Rise to the Challenge

When I last posted a blog, I was challenged. The challenge was to THINK…AND DO!

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 8.14.53 AMI responded…Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 8.15.47 AMWell, life doesn’t lend itself well to being put on hold, but I did my best with the time I had and produced an alternative for Congress to consider. The problem is, Congress never wanted to consider any of the good ideas concerning No Child Left Behind that have been put before them over the last 15 years. My last attempt here, I’m calling the People’s Alternative.

AND I’m passing on Gloria’s challenge to all of you who will accept it – THINK and DO.

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The People’s Alternative turns back the clock to a time when ESEA was NOT an attempt to dictate an accountability system from the federal level.

The People’s Alternative offers a federal law that supports children in urban and rural slums in states unable to provide adequate educational resources.

Through the people he brought to D.C., JFK kept alive ideas in a law that he didn't live to see. - ESEA Both NCLB & ESSA kill the ideas. Compare.

Through the people he brought to D.C., JFK kept ideas alive in a law that he didn’t live to see. – ESEA …Both NCLB & ESSA kill the ideas. Compare.

The People’s Alternative is based on the principles written into law by the architects of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act with the addition of successful practices from the decades that followed. The law then got RESULTS.

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Both No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the current proposal before congress, “The Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA, S.1177), are based on the politically motivated theory known as outcome-based education. They are NOT based on scientifically researched best practices in education.

NCLB mandated a national system of accountability based on State academic standards for reading or language arts and mathematics and the testing annually of all students nation-wide in all public schools to assess “adequate yearly progress” (AYP). It was the largest and longest-lasting experiment in outcome-based (market-based) theory in the history of the United States. The other two periods of testing this theory ended when detrimental results were seen after only a few years.

ESSA is based on the same theory as NCLB only it is executed through a federally approved mandate for state accountability. Compare the descriptions  —

“ The statewide accountability system shall be based on the challenging State academic standards for reading or language arts and mathematics to improve student academic achievement and school success. (ESSA, pg.80)”

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The People’s Alternative builds on the idea that the local community must have access to information necessary for them to support and improve their own public schools. The Alternative respects the research demonstrating that the local school must be the focus of analysis and intervention to improve student performance. The Alternative supports the continued random use of this nations most respected national test for monitoring the achievement gap. Mandating additional testing, in federal education law, of every pubic school student in every school every year is unnecessary for the federal government to serve its purposes or the purposes as originally laid down in ESEA.

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NCLB sold the nation on the idea that yearly standardized testing of all children provided necessary information when in reality the results from the random use of the long-established National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) continues to provide consistent national monitoring of student academic progress.

ESSA continues to see the federal government as the national assessment authority giving the Secretary the power to use federal dollars for State assessment purposes, which in reality are a state financial responsibility.

“The Secretary may provide a State educational agency, or a consortium of State educational agencies with the authority to establish an innovative assessment system (ESSA, pg.222).”

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The People’s Alternative designates use of federal education dollars in:

Title I – using a comprehensive needs assessment process, funding is targeted at meeting the identified needs of children from low-income families and other disadvantaged groups, and for the already identified Priority Schools, supplying additional family and community engagement personnel and specialized training for principals, the first year, and other personnel in the following years based on needs.

Title II – establishing summer institutes within existing public institutions of higher education with funding increasing educational opportunities for all education professionals and high-needs service scholarships providing opportunities for experienced education professionals wishing to advance their education to fill identified needs in high demand subjects as well as high-needs schools and locations.

Title III – based upon information gathered during the comprehensive needs assessment process of Title I, funding is to supply student supports that are vital to educational improvement but absent from the community identified as in need, including library resources.

Title IV – funding is to support educational research and the dissemination of scientifically researched practices that have proven to be effective beginning with those necessary for successful implementation of this law.

Title V – to strengthen those state departments of education most in need of helping because the inequality that exists between states is a long-standing problem and funding improvements at that level helps move them closer to fulfilling their responsibility in providing a quality system of public schools.

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NCLB funding was money spent on annual standardized achievement testing, accountability mechanisms based on the outcomes of those tests, reporting of compliance with the law, and school choice being offered as a solution — all packaged and sold to the country as “flexibility.”

ESSA funding supports more experimentation with assessment and accountability systems with a new emphasis on “comparability,” as a requirement, as well as offering grants for assessment audits (assessments of how many assessment we are using).

Charter Schools (independent governance with state and federal funds) win out over Magnet Schools (local control) by $270,000,000 to $94,000,000 and states applying for these charter school grants are required to “establish or enhance” a per-pupil state “facilities aid” program. Plus, there are many grants to the “cottage industries” of the charter movement.

It gets hard to keep these all straight and follow all the dollars! (ESSA, pg. 572)

It gets harder to follow all the dollars$$$$$$ (ESSA, pg. 572)

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 11.56.04 AM

(ESSA, pg. 519)

Oh, we should not forget preschool charters….

$$$$ New Start-Ups $$$$$ (ESSA, pg. 520)

$$$$$ New Start-Ups $$$$$ (ESSA, pg. 520)

…. and never mind that we can’t control for quality!

And the biggest new federal program in ESSA is the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program being sold as “providing greater flexibility to enhance support for students and schools.” There are a number of tempting options offered but it is blended learning, digital learning, and online learning that jumped out at me suggesting that the technology industry may be the big prize winners in this 1.65 BILLION $$$ “enrichment” program.

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With the original 1965 ESEA being a mere 35 pages, the NCLB law being 670 pages, and ESSA weighing in at 1,059 pages, there is much, much more that could be said if the country ever desired to have that conversation — and were given the opportunity.

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Rise to the Challenge.

Challenge Congress and President Obama to THINK and DO the right thing.

STOP S.1177 The Every Student Succeeds Act (UPDATE: 1/2/ 2019. We did not rise to the challenge, yet. There is hope and opportunity in a new year!)

Is Education a National Issue?

Education is not mentioned in the Constitution…. We have heard how this argument goes.Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 10.57.46 AM

Because of no specific mention of education, the responsibility for educating the young people of our republic is deferred to the States in the 10th Amendment …. with the caveat “or to the people.”

People, you need to decide. Is public education a national issue?

If we never have that discussion, then we never examine the arguments that have been stalling our progress in education reform for the last three decades.

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And, we must look back at the historical precedents surrounding the issue of federal support for public education.

How do we make informed decisions without this conversation?

 

State versus Federal: Are we sure we should be fighting that battle?

The Constitution doesn’t mention a whole lot of things — by design.

“The original Constitution of 1788 contained very few specific restrictions on the ways in which the power of the national government could be exercised against the people.”

And,..

“…the state delegations at the Constitutional Convention voted 10-0 against including a bill of rights in the Constitution.”

One reason they gave for being against such specific rights being in this governing document is

“…any list of rights would be incomplete. Such a list might indirectly endanger any rights not included on it.”

the-preamble-to-the-united-states-constitution-sourceThat is really something to think about. Has the argument over State versus Federal law governing education actually endangered the general Welfare of the children in our nation?

The 10th Amendment …

“— emphasizes that … the fundamental character of the national government… remains a government of limited and enumerated powers, so that the first question involving an exercise of federal power is not whether it violates someone’s rights, but whether it exceeds the national government’s enumerated powers.”

Note in that quote that the authors interchange the words “national” and “federal.” Unfortunately — but fortunately for the country — the Founding Fathers understood the differences, chose to make our constitution a unique blend of those concepts, but it appears they made the assumption that our representatives (and the populous) would forever understand and make distinction between the two concepts. For example…

From blog post titled "Fixing Our national Accountability System: Part 1."

From blog post titled “Fixing Our National Accountability System: Part 1.”

The Founding Fathers seemed to have also assumed that there would always be open debate and deliberation especially in the Senate.…anyway….

Let’s consider how our predecessors sorted things out when confronted with issues concerning education. Starting pre-Constitution…

1784 — Land Ordinance — This was outlined by Thomas Jefferson while we were still floundering under the Articles of Confederation because “Congress did not have the power to raise revenue by direct taxation. Therefore, the immediate goal of the ordinance was to raise money through the sale of land…”

“The ordinance was also significant for establishing a mechanism for funding public education. Section 16 in each township was reserved for the maintenance of public schools. Many schools today are still located in section sixteen of their respective townships…”

Education was a national issue then.

1787 —September 17— the Constitution was signed.

1789 — President George Washington signed the Northwest Ordinance, which established (among other things) “the precedent by which the federal government would be sovereign,” it designated “prohibition of slavery” in the [new] territories, and it stated (Art. 3) that “schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Under our new constitution and through the Northwest Ordinance, our new nation made a statement of national support for education and its importance as well as inching us ALL towards individual freedom and equal opportunity.

1841/1848 — Congress made grants of land to support public education.

The History Of Federal Government In Public Education: Where Have We Been And How Did We Get Here?

The History Of Federal Government In Public Education: Where Have We Been And How Did We Get Here? League of Women Voters

Education remained a national issue.

1862 — The First Morrill Act (Land Grant Act) was passed granting public lands to support one college per state for specific purposes.

1867 — Original “Office” of Education was established and, in 1890, the Second Morrill Act “gave the Office of Education responsibility for administering support for the original system of land-grant colleges.”

Obviously, there is a pattern of federal support for public education and many more laws followed that have supported educating the nation —very well. (Don’t forget the GI Bill.)

What is missing in kicking off a national conversation now is what John F. Kennedy was very careful to discuss when he proposed the ideas behind what became the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. Can the federal government give aid to the nations’ public schools without exerting “control” over them? The answer is yes.

President Johnson was left to answer for President Kennedy - in law.

President Johnson was left to answer for President Kennedy – in the 1965 ESEA law.

What do our representatives and political candidates now have to say about the proper role of the federal government in education? Can they even tell you what was wrong with NCLB? After all these years, do they have anything specific to say about correcting their mistake? Do they not see how they crossed the line into federal CONTROL versus SUPPORT?

Today, the public is accepting the idea that if politicians say “I support universal preschool” or “community college should be free” that it means they care about supporting the K-12 public education system. That isn’t the case.

K-12 education is the playing field best positioned to offer all kids a chance to explore and fulfill their personal potential. The long-term benefits of preschool without K-3 improvements is still debatable. And, should we really be investing in free community college to make up for what we didn’t do in K-12? How efficient is that?

Did you know we have never provided the funding requested for K-12 disadvantaged students through ESEA Title I? Where’s that conversation taking place?

When the federal policy of the last 15 years undermines the very foundation of K-12 public education — like No Child Left Behind has, does, and continues to do eight years after it should have gone away — that says the lawmakers don’t care.

When the country doesn’t push for the right supports for educating children, what does that say about us?

Grow the vision or let it go?

Grow the vision or let it go?

No deliberation, no debate, no demands, no progress.

End of the road for real national support for public education? Or time to raise the issue to a new level?

According to the 10th Amendment, the people have the power.

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.

The Education Reform Oligarchy & Their School Choice Conversation

Wish I could just turn back the clockThe education reform oligarchy of the 80’s had a school choice conversation —at least one that is a matter of record.

It’s doubtful that the public can recall what was discussed. It’s doubtful that very many were really invited to listen. What is more likely is that most people are left asking, what school choice conversation?

So here’s how the story went

“At its meeting in August 1985, the members of the National Governors’ Association [NGA] formed seven task forces for the purpose of examining in-depth critical problem areas in American education.”

Time for Results?

Time for Results?

It’s unlikely that very many people would argue against the idea that parent involvement in education is critical. Then — now, forever, and always — parent, community, and national involvement and support for public schools is a problem in critical need of being addressed with real solutions. How exactly school choice came to be seen as a “critical” problem depends …

“Whether the push for school choice is driven by economic and political forces, or by parents and educators, depends on whom you ask.”

What we know for sure is now our history.

To be clear, since the development of free desegregated public school education, people in the United States of America have had the freedom to choose between their local public schools, private schools, and home-schooling. There is no forced attendance at government-run schools only. There are compulsory attendance laws to protect a child’s right to an education but people have always had a choice in how to comply with that law. We have always had school choice. … to date.

But when was it discussed that school choice is the best answer for a lack of parental involvement? Who knows?

What was decided was to attach the issue of school choice to that of parental involvement. However, at the 1986NGAAnnualMeeting, a year after the topics had been decided, then Governor Lamar Alexander introduced the topic like this

“We will then hear presentations from three of the Governors who led the task forces on teaching, on leadership, and on choice.”

Their presentation of a critical problem area went from “parental involvement and choice” to “choice”?

Governor Dick Lamm of Colorado chaired that task force. As he explained it,…

“What we were looking at is how can we give additional flexibility to parents and students in choosing their schools within the public school context.”…

“Some of these could be magnet schools, some of them could be alternative schools, some of them could just be different options among the public schools.”

Lamm recommended PUBLIC choices. These choices were all under local district governance. And even though the topic was introduced as “choice,” Governor Lamm did share some views on parental involvement.

And he did acknowledge…

“The two things we looked at: choice, parental involvement. They are related but they are also separate.”

But in publication after publication, parental involvement and choice would be lumped together without any emphasis on “the choice” being “within the public school context.” It was never a significant part of the school choice public conversation.

The chair of the Choice Task Force wasn’t the only one voicing concerns.

Mr. Al Shanker (then head of the American Federation of Teachers) was one among many who tried to explain the potential pitfalls of “choice.”

“We live in a society where that [choice] is one of our top values.”

“Kids have more of a commitment when they decide on a program or a school than parents do.”

“I am very concerned, and I think all of us have to be concerned, that there are situations where choice could result, let’s say, in the top 25 percent of the students in a major city being offered nice spots in suburban schools, and leaving the schools in that city that might very well be on their way to coming back, leaving them without any role models at all for those other students.”

“Therefore, as we move towards systems of choice, I think you ought to be very sensitive that we may be leaving a lot of kids behind, and we have got to look at that. That’s not to argue against choice, it’s just to argue that we do it in a thoughtful way.”

“There is one other downside which hasn’t been mentioned on this…. The parents’ associations in England complain bitterly that if you have the right to switch, nobody wants to fight. That is, nobody is left to argue that you need improvement in the school because the dissatisfied people move out, leaving only those who either don’t know what is going on or who don’t care, or don’t have the time or the energy to move.”

“You rescue your own kid and say the heck with the rest of it. These things have to be watched.”

“I don’t know all the problems that are going to arise….I want to experiment. I want to make sure we don’t 
decimate the cities.”

Was it just the teacher’s union and a governor or two that questioned school choice as a reform strategy?

Ms. Georgeanne Sherrill, a career ladder 3 elementary teacher in Tennessee, was attending the 1986 NGA meeting to present information on instructional leadership and “career ladders” — an initiative of Lamar Alexander’s. She joined the conversation (p.68).

“I would just like to say one thing. I think it’s in connection with what Ms. Futrell [then president of National Education Association] said. I think we can give parents a choice in education without having to pull the students out of one school and put them in another school. We can work with parents to structure the program in that school to meet the needs of the parents that have children in that school.”

That suggestion seemed to be discarded at the time but is finding favor in some areas of the country now.

So it wasn’t just one union leader, or two, or one teacher that voiced objections and concerns. As the chair of the Parent Involvement and Choice Task Force, Governor Lamm went on to explain…..

“I, like I think most of the other governors, are desperately concerned about opening up choice to public or private school and the choice of a voucher or any similar thing, with cannibalizing the existing public school system, about taking resources that are already really too limited.”

There was definite dissention in the ranks of leadership. But the dissenting voices were effectively struck down at every turn by then Secretary of Education Bennett and the Chair of NGA, Governor Alexander.

The conversation going forward? It was framed.

Summary by Lamar Alexander

Summary by Lamar Alexander

What did we hear from the chair of NGA? We heard the question,

“Why not let parents choose the schools their children attend?”

And the talk was of a “better schools movement.”

“It will mean giving parents more choice of the public schools their children attend as one way of assuring higher quality without heavy-handed state control.”

And the project moved forward with the help of the U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Bennett’s leadership. The nation had a new project, officially —Project Education Reform.Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 3.09.50 PM

The newsletter gave no explanation of "choice."

The newsletter gave no explanation of “choice.”

The critical problems of parental involvement and choice became joined at the hip —one dragging the other forward—but at this point in the story, not much was really said about the details of choice.

 

Did the report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education (A Nation at Risk) have school choice as one of its recommendations? No. The school choice agenda moved forward because influential and “gifted” people pushed it.

William Bennett was one such leader, for sure…

“He is a man of great brilliance and strong convictions, but he is a preacher, not a teacher. He is trying to manipulate public opinion to accept his ideas of what is right and wrong. This would be forgivable if he were not as gifted as he is and if he were not the Secretary of Education.”

”Bill Bennett is the first Secretary to understand the ideological and political possibilities of the office that were there from the beginning. In Bill Bennett we’re getting our first Minister of Education.”

“…he waded in with a controversial new voucher plan that would give parents of disadvantaged children funds that could be spent in private and parochial as well as public schools.”

School choice was part of the Bennett agenda from the beginning. How much he really cared about the disadvantaged, who knows?

But by 1989, we had a new president, a different secretary of education, and had some changes in governorships. What did not change was the Project Education Reform agenda —with one exception. The facade of parent involvement had been dropped. Instead of a task force on Parent Involvement and Choice, we now had a working group for Choice and Restructuring (pg.44).

Insert1And by 1991, it was Lamar Alexander who became secretary of education putting himself in a prime position to carry their reform agenda forward.

Today as head of the senate education committee, he has done his part to federalize the plan for school choice while being the artful dodger in avoiding any conversation concerning “choice.” The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is in conference committee…..tick, tock….

The bill to replace No Child Left Behind is a critical problem.

The bill to replace No Child Left Behind is a critical problem.

 

Time for the school choice conversation again? In light of the fact that the Dyett Hunger Strike is occurring in Chicago because an open enrollment neighborhood public high school is no longer a choice, we need to have the school choice conversation all over again…now. What is America’s choice?

“The hunger strike is now at Day 28 as of this writing (9/13/15) and the Chicago Board of Education has finally opened talks with the strikers.”

This level of sacrifice by a small group of people should make us all feel a bit humbled by their resolve, but a little sick inside that it has come to this — the oligarchy rules and, in general, they don’t feel the need to listen to any of us.

You-Haver-A-ChoiceThe public’s choice?

Bush’s Education “Blueprint” Before 9/11

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Before 9/11 of 2001, there was an article printed in The Standard-Times of New Bedford, Massachusetts titled “Bush’s education blueprint bound to be inadequate.” It was published on September 6th.360_bush_sep_11_classroom_hfs_0502

Bush’s education blueprint became No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the 2002 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The national discussion of the issues with this reauthorization of federal education law never rose above the rubble left behind by the unfathomable reality of that terrible September day. NCLB’s importance paled in comparison.

I’m presenting the essence of the inadequacies presented in that September 6th article— now— not to point blame at anything or anyone but in hopes of bringing up the conversations that were buried by the 9/11 national tragedy.

About Bush’s education blueprint, Gary Ratner wrote:

“Its approach —increasing accountability— does not address the fundamental need: providing effective teaching, challenging curriculum and family support for all students.”

“If we are serious about maximizing the possibility of all students succeeding, we must provide these conditions for all students.”

“…merely intensifying pressure on employees to improve performance does not succeed where they lack the required knowledge and skills.”

Ratner recommended that President Bush follow a different approach by breaking the chore of school improvement into doable, logical, targeted pieces based on what we know to be common elements of effective schools.

As to curriculum, make it challenging for all classes, for all students.

As to existing teachers, make their professional development directly relevant to improving classroom instruction specific to their needs and the needs of their students. Ensure this happens through a targeted investment in professional development budgets. And, provide better education and training for principals and superintendents so that they are better able to support teachers in improving instruction.

As to future teachers, financially support improvements in teacher preparation, and personally support those individuals seeking to become teachers as well as those existing teachers wishing to advance their education.

As to family supports for student learning, expand adult education programs and parenting skills classes as well as mentoring programs for the students who do not have sufficient family supports.

None of this is new. Some of this is even in the newest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. But, it is buried under the weight of the standards, testing, and accountability movements’ failed mechanisms of reform that have crippled our educational progress.

We do not have unlimited resources. We must make wise investments in our future.

Ask yourselves, has the progress been adequate enough to meet the needs of our students, our teachers, our families, and our nation?statue-of-libertyCan you see a better way forward?

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

Should You Opt Out

Opting out of state tests means: You are using an effective tool to fight the unethical use of standardized testing that has, for decades, hindered real progress in providing equal access to quality education in America.

United Opt Out

United Opt Out

When significant numbers of parents opt their children out of testing, they are statistically invalidating an already faulty judge of the quality of education.

What do we know to be true?

Yearly assessments don’t need to be of the external, commercially developed standardized variety to determine how well individual children are doing, and whether schools are meeting the needs of all students. We have better ways of making those judgements.

It was never appropriate to mandate yearly standardized tests under the pretense that it was for the good of the student and was to better inform the parent.

It was never appropriate to mandate yearly standardized tests under the pretense that it was for the good of the student and was to better inform the parent.

Teacher, district, or state created annual tests are better able to judge individual, school, or state improvements because they can be designed to better target where identified improvements are needed and are better able to lessen the effects of regional language testing biases due to local dialects.

Personal aside (I just have to share my observations): Having moved from one area of the country to another, I observed regional differences for myself. “Pop” or “soda”? “Couch” or “sofa”? It seems simple enough for we adults to use words interchangeably but when young children have a limited vocabulary, it can make a big difference on tests that were written by some adult in another region of the country, or world, who unknowingly creates a testing bias. What do you call the mid-day meal —lunch, dinner or supper?

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 2.14.52 PM

Test Bias or Cultural Bias: Have We Really Learned Anything? by Stephen J. Schellenberg

Data from commercially developed standardized statewide assessments don’t provide the “valuable” information the public has been led to believe by marketers. Policymakers have been misled. The Code of Fair Testing Practices has been broken. The truth is that even “the SAT, a high-stakes test with significant consequences for the educational opportunities available to young people in the United States, favors one ethnic group over another.” But many states are now paying for every student to take these tests.

To base school and education policies on standardized test scores is inappropriate. Teachers who base their strategy with individual students in the classroom on a narrow set of results are more likely to be “off target.”

SOURCE: W. James Popham, Ed.D. is author of Testing! Testing! What Every Parent Should Know About School Tests (Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2000).

SOURCE: W. James Popham, Ed.D. is the author of Testing! Testing! What Every Parent Should Know About School Tests (Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2000).

Parents deserve better, more personal, and meaningful information about their child’s strengths and weaknesses.

What happens when you opt out?

Parents who are choosing to opt their child out of assessments are:

  • Refusing to have their child, teacher, and school judged by the snapshot provided by a commercially developed test that can only assess a very limited amount of knowledge and a very narrow set of skills.
  • Acknowledging that they trust the education professional in their classroom to be the best judge of their child’s academic development during this leg of his or her K-12 journey.
  • Recognizing their student’s teachers (in partnership with them) as the best judge of what skills and subjects their child is adept at, and to determine where he or she needs extra help.
  • Discouraging propagation of the theory that competition between schools is something they should value over their child’s individual well-being and are using their child’s absence during testing to send a message to state policymakers that fair funding should not be based on scores from commercially developed standardized tests.
  • Not jeopardizing their school from receiving crucial federal funds to support their child’s school, including special education and after school programs, because it is THE POLICYMAKERS themselves who have put this nation’s schools at risk for decades by using school funding to leverage a political agenda based on a free-market theory. They have refused to listen to patrons about the chaos their policies have created and it is THEY who are directly responsible for unfair and inadequate funding for more effective reforms.
  • Taking a step towards strengthening and preserving the public’s role in public education.

Share United Opt Out with your friends to spread the word.

What does the civil rights community have to say about assessments?

In May 2015, a dozen large national civil and human rights groups united in opposition of opting students out of annual tests. The media covered that story widely beginning in January. The stage was set for the marketing and political plan.

20987692_BG1The same level of coverage did not occur when over 200 civil rights and other community organizations signed a letter in July opposing the yearly high-stakes testing that continues to be central to the governing philosophy of schools under No Child Left Behind and is currently being continued under its reauthorization (ESEA, The Every Child Achieves Act, Students Success Act).

Under No Child Left Behind, parents with children in schools at the time of its imagesimplementation NEVER had their objections heard as our schools were made to conform with a law that infringed on our children’s individual right to a proper public school education as defined under our own state constitutions. We were denied our right to participate in decisions concerning our children’s education and many of our children suffered the effects of a curriculum narrowed by law. We were ignored while children, particularly in impoverished communities, were left further behind.

As a parent why should I opt my kid out?

I encourage all parents to help improve their own schools by educating other parents and educators. Many teachers themselves were schooled under the dictates of a standardized system and many administrators were indoctrinated into the test-based philosophy of No Child Left Behind. They don’t know any other way and, to date, most have not been willing to listen.

testsThey will listen when they are forced to acknowledge strong opposition to high-stakes testing. Negotiations across the country over the last three decades have failed to stop the standardization and privatization of our public school system.

Opt Out, Refuse, Boycott the tests to send a message that cannot be ignored.

Help your country get back on the right path.standardized-testing1

 

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.

Reality Check

How many Americans care about preserving the institution of public education?

REALITY: Not enough!

******Reality******

******Reality******

Proof? No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was Introduced in the House by John Boehner on March 22, 2001 and its destruction of public schools has gone on, and on, and on for 14 years — even though its faults were immediately recognized.

72095482

 

 

UPDATE: December 5, 2015— NCLB was changed after 15 years to another faulty law – ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). Everything here STILL APPLIES – unfortunately.

Recognition of the major flaw in the laws has not deterred lawmakers or the education system from putting detrimental “reform” practices into our schools and system. That is the reality as demonstrated in this September 2001 article by Gary Ratner, Director of Citizens for Effective Schools.

“Its approach— increasing accountability — does not address the fundamental need: providing effective teaching, challenging curriculum and family support for all students.”

What is NCLB?

“[NCLB]…is essentially just federal reinforcement of the states’ decade-old ‘standards, assessments and accountability’ movement…

…But history shows that approach is wholly inadequate…

…More of the same will not work…”

insanity

And Ratner and his organization developed a coalition of other like-minded organizations and individuals. They tried to draw attention to the problems with NCLB and to offer better solutions. One attempt was a full-page open letter to President Bush and Congress.

“The current Act fails to remedy the underlying problem: the need to dramatically improve the level and quality of Industrial Age teaching and family support for the millions of students the system never previously expected to perform well academically.”

Gary’s efforts, and those of many others, have continued. But the thing about Gary Ratner is that he actually organized and presented better ideas to Congress in 2004, wrote a better critique of NCLB than congressional members ever attempted, and even went so far as to take a chance on working with me at the grassroots level. That’s gutsy!

His efforts have been never-ending. Scroll down to the beginning of his news page and see for yourselves the long history of his involvement in this fight.

REALITY: Critical thinking, intelligence, knowledge, persistence,….dare we say “grit”….are what we want to see in American students but we ignore those characteristics in our citizens when it comes to lawmaking.

REALITY: Congress doesn’t give a damn what any of we minions want or what we need in education reform laws.

“No Child Left Behind” failed to live up to its name…period. After experimenting with the theory of standards, testing, and accountability, or as Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) wrote, after…

“…experimenting with our children — a whole generation of children, we know we left children behind”…

11752044_10203403321202540_2176278363644672217_n…the reality is, it’s time to STOP.

REALITY: We have never offered quality-learning opportunities to all children. No Child Left Behind only made that reality worse for children in low-income communities because it focused dollars on a standards-based system not on providing what children need in order to be able to take advantage of learning opportunities —when they are offered. Instead, competition created a race for scores. It produced scores without skills and instilled temporary knowledge in students without offering all of them opportunities to apply their knowledge. And NCLB once again proved that enforcement of “higher standards” is not the best first step in school improvement.

So in 2007 as the OFFICIAL deadline for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) approached —when NCLB should have been laid to rest—Ratner continued the effort to draw public attention to the real issues with NCLB. Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.07.33 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.02.20 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.02.02 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.01.09 AMSo what are we doing now? REALITY: We are pretending to turnover control of school improvement back to the states while insisting we still follow standards, testing, and accountability as the guiding principles for school improvement. We continue to ignore longstanding research on Effective Schools.

Should we expect that anyone in Congress has read and understood Gary Ratner’s attempt to assist in public development of skilled leadership, producing leaders knowledgeable in the common elements of effective schools, or have reviewed the 45 page University of the District of Columbia Law Review article on restructuring this broken law?

REALITY: We have set really, really low expectations for Congress.

Realistically, we are not going to agree with every aspect of any one person’s view. But, there is so much here to work with and, tragically, identifying problems and solving them is not how Congress has approached ESEA reauthorization at all. Congressional representatives —many of whom were in Congress for the signing of NCLB—should be able to explain why the law failed and how what they have now written fixes the problems. They haven’t.

REALITY: They don’t get it, so they can’t get it right.

The children in public schools need the public to support them. They are not represented by Congress. Children can’t win the war against the influential in public education let alone hold the line against those behind the scenes who are the REALLY BIG movers and shakers in the lawmaking process. Those people are the ones that had no qualms about experimenting on the children who became the modern-day Lost Generation. That generation, who are now young adults, are the “product” of both NCLB’s education policy and financial policies that created the deep money pit of the Great Recession. Together, those policies created by Congress undercut the future for our youth.

REALITY: The influential are not looking out for our future.

Will we? We can. #SunsetNCLB #GetESEArightphotography-quotes-reality-welcome-to-reality-Favim.com-581101We didn’t get ESEA right. Are we going to wait and see how ESSA “works”? Knowing the major flaw of NCLB is still the basis of ESSA, let’s do the right thing and end the era of education reform insanity. #RepealESSA #MakeESEAright