Pay for Success: Main Streets’ Payout to Wall Street

“Pay for Success” sounds good. And the argument for Pay for Success is made more inviting because federal, state, and local governments are cash-strapped. The public will only have to pay for programs that are successful — as determined by metrics and independent reviewers. Pay for Success appears viable and inviting.

These financial transactions are basically “Social Impact Bonds.” Those with large sums of money invest in “social innovation.”

But with BIG MONEY betting on making money from “innovative” education reforms, with early childhood education being the flavor of the year, what impact can we anticipate?

What unintended negative consequences are foreseeable?

HERE’S THE PROBLEM INVESTORS INTEND TO SOLVE: Head Start programs can’t accommodate demand for their services. Funding was cut in 2013, restored (?) in 2015, but damage was done. (I know my state still has a waiting list — demand is high, good market.)

HERE’S THE PROBLEM TAXPAYERS SHOULD CONSIDER: The same “investors” both created the problem and plan to solve it. Instead of lawmakers expanding, strengthening, and improving Head Start as the economy improved, private investors are taking the lead on early childhood education —eventually using our money.

Click to enlarge and TAKE NOTE: The First Five Years Fund ( FFYF ) focuses on increasing FEDERAL investments in early childhood education through “messaging”(????) etc.

Still sound like a good deal? Read on.

As explained in “Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success by Kenneth J. Saltman,

“…investment banks pay for public services to be contracted out to private providers and stand to earn much more money than the cost of the service…The Every Student Succeeds Act [ESSA] of 2016, the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, directs federal dollars to incentivize these for-profit educational endeavors significantly legitimizing and institutionalizing them.

Hum. Make the scheme legal and cement profiting, for Wall Street banks and other investors, into the inner workings of the institution of public education.

Legitimize. Institutionalize. Privatize.

Who got incentivized?

Doesn’t it seem like this combination of millionaires and billionaires could outright provide preschool services if they wanted to? Make no mistake; this is about investments. Will this group be pocketing Pay for Success money? We have to wait and see. But by the time the deal is done, it is done. Chances are we won’t know much about the full deal — until it’s too late.

But we do know the messages being spread. Pay for Success functions as an “accountability” mechanism. Accountability? Just like under No Child Left Behind?

“In theory,… the government only pays the funder if the program meets the metrics. If the program exceeds the metrics, then the investor can receive bonus money making the program much more expensive for the public and highly lucrative for the banks.”

Who sets the metrics?

Recall the cheating scandals over test scores — the “metric” central to No Child Left Behind (NCLB now ESSA)?

We learned a lesson. Didn’t we?

But supposedly, Pay for Success is a better way for us to go forward because…

“it creates a ‘market incentive’ for a bank or investor to fund a social program when allegedly there is not the political will to support the expansion of public services.”

What? When? We don’t want to pay for public services?

Now their marketing says we do support investing in early childhood education. What a difference three years makes! Survey says….We have a unifying issue! Invest now!Legitimate surveys have always shown we support a PUBLIC school system.

People pay their taxes (and expect corporations to do so as well) in part because they want the government to deliver good services to the people who need them.”

This really is another example of Us versus Them — Main Street versus Wall Street. And Wall Street is running a new game. We pay; they play.

“[Pay for Success] Contracts are so convoluted and complicated that what normally would take a month to do takes two years and with financial arrangements so complicated that a university professor in financial management ‘still needed help understanding the financing.’”

Shades of “credit default swaps” — those Wall Street “innovative financial instruments” of Main Street destruction.

If you read Saltman’s whole article, be forewarned. The facts about their propaganda centered on early childhood education services is enough to make a person gag … Suddenly Wall Street cares about Main Street? Right. They are for Us.

Is Pay for Success promising better education at a lower price than what we now pay? Sounds too good to be true?

 

Their game is going to be tough to follow. Please try.

ESSA gives authority to Pay for Success through the Secretary of Education (Betsy DeVos). It also gives her a funding stream for start-up costs for new charter preschools. In addition, there is a focus on rural schools. And ESSA provides transportation costs for the first year of those charters. After that, you will pay out of your state and local pockets of public cash for increasing transportation costs. That in-turn will create a market for more online rural schools. The quality of education?

Remember, this portion of their game started back during the recession.

So let’s go back to that Wall Street induced Great Recession. It was tighten-your-belt time. Crisis. Definitely. Budgets had to be cut? Absolutely. What’s the first to go? The big-ticket state item — education. But every time this happens, local people step up. Most of us willingly fund education. In most states preschools are funded for at least the most needy. Only six states don’t support Head Start or other early childhood education.

Do we need more access to quality preschools? Probably. But is Pay for Success the best investment for taxpayers?

In Why “Pay for Success” Financing Could Cost Taxpayers More Than They Bargained For by Rachel M. Cohen, she writes…

“New Profit—a ‘venture philanthropy fund’ with a board that boasts Bain Capital executives and other investment leaders—launched an advocacy arm in 2007, innocuously named America Forward. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the group recommended that his transition team establish a ‘social innovation fund.'”

President Obama went for it. He even established “the first-ever White House Office of Social Innovation.” Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, now leads that office. Kushner’s plans? To remodel our workforce training programs….OUR public programs.

President Obama’s Social Innovation Fund is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Who knew?

“…three foundations have played particularly significant roles: the Rockefeller Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation…. all three foundations have funded the Government Performance Lab at Harvard, established in 2011, that helps implement and expand Pay for Success initiatives. Jeffrey Liebman, who served in the Obama administration as the deputy director for policy at the OMB, runs the Harvard center.”

To be clear, we have a privately-funded private school performance lab reviewing the metrics for Pay for Success. Remember, it is private investors who will be paid for “success.” How independent will the reviews be?

And in case you didn’t catch this fact, the law began under Obama’s administration and the person heading the lab worked for the Obama administration. …. My head is spinning faster than a revolving door!

Disruptive “innovation”? A cycle in need of stopping.

The people coming up with these schemes have so much money they don’t know what to do with it. What these people know is that they don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes. So through OUR lawmakers, they set-up tax credits, loopholes, and under-the-radar innovative financial instruments to be legal tax-dodgers ….. The result: we can’t fund quality social services, our way. That’s how they create problems — for us.

And Ms. Cohen goes on to point out…

“…at its worst, Pay for Success can leave taxpayers paying substantially more than if their governments had just funded programs directly….”

What are the chances they can demonstrate real success? Well, investors are hedging their bets. By choosing to invest in already successful programs (the ones we already know work), their risk becomes minimal. And there is nothing innovative about their “new products” other than the funding mechanism and a new name for some old programs we previously had to cut.

So let’s remember, this plan unfolding before us is about the public service of educating young, very impressionable children. It isn’t just money at risk. Childhood is.

With Pay for Success funding early childhood education programs, we are putting our trust in a financial scheme headed by the same investors who caused the Great Recession — Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan, da, da-da, da. Think they have changed their ways? They would like you to think so.

What I don’t understand is the country discarding a successful education system that was the envy of the world for almost 200 years— until the education oligarchy took over.

We need to stop this lopsided deal for expanding public-private partnerships. It is taking total control over educating all our youngest citizens and placing them into a workforce/military development system. And with funders now teaming up with the charter alliance, this has gone too far! It’s a double whammy!

With only 17% of charters shown to outperform public schools, coupling of the First Five Years group with the Charter Alliance is risky….for children and taxpayers alike.

The game is rigged. The cards are stacked against us. We know that.

There may be some circumstances where Pay for Success is a viable idea. Preschool in particular and public education in general is NOT one of those circumstances.

“…the model is appropriate only for a narrow cohort of nonprofits that meet two related criteria: they must be able to effectively deliver and measure their social impact; and they must be able to translate that impact into financial benefits or cost savings that are traceable to the budgets of one or more institutions or government departments.

Although the potential social benefits of PFS [Pay for Success] appear to be real, one cannot ignore the likelihood of unintended negative consequences….

Haven’t we subjected our country’s children to enough “unintended negative consequences”?

It is time to knockdown the house of cards.

Pay for Success is only one item that is wrong with The Every Student Succeeds Act. Demand congress repeal ESSA before the trump card is played. 

 

Corporate-Elite Totalitarianism: Creeping or Leaping Toward a Totalitarian State?

Some people believe the United States is already a totalitarian state. If that is our reality, it doesn’t mean we can’t regain our status as a republic.

Corporate totalitarianism means total control by corporate interests…. What’s happening in the United States today is a corporate coup of the U.S. government, and anyone who isn’t grieving that must not be looking.”  Corporate Totalitarianism, or Not, Opinion by Marianne Williamson

We must look, and look deeper.

We can’t beat back what we don’t understand.

Totalitarian power by definition is considered to be…

“…of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation…”

I’m sure that during the Kennedy presidency, foreign totalitarian regimes were the concern. But what JFK stated then can be used in the fight we must take-on today. To win this battle, our citizenry …

“[It] requires skilled manpower and brainpower to match the power of totalitarian discipline.”

He was discussing education. We must educate people to recognize and resist conformity for the sake of conformity. We need brainpower? Not a problem.

But, whom are we matching wits against? And how powerful is their discipline, their control over us?

That is where my passionate support for public education keeps me digging for answers. I don’t like what I have found.

When the public education system is completely controlled and directed to focus on the “productive capacity of the nation,” then we are concentrating our manpower and money on one of the corporate-elites’ endpoints — the production of their manpower supply. This is where we must focus our brainpower. This is where the corporate-elite coup must be stopped.

Children do need to be employable. The public education system helps fulfill that goal. I get that.

What I don’t get is the public’s seeming willingness to let that education be narrowed and controlled to the point that a test-and-sort system can be used to fill corporate workforce needs. What don’t people understand about the importance of control of the public education system?

But back to the question of who.

We know that currently under the rule of law corporations are considered people (people who never die?). However, corporations alone can’t pull off this coup.

Organizations of all kinds with a variety of political ideologies have jumped on the “education reform” bandwagon. They are the ruling elite — ultra-rich individuals and foundations of all structures, sizes, and attractively deceptive names. And they are hiring people just like you to work on promoting and selling their agenda. (Recognize astroturf?)

Are we sure we want these groups — under the guise of philanthropic efforts and state control — in control of our productive capacity?

In The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Eric Hoffer explains that—

“… propaganda articulates and justifies opinions already present in the minds of the recipients.”

Now, think about this: How many parents have been frustrated at one time or another with something that happened in their public schools?

How many business owners have been frustrated at one time or another by hires who didn’t seem adequately prepared for work?

Same question, professors and college students, etc. etc. … I’m NOT saying there is a HUGE problem; I’m saying there are some underlying unaddressed social tensions associated with public education. There has always been a constant desire to improve schools — as there should be. But that fact has been used against us.

Hoffer illuminates how leaders play on our emotions —

“…leadership articulates and justifies the resentment damned up in the souls of the frustrated.”

Because of frustration, we are vulnerable to massive changes not always of our choosing. With education reform as we have called it for the last 30 years, the massive changes aren’t fixing the real problems. The pseudo-reforms are only feeding the corporate State. (And, yes, that is state with an authoritatively capital “S.”)

America was given a choice long ago, but it was an “either/or” choice. (America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages) That’s a propaganda technique that creates a false dilemma. You have only two choices and you MUST pick one. It looks like we did. And these same education elite-D.C.-think tankers moving us to make that choice also took control of our system. We are implementing their plan.

The State — Big Money running what we used to call Big Brother (our government) — is no longer a republic. As Chris Hedges explains in Our Invisible Revolution,…

“Our shift to corporate totalitarianism, like the shift to all forms of totalitarianism, is incremental. … The ‘consent of the governed’ is a cruel joke. Barack Obama cannot defy corporate power any more than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton could.”

WE can defy them. You see, I believe this because of what I see. I see a corrupted federal education law that must be stopped. It can be stopped.

The “new” education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is a perfect example of persisting totalitarian creep into the education of the next generation. ESSA continues the marketable propaganda of No Child Left Behind — accountability, flexibility, and choice — while moving the corporate-elite agenda of privatization forward by leaps and bounds. The law, and those executing it, further corporate-elite control over what is becoming their workforce development system.

Between the Koch Brothers outright contributions, the ALEC (American Legislative Council) laws they push, and their funding of astroturf groups, these brothers will be hard to contain.

And now, it is obvious that the public education system is being used for other purposes. Here’s how.

We bought the plan to focus education on a narrow set of skills (standards). Once the State dictated a couple sets of standards it didn’t take long before others followed. Now, we are poised to lose control of civics (social studies) education. (The Koch Brothers Sneak into School. It’s real. It’s legal….and you are paying for it.)

The ESSA law establishes a Presidential Academy for civics instructors. Innocent enough? Perhaps. BUT when accountability for education is being left up to “the State,” who’s to say? How narrow will the civics instruction be? Who will be controlling the content? And who is training “our” educational leadership?

Convinced that this is some serious stuff?

Well, let’s look further at totalitarianism. It can be defined as…

“…tending toward monopoly.”

Big Money has monopolized education policy — from State to Federal and Federal to State — including local policies through the training of parents and school board members. This is the problem many of us have with Common Core National Standards. They aren’t just standards. They are based on a vision for a totalitarian workforce development system paid for by the public but privately controlled. The corporate-elite created the Common Core System. (America’s Choice?)

So, who is in control of the education of the next generation?

“Controlling information and controlling dissent are part of what goes into maintaining a totalitarian state,” said Jerrold Post, director of the political psychology program at George Washington University.

See why the public education system is such a big piece in the game?

The anti-Common Core groups are fighting hard. The anti-high stakes testing groups are still battling after over two decades. Anti-charter/voucher groups are on the rise. Their individual efforts deserve our respect and admiration, but it hasn’t been enough to stop the coup.

To date, federal education law continues under the control of the corporate-elites. We are still only minor players.

“Through their control of politicians, political parties and corporate media, they do everything necessary to make sure that political candidates who resist them get nowhere near the levers of power.” Marianne Williamson

We, the populace, are rising. But,…

“An uprising that is devoid of ideas and vision is never a threat to ruling elites.” Chris Hedges

That is where the ideas and visions of JFK can still serve us well.

The fight for equal educational opportunity has been brought to the schoolhouse steps before.

Totalitarian discipline did creep into education law. But we don’t have to comply with it. Civil disobedience is needed at every opportunity.

Reinforcements are a must. All the groups out there saying they are fighting against corporate-elite rule need to recognize where their strength and numbers are needed most. We know the corporate-elite takeover is real. We have the brainpower to match theirs. What we lack is the collective manpower focused where we can make a huge difference right now…. and in the future.

Join forces. Help stop the escalating takeover of our public schools.

Education Lessons JFK Left Behind

100 years after the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and with his birthday falling on Memorial Day, it seems fitting to look back in tribute at the education lessons JFK left behind.

President Kennedy recognized that our country

“requires a citizenry that understands our principles and problems. It requires skilled manpower and brainpower to match the power of totalitarian discipline. It requires a scientific effort which demonstrates the superiority of freedom. And it requires an electorate in every state with sufficiently broad horizons and sufficient maturity of judgment to guide this nation safely through whatever lies ahead.”

Final Special Message to the Congress on Education, January 29, 1963

Today, are this nation’s needs any different than when JFK made his proposals to congress?

In 1961, Kennedy’s first appeal to Congress on behalf of public schools was for support of his “twin goals”:

“a new standard of excellence in education and the availability of such excellence to all who are willing and able to pursue it.”

By April 11, 1965, over two years after JFK’s assassination, his “twin goals” became the aim of national education policy when President Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA),

An Act

“To strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunities in the Nation’s elementary and secondary schools.” 

Kennedy emphasized the need to address “depressed areas” and “slum neighborhoods” where children are known to have: poor diets, unaddressed speech, dental and visual disorders, and where older students are in need of job guidance and proper recreational activities.

The first titles of ESEA addressed Kennedy’s concerns for a spectrum of disadvantages:

Title IEducation of Children of Low Income Families to provide financial assistance to support educationally-deprived children.

Title IISchool Library Resources, Textbooks, and Other Instructional Materials to provide for access to educational materials for all students in the State.

Title IIISupplementary Educational Centers and Services to provide services not currently offered but deemed vital to educational improvement made available to the entire community.

Kennedy stressed that unlike in the health and agricultural fields where they “have established the worth of systematic research and development,”

the education profession “lags behind in utilizing the results of research.”

To remedy the problem;

Title IVEducational Research and Training; Cooperative Research Act to provide research, training, and dissemination of information aimed at improving the quality of teaching.

With variability in quality and access between the states recognized as a problem, ESEA’s last title clarified the intent of federal education law.

Title VState Departments of Education aimed to stimulate and assist in strengthening the leadership resources of State educational agencies.

In each education-focused special message to Congress, JFK expounded further and further on how he saw the proper federal role. He declared,

“Let us put to rest the unfounded fears that ‘Federal money means Federal control.’” And he held up the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the Morrill Act of 1862 (establishing the Land-Grant College system), and the National Defense Education Act of 1958 as examples where “the Congress has repeatedly recognized its responsibility to strengthen our educational system without weakening local responsibility.”

And the 35-page law, the 1965 ESEA, was completed with a statement limiting the boundaries of federal power:

“Federal Control of Education Prohibited

Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other print or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system.”

With the passage of ESEA, the major ideas that Kennedy and his advisers believed would strengthen and improve public schools were preserved — temporarily.

Today, both our federal boundaries and guiding principles are unclear.

So in memorial of President Kennedy’s birthday, May 29, 1917, let us recall how he wished to succeed in improving and strengthening educational opportunities for all the nation’s children.

Acknowledging that the quality of the students depends on…

“both the quality and the relative quantity of teachers and facilities,”

he emphasized class size, teachers’ salaries, and adequate classrooms as common problems particularly in need of assistance in states with limited financial resources.

Focusing on teachers, JFK felt…

our immediate concern should be to afford them every possible opportunity to improve their professional skills and their command of the subjects they teach.”

He believed “teachers would profit from a full year of full-time study in their subject-matter fields. Very few can afford to do so.” The funding then proposed was to “begin to make such opportunities available to the elementary and secondary school teachers of this country and thereby accord to this profession the support, prestige and recognition it deserves.”

And quoting Thomas Jefferson,

Let us keep our eye steadily on the whole system,

Kennedy asked that his final education proposal “be considered as a whole, as a combination of elements designed to solve problems that have no single solution.”

The nations’ goals were to be met “on the basis of three fundamental guidelines:

  1. An appraisal of the entire range of educational problems…;
  2. A selective application of Federal aid – aimed at strengthening, not weakening, the independence of existing school systems and aimed at meeting our most urgent education problems and objectives…; and
  3. More effective implementation of existing laws…”

To honor limited federal involvement in education, the “appraisal” is a necessary first step because,…

federal “participation should be selective, stimulative and, where possible, transitional” and “the proper Federal role is to identify national education goals and to help local, state and private authorities build the necessary roads to reach those goals.”

Today, we will only be able to finish building the necessary roads by first removing the roadblocks.

We must look back and recognize that our country

“requires a citizenry that understands our principles and problems.”

Do citizens clearly understand the problems?

Are we standing on the right education reform principles?

Did “we” change our goals?

Improving schools requires we understand the problems, understand the principles, and set the right goals. That is the lesson left behind.

Consider this. President Kennedy’s twin goals were a force that led our nation well for decades. But the changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) over many more decades has taken us further from meeting those twin goals of quality and equality.

Congress lost its footing. They overstepped. And they landed on a very slippery slope.

In 1965, it was JFK’s twin goals that LBJ ushered into this law.

Title I funds clearly were part of the War on Poverty.

The 1994 Clinton administration introduced “other purposes” — unchecked.

Those “other purposes” included basing the “quality” of education and access to it firmly upon standards and the tests associated with those standards. School Choice Programs were put in under Title I. Transportation costs were not included.

By the 2001 Bush administration, the whole law (NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND) was clearly Outcome-Based with accountability for all schools under federal control, flexibility with spending our federal dollars out of control, and school choice included in a variety of places. It was in sections under parental involvement, accountability, and supplemental services. The funding to assess transportation costs as well as picking up that cost in certain cases were included.

This is what NCLB Title I said ( “disadvantaged” ) but NCLB clearly had all public schools march to the same drummer – standards and testing – one-size-fits-all.

In a last-minute rush, the 2015 Obama administration signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act. The law was renamed so many times in the year preceding the push that the public couldn’t keep up and the writers wrote “achieves” instead of “succeeds” in the final version. ESSA is not what the public was told it would be.

Title I officially has the federal government involved in the basic programs of all schools still based on the principles of NCLB with a ramping up of school choice at every turn, including pre-K charters, with the Secretary of Education given more power to start-up charters as well as providing the first year of transportation costs.

Don’t you think its time we all took a step back, stopped the federal overreach, and corrected the mistakes that have been made?

The education lessons JFK left behind for this nation provides us solid ground upon which to stand. That platform was built where practical knowledge of improvement practices met the need for equal access under the law.

I hope more of you will make the time to read and contemplate President Kennedy’s three messages to Congress on education (the only links in this blog). All real reformers should stand on the solid principles they provide before continuing to fight in the American education reform wars. That war is currently dividing the nation along ideological and political lines while allowing the dismantling of a longstanding system that served us well.

Let us read, understand, remember, and use the education lessons JFK left behind.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.02.02 AM

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

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 2.04.25 PM

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.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 4.37.51 PM

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.

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.

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

Do I Understand ESEA?

This question — do I understand ESEA — should have been a starting point for President Obama and all 535 members of Congress as they approached the reauthorization of ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act). I’m only attempting to answer the question today because a citizen on Facebook asked it and I happened to see it. It’s an excellent question with answers that have varied according to who is speaking and the depth of their understanding or political motivation.right-question-quotes-8

It is confusing.

ESEA —the original 1965 law— and NCLB (No Child Left Behind) are technically the same law but the similarities in their purposes and methods are few.

Here is an explanation directly from Senator Crapo of Idaho.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 5.16.24 PM ESEA was actually enacted in 1965 and its focus was on funding to children disadvantaged by poverty. The funds were to meet under-privileged children’s educational needs through improved teacher, counselor, and state leadership training, community support services, and increasing support for libraries and learning materials.

We stopped questioning authority?

We stopped questioning authority?

 

The provisions ended in 2007? That’s confusing. It makes it sound as if NCLB ended; it did not! Congress just FAILED at that point to do their jobs and the detrimental effects of the law continued unchecked for eight more years.

Here’s how it once worked.

To implement the original ESEA required low-income communities to identify the needs of impoverished children and develop plans to address those needs. This is because the focus of the law was on meeting the needs of “educationally-deprived” or “disadvantaged” children. This was the mechanism through which the original ESEA lawmakers envisioned offering poor children an equal shot at success in life as best as a good education can.

A committee reviewed the results of the 1965 law less than a year after it was put into action and found that the dollars were being used in a variety of ways….Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 6.32.04 PMThe 1965 ESEA was based on JFK’s vision.Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 3.16.21 PMThe “assessment” requirement was to prove the effectiveness of the school’s plans in meeting the needs of impoverished children. For example, the assessment of program effectiveness in decreasing the number of anemic children might include a variety of indicators (number of low-income parents attending adult nutrition classes, food distribution numbers, number of local nurses trained to educate new parents, final blood screening results, etc.). The assessment was to fit the program of improvement and the only mention of measuring achievement was this…

"Appropriate" was to be determined by focusing on what children need to learn.

“Appropriate” was to be determined by focusing on what children need to learn.

Were “achievement gaps” also monitored? Yes, eventually, but not in this law. It wasn’t the main focus. Monitoring the achievement gap became more important when the U.S. Department of Education was created in part to ensure equal access to quality education. They then went on to create the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is well-respected in the education field and not seen as objectionable by most of the parents who now are protesting and boycotting excessive standardized testing (which was not part of ESEA until NCLB).

Facebook Question: Isn’t it true that schools are entitled to additional federal funding if they meet performance standards?

It is true of the way NCLB was set up through its stipulations to punish low-performing schools and reward high-performing schools based on a free-market model of competition. It is also true because of the way the system set up “grants” of money based on who has the best grant writers and can make their student population perform well on standardized tests, or if they can manipulate their data well.

This was not true with the original ESEA. It’s funding was focused on children from low-income families and an accounting of wise use of federal dollars. Districts receiving federal funds needed to demonstrate results based on an assessment of how well they were meeting the needs of children (inputs) as well as improving success in academics (outcomes).

Facebook Question: Does that mean that schools can ignore ESEA and continue on as before?

Schools in areas of concentrated poverty shouldn’t ignore their dependency on federal education dollars through ESEA. Many use those dollars very wisely because they have honest, hard-working, knowledgeable leadership. Other places lack leadership capacity and play the teach-to-the-test game that narrows what is taught. Unequal access to quality education persists for that reason.

Facebook Question: What is wrong with the government expecting performance for our tax dollars?

Absolutely nothing. But the misunderstanding in this nation is that “performance” on standardized tests equates to the quality of education and equal access to it. It doesn’t.

The truth is counter-intuitive. Standards don’t ensure achievement.

Standardized test scores continue to correlate most closely to a child’s socioeconomic status, which doesn’t usually change dramatically from year to year. Yearly testing of every student for purposes of judging schools from the federal level is an unethical use of standardized tests. NAEP testing is done randomly and has been a good barometer of the achievement gap between rich and poor. (P.S. The gap narrowed most significantly in the two decades following the original ESEA.)

What we should expect in the way of accountability for tax dollars are appropriate indicators of resource inputs, parental and community supports, and a variety of outcomes….indexI could go on, and on….

These were great questions to try to answer! I’m so fortunate to have seen them. This is exactly the type of question/answer session the country needs if we have any hope of getting ESEA reauthorization (and education reform) right.

My thanks to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page for providing the forum that made this conversation possible.

Obviously regular people are asking the right questions while lawmakers remain ignorant of how poverty affects children and how federal education law can help improve the odds of each child having access to quality learning opportunities. We need to remedy that problem before Congress and the president reauthorize ESEA without correcting the mistakes made through No Child Left Behind.

(UPDATE: Too late. Congress & the Obama administration passed the Every Student Succeeds Act – ESSA – December 10, 2015. Same mistakes as NCLB. More emphasis on privatizing public education through “charters.”)

If they won’t ask good questions, we must find another way to inform them.

(UPDATE: My suggestion now is to #StopESSA #RepealReplaceESSA #Revolt and have the conversations we need to have.)

Pillars or Propaganda

pillars ancient

When you hear the word “pillars,” does it invoke an image of strong supports? Who would have thought this innocent but persuasive word would be used against us in the education reform wars?

 

The four pillars of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) are,

  • Stronger Accountability for Results
  • More Freedom for States and Communities
  • Proven Education Methods
  • More Choices for Parents

Pillars or propaganda?

After 14 years, our reality should tell us that they were not pillars of school improvement. The propaganda machine behind NCLB was strong and effective. The wording of the pillars —like the name No Child Left Behind—were only the empty promises of a politically-motivated, greed-driven marketing campaign.

And now?lawmaking-process

Now we stand poised to have Representative John Kline (R-MN) chair the House-Senate Conference Committee to write the law slated to replace NCLB— if the combined bills once again pass through both houses and the president signs it.

 

Let the deal making and propaganda flow — in a very controlled manner.

As clearly explained,

No Child Left Behind greatly expanded the role of the federal government in public schools in an effort to ensure every student receive equal academic opportunities. The law required states to set academic standards, routinely test student proficiency and report the results.”

You could say the goal sounds noble. But NCLB stood upon the guiding principles (pillars) of “accountability, flexibility, and choice” and clearly used the force of law to require implementation of the reform theory of standards, testing, and public reporting of test results to push a failed reform method that we knew wouldn’t work.

THAT, we don’t hear discussed in the mainstream media.

Instead, the marketing campaign is being rolled out and the media is regurgitating what they are feed.

logo.2015

 

As Kline explains

“The Student Success Act [House version H.R.5] is based upon four pillars – four sound principles upon which I think we can build common ground…”

  • Reduce the Federal Footprint
  • Restore Local Control
  • Shift from “Highly Qualified Teachers” to “Highly Effective Teachers”
  • Empower Parents

The sound bites rolled off the tongue.11192630_424448924428605_1947082176_n

“The Student Success Act will reduce the federal footprint and restore local control, while empowering parents and education leaders to hold schools accountable for effectively teaching students.”

SOLD…. Not so fast. To call these methods “sound principles” just isn’t the truth.

We were promised “freedom/flexibility” —now we are asked to swallow reducing the federal footprint and “local control.”

We were promised “proven methods” — now we think “effective” is better.

We were promised “choice” — now we get “empowerment” because choice has been proven ineffective repeatedly.

We are getting powerful words engrained in our consciousness; they are slogans not solutions.

The Senate version is no better. The Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177) to stands on such a multitude of “pillars” that people must read more than the well-written marketing pieces to know what is in the bill. You have to dig deep.

10389690_773525136032161_985265226383217614_nWhat we do know is that what will come out of the Conference Committee will be a combination of these two bills. Don’t both bills still stand on the principles of test-based accountability and the false promises of local control and choice while sounding as though they uphold the ideal of proven effective methods of reform?

The current pillars of federal education law have been proven to NOT work for America.

Now, the public should be exploring whether or not the underlying “pillars of reform” that No Child Left Behind stood upon will be sufficiently changed by this new law?

Based on what I know of both laws, it’s not likely.

The proposed pillars of The Student Success Act and The Every Child Achieves Act are based on the same guiding principles as No Child Left Behind. Only the words have been changed but the illusion of reform remains the same. There is no proof of effectiveness and the real fight is still against the big money interests already in control of our education dollars.

And don’t believe for a minute that…

“President Barack Obama is unlikely to sign the bill as written when it comes out of committee.”

The deal for him is being sweetened.

And President Obama does not have personal experience with the effects that No Child Left Behind had on children in low-income communities. He didn’t send his children to an under-performing school. He didn’t study the history of education reform or the development of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. What are the chances he has had the opportunity to hear and consider the stories people like myself could tell?

If he listens, what is he hearing?

He has not publicly discussed the alternatives that are available. They are more likely unbeknown to him — like they are to the majority of the public.

We are hearing the propaganda; we are not hearing about the true pillars of education reform.

UPDATE: S.1177 was passed with a change of the name to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). President Obama signed it into law….The country remained relatively silent and we are now obediently complying with the law.

The Public’s Choice

Parents, educators, and politicians moved forward with the illusion of reform based on individual “choice” without considering the public good.

If public education is a public good, what choice does the public have in deciding its direction?

If public education is a public good, what choice does the public have in deciding how it is provided?

We put choice into education law without really having a conversation about our choices.

The Power of the Word

In Understanding the Psychology of the American Idea of Choice, researchers noted that Americans respond more strongly to the word “choice” than people from other countries. They found that when we think about our lives framed in terms of choices, it …

  • “reduces our support for public policies that promote greater equality,…
  • leads us to feel less concerned about the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor,…
  • leads us to feel less empathy towards others who have experienced negative life events,…
  • [shifts] attitudes in favor of policies that promote individual freedom.”

At the heart of the issue of “choice” is our strongly embedded love of freedom. There’s nothing wrong with that, except, these findings may very well have been used against us. Overall, researchers found the effects that the word “choice” has on us seems “to bode poorly for solving social problems that require cooperation.”

Public education of children is a cooperative effort.

Choice Laws

The education law of the land, No Child Left Behind, is a law promoting school choice.Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 5.30.00 PM

It didn’t used to be. It used to be a law promoting quality and equal opportunity.Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 3.52.56 PM

But even if we eliminated the big bad hand of the federal government in education reform laws, state charter laws abound and ALEC is ready for the State to control education reform.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is advancing the “principles of free markets” and makes claims that they promote…

“public private partnerships between America’s state legislators and concerned members of the private sector, the federal government, and the general public.”

ALEC is looking out for the general public?

ALEC supports “more choices in education both as a matter of principle and as a promising solution to the increasing challenges facing America’s K-12 education system.”

With charter laws in place across the country, here’s ALEC’s smorgasbord of other “solutions” to choose from ….Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 7.41.11 PM

But is “choice” a solution for the American K-12 education system?

The Assumption of Choice as a Reform

The basic assumption is that ALL parents are very savvy and their school choices will be well-informed. They will be able to judge the schools accurately and won’t get sold on advertising gimmicks similar to how the country was deceived by test score comparisons.

I admit my bias here; I volunteered in classrooms for 11 years and saw these same kids with their families in different settings in my community. This is my opinion…

The ignorant crack head is not “savvy”; the single working mother struggling to get everything done in a 24 hour day doesn’t have time to adequately do her homework on schools, she isn’t “savvy”; the homeless but proud (and yes, I can put a face to them) can only use the library computer for a limited time, not enough opportunity to become “savvy”; and those parents whose children are their translators have a real barrier to becoming “savvy.”

Put another way in “Choice or Commonality” by Martha Minow, a law professor and inspiration to a young Barack Obama,

“if educational responsibility remains solely on the immediate family, ‘choice’ may take place in a world of insufficient numbers of quality schools, inadequate information about the stakes and alternatives, and large numbers of people unable to use the choice system effectively. This state of affairs means choice for some and not for others, and whether a child’s educational needs are met will depend on her parents’ ability to choose.

So with federal education law originally meant to support the public education system in order to break the “poverty-ignorance-ignorance-poverty cycle” by providing ALL children with quality education, we know “choice” cannot logically get us to equal educational opportunity.

What problem is fixed by “choice” through charters?

Quality? You can put the word “quality” in front of “charter” in law but it doesn’t make it so. In the new federal law set to replace No Child Left Behind they use the term “high quality” while others say “high-performing”; still, words don’t make it so. Only 17% of charter schools perform better than traditional public schools. Unequal quality isn’t fixed and that is the major problem.

While the problem being fixed by choice through charters is illusive or non-existent, the growing troubles are well documented in this Washington Post article, A Dozen Problems with Charter Schools.

  1. Most are not helping kids.
  2. Some are actually hurting kids.
  3. Far too many are cash cows.
  4. The industry is rife with fraud and corruption.
  5. Lack of transparency and accountability.
  6. Skimming and weed-out strategies.
  7. Contribute to the re-segregation of U.S. education.
  8. Drain resources from struggling districts.
  9. Closing traditional public schools.
  10. Lack of innovation.
  11. Hard to get rid of the bad ones.
  12. Charters promote “choice” as solution.

As the curtain goes up on all the complications with charters, that will not slow the Choice Movement. Look at Nevada and their Universal School Choice.mistakes

Is this informed choice? What are the risks? And really, what is the difference between shopping for a charter and shopping for education products with public money in hand? How informed will parents be, how inefficient is the system to become, how unequal will the quality be, and who will be responsible to the children left behind in the end when their parents don’t make good choices or are fooled into bad choices?

The choice to leave a school never improves that school. For certain individuals, a different school than the one they are assigned is appropriate, but those situations must be handled at the local level. They are the exception, not the general rule.

The choice this country was never given is the one to continue to strengthen and improve all schools through proven methods. The choice we never got was to put in place the best practices we know that match our students’ needs. The choice we never got was to improve the teaching profession as a nation. The choice we never got was to fund schools in a manner that is fair and reasoned.

When all reform is based on responsiveness to the needs of community members, continuous improvement happens. That’s what we have always needed, always will.

Choice is a very powerful propaganda weapon; choice is not a reform. School choice is not a solution. To create more equitable educational opportunities, continuous school improvement of every public school is the only logical solution.

But I’m not the one making this choice.

personal-choice-quotes-3The public must choose. Do you want public education to be a public service provided by our government, or, a commodity provided by private individuals or organizations paid for by tax dollars? This is about control. This is about how we govern our schools.

This is a BIG choice. We urgently need to decide.