Why Comply With A Bad Education Law?

And just because lawmakers say they are giving “autonomy” to states and local schools doesn’t make it so.

Why comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) when it is as bad as the law it replaced — No Child Left Behind (NCLB) ? Worse really.

Most teachers feel they must comply. Most parents don’t know what the law does. The general taxpaying public? They should care. Billions have been wasted in the false promises of reforms.

I’m part of the general public. The “why comply” question began to plague me because I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears how compliance with the ESSA requirement for “meaningful” consultation with parents was not at all meaningful.

This teacher clarifies what happened when we complied with NCLB. We knew it had “unintended consequences” by year five of its existence. It did harm without doing what it promised. But we kept on complying for another decade. Why?

Here’s the problem: ESSA still contains everything that made NCLB a law detrimental to the education of disadvantaged children. Plus it is a federal law designed to defund existing public schools.

Is the promise of ESSA to “restore local control, and empower parents” really what it does?

This is how the House of Representatives presented this law to the public. Truth?

Well? We hear more about state control, don’t we? And as many know, state lawmakers have been a cheap date for organizations like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).

I would love to avoid being critical of my state, but I’m watching the same scenario unfold as I did with NCLB.

Why comply with NCLB’s “replacement” when it is based on the same failed theory? Lessons learned?

“What NCLB has demonstrated, 15 years in, is something policymakers already knew—that standardized test scores are strongly correlated with a student’s family income.”

Photo by Bradley

Well, here’s how the NCLB replacement law, ESSA, rolled out in my state.

At an early November (2016) meeting here in Idaho, the first draft of our ESSA State Plan was presented. With “meaningful consultation” with stakeholders about the state plan being part of ESSA, the compliance recommendation was met — in theory.

The word “meaningful” is used abundantly in the law. Among other things, ESSA promises “meaningful choice” to parents, “meaningful parent and family involvement,” “meaningful communication between family members and school staff,” and “meaningful teacher leadership.” You get the idea.

But eleven months after the passage of the new law, the draft of our state plan did not have even ONE INDICATOR of school quality decided. So, how meaningful could the meeting be? Isn’t input about school quality what most parents would like to voice?

But does it matter what the state presented “to stakeholders”? Other than teachers and administrators who happen to also be parents, how many parents attend these meetings? This particular meeting was in a school in my district that was designated under NCLB as “Needs Improvement,” and under the NCLB Waivers and now ESSA as a “Focus” or “Priority” school.

If there was to be meaningful involvement concerning school improvement issues, this should have been the place.

But meaningful parental involvement in a “reform” planning process doesn’t happen when you don’t give notice of the meeting, don’t have anything relevant for parents to comment on, and don’t give a presentation that is substantive. And when you schedule more meetings to occur over the holidays, a meaningful contribution by regular-ole parents is highly unlikely.

Truth is, parental input in my state has historically been selective.

How Compliance Eats Up Time and Money

Those of us attending this meeting were told that the Idaho State Department of Education took the first three months to read and translate the law.

We were told that from the time we adopted Idaho Core Standards (Common Core Standards) to the development of the assessments that correspond to those standards was 18 months.

Can’t we see how much time and money has been wasted on new standards and tests to give us a correlation to family income?

Meaningful Input?

Then, to add salt to my open wounds, a young state department of education employee stated,

“Children learn while taking assessments.”

Hello! THAT’s right! And that is one problem with computer-adaptive standardized tests. Remember, the promise was local control. Testing corporations are not “local” for most of us.

The local curriculum —what and how things are taught in the classroom— is not under local control. There is no meaningful consultation with parents. Parents have no clue what their children are being taught through the tests…..no matter what the “high” standards say.

So in Idaho’s plan, our assessments stay the same as they were under No Child Left Behind… with the addition of computer adaptive tests. Like them or not, parents comply regardless of how those tests are affecting their children. Or are parents not aware of the problems?

One thing is certain: When policy makers and school administrators
are basing more and more high stakes decisions on the results from assessments, we are obligated to explore and find a solution to the growing problem of test anxiety for all modes of testing administration.”

 

Plus, we were told at this local ESSA meeting that assessment scores for math, reading, and language arts would be heavily weighted in our new accountability plan. The new plan is just like the joke that was NCLB “accountability.”

Can it get worse?

The night of this meeting I didn’t get all my questions answered. But I heard enough to know ESSA is No Child Left Behind all over again — with some extremely damaging additions. CHARTER FUNDING, CHARTER FUNDING, CHARTER FUNDING is written in all over this law.

The danger? Federally funded, state “controlled” corruption. (So much for accountability.)

And this law continues to pretend to be a “reform” law. It’s standards-based (not standards guided) — revolving around “challenging” State academic standards. It still requires annual standardized testing based on those “challenging” standards. Therefore, this continues to be an outcome-based system exactly like NCLB but using different language.

ESSA puts test scores ahead of children’s learning needs. This is the opposite of the anti-poverty law it used to be.

So, the bulk of our federal education money is going towards standards, assessments, data-collecting technology, accountability systems, and “choice.” ESSA stands upon the principles of NCLB and the direction set by the National Governors Association back in 1988 (credit Lamar Alexander, Bill Clinton, and many others).

1988 – Restructuring schools (dismantling) was really the first step in restructuring public schools for use in the “knowledge economy.”

And all over the country, good people are trying to make a bad law “work” just like they did under NCLB. They comply.

Never mind that the 15-year experiment called No Child Left Behind produced overwhelming evident that how “high”, “challenging”, or “rigorous” the standards are has little correlation to student achievement. Yet we comply.

How can we even say with a straight face that we require “evidence-based” programs for education reform? The law itself isn’t based on evidence. It goes against the evidence.

Why comply?

Why not #Resist bad law? Why not take over the Quiet Revolution with our own #PublicEdRevolution ?

Our schools; our rules?

Rural America in the Crosshairs: A New Frontier for Profiteers

This is my plea to rural America and to all the people who carried Mr. Trump into the White House. Please remember your power and use it well. Don’t let corporate interests ruin our American small-town way of life.

Preserving our public education system is at the heart of this battle. And the public can both preserve and improve our schools…Why close them or leave them behind?education-reform-quotes-1

This past election season should give us hope. In Massachusetts (the state that has proven that true education reform is possible), voters said “NO” to lifting the cap on charter schools. Why?

“…almost all of the fiercest Question 2 opponents were cities and towns whose public schools are losing money to charter schools.”

And as one principal expressed…

“Community members and parents I talk to want to fight for the resources to improve the public schools we already have rather than opening more schools.” He [Peter Bachli] added, “It’s as if the refrigerator light went out and instead of fixing it you bought a new refrigerator.”

Many people are considering the consequences of “school choice” as we now know it. Charters, school vouchers, and technology are the main products being sold to fill the gaps in education decisively created through our laws. Yes, the market was created.

To make a buck (or billions), the education industry under the guise of education reform has put a price on the heads of children — again and still. Urban markets were tapped first. Now, schools in rural America are in the crosshairs.

But rural America doesn’t have to go the way of America’s urban districts. Not if we learn from their experiences.charter_charterfigure1

And here in Idaho, we can learn from other small towns that have all but been destroyed by our modern-day version of “school choice.”

My hometown of Albion, Michigan is a perfect example. Crippled economically by unfair competition leading to de-industrialization, families paid the price for “globalization” (a nice code word for the development of multinational corporate monopolies).

At the same time, the farce of test-based reforms in K-12 education fueled the development of school choice laws.

So with 80 percent of charter schools in Michigan being for-profit schools, the education industry profited at the expense of American small-town traditions. Gone were the Friday night football games. Gone were the Christmas programs. Gone were the opportunities to gather in local businesses after school events — because — gone were the schools. They were closed. Kids are bused elsewhere.

The fabric of the community was shredded.

Rural America, I’m not crying wolf. Rural schools ARE in the crosshairs of the education industry. The plan is well underway.

Step 1: Direct funding

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FROM A New Frontier: Utilizing Charter Schools to Strengthen Rural Education  by Andy Smarick http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED553987.pdf

Step 2: Get state law in line

AND open the door for philanthropic venture capitalists. Those with an interest in "success" of these charters will use their money to ensure "effectiveness" can be demonstrated. (Idaho State Law)

AND this opens the door for philanthropic venture capitalists. Those with an interest in “success” of these charters will use their money to ensure “effectiveness” can be demonstrated.

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An application needs an “estimate” for the first year. What happens after the first year?

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Remember, these are federal grants of taxpayer dollars.

Step 3: Coordinate federal law …(while claiming more state and local control)…

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This is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA Public LAW 114-95). Why does the federal government feel the need to tell states how to fund charter schools?

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Eyes will be on the start-ups in the beginning. But how long will the watchdogs keep watching?

Step 4: “Grow-your-own” market even when that means you direct funds AWAY FROM IMPROVING SCHOOLS….really.

YES, this does say to FOREGO improvements. No Child Left Behind created a market in the same way. It limited curriculum while charters popped up offering more of what regular public schools used to offer.

YES, this does say to FOREGO improvements. THIS IS ESSA. No Child Left Behind created a market in the same way. It limited curriculum while charters popped up offering more of what was removed from regular public schools.

The decades-long standards, assessment, accountability, and technology movement continues making “choice” a moneymaking instrument easily sold to freedom-loving people.

For Idaho this began in the 1990’s with the Albertson Foundation sponsoring the development of “new” standards. Then came the assessments and accountability mechanisms to spawn competition between schools thus creating a market for “choice.” They focused their money and our laws (and money) on standards and testing for math and reading at the expense of better quality education. Their vision. Their plan. Their lobbyists that created “our” laws that in turn foot the bill for education products to fix what they helped ruin.

Now, they have much of Idaho believing we don’t understand “what policies and practices are likeliest to help” improve our rural schools. That simply is not true.

In January of 2013, one conclusion of state research was that our rural schools wanted their teachers to have the opportunity to obtain multiple certifications. Administrators wanted to improve the quality of their teaching workforce.

Instead, in August of 2013, the Albertson Foundation brought in out-of-state experts to examine OUR rural schools.

They found a new frontier — for rural charter schools — based on “the fantastic work done by charter management organizations” and “human capital organizations” like The New Teacher Project…..Wait? Who?

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-2-09-16-pmLet’s be clear. We are talking about philanthropic venture capitalists. These are the same people who put their money (and ours) on Common Core.

You think Common Core is simply going away because Mr. Trump doesn’t like it? Not when those who teach the teachers, develop the leadership, and lobby the lawmakers are in control. The Common Core System is in place. With the change of a name, in the blink of an eye, we still face the same problem of no real local control. Charter schools are not the answer to that problem.

And there seems to be a belief that charters will only come in where they are needed and wanted. Can the public just say no and have it be so? Ask congress.

Federal law - ESSA - gives the Secretary of Education POWER!

Federal law – ESSA – gives the Secretary of Education POWER!

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In Idaho, our state board has the POWER also. Idaho’s State Board is not elected; they are selected!

 

So knowing how the laws have been fixed to profit the charter industry, as I traveling across rural Idaho over the Thanksgiving weekend, I tried not to think about it. But unfortunately while passing through one small town in particular, a horrible thought struck me. How long would it be before the food chain consisted of ConAgra, Monsanto, and Walmart?

And what will the schools be like under this new world order? Well, if the purpose of education is work-force development, we know who’ll be calling the shots.

10389690_773525136032161_985265226383217614_nOn the other hand, I’m not convinced that corporate America will trump rural America.

Will America be made great again by those who control the schools?

Will rural America choose to give control to the same people who manipulate our laws to benefit their industry?

Or will rural Americans reclaim the “new frontier” as their own?

How will we see success?

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Crosshairs added with the help of a friend. Photo from Harvesting Success: Charter Schools in Rural America brought to us by the “National” Charter School Resource Center and SAFAL partners (a consulting firm with “deep domain knowledge in the charter section, human capital management systems, and next generation learning.”….Rural America, are these the people you want managing your children and grandchildren?

“Let’s have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” — Abraham Lincoln

P.S. Special thanks to the undistinguished Americans that go unacknowledged for the extraordinary research they selflessly do everyday (without pay) in an attempt to enlighten all of us. I for one appreciate their contributions to this blog.

The Common Core System

Connecting “Autonomy,” “Accountability,” & the Common Core National Standards

Here’s how things are going in Idaho. Quick history: In 2011, three laws similar to others in the nationbust collective bargaining, put in pay-for-performance, and roll out the lap-tops and online “learning” — were passed by lawmakers despite visible and audible protests from Idahoans. But the People in Idaho didn’t roll over. They came back to put them (the Luna Laws) on the ballot in 2012 and defeated all three proposals – SOUNDLY!!! But quietly the foxes have entered the hen house and are going in for the kill. They are doing it through a governor-selected “task force.”

Moving Beyond the Killer B’s: The Role of School Boards in School Accountability and Transformation bases its recommendations on the idea that it is important “to ensure that their [school board] policies and practices align with the pressing need to ensure that all students are provided a high-quality education, enabling them to succeed in college and post-graduation careers.” They express that “the Common Core State Standards [are] aimed at ensuring that all states strive to teach a high level curriculum and administer rigorous assessments.”(page 4) It was expressed that originally Race to the Top had included formal school board evaluations (page 5).

And so it appears that “they” thought of every aspect of The Common Core System.

 The Killer B’s document describes a scheme that in essence promotes the idea of using federal funds to accomplish a wide array of tasks including the establishment of  “technical assistance centers” called “Regional Comprehensive Centers” (RCCs) (page ii, 24).

Moving Beyond the Killer B’s (copyrighted by the Academic Development Institute (ADI)) can be found on The Center for School Turnarounds primarily sponsored by WestEd along with ADI.

WestEd (nonpartisan, nonprofit) regional centers are established in California, Mid-Atlantic, West, Southwest, Central, Northeast, South Central, Great Lakes, Midwest, Pacific, Appalachia, and Texas. And there could be more WestEd Regional Comprehensive Centers that I missed.

WestEd is the Project Management Partner for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (our Common Core Tests).

Following the lead of Idaho’s State Chief Deputy Superintendent, Rodger Quarles, who was a contributor to the Killer B’s document and a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education, the Training & Development of School Boards is now on the legislative table (Effective Teachers & Leaders Recommendation #2.5, Task Force doc., Page 37).

And here is where “autonomy” comes into question: Idaho Structural Change Subcommittee’s Strategy 2: Autonomy and Accountability
“…the State should set goals for the public education system, allocate monies, and then hold local leadership accountable for progress against those goals.” (Page 19 Task Force)

When the Common Core National Standards sets the standards, aligns the tests, aligns the curriculum, and, on the advice of the Chief Council of State school Officers (CCSSO) and National Governor’s Association (NGA), aligns the training of teachers, superintendents, and principals, plus the National Parent Teachers Association did their best to train parents to accept Common Core — the only thing left is to train and align the school board members with the help of the School Board Associations and the same non-governmental, non-accountable group that will be “partnering” in the tests —WestEd. Plus, organizations like the Broad Foundation have years of experience training leaders.

With test-driven reforms (they call “outcome-based”), He who controls the tests controls what is learned — especially if all the pieces of the machine are in alignment. Is this the systemic change we want?

Is the American education system to become just one cog in the machine?

Is the American education system to become just one cog in the machine?

“Autonomy”? The Task Force defines it as “people’s need to be empowered to take ownership for results and to have the flexibility to address challenges and local dynamics they face in pursuit of results for our students.” It is not defined here as self-governing and definitely NOT the same as “local control.”

There is nothing of educational significance left to control – goals, standards, tests, training for instruction, curriculum, and governance are all decided and out of our control. All that is left is the hard work of ensuring learning, in some form, occurs – In it, we will have no voice that will be heard by the large conglomerates that will control our schools. Proof ? Do they hear us asking them right now to STOP the CORE? Put the testing on pause. They do in some states but what of the nation?

And those that attended the No Child Left Behind workshop by Gary Ratner and myself at the Save Our Schools conference in D.C. in 2012 heard me ask this question, do we want organizations like the Broad Foundation training our school leaders or do we want it done through public institutions?

The education “reform” laws that Idahoans defeated looked to me to be “models” for the nation. So what is happening now with leadership training in the rest of the nation?

Spring Cleaning: Letter Discovered

My Message to Parents and Other Concerned Citizens:

This current standards and testing movement that began 30 years ago is a bipartisan effort to make the “outcome-based” model for education “work.” The education industry has done quite well while our children have not.

The goal set by law, in No Child Left Behind, is unrealistic, unattainable, and frankly undesirable. Our American character embodies the ideals of freedom of thought, equality of opportunity, pragmatic resourcefulness, and individuality. This law standardizes the education “outcome.” Who defined this outcome for our children?

The role of the federal government must be defined by us.

The role of the state must be defined by us.

Locally, it’s time to take back our schools.

At all levels, it is our right to know the facts, to hear the truth, to be informed. It’s time to use politics to take politics out of the education equation. As a nation, we must press our candidates and those already in office to answer to us. Accountability starts with them, not our children’s test scores.

No Child Left Behind is the national education issue worthy of our undivided attention.

With Heartfelt Sincerity,
Victoria M. Young