossfire of a battle over education policy. Because the State Legislature has refused to require that teacher evaluations be based in part on student test scores, schools are being held to an outdated benchmark that is all but impossible to achieve — that by 2014, every single student would be proficient in reading and math. Thousands of schools in California, Iowa, North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming have also been declared failing for the same reason. . . .
Gates/Duncan remain unmoved by the millions of students being cheated as a result of insane federal rules that are written to benefit corporations:
Mr. Duncan said he wanted states . . . to use student test performance as one of several measures to rate teachers. “The goal of teaching is students learning,” he said. “And this is a piece of evaluating what students are learning.”
Got that?  I close with a clip from the most recent reminder from the ASA to Duncan/Gates of the unethical, unreliable, and invalid use for which they insist on using to turn children into test scores for the benefit of the Oligarchs.

·      VAMs are generally based on standardized test scores, and do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes.
·      VAMs typically measure correlation, not causation: Effects – positive or negative – attributed to a teacher may actually be caused by other factors that are not captured in the model.
·      Under some conditions, VAM scores and rankings can change substantially when a different model or test is used, and a thorough analysis should be undertaken to evaluate the sensitivity of estimates to different models.
·      VAMs should be viewed within the context of quality improvement, which distinguishes aspects of quality that can be attributed to the system from those that can be attributed to individual teachers, teacher preparation programs, or schools.
·      Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.

1 comment:

  1. nice reminder of the history that has led to this insanity. few were willing to talk about what was in this law and fewer read the legislation, If anyone did, however, and their were many, most people would know how destructive, stupid and ridiculous it was. good teachers will flock to places like Washington where legislators begin to put an end to this madness. the parents will have to stand with teachers to protect their children and slowly but surely they are