What Debate?

The marketing campaign to FIX No Child Left Behind began back in January with announcements that there would be debate.

A draft of the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015 was released and many newspapers and education associations picked up the story including the American Educational Research Association.

“The draft bill contains several provisions related to research. If enacted, the bill would task the Institute of Education Sciences with evaluating Title I activities. In addition, state plans submitted to the Department of Education would be approved unless the department presented “substantial high-quality education research” that demonstrated that a plan would be ineffective or inappropriate. The bill does not define high-quality education research.

Alexander has made it clear that he hopes to have a substantial discussion about ESEA.”

Discussion? Debate? Both are important and citizens should have been included to help shape and direct the debate about “fixing” the law. After-all, we were the ones who were subjected to the consequences of bad ideas being passed by congress and signed into law, in this case, by then President Bush. And there was never an official parental complaint process!

But instead of the anticipated discussion, Senator Alexander immediately directed “the debate” to the topic of Testing and Accountability while avoiding the topic of national standards themselves by pacifying people with his standard “no national school board” meaningless rhetoric. And the marketers changed the law’s name to get away from the identifying language of the controversial Common Core Initiative (College or Career Ready). The Every Child Achieves Act proved to be more palatable.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 4.32.20 PMHow did the so-called debate go? Both the House and Senate bills to replace NCLB maintained the yearly standardized testing for accountability purposes in math and language arts just like in NCLB. What they did do, to sell this fallacy of test-based accountability again, was shift the responsibility for accountability mechanisms to the States. Does that change the problem with high-stakes testing? No. Resources focused on testing are spent. They can’t be used for other things.

But to appease the arts groups, the Senate threw them a bone.

“By naming music and arts as core subjects in the Every Child Achieves Act, the Senate has acknowledged and begun to address the national problem of the narrowing of the curriculum that has taken place under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for more than a decade now.”

How that will “work” in already underfunded and under-performing schools is questionable but these groups base their feeling of success right now on hope. And they now feel their voices have been heard —one group appeased.

The next topic Alexander approved for a “hearing” was that of Supporting Teachers and School Leaders. Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 4.32.28 PMAfterwards, Senator Murray delivered statements that sounded much like what we have heard for years —expressing things upon which we generally agree.

But in the bill itself, although teacher residency programs are prominent in the “definitions” section, it is other elements of teacher and school leadership development and evaluation that dominate the law. Federal “incentives” for teacher and school leader certification and licensing (aligned with challenging standards), alternative routes to teaching, and “reforming” tenure systems are all included. These things are not supported by research as being effective “to ensure that ever child achieves” —the purpose of the law.

And looking at the bigger picture, both the House and Senate versions claim to be shifting the control to the States. In the very real world of D.C. politics, certain organizations that represent the States stand to greatly increase their influence. Take the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO, chief creators of the Common Core Standards System) for example.

CCSSO has a teacher and principal preparation program ready to go. They have included multiple new elements requiring the expansion of technology and data collection systems including….Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.25.04 PMand…Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.26.45 PMThey have it under CONTROL. Kept in mind, CCSSO is a non-governmental organization that has no responsibility for being responsive to the public’s desires. They are in no way accountable to us. And they have had their sights set on ESEA reauthorization for years —the same number of years as the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

They have a “new deal” for us and for themselves it looks like. We should debate who’s goals they represent.

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Did we get to debate any of this? No, it was set in motion years ago with no public participation. Remember, there was no official complaint process for No Child Left Behind and these actions don’t fix that.

No record; no accountability. No debate, only a very controlled dog-and-pony show.

The House and Senate bills passed their respective houses proving that On The Hill, “We mean business on K-12 education.” Those in the education industry know that to be the truth!

Here’s how the market-based reformers see it….

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 9.19.33 PMExpanding charters and retaining annual testing ARE in both bills. But wasn’t that federal mandate at the heart of the problem?

Charters? Never debated. Never research proven to be an improvement over existing public schools. Not a reform.debate

“Streamlining” is a questionable term since programs are actually being CUT and we can’t debate whether or not that is a good thing since we don’t know specifically which ones are being cut other than the School Improvement Grants (which had some useful but never openly discussed results).

Transparency? Increased transparency? I don’t see it. Do they mean like we saw with Common Core<sarc>? Do they mean like we might get if the media covered what is really happening instead of what information is released? Do they mean transparency like we might develop if topics were openly debated in public and the alternative view WAS allowed to be heard?

Have we even had public officials openly debate what was wrong with No Child Left Behind? How do they know if they “fixed” it if the problems was never fully exposed?

Obviously the marketers know what people want to hear; on that, they did their research.

We want to hear that education reform was honestly discussed and debated. But, the question remains…

JFKdebate…what debate?

Wrong is Wrong: Lamar Alexander’s Path of Destruction

Senator Alexander believes in making “the Bush-era law work.” He stated that, “How well our children are learning is much more important than any political game” but his actions have not matched his rhetoric.images copy 3

The truth is that education reform has been nothing more than one BIG political game. A major part of Lamar Alexander’s life was spent in the political arena and his vision of reform has affected the education of the nation’s children.

Here’s how the game “worked”; the influential set our course for education reform 32 years ago. The nation’s schools, teachers, parents, and children have taken the brunt of their mistakes while those in power marched on never wavering from their goal despite evidence of their mistakes.

The influential were wrong in theory and in action.

And given his history, Lamar Alexander has to be counted as one of the most influential players in this game.

puppetAs Secretary of Education, Alexander not only led us in the wrong direction, he also helped put blinders on us. In this politically influential position, he found multiple ways to pull the strings to get the country dancing to his tune.

“America 2000” was unveiled in April 1991 shortly after Alexander replaced Lauro Cavazos as Bush’s education secretary. Alexander was prime architect of the program, which included the proposed creation of national standards and voluntary national tests in English, math, science, history, and geography to be administered in grades 4, 8 and 12.”

And,….

“…voucher legislation first prepared in 1992 by Mr. Alexander, as secretary of education in the Bush administration, has been the basis for Mr. Dole’s “opportunity scholarship” proposal in an election in which voters say education is at the top of their agenda.”

And there were things he chose not to do.

Secretary Alexander chose to ignore the Sandia researchers report stating that the idea of school choice is in direct conflict with support for troubled schools.

“In early 1991, the Sandia team prepared a report, asserting that ‘evidence of decline used to justify system-wide reform is based on misinterpretations or misrepresentations of the data.’

The Sandia researchers have been muzzled. The Department of Education complained that the report was biased because ‘data shown are consistently supportive of a picture of U.S. education in a positive light.’ The report, Secretary of Energy James Watkins charged, ‘is a call for complacency at a time when just the opposite is required. The Department of Energy will not permit publication of the study as presently drafted.’ It has still not been released.” From the Myth of Public School Failures, Richard Rothstein, 2001

Secretary Alexander chose to ignore the warning of the Special Study Panel on Education IndicatorsScreen Shot 2015-07-12 at 11.53.15 AMA nation misled will eventually be lost…unless we self-correct. We have that freedom.

Lamar Alexander has exercised his freedom of choice and executed his political agenda with fidelity while keeping much of the country veiled in ignorance.

“Mr. Alexander, a former governor of Tennessee, became a co-director of Empower America in 1994.”

“…the Washington-based outfit has provided funding, staffing, and organization to help Messrs. Kemp, [former Reagan Secretary of Education] Bennett, and Alexander refine their policy ideas–including school choice and the devolution of federal education programs–and expand their political bases after departing from public office.”

“Empower America plans to continue promoting school choice, and Mr. Alexander is expected to take a lead role….We’re planning on [Mr. Alexander] coming back and being a part of a big school-choice initiative.”

Empower America is now called Freedom Works. Freedom Works’ motto for education reform is…

“Bring competition to public education and give kids and parents real opportunity.”

Real opportunity? Words, words, and more words. But….

Senator Alexander has managed to dodge explaining the failures of his theories. He has failed to put forth any evidence-based reasons for the federal government (the government of us) to financially support an ideologically driven, market-based, outcome-based, standards-based (test-based) reform law that sponsors privatization of public schools — replacing what once was an anti-poverty law (ESEA). It’s wrong.

The Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177/ESSA) has it wrong for the very same reasons that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was wrong. (NOTE: the name was changed to Every Student Succeeds Act ESSA & made into law, Dec. 2015)

Instead of factual reasons why NCLB was so devastating to public schools, Senator Alexander reaches for his standard political game-ball.

“The problem has been that, starting with No Child Left Behind, we’ve created in effect a national school board and Washington has started requiring the standards and that’s created a huge backlash — first with the teachers’ union because they don’t like teacher evaluation from Washington or anywhere else, and second from conservatives who don’t like federal overreach.”

That was dodge ball Lamar Alexander-style.

Alexander uses the nonexistent ‘national school board’ as a catchphrase… ‘What states need is not centralized support for the new policies and procedures dictated by the national school board, but freedom from Washington …,’”

If the nation wants national standards, who do they want to put in charge of them? The non-profit who currently holds the copyright to the Common Core? The powers that be? Answers Senator Alexander?

If the nation wants national standards, who do they want to put in charge of them? The non-profit who currently holds the copyright to the Common Core? The powers that be? Answers Senator Alexander?

He rallies his troops with empty rhetoric. Freedom, freedom, freedom works!

Three decades after the plot was set, the plans laid by Alexander and company are coming to fruition. They have convinced a nation (with the help of some of the best marketing firms in the world, plus some deception) that standards and testing are an essential first step in education reform. They’re wrong.

Wrong is wrong no matter how you dress it up, talk it up, or mark it up in law. NCLB/ESSA is wrong and as a nation we’ve been wronged.

Consider this: The influential pulled the strings of government to do their bidding.

Our guiding principle in the design of a choice system is this: Public authority must be put to use in creating a system that is almost entirely beyond the reach of public authority.”

Please, read that guiding principle again. That is the principle followed by the politically powerful designing our school choice system. We always assumed the game was rigged against us. And it was boldly stated out loud.

So much for ACCOUNTABILITY! This is FLEXIBILITY with our tax dollars to the extreme. CHOICE served up in law all because the country didn’t know the facts and marketers did a number on us.

No Child Left Behind was a bad law because its guiding principles are “accountability, flexibility, and choice.” We should not try to make it work. Its guiding principles are dead wrong.

Wrong is wrong. There is no making this education law right, unless…..we go back to the guiding principles of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)— supporting quality education and equality in opportunity by focusing on the children from low-income families. It’s the only way to make this right.Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 3.52.56 PM

“Education is the business of the American people.” Francis (Frank) Keppel

We jump in now or let the big players finish the game. You can see how it’s done. Just look at Senator Alexander and the position he is in today —- the vote on his law is coming in the next couple of days. (NOTE: He pushed ESSA into law. Then he dragged Betsy DeVos over the finish-line.)

Playing politics has been Lamar Alexander’s game of choice (pun intended).

54f226a5704f4351094d8dc6f02db40bStop playing follow the leader and take independent actions to hold lawmakers accountable. Make them do the right thing for the right reasons.

(Update: The only way to make this right now is to demand ESEA be reauthorized on time – TARGET 2020. We need federal education law with the right focus.)

A Declaration of Devotion

11647261_10153134009193020_1077395906_nAre Americans ready to declare their devotion to ensuring that the public education system continues to exist and prosper? We have rallied to support our troops, but, failed to consistently support our public schools. We have questioned why we always have money for war, but, we have not demanded the same for education.

Have we ever made a declaration of devotion to a national goal for public education? In the 1960’s, Francis (Frank) Keppel, the architect of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act wrote something similar to what follows here, but his words were never heard nationwide.

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A  Declaration of Devotion to Educational Excellence

We the People of the United States, in Order “to strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunity in this Nation’s elementary and secondary schools” will act in accordance with the principles and practices that will guide and support our efforts to ensure excellent education for all.

Our goal is to achieve and maintain an education system that offers maximum opportunities for all students to learn while holding the highest expectations for the individual pupil and all those that are responsible for supporting students. This system will continuously strive to improve public educations’ role in serving the needs of our free, fair, and democratic republic.

To accomplish our goal, the expectation set for the system is that all those governing, employed by, and voluntarily supporting our public schools will function based on mutual respect for each other and all stakeholders in an effort to earn and maintain the trust of the People.

We Recognize that it is in the best interest of the nation to assure equal opportunity to be educated to the fullest of an individual’s potential and that goal can best be realized by maintaining a strong and effective public education system.

  Action   Provide equitable and adequate resources with the knowledge, guidance, and oversight to use those resources wisely to solve problems.

We Recognize that to improve means we must consistently and accurately assess current conditions of our schools based on appropriate data that aligns with our national goals.

  Action   Establish a report card for the nation that uses indicators of what the public deems important and make the findings know in an annual State of the Nation’s Schools with corresponding State of Our State schools reports.

We Recognize that to ensure the strengthening and improvement of local schools requires a strong and capable Department of Education nationally and in every state.

 → Action Reaffirm the commitment of the U.S. Department of Education to its original purposes, identify the states seen as chronically low-performing, and support the training of those state department personnel in effective school improvement processes.

We Support community organizing efforts to engage parents and the community in youth support activities, programs, and their schools.

Action → Enlist the Cooperative Extension Service to educate and train volunteers, disseminate proven practices, and assist in coordinating efforts to use locally available resources more efficiently and effectively.

We Support research, development, and diffusion of effective practices.

Action →  Invest in our existing public institutions of higher education focusing on improving teacher, counselor, and leader education; and reinvest, reclaim, and refocus the function of regional education laboratories to maintain integrity, relevance, and responsiveness in research aimed at seeking solutions for communities’ education problems; and establish the outreach and extension of research findings to ensure their use in educational improvement practices.

We Support those schools that have been identified as chronically low-performing by providing federal emergency assistance, immediately, in cooperation with state and local education agencies.

Action  Provide a federal support team (also called “success teams”) to help facilitate school and community members in a guided improvement process.

We will:

  • maintain local responsibility shared through the democratic governing of schools,
  • depend on state accountability with shared knowledge of measurable results and costs,
  • and, rely on federal oversight, guidance, and support through the practices of the U.S. Department of Education and through responsive and responsible federal policy set by Congress and the President of the United States.

Federal education law must be written with the understanding that effective execution of the law depends on local education personnel with public participation and support. In order for all who wish to assist their schools in fulfilling the promise of maximum educational opportunities with the highest expectations, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act must be reduced, simplified, and made to once again address the needs of the educationally deprived children of this nation.

(This is a modified excerpt from addendum 1 of The Crucial Voice of the People, Past and Present: Education’s Missing Ingredient 2nd edition © 2012 Victoria M. Young)

I hope all of you will take the time this July 4th holiday to reflect on what is important in your lives and crucial to the life of this nation.

Happy Independence Day, America!

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Need to Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DOES IT?

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFT says The Every Child Achieves Act “gives states authority to determine interventions for struggling schools.” 
…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Remember, carefully selected things must meet federal approval.

Remember, carefully selected things must meet federal approval.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Do you call this expanded protection?

Do you call this expanded protection?

 

 

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

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

Or are those in power afraid of competing ideas?

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

Double Standard

670085Some say it is a matter of black and white. Some say it is a matter of rich and poor. Some say the double standard in educational opportunity goes both ways — racial and socioeconomic.

“The nation is clearly no longer content with mediocrity, with just ‘getting by.’ It is demanding excellent education for all. Quality education has come to imply integration, for a white child taught in isolation is a deprived child. It implies an end to the double standard in education, a double standard that gives high-quality schooling to students in exclusive suburbs and inferior schooling to children in slums, that gives preference to some states over others.” —Francis (Frank) Keppel, architect of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

In the battle for access to quality learning opportunities, discrimination runs the gamut.

As this young man explains in Academic Imperialism

“Less conspicuous is the soft bigotry of educational ‘norming,’ that operates on the false binary of achievement and its diametric opposite of under-achievement….

When fourth-grade reading scores are paramount to forecasting prison matriculates, the social fabric is not only torn but also seismic shifted from protecting vulnerable members of our society, ….

If the idyllic version of community-centric schools is an expression of social inclusion of knowledge, then youth incarceration represents the symbiotic underside of social exclusion.”

How is it we have not found the will to address the issues so poetically articulated here?

“To follow historical trends, colonization is a magician that erases student identities and self-interest without the reciprocal chains of transcontinental slavery. It’s legacy still lives in today’s standards of high achievement…

The subtext of colonization is always ownership and representation. Whose veritable voice continues to echo throughout history but fails to reach the curriculum that serves its offspring? This is the soft bigotry of hidden curriculum.”

Very plainly stated, in The Crucial Voice,…Now would be a good time to consider the view of M. R. Olneck that, in addition to inputs and outputs, ‘two other concepts may serve as the basis for judgments about equal opportunity: representation and participation.’ We must have ‘participation in the process to have our ideas about what successful schooling is and how it should be judged represented . . .. In the absence of equal representation and participation, unequal outcomes are likely to persist since the terms of success are dictated by dominant groups’ (Gamoran, A., and D. A. Long. Equality of Educational Opportunity: A 40-Year Retrospective. Wisconsin Center for Education Research, December, 2006, p17).

IS it unreasonable to expect representation and participation in deciding how to judge equality of opportunity in our schools? This isn’t just about tests. This is about people deciding what success looks like for children. It isn’t all measurable.

And when it is clearly recognized that standardized tests don’t measure the quality of education and that tests are biased, why don’t we demand representation and participation when it comes to deciding what constituents student success and equal opportunity?

Is it ignorance, stupidity, apathy, self-imposed blindness, self-absorption? … I don’t know bobby-scott-bobby-scott-the-promise-of-equal-educational-opportunity… but obviously, offering quality learning opportunities to all K-12 children has not been a national priority. People always think it should be easy, just do what Finland did. Well, their first step was to make improving the quality of education a national priority.

In 1991, researchers acknowledged that this very issue of consensus would be a problem for America. But we never discussed or acknowledged it to be a problem. The only thing on this list that we have

Perspectives on Education in America, Summary from the Sandia Report, 1993.

Perspectives on Education in America, Summary from the Sandia Report, 1993.

addressed is data and really went overboard with it!

 

 

 

 

 

But let’s look at the BIGGEST double standard in our education reform process — federal education law.

We people have been taught that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Both Congress and President Obama need to be called-out on this one! Do they not know what the aim, purposes, and reasons for the titles of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) were? Their ignorance of this law is no excuse for perpetuating the pretense of reform set by No Child Left Behind and its “accountability, flexibility, and choice.”

There is a fix for ignorance; it’s called education.

But maybe I’m wrong; maybe it isn’t ignorance that has kept them beating the test-based “reform” drum. If it isn’t ignorance that has set the nation on the wrong path, what is it? Political ideology? Putting politics ahead of children’s needs?

Is it the pretense of reform set by free-market competition?

When competition for dollars splits us into groups each groping for a share of the pie, we lose sight of the real meaning of fairness. Each time we set up a public school education “program” that is not strictly aimed at meeting individual children’s needs, we are setting up a practice that will potentially discriminate. In these ways, we become divided in the quest for quality learning opportunities for all children in America.

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

In the past, some have seen the need for the public school system to offer equal opportunity. Some do now. So how is it we have not ended the double standard in education? Should we call it a double standard? Should we call it inequality? Should we call it discrimination?

How about soft bigotry?

How about calling your Senator before the July 7th vote on the Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177) and simply telling them to vote NO. Their version only continues the mindset that we obtain quality education for all through “accountability, flexibility, and choice.” After following that belief for 13 years, we know it isn’t true.

It’s time we demand they go back to the original law for guidance. It’s time to demand they #GetESEAright !

If this nation cares about poverty-stricken children getting a fair shot, this law is one avenue through which to do it. But neither the House Student Success Act nor the Senate Every Child Achieves Act has the original aim in mind.

Update: the wrong aim continues under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Informed Citizens

For our republic to survive and prosper, informed citizens are vital.

The importance of informed citizens was clear from the start.Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 9.39.15 PM And as time has marched forward, there has been a notable commonality among U.S. presidents that dissemination of information is an essential national service. Education matters. The question has always been; how do we do it?index

With the civil war raging, President Lincoln answered in 1862 by signing the Morrill Act establishing the land-grant college system. He said at the time:

“The land-grant university system is being built on behalf of the people, who have invested in these public universities their hopes, their support and their confidence.”

Fifty-two years later, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act that established the cooperative extension system for disseminating practical applications of research findings from the land-grant colleges to the people who needed the education.

President after president has acknowledged the success of that dual system including President Ronald Reagan as stated in A Nation at Risk.

“The American educational system has responded to previous challenges with remarkable success. In the 19th century our land-grant colleges and universities provided the research and training that developed our Nation’s natural resources and the rich agricultural bounty of the American farm.”

So, I personally am left wondering if President Reagan was unaware of the intentions of President Johnson (D) and his secretary of health, education and welfare, John W. Gardner (R), to model educational and community improvement after our successful programs in agricultural education.

In July 1964, John W. Gardner, then president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, headed a presidential task force that proposed establishment of the RELs [regional educational laboratories] as a vital link to interpret, shape, and communicate the centers’ research findings; tailor them for practical school use; and infuse them into the nation’s classrooms, including college classrooms.”

So as President Johnson set out to address the issues of poverty simultaneously with those of the education system, he saw the need to provide services for children that would “be adapted to meet the pressing needs of each locality.” He urged that we “draw upon the unique and invaluable resources of our great universities to deal with national problems of poverty and community development.” And it was envisioned that the university extension system could help the people to help themselves.Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.40.32 PMDissemination of information was seen as essential to improvement.

As envisioned by the main architect of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Francis Keppel, a network of regional educational laboratories was written into law. As Keppel expressed, they were “designed to serve education much as the agricultural experiment centers long served and stimulated the development of agriculture.”

He felt this would bring together schools and school systems, link proposal to practice, to provide “a missing link.” They were to be the key to maintaining informed citizens.

Today we have ten regional educational laboratories, but they are not serving as originally intended because their marching orders have changed with the changing of ESEA.

During the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty, the centers and laboratories were intended to be a network of institutions designed to revitalize American education through strategic research, development, and dissemination of new programs and processes. Since their inception, such external issues as the federal role in education and the allocation of funding, along with such internal issues as the challenge of applying research to real-world school settings, have significantly affected the mission and operation of these institutions.”

But despite all the changes and difficulties, the regional educational laboratories have put out some excellent research. However, the goal of forming a network to freely disseminate information and assist in training at the local level was never fully realized and has left us with pockets of schools in need of improvement but without the knowledge and skills to do so. We say they “lack the capacity” to improve. We lack informed citizens.

The regional educational laboratories were intended to provide practical solutions to the issues facing schools. They were to serve as the bedrock of excellence. The information they provided was then to be disseminated to the schools and the general public— free of charge, for the most part. They would be supported by the public system. Flow of information needed to be in both directions ensuring that researchers were addressing what the stakeholders needed to know and be able to do.

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When financial support for public research institutions is cut and private interests start picking up the tab, the integrity of research is potentially compromised. At what cost?

We currently have the system backwards — top-down, outcome-based, data-driven instead of student-focused, needs-driven local improvement.

General diffusion of knowledge, dissemination of information continues to be a recognized problem.

As President Carter established the U. S. Department of Education in 1979, the importance of dissemination of research findings was written into the purposes of the department with a few little words— to “share information” (#4).

Diffusion of knowledge, dissemination of research findings, sharing information — whatever we call it — the concept once held such importance that it had its own title in ESEA.Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.58.26 AM We once understood the significance of a national system for providing affordable practical education, doing basic unbiased research, and sharing practical, useful information for improvement purposes. And it worked!

Land-grant campuses collectively enroll more than 4.6 million students and have 645,000 faculty members. They conduct two-thirds of the nation’s academic research and charge a third as much as comparable private universities, even after years of price increases.”

…. “If a Congress fighting a civil war could pass the Morrill Act, I don’t think the fact that, today, Washington is so divided should stop us from recommitting to it [the land-grant system].”

Preserving, strengthening, and improving this part of the system is essential to K-12 improvement…And it is not clear from either the House or Senate versions for ESEA reauthorization that Congress sees the importance in dissemination of information and its significance in cultivating an informed citizenry. #DoSomething

Tell Congress to go back to the drawing board NOW! This country has waited way too long to end No Child Left Behind and get back to a law that works for US!

(This Call to Action went unanswered because we lack informed citizens. So the Every Student Success Act (2015) -ESSA- became the latest version of ESEA to contribute to the dismantling of the public education system.)

Turn Around Schools?

The whole point of standards, testing, school choice, school closures, and mass firings of school personnel was to turn around schools identified as failing to serve children — MOST of whom are disadvantaged by poverty. Right? These were the chosen school transformation practices of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

Common Core just happens to be the planner’s choice for the next generation standards upon which this scheme will go forward in state and federal laws. But should it?

Like the song says “Stop… Everybody look what’s going down.”

These strategies are not reforms. They didn’t improve schools. They didn’t improve opportunities across the board for children. They didn’t provide kids with an even start. They didn’t come close to giving them all a fair shot. They didn’t give children hope for a better life. If they had, we shouldn’t see rising suicide rates for black children.

The question is; what will we do? Be realistic?

Realistically, will a quality education lift all children out of poverty? No. But, it will provide that opportunity for many more. Can education make life better for all? Yes, it can. The correlation has been well documented. Education is a common good.

“Education is about more than just better jobs and bigger paychecks, important though they are in making families and individuals more financially stable. More education is also linked to better physical and mental health, longer lives, fewer crimes, less incarceration, more voting, greater tolerance, and brighter prospects for the next generation.”

So is school reform the silver bullet for all the misfortunes poverty can bestow on our American pursuit of happiness? No. But we have to do it anyway. And in the process, we can adopt policies and practices that support families and their children — but only if we make the choice to do so. Enters, The Elephant in the School Failure Debate by Joan McRobbie.

“Common sense tells us that improving child health and nutrition, making it so the family doesn’t have to move frequently to find affordable rent, and reducing family stress make it easier for children to learn.”

Don’t other people find it very disturbing that The Land of Opportunity doesn’t have a better social safety-net for children? We won’t even make equality in educational opportunity a national priority?

“The United States stands out as the country with the highest poverty rate and one of the lowest levels of social expenditure —16.2 percent of GDP, well below the vast majority of peer countries, which average 21.3 percent (unweighted).”Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 1.34.41 PMBut I don’t see Mexico included in this graph and I know their poverty rate is higher than ours, so we’re alright? No, we are not! And enters the argument that money isn’t everything. There is some truth to that.

lyndon-b-johnson-president-quote-education-is-not-a-problem-educationMoney isn’t invested wisely in education reform unless we understand the concept of community support for disadvantaged children and the schools they attend. That was the basis of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that was written through the efforts of many including President Johnson (D) and his Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, John W. Gardner (R) —the founder of Common Cause.

This is how we turn around schools.

This is how we turn around schools.

 

McRobbie gets it.

“Heroic efforts by excellent educators can only make a dent. Their efforts are swamped by concentrated poverty; by the daunting numbers of low-income students and the magnitude of the needs those kids have, through no fault of their own. And each year, more children with similar needs continue to pour in.

This isn’t a school problem. It’s a societal problem imposed on schools,…”

I’m not saying money is the total answer; it isn’t. But wise investment is. Strong communities and the social safety net they build for children is the foundation for excellent schools.

The chief architect of the 1965 ESEA, Frank (Francis) Keppel, saw federal appropriations of money for education like this; the way forward should not be seen as “aid” but as “federal support for special purposes . . . an investment in education . . . investment in people and therefore in the nation.”

Right now, the U.S. Senate version of the reauthorization of ESEA —up for a full vote of the Senate as S.1177, called “Every Child Achieves”— is set to invest heavily in standards, testing, and charter school start-ups. We know these things did not reliably, consistently, or in any statistically significant way improve the lives or education of children of poverty.

We get it. We now need to do something about it.

We get it. We now need to do something about it.

Is this the investment we want to make? Speak up. If the law isn’t about helping to turn around the schools that need our help by providing a better social safety-net for our youngest citizens, we have to stop what we are doing. We can simply say “Vote No” AND go back to the drawing board – NOW!

We need to decide.

Update: The bill came out of committee and in 10 days flat was approved and signed into law during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday (Dec. 2015, now titled Every Student Succeeds Act). Parents, you didn’t have a chance!….We should all be mad as hell!…The alternative is never considered. Why not?

Obama’s Education Platform

I never liked Senator Obama’s education platform. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that too much of it reflected the outcome-based theory that is the basis of No Child Left Behind and the cause of the “unintended consequences” this country experienced as a result of its adoption.That doesn’t mean that Mr. Obama didn’t put forth some good ideas. He did.

Senator Obama spoke of…

an education agenda that moves beyond party and ideology, and focuses instead on what will make the most difference in a child’s life.”

And his  stance on education was most thoroughly and clearly expressed in Ohio.

“Closing the achievement gap that exists in too many cities and rural areas is right. More accountability is right. Higher standards are right.

But I’ll tell you what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind: forcing our teachers, our principals and our schools to accomplish all of this without the resources they need is wrong.”

And “…we have to make sure that subjects like art and music are not being crowded out of the curriculum.”

So at that moment in time, September 9, 2008, he stood firmly on the failed theory that standards and tests reform schools, but, he grasped the idea that resources —supporting children, families, and school personnel— were required to not only achieve test scores but to also provide a broad and varied curriculum that defines “quality” education. He almost had a clear vision for real reform.

But thus far, he has done what those before him did; he focused on the easier path of standards and testing.

His ideas back then,

“…a new Service Scholarship program that will recruit top talent into the profession, and place these new teachers in overcrowded districts and struggling rural towns, or hard-to-staff subjects like special education, in schools across the nation.”

“…more Teacher Residency Programs … especially in math and science.”

“…expand mentoring programs that pair experienced, successful teachers with new recruits.”

“…access to quality after-school and summer school and extended school days for students who need it.”

As the New York Times wrote,

In his last major educational speech of the campaign, Mr. Obama said: “It’s been Democrat versus Republican, vouchers versus the status quo, more money versus more reform. There’s partisanship and there’s bickering, but no understanding that both sides have good ideas.”

And he made the choice of Mr. Arne Duncan for Secretary of Education because as the director of educational policy at the Business Roundtable, Susan Traiman, said;

“Both camps will be O.K. with the pick!”

The Business Roundtable accurately represents one camp.

Political camps? What about reform philosophy? What about Obama’s education platform?

Mr. Duncan once wrote,

“When organizations and individuals harness their resources to support children and families, both schools and neighborhoods benefit….By inviting parents and diverse stakeholders into the school reform effort, we can collectively raise education to the next level in our neighborhoods and across the country.”

Problem? The political camps aren’t inviting everyday parents or welcoming diverse ideas. Their ideology is set. And obviously there is no understanding of the fact that the people working day-to-day with the children are the ones who are in a position to best identify and support “what will make the most difference in a child’s life.”barack-obama-quotes-4

We folks who care about our children shouldn’t need an invitation.That door should be open; these are our schools. And I’d be willing to bet that none of us invited the Business Roundtable to come save our schools! These groups could go away and not be missed.

But the politics of education reform isn’t going away any time soon; the camps have dug their trenches. What we can do is minimize the damage.

President Obama’s introduction to A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act included these words,

“We must recognize the importance of communities and families in supporting their children’s education, because a parent is a child’s first teacher. We must support families, communities, and schools working in partnership to deliver services and supports that address the full range of student needs.”

But the Blueprint did not reflect the rhetoric. It more accurately reflected the Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee camp which is a big one! It reflected the plans of those who support an illusion of reform based on testing, labeling, closing, and chartering our schools. four pillars of ed takeoverMeanwhile, a concept expressed by both the president and his secretary of education, that of community-based school improvement that was once favored by these men, was written into the Blueprint in a manner doomed to fail. The choice of wording was divisive.Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.44.08 PMAny education writers savvy to the politics in this country would not have stated the community education concept like that! These words had to have been written intending to draw fire from the right-wing. They are a politically divisive choice of words that takes a great concept and makes it sound like a federal take-over of our children.

So this is where we need to ask, was this administration sabotaged or simply swayed by the prevailing politics of “reform”?

I always wondered, but I’m no longer sure it matters. What matters is where we go from here. We could still follow the Obama vision even though he hasn’t.

Accountability?

“…in Washington [it] starts by making sure that every tax dollar spent by the Department of Education is being spent wisely. When I’m president, programs that work will get more money. Programs that don’t work or just create more bureaucracy and paperwork and administrative gridlock will get less money.”

I want you to hold me accountable. And that’s why every year I’m president, I will report back to you on the progress our schools are making because it’s time to stop passing the buck on education and start accepting responsibility. And that’s the kind of example I’ll set as president of the United States.”

Accountability?

“In the end, responsibility for our children’s success doesn’t start in Washington, it starts in our homes. It starts in our families. Because no education policy can replace a parent who’s involved in their child’s education from day one – who makes sure their children are in school on time, helps them with their homework after dinner, and attends those parent- teacher conferences. No government program can turn off the TV set or put away the video games or read to your children.”

Accountability?

“But we can help parents do a better job. That’s why I’ll create a parents report card…

…we need to hold our government accountable. Yes, we have to hold our schools accountable. But we also have to hold ourselves accountable.”

Yes We Can. By all means, let’s call for accountability.

Make It Right

In attempting to fix No Child Left Behind, Congress is struggling to make it right. Instead of thinking they can fix this mess, they need to approach the law as the rewriting of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) because that’s what it should be. Back to basics.

Here’s some advice —DON’T make it A “clear law.”…. O.K., this is where you are supposed to say…. wait, …what? Wouldn’t we want a law to be clear? That depends on how you define “clear.” Thus the need for lots of quotation marks in education reform writing. We are not on the same page! corruption2

As explained in Fixing Broken Government, when something goes terribly wrong in one of our government agencies,…

“The reflexive reaction is to demand detailed laws and rules to make sure things don’t go wrong again…. shackling public choices with ironclad rules… [while]…dictating correctness in advance supplants the one factor that is indispensable to all successful endeavors—human responsibility.

With that in mind, the right thing to do is to expect the humans at each level of the education system to be responsible for doing their jobs in serving the educational needs of children.

Since our laws exist to serve and protect citizens —in this case our youngest citizens’ rights to a quality public education— it is not right for the law to better serve the education-industrial complex.

john-morrison-quote-it-is-about-corruption-of-the-lawmaking-processFor citizens, the weak link in the federal lawmaking chain of events is when industry hires lobbyists who collaborate with legislative staff and a few lawmakers to write laws benefiting the industry, not us. We’ve been left out. The legislative process has been corrupted and bad laws like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) are the result.

Some say we see “unintended consequences”; others see “loopholes” in education law as a move towards full privatization of public schools.

Loopholes have repeatedly burned the American public. Right? Here’s why. It’s a phenomenon created by the fact that…

“the more exact and detailed a rule, the more likely it is to open up loopholes…[because]…most regulatory language is inherently ambiguous. Dense rulebooks do not avoid disputes—they just divert the dispute to the parsing of legal words instead of arguing over what’s right.

With ESEA, since we are out to “make it right,” as so many officials have said — we have to replace detailed rules with principles that guide personal accountability.

“Legal principles have the supreme virtue of activating individual responsibility. Law is still supreme. … Law should generally be an open framework, mainly principles and goals, leaving room for responsible people to make decisions and be held accountable for results. Law based on principles leaves room for the decision-maker always to act on this question: What’s the right thing to do here?

This explains the craziness going on in schools right now over testing. We aren’t standing on principles; we are complying with laws and rules — without thinking.

All over the Internet, you’ll find stories about kids crying over tests. I haven’t written about it because, although I tend to believe the parents telling the stories, I didn’t personally know it to be fact. Now I do. And I could not have imagined an adult pushing a child emotionally— to the point of crying —over logging into a test when the parents had clearly refused the testing and the adult administering the test knew it.

It’s not acceptable.

Education law has adults seeing children as dollar signs instead of human beings. The fear of losing funding for non-compliance with the No Child Left Behind law has made school personnel act without asking, what’s the right thing to do here?

Think about that. NCLB was due to be rewritten in 2007. The public has acknowledged that NCLB was not helpful in their own schools. But eight years later, adults are still complying because it is the educational law of the land.

The law itself was NEVER sensible or workable.

The law itself was NEVER sensible or workable. END IT!

If ever there was no responsibility, no accountability for Congress being negligent in their duty, it’s with this law.

The country needs to see Congress make it right. No more excuses. Set principles we can understand and stand upon.

“With principles, a citizen can stand his ground to an unreasonable demand and have a good chance of being supported up the chain of authority.”

The only reason I can think of for not setting the necessary goals and proper guiding principles, in this ESEA re-authorization, is if the law really isn’t for the citizens.

Opportunity in America

As a nation, we demanded an accountability system for our public schools; President Bush gave us the accountability law “No Child Left Behind.” And he didn’t change it.

President Obama asked us to identify our lowest performing schools; we did. And the change we needed didn’t happen.

NOW, will we continue to allow the dismantling of the public education system —through the plans of well-financed lobbying groups— by keeping in place current policies that failed us. Will the country turn its back and walk away from “under-achieving schools”— knowing that the system failed to best serve a generation of students?

OR, will we fight like hell for the children left behind by the misguided decisions of our leaders?

It is our responsibility as a nation to not just identify and label schools, but to address the needs of our students throughout our land.

Despite what some want to believe, “equal educational opportunity” has never been offered in America. I believe that too many Americans have a hard time defining what it means and envisioning what it looks like. If I’m correct in that assumption, wouldn’t it make sense to stop rushing ahead without first establishing a vision for OUR education system?d894a74dd1d729fdd5438740d86b4b20

We can begin as a nation by going back to the idea of providing excellent education for all as envisioned by the creators of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. It provides a framework for what we now need. We need federal education law that we can all read, understand, and be a part of executing effectively and efficiently.

Americans seem to understand that children living in poverty have unmet needs that directly affect their ability to learn — such as those expressed by President Kennedy —“poor diets, unaddressed speech, dental and visual disorders.”

Meeting known resource gaps between the children of the poor and those of higher socioeconomic classes was precisely the main focus of ESEA.

Americans seem to understand that in most communities there are children from a spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds and that it isn’t fair to offer opportunity to one group while undercutting another. Equal opportunity means offering them all a fair shot at obtaining a quality public education. Isn’t that why most of us want a public education system to exist?

Meeting the grander twin goals of quality and equality in educational opportunity was the primary guiding principles, the original aim, of ESEA.

indexAmericans seem to understand that the educating of a child occurs in a variety of community settings, that each community is unique, and that it makes sense to use resources that already exist while recognizing the need for assistance when and where it is necessary.

Meeting the need for a wide range of learning opportunities within a community, based on the belief that community improvement leads to educational improvement, was the philosophical basis of ESEA.

Americans seem to understand that a public system of public education requires a strong public institution that is both responsive to ever-changing educational needs and responsible for continuous improvement to safeguard against institutional entrenchment.

Meeting the needs of this large and diverse nation requires that all public education personnel —the public servants of the system, from teachers to counselors to leadership at all levels— be well-educated, trained, and informed in order to strengthen and improve the functioning of the institution. That was the method by which ESEA could guide fulfillment of our duty to establish and ensure equal educational opportunity in America.

The vision and framework are historical.

What is necessary right now is for each of us to call or write our U.S. representatives and request they reinstate the original aim of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 3.52.56 PM

For America, this is what opportunity looks like.

The opportunity afforded us by the reauthorization of ESEA provides US with the chance to get it right.

(End note: A similar essay was published in Education News as ESEA and Opportunity in America )