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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Turning “Collaboration” Into a Bad Word

Author's Note: This post was originally posted April 12, 2015. It is being reposted in light of the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers and United Federation of Teachers supporting a corporate education reformer for New York State Education Commissioner. 
The president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten, offered tempered praise, saying in a statement that while the union was “opposed to high-stakes testing” and grading teachers on students’ test performance, “even when MaryEllen applied it as required under Florida law, she made collaboration her mantra.” - MaryEllen Elia Named New York State Education Commissioner | The New York Times - May 26, 2015
Randi Weingarten and Bill Gates at the 2010 convention of the American Federation of teachers.

The disastrous budget that Governor Cuomo has achieved in New York deepens the attack on teachers and public education. Among its many regressive measures, the budget includes evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores. This is despite the American Statistical Association estimating that teachers affect test scores by a factor of 1% to 14% , and that evaluating teachers by scores may actually reduce quality.
The development of a national teacher evaluation system based on standardized tests has been the ten-yeargoal of The Gates Foundation and The Broad Foundation. Gates wants to bring the data crunching of computer technology to create an automated system for ranking teachers and schools in order to create a two-tier system of education basically based on class differences. Broad wants to bring his business acumen to education, and like a businessman engaged in a hostile takeover, reorganize public education to be more efficient with the ultimate aim of privatizing public education, using taxpayer dollars, for private profit.
This hostile takeover of public education by corporate education reform is unfolding year-by-year, month-by-month. It is based on the economic theories of rightwing economist Milton Friedman. His vision for privatizing education can be seen in this 1995 paper written by him. For understanding of the consequences of Friedman’s economic agenda see Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein.
How has corporate education reform been able to advance its privatization agenda with little resistance? How can a program based on private profit over the common good be sold to the public despite the vast number of people opposed to this agenda?
The growing Opt Out movement, mainly lead by parents, is the first sign of the growing opposition to the corporate agenda. After a year of being ignored by the corporate media, the Opt Out movement is gaining national attention, much to the dismay of education officials who have signed on to the corporate agenda.
The national leadership of the teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, have mouthed verbal support for Opting Out, but they have not put financial or organizational effort into the cause.
A clue to why this is so can be found in a video of a conference of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute held on February 5, 2015. The conference was a series of panels from researchers supporting corporate education reform. 
The conference can be viewed at this video. (The video is more than four hours long and should be downloaded even if you do not have time to view all of it right now.)
A centerpiece of the discussions was the document “Singing from the Same Hymnbook”: Education Policy Advocacy at Gates and Broad. This paper is by Sarah Reckhow of Michigan State University and Megan Tompkins-Stange of the University of Michigan.
 Ms. Reckhow can be viewed at the AEI conference video talking about their paper starting at 16:00 - 27:30.
The “Singing from the Same Hymnbook” paper explains why the leadership of the AFT has been missing in action in the Opt Out movement. On page 12 they detail how the corporate education reformers are deeply embedded in the U. S. Department of Education under Arne Duncan. This is followed by a description of AFT President Randi Weingarten’s collaboration with them to create a teacher evaluation system based on standardized testing.  
What follows is an extended excerpt (pages 17 - 19) from “Singing from the Handbook” about Weingarten's collaboration with the Gates and Broad Foundations to create a teacher evaluation system based on standardized tests.
(Boldface added)
Overall, a pattern emerged wherein Gates and Broad increased advocacy grant funding to groups that gave frequent testimony—defined as three or more appearances before Congress from 2000 to 2012. Advocacy grant dollars to these groups grew by more than $12 million from 2005 to 2010—well above the overall growth in funding for national advocacy groups. The overall increase in national advocacy funding from Gates and Broad was 140 percent from 2005 to 2010, while the funding to those who gave frequent testimony (included in Table 1, page 16) increased by tenfold. This funding growth supports new actors, like The New Teacher Project, as well as the establishment groups, like the NEA and AFT. This suggests that Gates and Broad were pursuing a two-pronged funding strategy: diversifying the voices in the debate and extending ties to the education establishment.
 Yet support for an organization that delivers testimony is not direct evidence of alignment with the foundation’ s agenda priorities. In some cases, increased grant support was channeled to organizations that had already shown support for reforms such as using standardized tests to evaluate teachers or implementing performance pay systems. For example, The New Teacher Project (Editor’s Note: which was at one time headed by Michelle Rhee) released “ The Widget Effect” report in 2009, supporting a major overhaul of teacher evaluation; since 2009, the Gates Foundation has committed $13.5 million in grants to The New Teacher Project. Representatives from The New Teacher Project testified before Congress in 2009, 2010, and 2012. Meanwhile, the president of the Center for American Progress, John Podesta, testified twice in 2007 in support of linking teacher compensation to evaluation systems. The Broad Foundation began funding the Center for American Progress in 2007 and has since continuously supported the Center for American Progress with almost $1 million in grants, including three grants focused on teacher incentives or pay for performance. Meanwhile, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has not been traditionally associated with vocal support for overhauling teacher evaluation or linking evaluations to high stakes personnel decisions. In 2010, the Gates Foundation funded the AFT to support teacher development and evaluation programs. Also in 2010, AFT president Randi Weingarten provided Congressional testimony that was relatively supportive of a new approach to teacher evaluation. (Editor’s Note: According to Table 1 on page 16 in this report, Weingarten testified before Congress on teacher quality three times in 2010 and the AFT received $2.4 million from Gates and Broad in 2010.) Weingarten testified in favor of evaluation systems that include inputs and outputs—with outputs including test data. Moreover, her written testimony included the following:
We know that a natural outgrowth of teacher evaluation systems will be differentiated compensation systems. We know from the first-hand experience of our affiliates that differentiated compensation systems developed and implemented with the full support and collaboration of teachers can succeed. 
Weingarten remained strongly committed to the collective bargaining process, but she also signaled a willingness to negotiate pay for performance systems. Weingarten’ s fellow panelists at the hearing were eager to note their alignment with the union leader. For example, Tim Daly of The New Teacher Project observed, “ Secretary Duncan and some of my fellow panelists, including Randi Weingarten, are among those calling for more rigorous evaluation systems that recognize these differences.”
Shortly after Daly’ s testimony, Professor Thomas Kane of Harvard University (and lead researcher on the Gates-funded Measures of Effective Teaching project), commented on Weingarten’ s cooperation with Measures of Effective Teaching: “ Randi Weingarten deserves a lot of credit for supporting that effort, even when it was not easy.”
 Thus, the content of the Congressional testimony suggests that organizations appearing frequently before Congress and receiving foundation funds often provided aligned recommendations and perspectives on the issue of teacher quality—views that also aligned with Gates’ and Broad’s priorities.
Month by month, year by year the conditions in the public schools are being eroded - and it is not only in New York under Cuomo. This is the result of the deliberate policy of starve the public schools, feed the charters in order to advance the privatization agenda while using standardized test scores to close or turnaround schools to charters in low income areas.
The hubris and aggressiveness of the corporate education reformers is because they know there will not be an organized and determined fight against their privatization agenda. This collaboration has been going on for a long time. They know that (unknown to their members), not only is the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers standing down from what a union is supposed to be, they are collaborating with the corporate education reformers.
Also see:
Randi Weingarten: Sleight of Hand Artist - Part 1
Defend Public Education  - April 19, 2015
Randi Weingarten: Sleight of Hand Artist - Part 2
Defend Public Education - April 22, 2015
The odd thing Arne Duncan told Congress
The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post - April 14, 2015
Arne Duncan says, "I didn't say that!" 
Weingarten regrets supporting Cuomo's running mate
Capital - May 2, 2015
Called out on her support for Cuomo's running mate Kathy Hochul, Randi Weingarten expresses regret but wants more collaboration. 
Kathy Hochul: Best Way to Support Public Schools Is By Taking Money From Them, Giving It To Private Schools and Charters - Perdido Street School - May 22, 2015
"This is the same Kathy Hochul that AFT President Randi Weingarten robocalled for during the Democratic primary, claiming she was an excellent advocate for public schools." 
Corinthian Colleges Secretly Funded D.C. Think Tanks, Dark Money Election Efforts
The Intercept - May 4, 2015
"Another gainful employment regulation opponent, the American Enterprise Institute, is listed as a Corinthian creditor. AEI scholars have repeatedly attacked rules, calling them as example of the Obama administration's "crusade against for-profit colleges." Last October Andrew Kelly, AEI's resident scholar on higher education education reform, specifically defended Corinthian and criticized the "Obama administration's bloodlust for such schools."
Who to believe among "experts" on teacher evaluation at Albany Summit on teacher evaluations?

NYC Public School Parents - May 7, 2015
Long-time ties between NYSED Commish Elia, Gates and AFT

Ed Notes Online - May 28, 2015

Cuomo's misguided teacher evaluation plan
lohud - June 5, 2015
A report that NY's teacher evaluation was developed by Thomas Kane, director of Measures of Effective Teaching project for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation between 2009 and 2012.

Hillary's Teacher PAC
Curmudgucation - June 5, 2015
More evidence of Randi Weingarten collaboration with corporate education reform. 

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