Stuck in the Muck: Trapped in Outcome-Based Reforms that Don’t Work

If President Trump drained the swamp, we would still be stuck in the muck.

Cartoon provided by Ben Garrison. Visit his site at GrrrGraphics!

Still waiting on leaders to fix health care? And how many decades have we listened to talk about fixing the education system? But, did you know that both these systems are suffering from the same problem?

“Make America great again”? We can’t do that without understanding what changed America. Until then, we spin our wheels, dig ourselves in deeper, and allow the expanding swamp to be refilled.

The problem? We switched drivers — from leaders believing in progress to those driven by outcome-based data, money, and their own arrogance. Our drivers own the world and dictate the rules.

We the People? We don’t know which way to turn. But even if we did, we can’t move forward because we’re stuck in the muck.

Health care, social security, the justice system, the environment, education, on and on — all the major social problems are being kicked down the road. And we are stuck in debt up to our eyeballs while our social safety net develops ever-widening holes.

Most of the holes were created by us and what we don’t know.

In the health care debate, what aren’t we hearing?

“The physicians say the increased use of quality metrics to assess provider performance is having a negative impact on quality of care. Far fewer (22 percent) see quality metrics as having a positive impact on quality.

Nearly half (47 percent) of physicians and just over a quarter (27 percent) of nurse practitioners and physician assistants say the recent trends in healthcare are leading them to consider an earlier retirement.”

Source: NPR Suicides are up. Tracking outcomes isn’t what these people needed us to do.

Physicians and teachers are facing the same problems.

Where we once had community hospitals (schools), we now have health care (charter) management organizations. They control a data-driven system with an eye towards cost-cutting through technology. The technology industry and health treatment (education market) industries are flourishing.

People? We aren’t doing so well. Not only are teens and middle-aged men killing themselves at alarming rates, Americans in general are not as happy as we once were.

We know we need to address heath care. But we seem unaware of how desperately we need to consider real education reform as a national priority.

If we can’t gain control of our own local school systems, what hope do we have of solving our other more complex problems?

When leaders put Standards Based Reforms (SBR) in federal education law, we were trapped in the education metrics of outcome-based reforms.

Once we drop the fallacy that Standards-Based Reforms are a silver bullet, true education reform will be possible.

Statistics now prove what many believe. Standards don’t ensure student achievement. The focus on monitoring outcomes ignores the problems created by separate and unequal schools.

The misconception is that setting “higher, better” standards improves schools. It doesn’t.

Do you know why No Child Left Behind (NCLB) didn’t improve schools? SBR. And the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) perpetuates the same problem. SBR.

“Now we risk setting national curriculum standards instead of recognizing that children need us to identify their individual strengths and weaknesses and work with them to attain a level of mastery of the classroom curriculum as outlined in a locally agreed upon instructional framework.

This isn’t a philosophy that gets away from being held accountable to a standard; it’s one that is responsible for meeting the needs of the individual student along with educational standards.” The Crucial Voice of the People

That is a description of standards-referenced education, not standards-based (NOT the Outcome-Based Theory).

But the country is stuck because our tax dollars for education continue to be spent on SBR, not invested in us.

“We’re stuck because our focus, our funding priorities, and our personal beliefs and attitudes are failing to serve our country.

We are stuck in the standardization of children ditch because we set test scores as our goal—in law and in the minds of Americans.” The Crucial Voice of the People

Metrics rule. Plus, we have not listened to people with a passion for teaching and compassion for children.

“In the last several years, with the continuing emphasis on using data to drive instruction, I find myself increasingly skeptical about what we do to ‘benefit’ students. …

Data seems to be the driver of much educational policy today, even when it means we force students into increased time with their weakest subjects, and excluding content that might intrigue them.  We marvel at the lack of engagement while we simultaneously impose rigid interventions…

I’m very concerned that our fixation on data has become more important than the engagement of students in topics that might lead them to important self-realizations of competency…  It often feels like teachers are working in a system designed for disengagement, while at the same time being evaluated on their skill at maintaining engagement!

Regardless of my knowledge or enthusiasm, I’m still expected to march as a good soldier with what I see as an archaic system…

Our current models mean we–teachers, administrators, and students–fixate more on ‘grades’ than learning.  I can no longer grow as an educator when I feel confined by parameters that fail to prioritize self-discovery and lifelong learning–for all of us.” — Cindy McDonald (A Now Retired Teacher)

We are losing compassionate and passionate public servants. Our public services are trapped in the metrics of Outcome-Based Reforms because we aren’t controlling how our money is spent.

The more automated our human services become, the less service we are providing to humans. People are getting frustrated and blaming the government.

But consider this. The government is not run by people representative of us. Our government is run by the rich, ultra-rich, and the greedy who are willing to look the other way when it comes to using our lawmaking process for their own benefit. Palms are being greased. The “grease” keeps the swamp slimy.

And it is the arrogance of these ultra-rich people, telling us what is best for us, that we should no longer tolerate.

We’re the ones that need to roll up our sleeves and drain the swamp.

To clean House, we need an election revolution every two years until we’re no longer stuck but rather making real progress again.

Start in The House.

In writing about the House of Representatives, James Madison said, “They in a word hold the purse” (Federalist No. 58).

The Constitution: Article I SECTION. 7 “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives…”

“The greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration” (Federalist No. 52: Madison). Thus, Article I SECTION. 2 “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People…”

One solution offered in Restoring American Happiness is greater public financing of health and education. And we must invest wisely.

We need to control the purse…

“As the people are the only legitimate fountain of power” (Federalist No. 49: Madison), we are central to our own progress as a nation. And to restrain the House requires “above all the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it (Federalist No. 57: Madison).”

Call it an electoral revolt or call it an election revolution. Call it what you will. It is what our nation’s fathers directed us to do. It will nourish progress.

We filled the swamp; we can drain it. And we can refill it with representatives that will invest in the human side of both health care and education….or we drain it again…in two years time.

Civil Disobedience

Test refusal is an act of civil disobedience.

52 years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. explained the chain of events that typically leads to civil disobedience and the reasons it must occur.

Civil disobedience landed MLK in the Birmingham jail where he penned these words on April 16, 1963.

Civil disobedience landed MLK in the Birmingham jail where he penned these words on April 16, 1963.

“IN ANY nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action.”

The United Opt Out Movement is a campaign to, among other things, end high-stakes testing that has been firmly embedded in public schools through the No Child Left Behind law.. (and now continues with the Every Student Succeeds Act)…

As Dr. King explained it:

“There are just laws, and there are unjust laws…. A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law… Any law that degrades human personality is unjust… [it] distorts the soul and damages the personality…. [creating a] false sense of inferiority.”

Over-emphasis on standardized tests’ importance, their over-administration, and the inappropriate uses of standardized tests have made children, teachers, whole schools and districts feel inferior — most falsely so since these narrowly focused, single-point-in-time tests cannot accurately judge the quality of education nor diagnose an underlying condition with any accuracy. It’s like taking a temperature, blood pressure reading, or monitoring thyroid levels; they can change simply based on the time of day.

So…..

Step 1 in the campaign: Facts on testing and No Child Left Behind are clear. Research and time has verified the truth.

I’ll never forget being in a meeting of the Idaho Assessment and Accountability Commission and hearing person-after-person get up and testify to the absurdity of the test-based (outcome-based) mechanism of “accountability” that was about to go forward. The words “we are headed for a train wreck” still echo in my mind. Well, we are there.

Step 2 in the campaign: Negotiations were attempted repeatedly at the local, state, and federal levels.

And throughout the years, multitudes of people scattered across the country, separated by distance, differing ideologies, political party affiliation, socioeconomic stature, race, and a whole host of issues including the divisive topic of how to “fix” schools all continued trying to derail the standardization and privatization of our institution of public education.

“We realized that we were the victims of a broken promise.”…

“We did not move irresponsibly into direct action.”

Many made the determination that it was going to take a personal sacrifice of time and money to move forward. That is self-purification — acknowledging that personal sacrifices are needed for the sake of progress.

Step 3 in the campaign: Self-purification occurred knowingly and unknowingly as many of us gave our time, energy, and money to make the Save Our Schools March happen.

And that has led us to Step 4 in the campaign: Direct Action

So….

How will “opting out” work?

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.

It is the entrenched educational community; it is the dysfunctional community; it is the corrupted lawmaking communities that have refused to face facts, the issues, and the more logical solutions.

It is those “bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue” that have oppressed those wishing to move the efforts of education reform to focus on what is best for children and what child need us to do to ensure they have been provided with quality learning opportunities that fit their individual needs.

Martin Luther King saw others “smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society” and knew it was morally wrong to turn away. We must face that same problem now.

We are left “with no other alternative.” The time is right for civil disobedient in the education reform arena. Test refusal is the tool.

STANDARDIZED & PRIVATIZED

Are Americans sure they want a standardized and privatized system of “public” schools? Does the public understand what is happening?

Dismantling through standardization and privatization. That is what is being done using

Hard to See. That's why they call it Hidden Privatization.

Hard to See. That’s why they call it Hidden Privatization.

the crowbar of outcome-based “reforms.”

Long ago political leaders of both parties began allowing and fostering policies that the arrogant and greedy have used to their advantage and to our detriment. We are allowing a widely recognized destructive and over-reaching federal law —No Child Left Behind (NCLB)—to go unchecked and unchanged. (As of December 2015 the name was changed to the Every Student Succeeds Act – ESSA- but it is still an outcome-based (test-based) federal law.

NCLB celebrated its 12th birthday. It is officially six years overdue for revision—according to its own statute. Why? Is it because Congress can’t get it right, or, is the law doing exactly what it was meant to do?

What we know it did:
1.    Narrowed the curriculum,
2.    Produced cheating scandals,
3.    Gave use data without real results,
4.    Diminished local control and divided communities.

What we know it did NOT do:
1.    Increase accountability for results,
2.    Narrow the achievement gap.

It appears that NCLB also opened the policy door for full standardization and privatization with policies promoted as putting “students first” and the latest new tool for undermining the system — Common Core.

The Idaho task force recommendations* rely heavily on Common Core, the Luna Laws, and outcome-based theory (upon which NCLB was based). R&D – research and development (not Republicans and Democrats) – recommends differently.

*Note: Idaho has its Governor’s “Task Force for Improving Education” putting forth 20 recommendations that the public knows little of in the way of details – but the “preview” is well written. Poised to repeat the mistakes of the past!

*****Double Note for the Nation*****Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Who controls “leadership” and school board “training”? It is in our soon to pass laws – better check yours.

This was originally written for and published in the Idaho Statesman January 30, 2014.

I’m sharing it here because I believe – we must share what we know to be the truth. Also consider, To Privatize or Not to Privatize

And for those brave enough to want to consider the global scale of this, check out Hidden Privatisation. Here’s a one page brief.

Thank you for caring….Now let’s stop this destruction!

Same Song: Different Dance

This go-around — with test-based education and standardization of instruction — is much riskier than the last one that we call No Child Left Behind. It’s the same song with a more intense dance. Here’s what I mean…

Follow the "leader"?

Follow the “leader”?

Last night, I attended a school board meeting and I’d sum it up by saying “We are here!” We have officially created an education system that picks winners and losers based on the numbers!...1,2,3…1,2,3…bow down.

In this dance, my district is a step ahead in that we employ a person that helped develop the new “STAR” accountability mechanism that replaces the No Child Left Behind “AYP” accounting. So, we know before the dance starts what numbers are likely to come up — what has been chosen to be weighted in “value” — what the administration (& board & public) believes to be a judge of the quality of their work.

This time, unlike a decade and a half ago, the dance begins with parents and the public celebrating test scores as if that is the goal of education — oh, but it is. Everything from “accountability” to scholarships is now based on the scores. We are here! What now?

Next, we look to move forward to the next step in the dance. So with our new-found insight and “recession-forced” austerity measures, we will offer elementary age summer school only to Title I Migrant children. The other Title I children and any middle-income students that need help…sorry, you don’t get the opportunity to dance this go-around. Your number isn’t up. In the bigger picture of “accountability,” you don’t matter – statistically.

Also in the new “STAR” system, we will be counting the number of students that pass advanced placement tests. So, the school board approved money to start prepping them as sophomores — the chosen 40 that is. That should be enough to satisfy the new accountability measures.

And of course, we do have money to complete work on upgrading all our technology and getting our collected student data sent into the state collection system (see how that will “work”) because thus far they have done such a bang-up job!

Is this dance risky? Could the country be hurt, tripped up by the “accountability” dance that began so long ago?

The pied piper of test-based accountability has played a powerful tune. Boogie on America and you will soon be doing the same steps as the Chinese parents do; it’s the pressure-cooker hustle. Push those babies so they won’t be left behind. Winners?

A Call for Leadership on Testing

The Call

The Call

Ever hear a lone coyote howling in the wilderness? If you have, you might also have wondered how long he will go on before another answers his call.

That is how it felt to be “in the know” about standardized tests during the late 90’s when it hit my state and my kid’s classrooms. Where was the information about the ethical use of standardized tests? Where was the information about the strengths and weaknesses of their uses? And today, will this opt-out movement produce any different result? Depends.

I have no reason to believe that our current teaching force or certified leadership is aware of the lessons from the past. In the early 1930’s, the “efficiency movement” proved standardization of teaching was detrimental. In the late 30’s, we proved that standardized tests used as a judgment for school quality narrowed the curriculum and was “deadening to instruction.” And what did we learn from No Child left Behind – the longest, largest experiment in standardization to date?

My hope for the next generation rests on leadership – of all kinds, from all sectors of society. Answer the call.

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

Choice in School Reform

School reforms are failing to improve schools universally because standardization of children is not the solution to the systems problems. The “reformers” in control of the message are promoting more and “better” standards while overlooking the fact that the individuality, diversity, and unique character of Americans defies standardization.

But now — are we so tired of hearing the same ole’ education rhetoric that we no longer hear the voices rising up across this country asking to be heard? The voices are those of parents asking for something better, teachers wanting to teach what children need to know, and children asking us to care about what they need. They are all voices crucial to any real reform conversation.

It’s time to take control of that conversation…word-by-word.

“Choice” is one word that clearly strikes at our core values as Americans. But our right to choose is one thing; our care in choosing is quite another.

Choice matters. Consider this; informed choices based on various perspectives are more likely to get to what is right.

Choice matters. Consider this; informed choices based on various perspectives are more likely to get to what is right.

We must consider the fact that reform requires a problem be identified and the faulty practice creating the problem be replaced with a better one. For responsible decision-making to occur, It requires our careful analysis. It requires we put aside emotional responses, look at the facts; consider all our choices and the potential consequences of each.

To choose wisely, we must understand that true reform will support, guide, produce, and ensure practices that improve every child’s education.