The Slippery Slope of Standards-Based Education

The Standoff in Idaho Over Science Standards Reveals The Slippery Slope of Standards-Based Education

Co-authored by Idahoans Mary Ollie, Mila Woods, and Victoria M. Young

The uproar over Idaho’s proposed science standards is a grand demonstration of ideology blinding us to our reality. And the push for headlines and sound bites trumped technical aspects of standards design. The process became an exercise in frustration that could easily have been avoided by making a distinction between a standard – what students should know and do— and content— what is taught.

The art and science behind writing standards matters also.

Why is the difference important? At the beginning of the standards-based education craze, Idahoans were sold on the idea of “Standards of Excellence” (then known as “exiting” standards).

The promise was that state standards would not infringe on local control of curriculum (subject content and how it is taught). State standards were to serve as minimum educational requirements, not an all-encompassing system of control.

Due to lack of legislative and administrative oversight and accountability, the outcome-based (standards) movement spawned a series of word changes that has gradually closed the door on local control.

“Exiting” standards became “achievement” standards (corresponding to the foundation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB)) and were eventually labeled in Idaho Code as Idaho “Content” Standards. With our focus on federal NCLB overreach, we couldn’t see our own State overstepping their bounds through a flawed administrative rule approval process.

Why is this discrepancy between standards and content just now surfacing? Only the proposed science standards contain language that clearly describes content. Idaho “Content” Standards for other disciplines do not include supporting content. They are a set of performance targets — true standards.

Our 2017 proposed administrative rules for the science standards included supporting content. That inclusion is problematic. That’s where the discussion went south.

Think before you step on the slippery slope.

Supporting content does not belong in a legislated standards document. Legislative overreach occurred. And lacking an understanding of the nuances of standards and content, state and local control, and a proper process for standards development, the public couldn’t adequately sort out and debate the topic—or see the truth.

The reality? The Idaho Legislature did not reject five science “standards.” Only one performance standard was rejected. Four of the items were supporting content. They went beyond being just a standard. Content was at the heart of the controversy.

Scientific knowledge is ever-changing. What we know today may change tomorrow.

Education content should not be subjected to our politicized lawmaking process.
A state entity defining supporting content is micromanaging education. The Legislature needs to step back and look at what has been done. In a country where liberty is a founding principle, legislating education content puts us on the slippery slope sliding away from local control — towards State control.

If school districts and teachers need supporting content for resources or inspiration; sources are easy to find. Content should conform, locally, to meeting the needs of students, not to complying with a too-often politically motivated mandate.

Limit the role of the State to defining performance standards and leave successful achievement of and beyond standards to the local districts.

Until the light goes on and the public sees that standards-based (aka outcome-based) education has not definitively reform a single school, we will continue to waste time and resources on arguing over and implementing new standards rather than investing fully in our schools and their students.

Being able to see the slippery slope is the first step to doing no further harm, to the public education system of Idaho and the nation, due to the deceptive nature of standards-based education.

Neoliberalism: To Know It Is To Recognize It

noam-chomsky-quote-2The term “neoliberalism” is not in my old college dictionary. And most people I’ve asked don’t know what it is. For that reason, the public is not been able to recognize the ideology behind many of our public policies…

We have become victims of sabotage —of our own doing.

An economic approach is one component of neoliberalism.

An economic approach is only one component of neoliberalism.

We are political pawns in the neoliberal game.

The situation looks daunting. But don’t despair. Shedding light on the neoliberal agenda will enable you to better understand the concept and determine for yourself if you have unknowingly adopted this ideology as your own.

As explained in “Our Neoliberal Nightmare,”

“Everything that promotes the market, i.e., privatization, deregulation, mobility of finance and capital, abandonment of government-provided social welfare, and the reconception of human beings as human capital, [is] encouraged.

It should be said that neoliberalism thrives on prompting crisis after crisis…so that each succeeding crisis only erodes the power of the working class and makes the wealthy wealthier.

[Our] politics succumbs to neoliberal economic theory…[so]… In this revolution of the law, persons have no status compared to corporations…

[And the author writes] I am merely outlining the strength of an opponent that has refused to be named for forty-five years, although it has been the ruling ideology that long!”

Neoliberal beliefs have permeated our social and political structures with bipartisan appeal.

And indoctrination into the neoliberal philosophy runs the gambit — from political propaganda to training within the public education system. That’s right! We’ve been infiltrated.

John Perella’s dissertation on the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) enlightened me. I hope it does the same for you.

  • Neoliberalism is pro-business and does not view powerful corporate influence as problematic (p15)…
  • Neoliberalism is acutely conservative in its economic approach. In fact, neoliberals share many of the same educational goals of neo-conservatives. (See The Politics of Reform for definitions.)
  • Neoliberalism is about restructuring society to allow for, and facilitate the growth of, free-markets (p16). [See “free-market” discussion in the comments below.]
  • Simply put, neoliberalism is a belief system and an economic approach. Privatization is just one strategy of this larger movement and globalization is the background for this entire story (p17).
  • Some have argued that privatization (and consequently the end of public education), driven by neoliberal education policies is the objective of [the] landmark legislation [No Child Left Behind] (p17).

Don’t be led to believe NCLB is gone.

The newest version of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), continues to harbor the neoliberal education reform agenda.

What’s wrong with the neoliberal philosophy guiding our public education system?

Children. It’s creating problems for children, which in turn creates problems for families. And in dysfunctional families, the problems are magnified.

We know children need a supportive social structure.

Proponents and critics alike of privatization have identified social cohesion as a possible victim of market driven education.

One cannot expect a competitive approach to promote social cohesion (p51).

That concept is what people like New York Times writer David Brooks haven’t figured out. As explained in The Common Good & Education, he understands that children need a strong social fabric. But he doesn’t see how neoliberal / neoconservative education reform laws damage the social fabric he claims is essential.

Here’s how. Different —more or less— and “higher” standards led to the perceived need for more standardized assessments. More standardized assessments fed the theory of competition. Test scores stirred the public to call for accountability.

When no accountability was forthcoming, “choice” was offered. Choice nourished the market. And the technology to run this whole ruse brought the neoliberal agenda full circle.

Money is being made at every step of the way. Reform? Not so much.

The neoliberal philosophy has us believing that there is nothing wrong with private industry taking over work traditionally done by public institutions…You know the sell… cutting through the bureaucracy, ending the government monopoly on education, and all that jazz… But, answer this…

What is the problem with NISL — Marc Tucker’s for-profit, non-collegiate, privately controlled organization — training/educating/indoctrinating (your choice) OUR public education leadership?

  • NISL is not understood by its participants and has not been sufficiently examined by the public (p136).
  • Schools are not neutral conveyors of knowledge but are instruments of ideology (p28).
  • Since public education is an instrument of ideology, then leaders trained by NISL will predictably influence their respective schools or districts (p29).
  • NISL will inevitably apply increased sway on public education as more school leaders are trained (p22).
  • Pragmatically, NISL seems to always have one eye on state and federal policies. When it was created, there was a clear alignment in NISL with the spirit of NCLB (pg94).
  • The NISL leadership in Washington envisioned the future of the program to include many new initiatives that would “drive NISL deep” (RH). These included cohort coaching and mentoring, new leadership curriculum in early child learning, special education, ELL and disability, as well as pipelining (p99).

And please keep in mind, neoliberal thinking takes the social justice ideal and uses the platform to justify the market-based theory. It draws in liberal thinkers and civil rights groups trying to do what is right for society — unknowingly putting children at the mercy of the almighty dollar.

And never mind how you and I define social justice. Neoliberal leadership proceeds to act by whatever means they desire —pocketing public dollars in the process—and always producing more human capital to do their work.

As Dr. Perella explained NISL’s program, the leadership “education” combines military and business training practices. Pipelining is how the military routinely picks and develops their leadership. And Marc Tucker’s NISL (with his parent organization National Center on Education and the Economy – NCEE) isn’t  the only show in town.

“The Broad Academy is a subsidiary of the same Broad Foundation that has [financially] supported NISL. Broad has two distinct flagship initiatives, a residency program for placing “participants into full-time high-level managerial positions in school districts, CMOs (Charter Management Organizations), and federal/state departments of education” (http://broadresidency.org/about/overview.html)

… at the risk of interrupting your reading, let me stop you right here…. Did that last point wake you up? Placement in federal and state “departments of education.” Targeted, strategic placement in our governing structure…just checking that this bombshell hit you…. Okay, so, there is the Broad residency program…

and their Superintendent Academy. The primary goal of the Academy is to train and place non-educator executives into superintendent positions.

In 2009, 43 percent of all large urban superintendent openings were filled by Broad Academy graduates (p58).

So between just these two neoliberal buddies, they have covered the training of urban district superintendents, U.S. Department of Education employees, many State Department of Education hires, and principal training in at least 15 states — all indoctrinated (my choice of words) into the neoliberal doctrine.

I’ll ask again, what is the problem?

Well, I agree with Dr. Perella…

Tucker truly is the man behind the curtain. [And] NISL is but one component of Tucker’s influence on public education reform (p138).

…there is very little ‘public’ in NISL’s design for the training of public school leaders (p137).

And we must always remember,

Central to the neoliberal doctrine is a simple, yet powerful objective: profit (p40).

So with much appreciation for Dr. Perella’s diligent work in answering some very important questions, let me end with some words from the man behind the curtain…from page 50 of Tucker’s publication Governing American Education: Why This Dry Subject Might Hold the Key to Advances in American Education”screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-8-53-41-am

Stoppable? Well, we do have a choice. But the question is, do people want to hear it?

And will people consider answering a few questions, like these:

Who should be holding the key to our future?

Are we going to let our public education system go the way of neoliberalism?

If we do nothing, we know how this story goes. History tells us.

Our move.polyp_cartoon_rich_poor_neoliberal

 

 

 

 

 

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Note: The pdf provided here for Dr. Perrella’s dissertation concerning NISL is my personal copy. I provided my highlighted and underlined copy not to influence readers with what I found important or interesting but as a courtesy to those who might need to skim, rather than read, the 172 pages.

A clean copy can be found here.

The Public Trust is Broken

Trust-Quotes-41Congress has made so many mistakes, the public trust is broken. The trust has gotten so small, it crumbled under the weight of a corrupted lawmaking process.

Our congressional representatives have proven themselves to be untrustworthy, repeatedly, by passing laws that put the interest of corporations ahead of doing what is right for the People of this country.

We shouldn’t trust those who have proven themselves untrustworthy. quote-when-a-man-assumes-a-public-trust-he-should-consider-himself-a-public-property-thomas-jefferson-14-56-98Instead of feeling an obligation to serve the public, most of our representatives are acting in a manner that demonstrates how little respect they have for us, our opinions, and for meeting the needs of our country. The Gallup Poll trends have demonstrated a steady decline in our trust —of our government.

And unfortunately, what we have witnessed through the process of replacing No Child Left Behind has added one more seed to our growing mistrust.

The shenanigans that produced the Every Student Succeeds Act speaks badly for congress. The process was deliberately exclusive of the public.Actions

There was no transparency or public debate when No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was written into law partly because of the shock this nation experienced due to 9/11. Is it speculation that those in power, then, took advantage of the opportunity that a crisis presents?

“Since bills pushed through Congress during chaotic crises are most assuredly destructive of liberty and its sister, sovereignty, one can easily and generally tell the motive and morality of the individuals vying for its passage.”

We do know for sure that black families in particular and civil rights groups in general were definitely bamboozled into adopting the ideas behind No Child Left Behind. Some things have not changed. The basis of No Child Left Behind is unchanged by its replacement.

But this rush job done on what became the Every Student Succeeds Act, now going to the presidents’ desk to be signed, is a blatantly sleazy, backhanded way of avoiding any exposure of the truth.

Written in 2007 and first published in 2009, this statement was about my state officials. "Fast track" is nothing new.

Written in 2007 and first published in 2009, this statement was about my state officials. “Fast track” is nothing new.

The Every Student Succeeds Act — to replace the notoriously damaging No Child Left Behind with all its “unintended” consequences — avoided having too many eyes on it before it was a done deal. What was the rush to get it to the president’s desk? There was no crisis so this political trickery was transparent to those watching it unfold. They picked the holiday season, really?….Now, the states will be ready come January to pass more education laws. And we know where they do their one-stop-shopping for all laws that support privatizing public schoolsALEC.

This has become the way Congress “works” and how they “partner” with the states. It isn’t because that is what is best For the People.

What we have is a pattern of deception.

Just like with NCLB, the major faults were pointed out before the law was passed. And recommendations were made — and ignored.

Now before you look at these next statements, I’M ASKING YOU TO IGNORE THE WORDS “failing schools” and think of schools in need of help as “struggling”…..o.k…

Quote from Gary Ratner about No Child Left Behind.....What will the Every Student Succeeds Act do, turn over responsibility to some irresponsible state leaders while funding CHOICE schools from the federal level.

(Gary Ratner about NCLB)…..What will the Every Student Succeeds Act do?—-> It turns over responsibility to some irresponsible state leaders while funding CHOICE schools from the federal level.

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(Gary Ratner about NCLB)…..BUT, a problem not solved by the Every Student Succeeds Act is WHO trains the leaders and to do WHAT!

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This is from a BEST PRACTICES BRIEF about STAKEHOLDER Communications – Tips From the States… for getting we stakeholders to fork out the cash for longitudinal data systems?

The point here is to note the pattern… Write a law. Don’t talk about the details, just the talking points. Pretend to hear a few suggestions. Make sure there is no debate. Do NOT let the dissenting view or alternative bill get on the stage. Pass the law. Then when there is a problem created by the law, do it all again.

What was once governed by us is now under the control of those who control the law. The public trust is broken.

Only this time, the system being taken over by the BIG money players is the one system capable of “educating” the most citizens at one time — the youngest vulnerable minds. Plus we will not be able to trust one iota of information coming from our government because it is sleazebags who have control of OUR lawmaking process which funds our research and dissemination of information.

When “they” control the law, they control the purse strings. And through law, they are putting our public dollars into private education industry pockets for things that public institutions used to be publicly funded to do — like teacher preparation.

These bad laws starve public institutions so private philanthropic venture capitalists can swoop in and play the heroes while controlling the emphasis of research and teaching to fit their political philosophies.

How sleazy has this gotten? Giving out turkeys to the poor in order to get their data and their votes is pretty sleazy dealings. Granted, Congress didn’t do THAT … but those pushing congressional members to vote the way they have are these very same all-powerful people and we know it. $$$$$$$

indexI posted this “Trust the Process” image when writing about solutions.

Boy was I wrong!….Or maybe not. Maybe what just happened with congress introducing a 1,061 page bill on November 30th (side-lining busy people at Thanksgiving) and getting the K-12 education Law of the Land on the presidents’ desk BY December 10th, makes the way forward clear.

The American People have some house cleaning to do. Both the House and Senate should have known better than to thumb their noses at the People—the source of all legitimate authority in this country. Congress proved themselves to be untrustworthy — again. The public trust is broken.

And so far, the country has had no reason to trust that President Obama will do the right thing on education policy. Then again, have we made the demand?

I urge you to call him on this, TODAY. Ask for a VETO on The Every Student Succeeds Act.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 2.02.45 PM

Your CONSENT IS NO LONGER REQUIRED. Your DISSENT WILL NOT BE NOTED.

Stopping the process to give People the chance to explain the problems they see and give our representatives time to read and comprehend the law is something that never happened with No Child Left Behind. Children’s education suffered because of foreseeable consequences we went on to call “unintended consequences.”

We need to debate what should replace No Child Left Behind.

We need to debate what should replace No Child Left Behind….SHOULD HAVE. It’s history now….again.

This go around, if we allow the same mistakes to be put into law, we should assume the consequences were intended.

Mr. President, do no harm. VETO.

@POTUS #VetoESSA

UPDATE: The law – Every Student Succeeds Act – was signed by the president on December 10th (11 days after being introduced during the holidays). Your efforts to call for a veto are no longer required.

Liars in the HOUSE

What do you know about the Every Student Succeeds Act (S.1177) set to replace No Child Left Behind? One thing you probably won’t be surprised to hear is that the lawmaking process was corrupted.

But this time it is more than a bit unsettling. Few people know how openly the liars in the House — OUR HOUSE —are not being questioned or doubted by either the People or the other representatives…..That means no real debate occurred on this bill and it is sailing into law.…unless we stop it.

In the case of education policy, the liars should be doubted.

In the case of education policy, the liars should be doubted.

When we toss together liars, lemmings, and a lackadaisical public, we have a recipe for political corruption…..How corrupt? Disgustingly so if you think parents should have a say in their own children’s education!

To begin with, don’t be fooled into thinking either the House or Senate were slaving away over writing this bill. They have had 15 years to think over the mistakes of No Child Left Behind and are overdue for reauthorizing it by EIGHT years.

During that time, the real rulers have not been idle…..it was always the plan to put common standards into federal law and call them national.

The Gates funded Achieve and the ADP (American Diploma Project) wrote this in 2008....2008...

The Gates funded Achieve and the ADP (American Diploma Project) wrote this in 2008….2008

Is there anything wrong with a common core of standards? … Maybe not, IF it is the People in control of OUR government and OUR schools.

By 2010.....2010.....it looked more like Bill Gates was writing the Obama plan.

By 2010…..2010.….it looked like Bill Gates was writing the Obama plan.

And in 2013 in the Senate, the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act emerged to replace No Child Left Behind. It stalled and by 2015 the bill’s new name was the Every Child Achieves Act. Meanwhile in the House, they settled on the name the Student Success Act in time for this 2015 reauthorization.

Names, titles, and words changed; the basics of the law?

All combined, it became the Every Student Succeeds Act (S.1177) now before the Senate, expected to breeze through and be signed by President Obama.

After waiting seven years, what’s the rush?

Think about this — there were SEVEN years in which those pushing the agenda upon which the Every Student Succeeds Act is based could have taken the time to explain, discuss, and get real, honest public input from US who lived through dealing with the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind. Instead, the equally corrupted D.C. non-governmental organizations claiming to speak for us were the ones that OUR representatives listened to.

Instead, the way this predictably played out is that “suddenly” on Monday November 30thwhen mothers everywhere in America were busy with holidays — the conference committee released the final version of the long-awaited replacement for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) which they made 1,061 pages long……longer than NCLB! They didn’t fix that part of the problem with the law!

That was Monday. And their propaganda was ready and up…on the House website! Paid for by us?

GOP_Principles

DID YOU KNOW THAT “PROFICIENT” ON NAEP TESTS EQUATES TO AN A OR A-?….Decline is never good but CRISIS?

Top10

I put this whole thing up because I thought number 8 was pretty amusing in a sick sort of way…..?…..But number 7 is the lie told to House Republicans with number 1 being a stretch.

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Pre-school charter start-ups aren't considered a new federal program?

Pre-school charter start-ups aren’t considered a new federal pre-K program? And the Secretary decides?

 

 

We should be outraged!

Lied to, propaganda paid for by us, and they slip this through when parents are most busy with their families.

People? We have seen our representatives act like lemmings; please don’t tell me they truly do represent us.

This go-around with education policy, it just happened to be the Republican led House jumping over the cliff.

…Democrats and Republicans alike did the country wrong, so far, on this.

Next up, a vote in the Senate.

Do we let our representative go ahead, follow the crowd, trust the “information” put out by the main stream media telling them that this law will be better than NCLB? 1e9b9b1e66a26feaeb39d3217d85ca1a

Or do we stop, ask them to stop, explain the details of the law, and explain how this is better than what we currently have?

With education policy, both major political parties have taken turns making laws that they haven’t read, don’t understand, and for which they are NEVER held accountable for the results, or lack of them.

Please, make the call, speak up, stop the lemmings from taking us over the cliff with them.

Rise to the Challenge

When I last posted a blog, I was challenged. The challenge was to THINK…AND DO!

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 8.14.53 AMI responded…Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 8.15.47 AMWell, life doesn’t lend itself well to being put on hold, but I did my best with the time I had and produced an alternative for Congress to consider. The problem is, Congress never wanted to consider any of the good ideas concerning No Child Left Behind that have been put before them over the last 15 years. My last attempt here, I’m calling the People’s Alternative.

AND I’m passing on Gloria’s challenge to all of you who will accept it – THINK and DO.

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The People’s Alternative turns back the clock to a time when ESEA was NOT an attempt to dictate an accountability system from the federal level.

The People’s Alternative offers a federal law that supports children in urban and rural slums in states unable to provide adequate educational resources.

Through the people he brought to D.C., JFK kept alive ideas in a law that he didn't live to see. - ESEA Both NCLB & ESSA kill the ideas. Compare.

Through the people he brought to D.C., JFK kept ideas alive in a law that he didn’t live to see. – ESEA …Both NCLB & ESSA kill the ideas. Compare.

The People’s Alternative is based on the principles written into law by the architects of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act with the addition of successful practices from the decades that followed. The law then got RESULTS.

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Both No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the current proposal before congress, “The Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA, S.1177), are based on the politically motivated theory known as outcome-based education. They are NOT based on scientifically researched best practices in education.

NCLB mandated a national system of accountability based on State academic standards for reading or language arts and mathematics and the testing annually of all students nation-wide in all public schools to assess “adequate yearly progress” (AYP). It was the largest and longest-lasting experiment in outcome-based (market-based) theory in the history of the United States. The other two periods of testing this theory ended when detrimental results were seen after only a few years.

ESSA is based on the same theory as NCLB only it is executed through a federally approved mandate for state accountability. Compare the descriptions  —

“ The statewide accountability system shall be based on the challenging State academic standards for reading or language arts and mathematics to improve student academic achievement and school success. (ESSA, pg.80)”

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The People’s Alternative builds on the idea that the local community must have access to information necessary for them to support and improve their own public schools. The Alternative respects the research demonstrating that the local school must be the focus of analysis and intervention to improve student performance. The Alternative supports the continued random use of this nations most respected national test for monitoring the achievement gap. Mandating additional testing, in federal education law, of every pubic school student in every school every year is unnecessary for the federal government to serve its purposes or the purposes as originally laid down in ESEA.

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NCLB sold the nation on the idea that yearly standardized testing of all children provided necessary information when in reality the results from the random use of the long-established National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) continues to provide consistent national monitoring of student academic progress.

ESSA continues to see the federal government as the national assessment authority giving the Secretary the power to use federal dollars for State assessment purposes, which in reality are a state financial responsibility.

“The Secretary may provide a State educational agency, or a consortium of State educational agencies with the authority to establish an innovative assessment system (ESSA, pg.222).”

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The People’s Alternative designates use of federal education dollars in:

Title I – using a comprehensive needs assessment process, funding is targeted at meeting the identified needs of children from low-income families and other disadvantaged groups, and for the already identified Priority Schools, supplying additional family and community engagement personnel and specialized training for principals, the first year, and other personnel in the following years based on needs.

Title II – establishing summer institutes within existing public institutions of higher education with funding increasing educational opportunities for all education professionals and high-needs service scholarships providing opportunities for experienced education professionals wishing to advance their education to fill identified needs in high demand subjects as well as high-needs schools and locations.

Title III – based upon information gathered during the comprehensive needs assessment process of Title I, funding is to supply student supports that are vital to educational improvement but absent from the community identified as in need, including library resources.

Title IV – funding is to support educational research and the dissemination of scientifically researched practices that have proven to be effective beginning with those necessary for successful implementation of this law.

Title V – to strengthen those state departments of education most in need of helping because the inequality that exists between states is a long-standing problem and funding improvements at that level helps move them closer to fulfilling their responsibility in providing a quality system of public schools.

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NCLB funding was money spent on annual standardized achievement testing, accountability mechanisms based on the outcomes of those tests, reporting of compliance with the law, and school choice being offered as a solution — all packaged and sold to the country as “flexibility.”

ESSA funding supports more experimentation with assessment and accountability systems with a new emphasis on “comparability,” as a requirement, as well as offering grants for assessment audits (assessments of how many assessment we are using).

Charter Schools (independent governance with state and federal funds) win out over Magnet Schools (local control) by $270,000,000 to $94,000,000 and states applying for these charter school grants are required to “establish or enhance” a per-pupil state “facilities aid” program. Plus, there are many grants to the “cottage industries” of the charter movement.

It gets hard to keep these all straight and follow all the dollars! (ESSA, pg. 572)

It gets harder to follow all the dollars$$$$$$ (ESSA, pg. 572)

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(ESSA, pg. 519)

Oh, we should not forget preschool charters….

$$$$ New Start-Ups $$$$$ (ESSA, pg. 520)

$$$$$ New Start-Ups $$$$$ (ESSA, pg. 520)

…. and never mind that we can’t control for quality!

And the biggest new federal program in ESSA is the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program being sold as “providing greater flexibility to enhance support for students and schools.” There are a number of tempting options offered but it is blended learning, digital learning, and online learning that jumped out at me suggesting that the technology industry may be the big prize winners in this 1.65 BILLION $$$ “enrichment” program.

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With the original 1965 ESEA being a mere 35 pages, the NCLB law being 670 pages, and ESSA weighing in at 1,059 pages, there is much, much more that could be said if the country ever desired to have that conversation — and were given the opportunity.

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Rise to the Challenge.

Challenge Congress and President Obama to THINK and DO the right thing.

STOP S.1177 The Every Student Succeeds Act

Is Education a National Issue?

Education is not mentioned in the Constitution…. We have heard how this argument goes.Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 10.57.46 AM

Because of no specific mention of education, the responsibility for educating the young people of our republic is deferred to the States in the 10th Amendment …. with the caveat “or to the people.”

People, you need to decide. Is public education a national issue?

If we never have that discussion, then we never examine the arguments that have been stalling our progress in education reform for the last three decades.

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And, we must look back at the historical precedents surrounding the issue of federal support for public education.

How do we make informed decisions without this conversation?

 

State versus Federal: Are we sure we should be fighting that battle?

The Constitution doesn’t mention a whole lot of things — by design.

“The original Constitution of 1788 contained very few specific restrictions on the ways in which the power of the national government could be exercised against the people.”

And,..

“…the state delegations at the Constitutional Convention voted 10-0 against including a bill of rights in the Constitution.”

One reason they gave for being against such specific rights being in this governing document is

“…any list of rights would be incomplete. Such a list might indirectly endanger any rights not included on it.”

the-preamble-to-the-united-states-constitution-sourceThat is really something to think about. Has the argument over State versus Federal law governing education actually endangered the general Welfare of the children in our nation?

The 10th Amendment …

“— emphasizes that … the fundamental character of the national government… remains a government of limited and enumerated powers, so that the first question involving an exercise of federal power is not whether it violates someone’s rights, but whether it exceeds the national government’s enumerated powers.”

Note in that quote that the authors interchange the words “national” and “federal.” Unfortunately — but fortunately for the country — the Founding Fathers understood the differences, chose to make our constitution a unique blend of those concepts, but it appears they made the assumption that our representatives (and the populous) would forever understand and make distinction between the two concepts. For example…

From blog post titled "Fixing Our national Accountability System: Part 1."

From blog post titled “Fixing Our National Accountability System: Part 1.”

The Founding Fathers seemed to have also assumed that there would always be open debate and deliberation especially in the Senate.…anyway….

Let’s consider how our predecessors sorted things out when confronted with issues concerning education. Starting pre-Constitution…

1784 — Land Ordinance — This was outlined by Thomas Jefferson while we were still floundering under the Articles of Confederation because “Congress did not have the power to raise revenue by direct taxation. Therefore, the immediate goal of the ordinance was to raise money through the sale of land…”

“The ordinance was also significant for establishing a mechanism for funding public education. Section 16 in each township was reserved for the maintenance of public schools. Many schools today are still located in section sixteen of their respective townships…”

Education was a national issue then.

1787 —September 17— the Constitution was signed.

1789 — President George Washington signed the Northwest Ordinance, which established (among other things) “the precedent by which the federal government would be sovereign,” it designated “prohibition of slavery” in the [new] territories, and it stated (Art. 3) that “schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Under our new constitution and through the Northwest Ordinance, our new nation made a statement of national support for education and its importance as well as inching us ALL towards individual freedom and equal opportunity.

1841/1848 — Congress made grants of land to support public education.

The History Of Federal Government In Public Education: Where Have We Been And How Did We Get Here?

The History Of Federal Government In Public Education: Where Have We Been And How Did We Get Here? League of Women Voters

Education remained a national issue.

1862 — The First Morrill Act (Land Grant Act) was passed granting public lands to support one college per state for specific purposes.

1867 — Original “Office” of Education was established and, in 1890, the Second Morrill Act “gave the Office of Education responsibility for administering support for the original system of land-grant colleges.”

Obviously, there is a pattern of federal support for public education and many more laws followed that have supported educating the nation —very well. (Don’t forget the GI Bill.)

What is missing in kicking off a national conversation now is what John F. Kennedy was very careful to discuss when he proposed the ideas behind what became the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. Can the federal government give aid to the nations’ public schools without exerting “control” over them? The answer is yes.

President Johnson was left to answer for President Kennedy - in law.

President Johnson was left to answer for President Kennedy – in the 1965 ESEA law.

What do our representatives and political candidates now have to say about the proper role of the federal government in education? Can they even tell you what was wrong with NCLB? After all these years, do they have anything specific to say about correcting their mistake? Do they not see how they crossed the line into federal CONTROL versus SUPPORT?

Today, the public is accepting the idea that if politicians say “I support universal preschool” or “community college should be free” that it means they care about supporting the K-12 public education system. That isn’t the case.

K-12 education is the playing field best positioned to offer all kids a chance to explore and fulfill their personal potential. The long-term benefits of preschool without K-3 improvements is still debatable. And, should we really be investing in free community college to make up for what we didn’t do in K-12? How efficient is that?

Did you know we have never provided the funding requested for K-12 disadvantaged students through ESEA Title I? Where’s that conversation taking place?

When the federal policy of the last 15 years undermines the very foundation of K-12 public education — like No Child Left Behind has, does, and continues to do eight years after it should have gone away — that says the lawmakers don’t care.

When the country doesn’t push for the right supports for educating children, what does that say about us?

Grow the vision or let it go?

Grow the vision or let it go?

No deliberation, no debate, no demands, no progress.

End of the road for real national support for public education? Or time to raise the issue to a new level?

According to the 10th Amendment, the people have the power.

The Education Reform Oligarchy & Stiff Accountability

Who convinced a nation that we should put “stiff accountability” in place without first ensuring that all schools and children had the necessary resources to achieve the excellence in education we demand of them? It was “them,” the rulers; not we, the People.

The education reform oligarchy marketed “accountability,” tied their sales pitch to freedom of choice, used statistics to the point of outright trickery, and suppressed the truth.

They set a game plan and methodically stuck to it.

They shifted our focus from what was set by the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — better educating teachers and counselors, providing sufficient instructional materials, ensuring students are supported, and engaging parents and the community —to— stiff accountability for student outcomes as judged by standardized test scores. And they took aim at teachers…from the start.

Hired to do public opinion polling by the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy under the direction of Marc Tucker, Mr. Lou Harris explained his findings at the 1986 National Governor’s Association (NGA) meeting.

“…people are convinced the heart of the matter lies in what is done about teachers.…

Of course, this means, in turn, new ground rules for teachers…such as, paying teachers by a new bottom line, …and finally, finally, at last, paying teachers competitive salaries on a level, for example, with accountants.

But then with these upside inducements must also go stiff, stiff accountability, such as annual reporting of school-wide student performance,… and this is the key one — allowing parents the chance to choose which public school to send their kids to as a device to reward schools that are successful.

…this means a new compact in education, a trade-off, if you will, between higher
 salaries and more autonomy for teachers on the one hand, in exchange for higher standards and accountability for teachers measured, in what: in terms of student performance. This is basic.”

There’s your basis for No Child Left Behind — in 1986. Mind you, it’s a theory… the outcome-based theory! Did it work? Did we get the results we sought?

Their focus was not on the unequal inputs that are inherent in a public school system the size and magnitude of our U.S. system. Their focus was not on our high level of poverty and the pockets of community decay that has been allowed to grow and fester. Instead, this group of politicians and think-tankers focused on “stiff, stiff accountability” in exchange for more pay.

They did it! We got a federal accountability system based on student performance but without elevating the teaching profession as a whole. Duped? You bet we were. Where is the accountability for that? Who is answerable for ignoring the needs of teachers and the desire of parents?hal-johnson-quote-we-feel-a-little-bit-like-weve-been-duped

You teachers…listen up…. jump those hoops, not because you are a professional doing your job but for the monetary reward. Worship the almighty dollar just like the oligarchy. It’s how they see things in their world…. these people who own and rule the world. This all made sense to them, well, not all of them.

Not everyone attending the 1986 NGA meeting agreed with the theory of outcome-based accountability.

Mrs. Mary Futrell, then head of the National Education Association, spoke out in favor of a different approach…

“We believe the primary responsibility of an accountability system or an evaluation system, it should be for professional growth. To help the teachers do a better job. We have a real concern that as we look at school-based or school performance or student performance, that we will try to tie teachers’ pay to that, even though there is no research to support it.”

Research? The agenda of the oligarchy was never backed by good research and still isn’t…29 more years later! Research and the dissenting voices have been ignored repeatedly. In this game, both are left on the sidelines.

The outcome-based political agenda moved steadily forward while the focus on inputs and real improvements took a back seat.

By the 1989 NGA annual meeting, President George H. W. Bush (41st president, 1989-93) had entered the picture and had been invited to speak.

“To have reform, excellence in achievement must be recognized and rewarded.

To have reform, federal dollars should be targeted to those most in need.

To have reform, we need flexibility and choice, choice for parents, choice for schools in their selection of teachers and principals.

And finally, the essence of reform is accountability in education and reward for those schools that show progress.”

The essence of reform is accountability — not improving schools to the point where all our schools are of high quality?

At that same gathering, then Governor Bill Clinton expressed,

“I support, as I think you know, your education position. I’m for accountability, choice, alternative certification.”

And by 1991, we had Lamar Alexander, a very strong player on the reform team, positioned at the D.C. front-line as the secretary of education.

“Alexander has also put together a new education agenda that includes a controversial proposal for instituting national achievement tests and more emphasis on adult learning and training for the work force. ”

New agenda? More adult training, just like better pay for teachers?

“His Better Schools program for the state [TN] included a new merit pay system for teachers, tougher standards for students and more emphasis on science, computers and mathematics.”

Then in 1996, the first Education Summit gathered together the governors with business and education leaders.

“Their mission: To start a national effort to establish high academic standards, assessment and accountability and improve the use of school technology as a tool to reach high standards.”

The gift that keeps on giving or taking?

The gift that keeps on giving or taking?

Education and the economy were wed in an unholy matrimony that put the quality of education for public school children at risk while putting a bundle of public dollars in a relatively small group of private pockets. This marriage also produced Achieve as “an external, independent, non-governmental” organization for moving the main agenda forward.

“All students should graduate from high school ready for college, careers, and citizenship.”

As we now know, the focus on citizenship didn’t happen. (For the research, scroll down to “In life” section of this blog.) Just like with teacher pay and more focus on adult training, we were duped again. They dangled carrots and we bit.

Throughout all these years, it was reported that the public supported “accountability.” There’s nothing wrong with that. But, did the public realize that it was always an accountability package that put the American education system up for sale?

The oligarchy’s plan always feed the education-industrial complex. William (Bill) Bennett, who went from being President Reagan’s second secretary of education to being a co-founder of K-12, Inc. in 1999, typifies how being politically powerful leads to profits and doesn’t require producing the promised results.

“As K12 Inc. notes in its annual report, ‘most of (its) revenues depend on per pupil funding amounts and payment formulas” from government contracts for virtual public charter schools and “blended schools'(combining online with traditional instruction) among other products. In 2014, K12 Inc. took in $919.6 million from its business.”

And all of the political maneuvering and manipulation of the public over these past decades opened the door further for the oligarchy to use ESEA (No Child Left Behind) as a way to forever (or maybe not) change the focus of the law from supports for children of low-income families and improvement of educational quality for all children —to—“accountability, flexibility, and choice.”

Enter Mr. Obama: He never promised anything that strayed too far from the NCLB goals. And the politics of neoliberalism (scroll to definition in this blog) has doomed him to repeat and amplify the mistakes of the past. The toxicity of D.C. politics is killing public education.

From Democrats for Education Reform - They say they are an "organization that cultivates and supports leaders ...who champion America’s public schoolchildren." Others beg to differ.

From Democrats for Education Reform – They say they are an “organization that cultivates and supports leaders …who champion America’s public schoolchildren.” Others beg to differ.

Education reform is their game and their message has been successfully framed. Data and disaggregation of it isn’t the problem. Who controls the data is.

Parents, you aren’t really players; you are targets of their messaging. And you are pawns. You need to get off the sidelines and into the action — and play responsibly. To do so, you need the truth.

What is missing is the truth.

In roughly 30 years, we have not been able to break away from Mr. Marc Tucker’s vision and plan for America’s education/workforce development system. This is the same man who now proposes that we can “fix” the accountability system by eliminating the power of local boards and putting us all under the thumb of State control (yes, with a capital “S”).

The country bought into the outcome-based theory of education reform. We experimented. Now, can’t we see the results?

Civil rights groups that support test-based federal accountability must face the facts.

Civil rights groups that support test-based federal accountability must face the facts.

“…a return to levels of integration last seen during the Johnson administration.”

Separate schools are inherently unequal which is why federal education law must focus on providing quality inputs while only monitoring outcomes for continuous improvement purposes.

The gains we made in narrowing the achievement gap, after the implementation of the 1965 ESEA, have slowed considerably since 2004. Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 11.15.33 AM

 

If we wanted equal educational opportunity, we are faltering.

 

 

If we wanted an accountability system that closes down neighborhood schools, fires teachers, and lowers the standards for entry to the teaching profession through alternative certification and emergency measures to fill needed teaching positions, we are there.

If we finally want to do the right thing for every child in our public schools right now, we have to kill No Child Left Behind, ditch the theory it was based on, and go back to a system that did produce results.

NCLB will be replaced, but, will the new law really be based on what we learned from this 30 year still-living experiment in outcome-based reform? Since Senator Lamar Alexander had a hand in developing the game plan from the beginning, he should be able to provide answers. Isn’t that what stiff accountability demands? Answers.

The Education Reform Oligarchy & Their School Choice Conversation

Wish I could just turn back the clockThe education reform oligarchy of the 80’s had a school choice conversation —at least one that is a matter of record.

It’s doubtful that the public can recall what was discussed. It’s doubtful that very many were really invited to listen. What is more likely is that most people are left asking, what school choice conversation?

So here’s how the story went

“At its meeting in August 1985, the members of the National Governors’ Association [NGA] formed seven task forces for the purpose of examining in-depth critical problem areas in American education.”

Time for Results?

Time for Results?

It’s unlikely that very many people would argue against the idea that parent involvement in education is critical. Then — now, forever, and always — parent, community, and national involvement and support for public schools is a problem in critical need of being addressed with real solutions. How exactly school choice came to be seen as a “critical” problem depends …

“Whether the push for school choice is driven by economic and political forces, or by parents and educators, depends on whom you ask.”

What we know for sure is now our history.

To be clear, since the development of free desegregated public school education, people in the United States of America have had the freedom to choose between their local public schools, private schools, and home-schooling. There is no forced attendance at government-run schools only. There are compulsory attendance laws to protect a child’s right to an education but people have always had a choice in how to comply with that law. We have always had school choice. … to date.

But when was it discussed that school choice is the best answer for a lack of parental involvement? Who knows?

What was decided was to attach the issue of school choice to that of parental involvement. However, at the 1986 NGA meeting, a year after the topics had been decided, then Governor Lamar Alexander introduced the topic like this

“We will then hear presentations from three of the Governors who led the task forces on teaching, on leadership, and on choice.”

Their presentation of a critical problem area went from “parental involvement and choice” to “choice”?

Governor Dick Lamm of Colorado chaired that task force. As he explained it,…

“What we were looking at is how can we give additional flexibility to parents and students in choosing their schools within the public school context.”…

“Some of these could be magnet schools, some of them could be alternative schools, some of them could just be different options among the public schools.”

Lamm recommended PUBLIC choices. These choices were all under local district governance. And even though the topic was introduced as “choice,” Governor Lamm did share some views on parental involvement.

And he did acknowledge…

“The two things we looked at: choice, parental involvement. They are related but they are also separate.”

But in publication after publication, parental involvement and choice would be lumped together without any emphasis on “the choice” being “within the public school context.” It was never a significant part of the school choice public conversation.

The chair of the Choice Task Force wasn’t the only one voicing concerns.

Mr. Al Shanker (then head of the American Federation of Teachers) was one among many who tried to explain the potential pitfalls of “choice.”

“We live in a society where that [choice] is one of our top values.”

“Kids have more of a commitment when they decide on a program or a school than parents do.”

“I am very concerned, and I think all of us have to be concerned, that there are situations where choice could result, let’s say, in the top 25 percent of the students in a major city being offered nice spots in suburban schools, and leaving the schools in that city that might very well be on their way to coming back, leaving them without any role models at all for those other students.”

“Therefore, as we move towards systems of choice, I think you ought to be very sensitive that we may be leaving a lot of kids behind, and we have got to look at that. That’s not to argue against choice, it’s just to argue that we do it in a thoughtful way.”

“There is one other downside which hasn’t been mentioned on this…. The parents’ associations in England complain bitterly that if you have the right to switch, nobody wants to fight. That is, nobody is left to argue that you need improvement in the school because the dissatisfied people move out, leaving only those who either don’t know what is going on or who don’t care, or don’t have the time or the energy to move.”

“You rescue your own kid and say the heck with the rest of it. These things have to be watched.”

“I don’t know all the problems that are going to arise….I want to experiment. I want to make sure we don’t 
decimate the cities.”

Was it just the teacher’s union and a governor or two that questioned school choice as a reform strategy?

Ms. Georgeanne Sherrill, a career ladder 3 elementary teacher in Tennessee, was attending the 1986 NGA meeting to present information on instructional leadership and “career ladders” — an initiative of Lamar Alexander’s. She joined the conversation.

“I would just like to say one thing. I think it’s in connection with what Ms. Futrell [then president of National Education Association] said. I think we can give parents a choice in education without having to pull the students out of one school and put them in another school. We can work with parents to structure the program in that school to meet the needs of the parents that have children in that school.”

That suggestion seemed to be discarded at the time but is finding favor in some areas of the country now.

So it wasn’t just one union leader, or two, or one teacher that voiced objections and concerns. As the chair of the Parent Involvement and Choice Task Force, Governor Lamm went on to explain…..

“I, like I think most of the other governors, are desperately concerned about opening up choice to public or private school and the choice of a voucher or any similar thing, with cannibalizing the existing public school system, about taking resources that are already really too limited.”

There was definite dissention in the ranks of leadership. But the dissenting voices were effectively struck down at every turn by then Secretary of Education Bennett and the Chair of NGA, Governor Alexander.

The conversation going forward? It was framed.

Summary by Lamar Alexander

Summary by Lamar Alexander

What did we hear from the chair of NGA? We heard the question,

“Why not let parents choose the schools their children attend?”

And the talk was of a “better schools movement.”

“It will mean giving parents more choice of the public schools their children attend as one way of assuring higher quality without heavy-handed state control.”

And the project moved forward with the help of the U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Bennett’s leadership. The nation had a new project, officially —Project Education Reform.Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 3.09.50 PM

The newsletter gave no explanation of "choice."

The newsletter gave no explanation of “choice.”

The critical problems of parental involvement and choice became joined at the hip —one dragging the other forward—but at this point in the story, not much was really said about the details of choice.

 

Did the report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education (A Nation at Risk) have school choice as one of its recommendations? No. The school choice agenda moved forward because influential and “gifted” people pushed it.

William Bennett was one such leader, for sure…

“He is a man of great brilliance and strong convictions, but he is a preacher, not a teacher. He is trying to manipulate public opinion to accept his ideas of what is right and wrong. This would be forgivable if he were not as gifted as he is and if he were not the Secretary of Education.”

”Bill Bennett is the first Secretary to understand the ideological and political possibilities of the office that were there from the beginning. In Bill Bennett we’re getting our first Minister of Education.”

“…he waded in with a controversial new voucher plan that would give parents of disadvantaged children funds that could be spent in private and parochial as well as public schools.”

School choice was part of the Bennett agenda from the beginning. How much he really cared about the disadvantaged, who knows?

But by 1989, we had a new president, a different secretary of education, and had some changes in governorships. What did not change was the Project Education Reform agenda —with one exception. The facade of parent involvement had been dropped. Instead of a task force on Parent Involvement and Choice, we now had a working group for Choice and Restructuring (pg.44).

Insert1And by 1991, it was Lamar Alexander who became secretary of education putting himself in a prime position to carry their reform agenda forward.

Today as head of the senate education committee, he has done his part to federalize the plan for school choice while being the artful dodger in avoiding any conversation concerning “choice.” The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is in conference committee…..tick, tock….

The bill to replace No Child Left Behind is a critical problem.

The bill to replace No Child Left Behind is a critical problem.

 

Time for the school choice conversation again? In light of the fact that the Dyett Hunger Strike is occurring in Chicago because an open enrollment neighborhood public high school is no longer a choice, we need to have the school choice conversation all over again…now. What is America’s choice?

“The hunger strike is now at Day 28 as of this writing (9/13/15) and the Chicago Board of Education has finally opened talks with the strikers.”

This level of sacrifice by a small group of people should make us all feel a bit humbled by their resolve, but a little sick inside that it has come to this — the oligarchy rules and, in general, they don’t feel the need to listen to any of us.

You-Haver-A-ChoiceThe public’s choice?

Bush’s Education “Blueprint” Before 9/11

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Before 9/11 of 2001, there was an article printed in The Standard-Times of New Bedford, Massachusetts titled “Bush’s education blueprint bound to be inadequate.” It was published on September 6th.360_bush_sep_11_classroom_hfs_0502

Bush’s education blueprint became No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the 2002 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The national discussion of the issues with this reauthorization of federal education law never rose above the rubble left behind by the unfathomable reality of that terrible September day. NCLB’s importance paled in comparison.

I’m presenting the essence of the inadequacies presented in that September 6th article— now— not to point blame at anything or anyone but in hopes of bringing up the conversations that were buried by the 9/11 national tragedy.

About Bush’s education blueprint, Gary Ratner wrote:

“Its approach —increasing accountability— does not address the fundamental need: providing effective teaching, challenging curriculum and family support for all students.”

“If we are serious about maximizing the possibility of all students succeeding, we must provide these conditions for all students.”

“…merely intensifying pressure on employees to improve performance does not succeed where they lack the required knowledge and skills.”

Ratner recommended that President Bush follow a different approach by breaking the chore of school improvement into doable, logical, targeted pieces based on what we know to be common elements of effective schools.

As to curriculum, make it challenging for all classes, for all students.

As to existing teachers, make their professional development directly relevant to improving classroom instruction specific to their needs and the needs of their students. Ensure this happens through a targeted investment in professional development budgets. And, provide better education and training for principals and superintendents so that they are better able to support teachers in improving instruction.

As to future teachers, financially support improvements in teacher preparation, and personally support those individuals seeking to become teachers as well as those existing teachers wishing to advance their education.

As to family supports for student learning, expand adult education programs and parenting skills classes as well as mentoring programs for the students who do not have sufficient family supports.

None of this is new. Some of this is even in the newest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. But, it is buried under the weight of the standards, testing, and accountability movements’ failed mechanisms of reform that have crippled our educational progress.

We do not have unlimited resources. We must make wise investments in our future.

Ask yourselves, has the progress been adequate enough to meet the needs of our students, our teachers, our families, and our nation?statue-of-libertyCan you see a better way forward?

Do We Need 95% of Students to Take Tests?

Is the 95 percent participation in yearly testing, of all students, in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) justified? We need to know.

Currently a conference committee is putting together a replacement for NCLB ( ESEA reauthorization) but, as it stands, it will continue to mandate yearly standardized testing of all students with the 95 percent participation rate unmistakably emphasized.

trtesting1002aClearly, I have an opinion about standardized testing but I have been willing to explore other points of view while considering that I could be wrong. So in looking to find official information on the topic, I ran across an article titled “Why We Need 95% of Students to Take Tests.”

As I read it, I became confused.

Were parents ever…

“begging for their kids to be tested”

…as Stephenie Johnson wrote?

After 13 years of data collection under NCLB, does the public know how the data was used and what value it had in school improvement? Maybe the public no longer realizes that the original ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) intended to help provide a level playing field for children from low-income families.

My schools are schools with a high concentration of such children. I know what I saw in my own district.

Have I…

“forgotten what happened before participation was required”?

I have not. Before participation in yearly externally developed standardized testing was required by federal law for all children, we were making progress in my schools by focusing on correcting the mistakes that were made with reading and math instruction…for the students, based on those students, and based on individual school differences.

We already knew we had problems and which schools were having the most problems. We didn’t need new standards or new tests to tell us what we already knew.

And we knew we were always going to have a certain number of children with special needs. We always had special testing for that.

Ms. Johnson wrote,

“Ensuring that students with disabilities were participating in assessments not only gave parents important data about how their kids were doing compared to their peers, it also guaranteed that school districts were held accountable for their entire student populations, not just the portion that consistently fared well on the tests.”

Ms. Johnson seems to think that the participation of children with disabilities in assessments designed for children without “disabilities” or “special needs” is an overall good thing.

I’m not a specialist on “special needs” and I have a different perspective because of my many years assisting in classrooms. I came to believe that every child has a special need of some kind and learning differences (disabilities) are plentiful in the non-labeled children as well as those with a diagnosis of a more serious nature. So because I recognize how opinionated I am on this topic, I posted Ms. Johnson’s article in hopes of getting some views from educators. Here’s the two that responded:

Larry Lawrence My experience as a district administrator with the California Master Plan for Special Education in the late 70’s and early 80’s was that we had considerably more information about students with special needs than the rest of our students – without subjecting them to inappropriately leveled standardized tests. You only had to sit in on a few IPI (Individualized Prescribed Instruction) conferences to realize the sophistication with which the special education teachers dealt with individual student needs. Of course, we had more adequate funding in those days.

The central claim of “Why We Need 95% of Students to Take Tests” is that unless we administer these national high stakes standardized tests to students with special needs we will not know enough to meet their needs is so off base.

Sheila Resseger I am a retired teacher from the RI School for the Deaf. Ideally students with special learning needs have the full panoply of resources available in their school to diagnose, assess, and monitor their progress. This is what they need and what the IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] requires. To force them to be subjected to grade level assessments when their reading level is far below grade level, due to the impact of their disability, is abusive. There is no way to get meaningful “data” from this cruel enterprise. … This makes me crazy.

What I can tell you is that the mandated participation in yearly high-stakes standardized tests never “ensured” that districts were accountable to all students. In districts with limited resources (a real problem), the test results are used to prioritize the students who would be helped…leaving behind those in the non-prioritized categories… or who just didn’t make the cut. A test and sort system?

Ms. Johnson’s commentary is one of a recent barrage of articles (many paid for by astroturf groups) that are obviously aimed at parents in the Opt Out Movement or those considering test refusal. As a supporter of the use of test refusal as a means to a better end for education reform, I am personally offended by this comment,…

“…some are itching to rewind the clock, taking our education system back to a time when some kids—particularly students with disabilities—could easily be shunted to the sidelines.”

My truth, my perception, is based on my experiences. Ms. Johnson’s?…

“The truth is that we can’t protect these kids if the 95% participation threshold is rendered meaningless.”

Hogwash.

The truth is, participation in the standards-based testing reform concept has been a meaningless endeavor for my district since our state lawmakers put it into action in 1999 —before the concepts’ federalization in the 2001 NCLB. The same school in my district that had a notoriously poor reputation when I arrived here in 1990 was labeled “In Need of Improvement” under NCLB and now is a “Priority” school under NCLB waivers….Do the math!…. 25 years later, with higher standards and better tests, we have the same results but with an ever-changing label to tell a new generation of parents what earlier generations already knew.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 8.25.36 PM

This is how you sell a nation a product NOT how you reform schools.

Participation in yearly standardized testing didn’t change the status of the school because high stakes testing doesn’t help individual children. Standards and testing should not be the first step in a school improvement process.

 

 

But “higher” standards and “better” tests have been made priority #1 for school improvement. And the Powers-that-Be have put our dollars on that horse —repeatedly — for the last 25 years.

America's Choice, 1990 http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED323297.pdf

America’s Choice, 1990
http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED323297.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

“Encouraging parents to opt out of tests could undermine the rights of others who fought so hard for their children to be included.”

Undermine the rights of others?

That doesn’t make any sense to me. If parents want their children tested because they don’t trust their teachers or school, or just want another verification of progress, so be it. That is their right to request use of the available public testing resources. They have always had the freedom to make that request.

What gives the government the right to infringe on the rights of other parents who do not need, or see the value in, their child’s time being spent testing? But then it isn’t really the government making this request, is it?

Achieve, Inc., the Education Trust, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and the National Alliance of Business launched the American Diploma Project (ADP) in 2001

2008 -Achieve, Inc., the Education Trust, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and the National Alliance of Business launched the American Diploma Project (ADP) in 2001.                      Public knowledge of the plan?

We need to end the lies and deception. We need to be informed. We need to get back to insisting that our government does it job —for US.

One federal role in education is the monitoring of equal educational opportunity.

Student participation in our National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), as done using random sampling, has proven itself over time to be a useful tool for monitoring national progress and in monitoring the achievement gap. But even that data is useless if not adequately analyzed and put into a useful format — for use by the public for improvement purposes.

Senator Obama September, 2008

Senator Obama September, 2008

Where is the clear report card from the president, to parents and the nation, to keep us informed – for federal and state accountability purposes?

Now, just so readers don’t think I’m a totally disagreeable person, here’s the point of agreement I found with Ms. Johnson,

“…it would behoove us all to take a quick trip back in the time machine.”

Let’s go back to 1965. Let’s return to the goals of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Let’s rekindle the vision of its creators…..That would be the best first step towards progress in education reform.

"Education is the keystone in the arch of freedom and progress." JFK, 1963

“Education is the keystone in the arch of freedom and progress.” JFK, 1963