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

Friday, December 04, 2015

The NPE/Fairtest Machine: Culpability High, Credibility Low, Part 1

The last minute flip-flop is a tactic favored by politicians whose allegiances and/or debts cannot be shared among supporters who have been led to believe a narrative that is anything but true.

When Hillary Clinton, for instance, was Secretary of State and even months after, she remained ostensibly on the fence about the TPP, which will likely to become this generation's equivalent to the toxic NAFTA.  When TPP negotiations were completed and passage was inevitable, Clinton came out strongly against it, thus satisfying her multinational corporate donors while pretending to side with workers here and abroad.  She played the same game with the Keystone pipeline.

On a much smaller scale, Ravitch and her NPE have done something very similar around the ESEA/ESSA/ECCA issue.

It started back in April of this year, when Ravitch offered her unequivocal support for the Senate version with this:
One may quibble with details, but the bottom line is that this bill defangs the U.S. Department of Education; it no longer will exert control over every school with mandates. This bill strips the status quo of federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators. . . .This is a far better bill than I had hoped or feared.
Of course, none of that was true, except for the fact that Ravitch was on board the Lamar Alexander privatization train barreling toward passage of a more damaging version of NCLB. Lamar has been at it for so long that anyone with Ravitch's history knows where his priorities are.

Defanging of ED?  I think not. What the Feds have done is allow the charter industry to write most of this ESEA update and the corporate foundations to write the rest. The result is a states rights version of ESEA, which, as Gary Orfield has noted, will "set the country back by more than a half century." 

Meanwhile, the Feds, who have spent $3.3 billion on charters over the past two decades, will escalate the handouts to the segregating charter industry for new and established "no excuses" charters to buy everything from real estate to scantron machines:
Along with incentivizing more charters comes an ECAA treasure chest of discretionary grant opportunities that will now be open to states, municipalities, and other "state entities."  Under the new ECAA, federal money will go directly from Congress to the states or to another "state entity," which now may include a "state charter school board" or even a "charter school support organization."

The new ESEA, if approved, will further erase the boundaries between corporations and government, and the main job of the USDOE will be to service the applications for assistance for charter school expansion, charter school facilities, training of charter school teachers and administrators, incentivizing test-heavy merit pay plans, and other corporate "innovations" aimed to privatize public schools and to further diminish the profession of teaching. 
Even without passage of the Escalating Charter Compensation Act (ECCA) the new ESEA, ED will increase its funding to charter schools by 48 percent in 2016--to a whopping $375 million per year.  Even so, the charter industry is pressing for $500 million per year next year.  If ESEA passes, that number will look look small potatoes.

So while the Feds at ED have been de-fanged in terms of regulation and oversight for segregated charters and the corporate teacher education that they will fund over the coming years, the budgets at ED, with the passage of ESEA, will remain overflowing with education privatization dollars that will go to any outfit waving a charter school flag.

But surely, at least, Ravitch must be right that the new ESEA will strip "federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators."  Yes?  Once again, not true.

In fact, annual mandated testing will continue unabated.  Even though Monty Neill, now acting as front man for Ravitch, argues that AYP and sanctions have been eliminated, this is not accurate.  

The 5 percent rule, however, remains a central privatization tool in the new ESEA, which means that the bottom five percent of test-scoring schools, i. e., the poorest schools, must be targeted for turnaround each year.  And with a new bottom 5 percent guaranteed in perpetuity (or until all schools have been privatized), tell me again that sanctions have been eliminated.  

Obfuscation, dissembling, and lies.

Stay tuned for Part 2.


  1. Link 1
    FairTest's current projects include the following:
    Working with other groups in Testing Resistance and Reform Spring to help local activist builds their campaigns and link up with one another.
    Leading the national Forum on Educational Accountability, which seeks to overhaul the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind and related programs.

    FairTest is grateful for support from the Open Society Foundations, Bay and Paul Foundations, Schott Foundation, New World Foundation, Wiener Educational Foundation, National Education Association, other organizations, and many individual donors.

    Link 2
    FEA Recommendations for Successful School Turnaround Efforts
    See the FEA statement, "A Research- and Experience-Based Turnaround Process," that focuses on flexible local use of elements common to school improvement, and that Congress should include in ESEA/NCLB reauthorization.
    See Ratner and Neill, "Common Elements of Successful Turnarounds: Research and Experience," for analysis and summary of research on successfully improving schools.

    Link 3
    May 14, 2010
    Common Elements of Successful School Turnarounds: Research and Experience
    Gary Ratner, Esq., Executive Director, Citizens for Effective Schools, with Monty Neill, Ed. D., Interim
    Executive Director, FairTest

    D. Replacement Non-Participatory and Ineffective Teachers with Motivated, Capable Teachers –
    Principals closely observe teachers in their classrooms, help them improve their teaching and encourage them
    to collaborate with other teachers. Teachers who are not motivated to participate in the school‟s turnaround
    efforts frequently leave voluntarily to avoid close scrutiny; if not, and they are persistently ineffective, they
    must be removed.xv
    Schools seek capable teachers who want to participate in the school‟s reform.xvi

    Link 4
    (Monty's coauthor on the Turnaround paper above is the director of this group)
    Citizens for Effective Schools, Inc. (CES) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization of citizens committed to attaining the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) goal of academic proficiency for virtually all public school students, regardless of race, ethnicity or income. CES supports conditioning provision of federal funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (currently called "NCLB") on states' and localities': adopting high standards; conducting regular testing; disaggregating results for student subgroups; and publicly reporting results for each school.

  2. (Emily Talmage's Blog - highlights, but you should read the whole short thing. It includes the quotes and links references.)

    More on FairTest and Why You Should Call Your Legislators TODAY
    First, let me be clear that no, I do not know Monty Neill or Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, and I trust those who tell me that they are both firmly dedicated to education and our students.
    I know that unbeknownst to many of us, two distinct Opt-Out movements have grown up side by side.

    One is true grassroots – the parents, teachers, and students who have had enough of corporate education reform, and who see opting out as a way to protest the usurpation of our schools
    The other is what I will call “Corporate Opt Out” – the opt out movement quietly encouraged by groups like the Education Commission of the States, next-gen ed reform masterminds like Tom Vander Ark, as well as the very testing companies that have already sold their “summative testing” branches to focus on the impending shift to embedded, competency-based assessment.

    Corporate Opt Out has skillfully positioned the impending ESEA rewrites as a response to the voices of the people, who are worn down by years of NCLB-era reforms.
    But this is not what the ESEA rewrites are. They have been planned and pre-cooked behind the scenes by the very industries we seek to protest against.

    Somehow, whether intentionally or not, FairTest has become allied with Corporate Opt Out.
    They have signaled this not only through their advocacy of the ESEA rewrites, but also through their work behind the scenes as part of the Forum for Educational Accountability.

    Now see this, from FairTest’s annotated bibliography:
    “Many states are working on performance assessments; some have included performance items as part of statewide exams. The Council of Chief State School Officers has a number of interstate consortia working on performance assessments, and they can put you in touch with states developing performance assessments, such as Vermont (portfolio assessments), Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Maine (performance exams).”