Need to Know

In What You Need to Know about the Every Child Achieves Act by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), AFT says “the Bill Is Better than the Current Law, Race to the Top, and Waivers.”………..UPDATE Dec. 5 – the name has been changed to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA still S.1177) and on Dec. 10, it was signed into law. This information is still what people need to know and consider….

“Better” is the standard that leadership has set for this nation?

Build on "better" or just more of the same?

Build on “better” or just more of the same?

I ask you to consider; is it the best we can do for the American public education system and the children in that system? Do we have no higher expectation of congress, after the eight year wait, than to make the law “better” than No Child Left Behind (NCLB)? What about the right thing to do?

The Bill in question is The Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177, previously written as The Every Child College or Career Ready Act slanted for debate on July 7th). IT has many moving parts as does its House counterpart (both obviously written by the education industry representing themselves).

AFT says,It restores the original intent of the groundbreaking 1965 ESEA law.”

DOES IT? (Update now that it is law: it did not.)

AFT says, “the intent was to address poverty and educational inequality. This bill ensures that resources continue to be directed to where they are most needed.”

DOES IT?

This continues the standards-based theory that led to a narrow curriculum...which is devastating TO poor kids.

This continues the standards-based theory that led to a narrow curriculum…which is devastating TO poor kids.

 

 

 

The bill mentions a needs assessment but associates the needs assessment with achievement scores and standards…

….and does not require review by the U.S. Department of Education to assess whether or not the money granted does go towards meeting children’s real needs.

Keep in mind, WE must submit our plan for standards and testing but NOT our needs assessment....please question this logic.

Keep in mind, WE must submit our plan for standards and testing but NOT our needs assessment….please, question this logic.

The original intent in 1965 was to strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunity.

The Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177) focuses on standards-based achievement, assessments of achievement, and charter expansion. The focus has not changed from what we had with No Child Left Behind. Have these things strengthened and improved educational quality and opportunity for all children?

AFT says, The Every Child Achieves Act “takes a crucial first step toward smarter assessments and accountability.”

Smarter assessments? In document after document — like Marc Tucker’s “Tough Choices or Tough Times” and the Smart Options (how to spend our Recovery Act dollars) —standards and testing were always seen as a first step where the truly crucial first step is addressing children’s learning needs and opportunity-to-learn resources.

In addition, keeping federal emphasis on testing perpetuates the fallacy that achievement test scores are valuable while the reality is they are an extremely poor and UNETHICAL way to judge the quality of education. We need to do away with that deceptive idea. And the next crucial step would be to define opportunity to learn indicators (which we have but don’t use).

AFT says the Every Child Achieves Act “maintains the current law’s annual testing requirements, but allows assessments to be delivered in the form of portfolios, projects or extended performance tests.

There is actually a BIG “IF” in the law… if states can demonstrate the alternative assessments are valid and reliable AS compared to the standards-based achievement tests. This means not only continuing with the achievement tests but also having the State resources and capability to validate what you are using, or farm it out to the testing industry.

Consider this, students’ grades and the quality of their courses continue to be more reliable than standardized test scores when it comes to trying to predict success in higher education.

AFT says the Every Child Achieves Act “allows accountability systems to include multiple non-test measures.”

“ALLOWS”??? (And the word was used in multiple places)??? If that doesn’t tell you that we have gone from an equal opportunity law to a federally controlled accountability law, I don’t know what does.

BUT, who was held accountable for the devastating effects of No Child Left Behind?

AFT says The Every Child Achieves Act “gives states authority to determine interventions for struggling schools.” 
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Sigh…What if you live in a state that lacks the capacity to improve schools? What if schools were identified for 8 and 9 years under NCLB as “In Needs of Improvement”? Then when the NCLB waivers changed terminology to “Focus” and “Priority” schools, what if those same schools went on the lists and your state still never did anything proven effective to help them improve? This true-to-life scenario is why the law existed to begin with. Why think this is a good thing for all states? Are all states offering equal access to quality education? And why do we continue to ignore what works when we could support it through law?

The Every Child Achieves Act is NOT an equal opportunity or educational improvement law reflective of the original intent of ESEA.

AFT says The Every Child Achieves Act “takes the federal government out of teacher evaluations.”

The Every Child Achieves Act requires teachers be labeled and that information goes on the State report card.

The federal government is by no means out of the teacher evaluation business.

The federal government is by no means out of the teacher evaluation business.

AFT says, “The federal government will not be the human resources department for every school district nationwide.”

Did they read the law? The Every Child Achieves Act will incentivize human resource development through the training of leadership to evaluate teachers calling it the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program. They are looking at “human capital.” And it will be controlled through “State plans”.Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 8.31.02 PM….Look at all the components…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Those in the education reform wars can probably name off a slew of "national non-profits" who stand to gain on this one.

Those in the education reform wars can probably name off a slew of “national non-profits” who stand to gain on this one.

Remember, carefully selected things must meet federal approval.

Remember, carefully selected things must meet federal approval.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFT says, The Every Child Achieves Act “expands collective bargaining protections to include both school improvement initiatives and teacher quality provisions.” WHERE???????

Do you call this expanded protection?

Do you call this expanded protection?

 

 

And what AFT doesn’t talk about that is in the bill are huge expansions for charter schools and other modes of privatization including the specifics of pre-schools……WOW!!!! Do we have a budding industry there!

What’s missing from the bill? Plenty! Gone is the whole sense of community-led improvement that was embodied in the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act….How can anyone say we have nothing better to offer in replacing No Child Left Behind? Where’s the suggestion box?

Or are those in power afraid of competing ideas?

Tell Congress NO on this one. Better than NCLB isn’t good enough for American education.

Playing Both Sides

Considering the politics of America in general and education reform in particular, it is no wonder progress as a nation is stalled. Ordinary Americans — the real engines of advancement — are being played for fools.

rhetoric-is-the-art-of-ruling-the-minds-of-men-art-quoteBuzzwords have been used to persuade us into following one reform path or another and to repel us from uniting for our common good.

Here is a non-education “reform” example — “climate change.” Buzzzzzzzz!

Have you heard the buzz?

Have you heard the buzz?

I’m from Michigan and witnessed first-hand how industry polluted our rivers. Having played frequently in the Kalamazoo River downstream from factories, I’m sure my body must be filled with all kinds of pollutants. We talked about the problems in those kinds of human terms. The problems eventually required federal funds (our tax dollars) to cleanup after the moneymaking polluters.

It was a pollution problem and We the People were making headway in calling the polluters into account …. until it became a “climate change” problem and we all got sucked into a political battle rather than the moral battle of right versus wrong that pollution was and is. And divided we fell prey to the politics of “climate change” because we let the powers that be change the conversation.

In the American education war, three of the big trigger-words have become “equality” (for the right), and “turnaround” and “improvement” (for progressives). Yeah, really. Buzzzzzzz! And off you go!

Please think about this: Do we believe that there are some schools in this country needing improvement and for the sake of the children in them, we should focus support on improving those schools? Are there not schools in your state that have consistently had a bad reputation as far as academic achievement or safety issues? What about schools that parents (even teachers) have repeatedly avoided putting their own kids in? Don’t we somehow need to turn those schools around to make them more acceptable, even desirable?

When the Obama administration decided on four “turnaround models,do you think ALL the alternatives they could have chosen from have been made known to the public? I know they haven’t, and those alternatives won’t get a fair hearing on the stage of public opinion because they talk about “improvement” and “turnaround” processes. The public’s well has been soured (or polluted).

Please consider this: if I am one of the “good guys” (truly have children’s best interest at heart), will you reject what I say if I use a word that repels you? Or can you choose to stand and fight against your inner feelings recognizing that what you feel has become a conditioned response?

Until we stand strong for better public schools for all, we will go down divided by silly details like our choice of words. Allowing both sides to be played against each other is allowing children to be left behind.

ANSWERS LIE in the TRUTH

Good questions have been asked. The answers only appear elusive while in reality the answers to “education reform” have been overlooked, forgotten, ignored, and/or buried. And oh so many aspects of reform are misunderstood.

Prompted by Thoughts From a Former KIPP Teacher: Testing, Common Core, and Charters are Myths, I now firmly believe we have got to have a “come-to-Jesus” talk about the standardization movement!

Worth Searching For

Worth Searching For

First, is there a need to improve some schools? Yes, the inequality issue is to die for and least we forget, some have! I think we all know that the “gap” between rich and poor & minority is real – common ground that should be a common cause.

So, here is what pulled my trigger today — a misunderstood word —EXPECTATIONS. I tried to at least partially clarify the concept in a short blog many months ago. (Please read)

Today, I shot forward in this article to read something much more disturbing. “…focusing on standards as one of many means to bolster achievement in high poverty/high minority schools is a way to strive for equity.  Unfortunately, as Diane Ravitch has accurately pointed out, the implementation of the standardization movement over the last 20 years has fallen short.”

Implementation fell short? Yes, but that is not the bigger thing wrong here.

Whoa to standards-based “reforms”! Overlooked, forgotten, or ignored are the Effective Schools Correlates  which seems strange to me given that I very firmly believe the philosophy behind the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act is based on the REAL community education concept which produced the “effective schools” studied by Ronald Edmonds and others.

Why has it gotten forgotten?

The Modern Community Education Movement was shoved to the side of the road and almost completely buried by the Standards Movement that rose to the occasion when the “crisis” in education caught the public’s attention in the 80’s and that movement rolled on unchecked and not questioned enough…even today.

We need to talk about what standards can and can’t do in depth but for the time being, consider this; * effective schools had variable standards*. “Standards” themselves were not the key factor in the high-poverty/high-minority/high-performing schools that were dubbed “effective.” THE standards never deserved THE “focus.”

Why haven’t we talked about all this sooner? “We can’t. We’ve got internal political problems.

If we had taken more time to analyze data as the Sandia Research Laboratory engineers did in the 90’s, we probably would have put the brakes on and questioned our focus on standards and testing. It might have occurred to us to discuss what we were doing right to produce the National Assessment of Educational Progress math scores that “had been steady for whites and rising for blacks and Hispanics.”

Talk about buried. I called Sandia Laboratories long ago searching for the Sandia Report. I asked them to put the report up on the Internet. I had a nice chat with a young man and we laughed over the fact that surely with the technology, and engineers at Sandia, they could scan the report and get it online. They never got back with me. Instead, I found a summary on micro phish at a private college library and spent some time copying the 50 page summary page by page.

I appreciate the view of the KIPP teacher that wrote the blog about testing, Common Core, equality and the acknowledgement made that No Child Left Behind-like “reforms” drive the focus to test scores. I’m sure for most people it didn’t open a can of worms like it did for me. It is so important, if you want the right answers to lead us forward, that we understand the history of American education. The history is convoluted but the truth, in my humble opinion, is more politically powerful than the politics of reform IF the truth gets a full and honest hearing.

I want to hear what others see as the truth starting with President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan. How do we make THAT happen?

As John F. Kennedy said at the 1963 Commencement at American University, “Our problems are manmade; therefore, they can be solved by man.”….or woman!

Turning the Dream into A Vision

What does equal educational opportunity mean to you? It is the American peoples’ answer to this question that should guide us. To take proper aim, we must identify the target.

“Do America’s citizens understand that public policies have resulted in severely unequal and inadequate education, particularly for disadvantaged children?” Gary Ratner, Foreword to The Crucial Voice of the People

A long forgotten American, Edwin E. Slosson, put it in these terms: “Equality, in the American sense of the word, is not an end but a beginning. It means that, so far as the state can do it, all children shall start in the race of life on an even line. The chief agency for this purpose is the public school system.”

But have we associated our educational shortcomings not with an “overall” poor system but with one that continues to have pockets of inequalities, big and small, that accumulate like so much sludge in an engine? Do we see unequal distribution of quality education as the problem?

Part of The Dream that Martin Luther King spoke of was that children would get a quality public school education no matter where they live, what color their skin is, or how poor they are…I hope this issue still matters to people today.

So what does that dream look like? Here’s what it looks like to me: Children from all walks of life enter classrooms where through their teachers actions and words, the teachers convey the expectation that each and every student will learn in order to fulfill their own personal potential. The instruction children receive is not based on predictions biased by color, race, socioeconomic background, or standardized scores, but rather, it is based on twin expectations — the students are capable and will do their best, and the system will provide challenging, stimulating learning materials relevant to the way the student learns. Children’s learning needs will then be met in the school — equal access to quality education provided.

For children to be ready to make the most of the educational opportunity offered in this dream, the community must step up to meet the needs of disadvantaged children. Schools cannot fulfill their responsibility without parents and communities first fulfilling theirs. We need to define what having children “ready to learn” means.

The American people must provide answers.

Our duty - enlighten each other and guide lawmakers.

Our duty – enlighten each other and guide lawmakers.

Equality, governing by the consent of the governed, freedom—these were our basic American values. Are they still?

Education law at one time embodied our values. At this time, will we define and secure equality of opportunity for children? It is only through equal educational opportunity that the People can fulfill their constitutional responsibility to resist aristocracy – “a ruling class”– and instead establish rule through the consent of an enlightened people.

As John F. Kennedy explained it, “Our present American education system was rounded on the principle that opportunity for education in this country should be available to all—not merely to those who have the ability to pay.”

“Let us in education dream of an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity.Thomas Jefferson

Reflections: Finish the Fight

“… for far, far too long we have closed the doors of our classrooms so as not to see the inequalities occurring within them. We closed the doors behind us as we met in our committees to argue the wording of our new plans. And our representatives closed the doors to the People and ignored the daily struggles of parents just wanting a fair shot at what they believe is best for their children, a quality education. The children are seated, today. That is the ‘fierce urgency of now.’

What makes us think it is alright to cram students into over-crowded classrooms where maintaining discipline may end up being nothing more than making them sit like a dog? What makes us think that it is acceptable to offer some students activities that stimulate the love of learning and not offer similar opportunities to all? What makes us think that inequality in opportunity is acceptable for America’s children? It isn’t. Voices have risen and been ignored. It is time to stop accepting the unacceptable!

These were my own words and today, I reflect.

I hope you will also; The March Begins

A Reflective Lincoln

A Reflective Lincoln

A Public Trust

When you look at the words “Education is Too Important to Be Entrusted to Government,” what do they mean to you? Do you see the statement as right or wrong, true or false, or somewhere in between?

If not government, then who?

If not government, then who?

Words are meant, among other things, to make a statement, persuade or to sell an idea. So with the re-writing of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) being debated in the Senate Education Committee, now would be a good time for the country to discuss entrusting government to run the institution of public education.

With the damage inflicted upon schools through NCLB, money wasted on Race to the Top grants, and the chaos created through NCLB waivers, the government owes its people an explanation as to what was learned and give us reason as to why we should trust them to move forward.

The reality today is that testing every child, in every school, every year has left us financially unable to address the dire needs of every child. This situation was created by government as directed by the education industry.

State government took on the responsibility to provide public education. The quest for quality used to be an American principle we could rely upon. When equal access for the poor and minorities was seen as another principle of our republic, the federal government became the engine for equality.

When the United States of America was entrusted to be a country of the people, by the people, and for the people, we could trust government because we could trust ourselves through representation of our ideals.

The trust has not really been lost; it has been sold. Let us hope there is a reclaiming process in the very near future. Our children are depending on it.

 

The Realities of Our Time

“Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words [self-evident truths] with the realities of our time.”  President Obama

Today’s reality is that we cannot see what is coming when we don’t understand where we have been. And it may be self-evident that we are created equal but what is most evident is how unequally we dish out quality education. It isn’t because we cannot; it is because we will not. Face the reality; as a people, we are in chains.

If the president “knows that the path to the middle class goes right through America’s classrooms,” then why does he push to import STEM talent? Does he really not believe in the character of Americans? “Initiative and enterprise,” “hard work and personal responsibility” — give us a break. That’s all we ask, that you give us a break. As one Occupy spokesperson said, “I don’t want a handout, I want a fighting chance.”

The very chain that binds us is inequality — unequal voice in our republican government; unequal educational opportunity; an unequal start in the race of life. The pursuit of happiness is made harder when the man hoping to help bridge our realities and that quest does not understand our educational history.

And education does not top the list of issues that catches the eyes and ears of the public. The man behind the bully pulpit can change that; will he?