Orwellian Education Reform: Postmark 1985

George Orwell, author of “Nineteen-Eighty-Four,” was only off by a month when it comes to the rise of Orwellian education reform. As to the method that brought on this madness, he was right on.

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words,” says a character in 1984.

Gayle Greene chose that quote for “In the public schools, it’s been 1984 for quite awhile. It describes the intentional, well-financed war of words used to discredit, undermine, and destroy the U.S. institution of public education.

“In Orwell’s dystopia,…

The Ministry of Truth spawns lies and propaganda, the Ministry of Love supervises torture and brainwashing, and the Ministry of Peace promulgates war and atrocity.

Turn the words on their heads, and you get a glimmer of the truth.

And the Ministry of Education? There is no Ministry of Education. So now we have a Secretary of Education who’s a dedicated enemy of public education…. Betsy DeVos…”

No Ministry of Education? … Truth be told.

On February 6, 1985, President Reagan swore in Bill (William) J. Bennett as the United States’ third Secretary of Education. Then, the saga of Orwellian education reform began in earnest.

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.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Bennett used his appointment to accelerate the political agenda of standards, assessments, accountability, flexibility, and choice. All those words, all those concepts, were turned on their heads. Orwellian education reform hatched and grew.

The Minister brought in his Three C’s —content, character, and “choice.” But we weren’t asking for “choice.” Almost 80% of parents were satisfied with their schools. And notably, we were saying smaller classes would make a difference to each and every one of our children.No! The Minister says we need “accountability.”

AND, we need “higher standards.”

Only 17% of us thought “higher standards” would improve public education. Then WHY? Why push the theory of outcome-based (standards/testing) reforms on the nation? WHY transform our whole system?

BOTTOM LINE: Do “higher standards” increase student performance? …  In time that question is answered.

Because the public didn’t know the truth, the public didn’t fight the changes. Plus, Bennett said he cared about our students.

But at the time not everyone believed the Minister was sincere about his concerns for ALL our children.

“‘I think he [Bennett] still might be the subject of hearings if we had known during the [confirmation] hearing of his insensitivity toward the needs of students, particularly low- and low-middle income students who can only go to college because of federal aid,’ [Senator Robert] Stafford [R] said in a telephone interview from Burlington, Vt.

While time marched on so did the Orwellian education reform movement. As Ms. Greene explained,

“A handful of billionaires and their foundations bankrolled and orchestrated a multibillion-dollar PR campaign to convince people that public education is broken and private interests can do it better….

A billionaire snatch and grab passed off as a push for racial equality, the destruction of public education… passed off as a civil rights issue.

The confounding of language at its most basic level reduces us to a state of civic catatonia: we can’t think about these issues, let alone discuss them or act against them, when they’ve been so obfuscated, when words have been so twisted.”

Thus, the “information age” hatched the “knowledge economy” which multiplied technology profits at every turn. And the first Minister of Education took full advantage of being in on fronting technology and choice as “reforms.”

Co-founder Bennett & The Truth About K-12, Inc.

“K-12’s spread across the U.S. is due in large part to its lobbying prowess and its political connections. Enabling legislation, written by the American Legislation Exchange Council (ALEC), has been introduced in nearly every state. “ALEC, … coordinates a fifty-state strategy for right-wing policy. How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools, The Nation, December 5, 2011″

Ohhhhh…., too bad the D.C. revolving door of Orwellian education reform didn’t hit Mr. Bennett in the rear and knock him out of the circle of influence. The country was making real progress prior to being told we weren’t. ALL our children would have benefited from true education reform. But that isn’t how the story goes…Oh, so much truth to be told!

It is no secret that William Bennett and Lamar Alexander (Chairman of the Federal School Board) are buddies. They brought the Orwellian education agenda to exactly where it is today.

“Jack F. Kemp, William J. Bennett, and Lamar Alexander — All have been waiting in the wings as co-directors of Empower America [now called Freedom Works], the Washington think tank that promotes ‘progressive conservative policies….

After the [Bob Dole] campaign, 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,’ said spokeswoman Nicole Fluet.”

And Alexander landed where he sits today —chairing the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee…..Yes, HELP. … Talk about Orwellian. But alas, the plot thickens as the characters multiply.

“We should remember that it was George Bush, Lamar Alexander, Chester Finn, Diane Ravitch, Bill Bennett, the Hudson Institute, and the Committee for Economic Development that got the America 2000 ‘reforms’ rolling. And it was George Shultz in the Reagan Administration who signed the Carnegie-drafted U.S.-Soviet education agreements with Gorbachev. That was in 1985, the same year Carnegie brought Marc Tucker on board.”

“If we are to succeed in radically transforming schools, we must alter attitudes outside the schoolhouse door. …

The system we are about to describe is one interwoven fabric.  Each part is necessary for all the others to function properly.  But if there is a centerpiece, it is, without question, standards and assessment.” Marc Tucker

WHY? Why did we need higher standards, fewer-better tests, outcome-based accountability, (the undefined) flexibility, and “choice”?

Doublespeak? Absolutely. Marc Tucker doesn’t believe in fewer tests (as he now writes). He believes in “national” mastery tests in every subject and certification tests for everything. He believes in a tracking system that creates the perfect workforce-development system all under the guise of education and economic needs.

We were told our businesses asked for these reforms.

Sandia Report, 1993

NO! Employers asked that we improve the work ethic and social skills of our students —back then. Now, we also need to repair the damage done through standardization of curriculum and instruction….Oh, and the damage technology has done.

We asked for one thing; we got another.

Parents didn’t ask for this transformation towards a computerized, standardized, non-personal (but “choice”) education system. There was never any proof that any of it “worked.”

“Trust a billionaire to have the public’s interest at heart [?] …

Put kids in front of computers, increase screen time, increase class size – and call it personalized.” Gayla Green

Now “personalized” has a whole new meaning. And politicizing everyday language continues confusing the public.

But the BOTTOM LINE: This was to increase student achievement, right?

Truth. “Higher” standards don’t matter when it comes to increasing student achievement. As much as the truth is hard to believe, it’s harder to swallow. But after over 18 years of standards, testing, and data collection, the only good that has come out of this is the statistical proof of the truth.

Reading Achievement – States are listed on the bottom. Red represents how “high”/ rigorous the standards. Blue is the outcome for each state.


Reading – Grade 4 or 8, it doesn’t matter. The standards don’t predict the outcome. No direct correlation.

This is the outcome after well over a generation of students in a standards-based education system.

 

Look.

 

 

 

See the Relationship between the Rigor of a State’s Performance Standard and Student Achievement in your state and our nation…..There isn’t one.

 

The statistician/author is a retired NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) expert.

 

Math – same findings. There is no evidence that the standards make the difference.

 

The title of the researchers’ site indicates this is Idaho research (his location) but this is national data, nationally relevant.

Reading or math, 4th or 8th grade, it doesn’t matter. Standards don’t correlate to student achievement. They never deserved the attention NOR THE MONEY we focused on them.

Theory has been proven wrong.

Math 8th grade? The patterns are all over the place because the truth is in the numbers that the education oligarchy wanted collected.

 

So — now given the truth — to continue mandating an irrational political concept is government sponsored educational malpractice.

With the truth proven by the very measures we were forced to use, test scores, our duty to stop the Orwellian education reform movement should be clear.

.

Flipping the words of the new Minister of Education, they spell education tax credits and vouchers. They spell the destruction of our public education system.

And clearer yet is the fact that this has been “their” education revolution and they don’t care about ALL our children. Look at the push for excessive technology in schools. The pushers have no regard for what technology is doing to children, or even their test scores!!!!!….

…The public and lawmakers in my state of Idaho put technology ahead of teachers at a huge cost to taxpayers with an unknown cost to children and families.“[Albertson’s supermarket heir Joseph B.] Scott’s investment company, Alscott Inc., has brought in more than $15 million by selling part of its stake in Virginia-based K12 Inc., which was founded in 1999 by former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett.

But it isn’t just luck on Scott’s side. His family’s tax-exempt foundation has helped develop customers for K12. And Idaho’s taxpayers have been paying for it.”

….It is a familiar story across our great nation…. Those fooling the nation are calling themselves “philanthropic venture capitalists.” Do you know who they are in your state?Please join the struggle.

The Purpose of Education

In their annual poll of the public’s attitude toward public education, what prompted the well-respected PDK (Phi Delta Kappa) association’s new question about the purpose of education?

And how is it the question asks about the main goal of a public school education while the website and discussion shifts the conversation to the purpose of education?

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-3-46-47-pmJust semantics? Maybe. But, did you know that one definition of semantics is “a deliberate distortion or twisting of meaning, as in advertising, propaganda, etc.”?

Purpose is the reason for which something is done.

Goal is an aim or desired result.

And because struggles in the education reform war continually demonstrate that words are determining outcomes of our battles, we should pay close attention. Words have become the weapon of choice against an unsuspecting public.

The words of reform sold us a perceived need to reform a whole system. The reality is that we needed to only reform the schools in our country that needed re-forming — high-poverty, low-performing schools. We had already identified them before the 1980’s.

The truth? Test-based accountability methods changed nothing. And school choice only reshuffled the deck.

But let’s look at the question of the hour…screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-3-30-15-pm….and look at what one long-time. …long, long time… education-and-the-economy expert, Mr. Marc Tucker, had to say.

This would be a good guess since the marketing of the purpose of education seems to be increasing.

This would be a good guess since the marketing plan appears to be focusing on promoting the purpose of public education as a workforce pipeline. America’s choice?

Our expert is guessing? Let me guess; he knows something we don’t. After all, he is a long-time occupant of the D.C. inner circle, father of the Education/Labor Market System, and an international systems expert. He knows what is going down.

Tucker believes that parents should be choosing BOTH prepare students academically and for work…always beating his education-and-the-economy drum. But why not choose “to be good citizens”?

59281977

This is one more topic where my opinion differs from Marc Tucker’s.

I confess, there is just something about Mr. Tucker’s narrow-mindedness (and his continuing position of power) that makes me want to write. So, here’s my view of this question….

Only 26 percent of respondents in this PDK poll think that preparing students to be good citizens is the most important goal of a public school education. Only!?! Yes, that should be alarming.

Let me ask you; what does it take to be a good citizen?

I thought we needed to learn to read so that we could inform ourselves. I thought we needed to be able to do the math, including understanding statistics, so that we would be less likely to be fooled.

I thought we needed to learn to gather our own facts and think critically because that’s what we need to do in order to be the ultimate authority (the check and balance) in maintaining a representative form of government.

I thought that the pursuit of happiness was a fundamental America value and it meant that our personal interests were important.

I thought that being a good citizen included not being a drag to society, which means being prepared to work and doing the best you can to support yourself.

Academics and work?

Yes, they are part of being a good citizen. But, there is much more to producing an educated electorate than what is being offered in the narrow curriculum of way too many disadvantaged districts —a situation worsened by our outcome-based reforms. Mr. Tucker created and pushed this test-based theory from the get-go.

Tucker has been and continues to be a go-to for The Education Oligarchy.

Yet, Tucker goes on to blame the United States for the damage done to vocational education. — But it’s the STANDARDS STUPID! — Look in the mirror, oh creator of the outcome-based system.

How many times has Mr. Tucker’s publications directed those in power to “start first with academic standards”? Have they ever faced the facts?

The focus on standards narrowed the curriculum.

The focus on standards was deadening to instruction.

The focus on standards almost killed the idea that students need to apply what they learn to real world experiences.

Wake up, America! It’s time to fight for a broad, balanced curriculum, not a narrow set of standards.

We are a nation at risk and the enemy is masked as an expert.

And since when has the purpose of our public education system been to produce already trained workers for private industry? Granted, one purpose is to ensure a solid educational foundation upon which to build. BUT,….

Since when is the goal of public schools to run kids through the workforce development pipeline and pour them directly into jobs? Of course we all need a job but test-and-sort is a recipe for unhappiness.

And, is it a coincidence that editorials are appearing in my local newspaper parroting the same “purpose of education” as the new PDK poll and Mr. Tucker?

“Accelerating talent pipelines is a deliberate effort to prepare our kids, and adults, faster than traditional education pathways, for high paying jobs we know exist today.

How do we build talent pipelines? We embrace three fundamental realities changing our world.

First, we acknowledge the purpose of education is to get a good job and improve our income.

Second, we recognize companies are rapidly shifting their focus to skills and not diplomas for hiring.

Third, we recognize industry is the primary customer of our education system.

Finally, the solution demands we empower industry to influence education outcomes.

NO! This is NOT the purpose of OUR free system of public schools as envisioned by our founding fathers. This is a takeover of our public education system by THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE WORLD (that includes information systems).

 Please don’t let the public schools become just another one of their information delivery systems and their publicly funded training services. Is this the expectation parents have for their children’s schools?

When those who run the show begin giving us the illusion that public opinion is driving education policy, we should be very, very concerned that the PDK annual poll has a new driver.  We — and our representatives — will hear what they say is public opinion. ….. Think about it.

For the first time since the inception of the PDK/Gallup poll on education in 1969, Langer Research Associates did the polling instead of Gallup. That in itself might not mean much. But, how much do we know about this relatively new firm other than they did work for ABC News and Bloomberg? And this particular question, about the purpose of education, is straight out of the standard-bearers playbook….?…

The Reality of the Education Reform War

They” control the language, develop the conversation, and convince the public that their way is the right way.

When you have high-powered marketing firms pushing your agenda, your message pops up everywhere. It’s no coincidence.

Thankfully, Gallup (on their own without PDK) continued their tradition of asking parents about their satisfaction with their own schools.screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-41-07-pmWith 76 percent of parents satisfied with their child’s education, isn’t it time we asked; what are we reforming? And how is it we are changing the whole system and not focusing on what needs fixing (23%)?

Ask Mr. Tucker. He was the go-to education expert back when the standards,testing, accountability movement took off and apparently he continues to be a power player. He’s one national driver who hasn’t changed.

Do you know who is driving education reform in your state?

If charters and “choice” are high on your state’s list of laws to pass (or have already been passed), good chance ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is involved. The wild west is certainly in their pocket and the conversation about the purpose of education has been going on for some time here.

In Idaho (2013), our Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education stated that …

“the higher purpose inherent in education is obvious.”

But it is not obvious in their plan. Their words mean nothing. Their focus continues to be on a narrowed, test-based curriculum with the same old outcome-based accountability that never held anyone accountable. This is state-led?

If this is called “state-led” under the dictates of the new federal education law (Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA), it is no different from the fed-led dictates of No Child Left Behind. The outcome is the same. The law is driving us towards the development of a corporate-controlled, labor development system dubbed public education.

Are we sure this is the direction we want public education to go?

Are we sold on the purpose of education as workforce development (and military recruitment)? Mission accomplished?index

Pillars or Propaganda

pillars ancient

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

 

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

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

Pillars or propaganda?

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

And now?lawmaking-process

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

 

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

As clearly explained,

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

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

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

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

logo.2015

 

As Kline explains

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

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

The sound bites rolled off the tongue.11192630_424448924428605_1947082176_n

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And don’t believe for a minute that…

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

The deal for him is being sweetened.

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

If he listens, what is he hearing?

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

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

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

The Public’s Choice

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

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

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

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

The Power of the Word

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

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

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

Public education of children is a cooperative effort.

Choice Laws

The education law of the land, No Child Left Behind (now 12/5/15 called Every Student Succeeds Act), is a law promoting school choice.Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 5.30.00 PM

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

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

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

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

ALEC is looking out for the general public?

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

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

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

The Assumption of Choice as a Reform

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

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

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

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

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

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

What problem is fixed by “choice” through charters?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I’m not the one making this choice.

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

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

The Politics of Reform

The politics of education reform has taken us on a roller-coaster ride for so long that it really behooves us to pause a moment and think about what all the political labels mean.

Look at what a purely conservative view would be.Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 5.59.48 PM People sharing a true conservative political philosophy —to preserve what is established based on tradition and social stability— would not have wanted to do what we did with No Child Left Behind. We took a radical step, from a law meant to strengthen and improve an institution, to a law designed around the irresistibly appealing word “choice.”

So when we talk about a conservative point of view, it is with a small “c.” It is only when people with conservative views join a political party labeled Conservative —being the Republican Party in the U.S.—that governing philosophies get murky and guiding principles less clear.Mischiefs-of-Party

The same can be said about the Democratic Party —the designated U.S. political party of liberalism.

But, what is at the heart of liberalism?Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 5.44.08 PMDoes the use of “free-market” in describing liberalism seem off?Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 5.45.07 PMHum?

With American politics deeply embedded in education reform, it is no wonder we can’t figure out who the real enemies of public education are — “enemies” being defined here as any group or individuals wanting to dismantle the public system and privatize it.

Enter stage left and right:Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 5.48.42 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-07 at 5.55.16 PMThe “neo’s” reside within the two major political parties in the U.S. Now if that isn’t confusing to the public, I don’t know what is! But no worries, most people haven’t heard or understand these terms so they don’t know what these people represent! (Yes, two exclamation marks in a row.) We are in trouble. We need to rid our system of its internal parasites.

But until we understand the philosophies behind those staging the attack, the Great American Education War will continue as guerrilla warfare. Those wishing to preserve the institution of public education, in a form that is still governed by the public to serve the public, must expose the parasites by identifying and calling-out these individuals, organizations, and the policies they are pushing forward. It is doable.

Take a deep breath. When looking at the two major parties, more of us are actually independent voters – today, 42%. In the politics of reform, we have a shot at winning. But to do so, we have to also understand the education reform stance of libertarians since more of them are now taking the stage.Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 10.10.54 AM And the Libertarian Party?Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 10.09.22 AMThose are the major political forces working against public schools remaining publicly controlled. And BIG MONEY is betting on all of them because after-all, the education business stands to profit.

And there is one more political twist to add; progressive or centrist claims of “reform.” They aren’t always easy to identify. So instead of trusting the political labels, now is the time to stop and ask, “what’s the right thing to do here?”

We the People win if we take the politics of reform out of the decision making process for education law by demanding our federal lawmakers do the right thing for school children. Make the law focus on children.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” MLK

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.

Words for Sale

World Press Freedom Day: today, May 3, 2015. But do we have freedom of the press or are words now for sale for propaganda purposes?

...and the sign said...

…and the sign said…

While other places in the world fight for freedom of the press, here in the United States our press sells words to the highest bidders.

Until recently, I did not know about the covert actions behind the No Child Left Behind propaganda machine. As Jim Hightower wrote:

“Just a bad apple,” said the Powers That Be, “an aberration” in an otherwise honest system.

The New York Times wasn’t so kind in their article titled All the President’s Newsmen.

“…the Jan. 7 [2005] edition of CNN’s signature show can stand as an exceptionally ripe paradigm of what is happening to the free flow of information in a country in which a timid news media, the fierce (and often covert) Bush administration propaganda machine, lax and sometimes corrupt journalistic practices, and a celebrity culture all combine to keep the public at many more than six degrees of separation from anything that might resemble the truth.

…[Armstrong Williams] had just been unmasked as the frontman for a scheme in which $240,000 of taxpayers’ money was quietly siphoned to him through the Department of Education and a private p.r. firm [Ketchum, Inc.] so that he would “regularly comment” upon (translation: shill for) the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind policy in various media venues during an election year.”

This gets even sleazier.

It was USA Today that broke the story and their article began by saying,

“Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law,…”

Consider those words one more time. … “to build support among black families.” They targeted a race demographic for propaganda purposes.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) propaganda campaign did such a number on the country that civil rights groups and others, including our half-black president, continue to believe in the basic premise of NCLB. The country needs to take the time to evaluate the theory of NCLB based on the scientific method.

But here is a theory pertaining to NCLB in general. It is possible that Bush #43 was just walking in his daddy’s footsteps and following Bush #41’s executive order to advance privatization:

“…in order to ensure that the United States achieves the most beneficial economic use of its resources, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Definitions. For purposes of this order: (a) “Privatization” means the disposition or transfer of an infrastructure asset, such as by sale or by long-term lease, from a State or local government to a private party.

(b) “Infrastructure asset” means any asset financed in whole or in part by the Federal Government and needed for the functioning of the economy. Examples of such assets include, but are not limited to: roads, tunnels, bridges, electricity supply facilities, mass transit, rail transportation, airports, ports, waterways, water supply facilities, recycling and wastewater treatment facilities, solid waste disposal facilities, housing, schools, prisons, and hospitals.”

Looking at the good side of all this corruption of power, at least in this incidence the actions were taken using government money which more times than not leaves a paper trail for journalists to uncover.

But now, we have “journalism” sponsored by philanthropists. Ever hear of Solution Journalism Network?

As reported from the Education Writers Association 2015 Conference,

“News is spreading that the Boston Globe is going to join the Seattle Times and BRIGHT in taking the “solutions” approach to education journalism, with funding from Gates and others.  That’ll allow the newsroom to hire a second K-12 education reporter (not yet named) and let longtime Globe reporter James Vaznis to do more in-depth pieces.”

I only stumbled upon this because of my recent personal experience with a Boston Globe Common Core op-ed that was printed in my hard-copy newspaper but not in its online version. When there is no way to comment quickly in order to debunk or dispute the words stated as facts, it’s frustrating. It’s not the first time.

A couple of weeks back I called my paper, the Idaho Statesman, because I wanted to comment on an article but couldn’t find it in the online version. Their later explanation was that it was a mistake that couldn’t be corrected.

Today, with another Common Core article, marks the third time that I clearly recall this happening. Despite being called a conspiracy theorist and “nutcase,” it takes getting hit over the head several times before I observe a pattern. Many time in the past, I thought it was my inability to find the articles. Now, I understand the growing pile of notes on my desk. They represent the lies I’ve seen printed which I have been unable to help correct.

This could be “an aberration” in an otherwise honest system; it could be my newspaper. It‘s owned by The McClatchy Co. (third largest in the U.S.). The articles in question were from two different sources —Boston Globe and the Associated Press (AP). The only connection between those two is the fact that the CEO of McClatchy, Gary Pruitt, is the head of the AP. That doesn’t prove anything. But let’s theorize a bit more.

If these omissions to online access are intentional, what demographic group is being targeted for the message? My guess in the case of Common Core is the older voting block.

But, I’m personally done with chasing facts today. If we can’t use what we already know, what good is it?

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 2.08.50 PM

Specialty: drive adoption throughout an organization.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 2.09.18 PM

Specialty: sets education agendas in motion.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 2.09.33 PM

Specialty: accelerates results through decisive actions.

I uncovered the people behind the Common Core propaganda machine with the thoroughness and integrity of a journalist true to their trade. I just wish I had the advantages of being a journalist — pay, a copy editor, and wide access.

It’s hard work fighting against the media machine armed only with the truth. But it’s a small price to pay.

Freedom of the press — a Constitutional Right in the United States of America — has been rendered meaningless by the highest bidders — the people who own the worldScreen Shot 2015-05-03 at 2.26.55 PM

Did We Set the Wrong Goal for Education?

Quote from the presidential debates. www.hlntv.com

Quote from the presidential debates. www.hlntv.com

President Obama has said all along that the goal of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is the right one. He also said he would listen.

Please consider these words:

“An Act

To close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind.”

That is the official wording of NCLB. “To close the achievement gap” is the main goal. How is the “achievement gap” being measured? Standardized test scores. Predictably, that process has been corrupted into insignificance. Why?

It’s Campbell’s Law (paraphrased):

The more an indicator is used for decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption and the more likely it will be to distort and corrupt the processes it is intended to monitor.

Educating children – the educational process – was corrupted due to the intense and limited focus on test scores because the law set that singular goal.

Now consider, what are the chances that President Obama has an in-depth familiarity with the creation of federal education law? That history isn’t even taught to professional educators!

So this is probably what President Obama doesn’t know or fully grasp:

“An Act

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

That is the aim of the first federal education law in this nation, the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and NCLB was the first version of that law to change the goal.

Strengthening and improving educational quality and opportunities is a far-reaching goal. Flexibility was inherent in ESEA because of its broad objectives. The individuality of states and schools was naturally protected because of the general nature of the law and because its writers were guided by President Kennedy’s words about the federal role in education.

“Let us put to rest the unfounded fears that ‘Federal money means Federal control.’”

“Control” —the governing of our schools— was a state and local responsibility and the federal government was willing to partner in ensuring equal opportunity through financial support, dissemination of information, and assistance in training education personnel.

“Accountability” was based on “assessments” of projects and students, which naturally varied depending on the identified needs in a given area of the country. There were many commonly identified problems but there was nothing “standard” about their solutions in individual classrooms for individual students. Testing was tailored to track progress and it was not “high-stakes.”

Standardized “achievement” tests alone can never do justice to the complexity of judging educational quality or in monitoring equal opportunities.

President Obama does know this:

http://www.epi.org/publication/perspective_on_standardized_tests/

President Obama’s Perspectives on Standardized Tests Commentary • April 1, 2011

Today, “…the fierce urgency of now” are words that should be echoing across our country.

The clock is ticking on the end of No Child Left Behind. Both the House and Senate are fast-tracking bills that do not make this law “right” for school children. If Congress can not be stopped (which I would encourage people to try), President Obama is our last hope. What will he base his judgment on?

Should the president insist that the goal be reset and that “accountability” will not occur based on yearly-standardized achievement tests controlled from the federal level?

If he listens what will he hear — chatter and confusion, or a clear message?

Thankful for Government Schools

Our Schools, Our Responsibility to leave them standing strong for the next generation.

Our Schools, Our Responsibility to leave them standing strong for the next generation.

Where would I be without the American government schools that I’ve known most of my life as “public schools”?

No one can say with certainty what might have been. But in this case, with the governing of “government schools” being taken out of the hands of the public, think about our country without public schools.

My grandfather on my dad’s side died when his family was still very young leaving my Grandma Young raising a large family on her own. The family lived on “the other side of the tracks” — figuratively and literally in my hometown. Back then, the area was looked at as the “black side” of town but like most labels, there were exceptions like being low-income whites.

But the government schools in this Midwestern blue-collar town were decent enough, the military during WWII offered the GI bill, and anyone with the ambition, talent, and “grit” to improve their lives could prosper with the help of government education programs.

My dad ended up teaching upper-level high school mathematics for 30 years and built his own small businesses, which he still operates. He started with a Dairy Queen to supplement his teaching during his summers “off.”

Could he have gotten this far in life without government schools? Could he have advanced his education strictly with his paper routes and iron factory work? Well, the factory is gone now so no one there can do that anymore. And I think it’s fair to say that without a chance to further one’s education is some way, success in business is an exception, not the rule.

If he hadn’t gotten ahead in life with the help of government education programs, like the GI bill, where would I be today, a girl on the bottom rung with six brothers? If family resources are limited, what do you think? Well, I’m pretty sure, like many of us have done when our own children were looking at colleges, we’d do the math.

Without government-run public schools —publicly governed, publicly supported— I’m pretty sure I would not have had the opportunity and pleasure of serving the public as a doctor of veterinary medicine for the last 30 years. The freedom to choose the profession I did was only possible because government schools exist in America. For that, I am thankful.

And for that reason, it is worth fighting to preserve the system.

“An Act —To strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunities in the Nation’s elementary and secondary schools.” The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act … This is the type of law we need.

To all my fellow warriors supporting the effort, I’m thankful you are in the fight.

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy the day; you deserve it.

 

Fixing the National Accountability System: Based on Fact?

Part 3: Is the Marc Tucker Plan “a Fact-Based way forward”?

“Fact” according to Tucker: One of the most important conditions necessary to provide for professionals “is the design of the accountability system.” ?????? Who knew?

From my perspective as a professional, I never knew I needed to be concerned about an “accountability system.” And as many know, “In Finland, that word isn’t part of the education lexicon.”

But Mr. Tucker is an acknowledged “systems thinker” and an international expert whose opinion holds weight in D.C.. Surely he knows the truth about the country that has led the world in reforming their education system.

“The two most important factors explaining the success of the Finnish education system are: education has been a national priority for decades, and the system operates on trust.”

Truth is, the public trust in the U.S. public education system has been systematically eroded by political agendas and the propaganda to match it.

But on to another Tucker fact which actually has a broad base of agreement: The test-based accountability system
 we have in the United States—resulted in “very low teacher morale” and “has narrowed the curriculum for millions of students to a handful of subjects…” Tucker even went on to say:

“If we want broad improvement in student performance and we want to close the gap between disadvantaged students and the majority of our
students, then we will abandon test-based accountability and teacher evaluation as key drivers of our education reform program.”

It is great those facts were acknowledged, but the Tucker Plan DOES NOT abandon test-based accountability at all. It promises “tests would be much higher quality tests”… “And these high quality tests would cover the whole
 core curriculum, so subjects like history, literature, science, social studies, music and the arts would not be slighted.”

…Would not be slighted from being tested???!?!… This is “fixing” the problem?

More “facts” according to Mr. Tucker:

“When the ESEA [Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now called No Child left Behind] was first passed in 1965, the Congress assumed that, if they voted additional money that could only be used to aid in the education of poor and minority students, educators would know how to use that money effectively and the result would be improved student performance. ….In other words, if the students were not learning, the fault lay in the background of the students, not in any lack of competence or commitment in their teachers, and if more funds could be provided to teachers to cope with the students’ cultural disadvantages, then they would learn.”

Having studied the 1965 ESEA in much detail with information from a variety of sources, I can say this with certainty – NOT TRUE!

Tucker misrepresents the original law and then goes on to blame Congress for being mad about a lack of results when he says himself – in this paper – “data showed that the ESEA had indeed led to major gains for disadvantaged students.” (Koretz, Dan. “Educational Achievement: Explanations and Implications of Recent Trends”, Congress of the United States, Congressional Budget Office, August 1987)

Real facts about ESEA: The money did not go directly to teachers for them to spend as they saw fit. And the money was not only for “poor and minority” students. It was to address the needs of low-income students knowing that they tend to be concentrated in poorer communities, poorer states, and tended to be minority students.

There were five interconnected pieces supported through federal funding to the county and involved agencies:

  • Title I – financial assistance to local education agencies (schools) in support of children from low-income families,
  • Title 2 – money for school library resources, textbooks, and other instructional materials to provide access for all students in the State,
  •  Title 3 – supplementary educational centers and services to be made available to the entire community to provide services not currently offered in underserved areas but deemed vital to having kids ready to learn,
  •  Title 4 – The Cooperative Research Act to support educational research and training targeted at improving the quality of teaching, counseling, advising, and parental and community engagement practices to improve student achievement, and dissemination of that information,
  • Title 5 – State Departments of Education funding through this title is “to stimulate and assist in strengthening the leadership resources of State educational agencies” to assist states in identifying “educational problems, issues, and needs in the State.

(More details available here)

If Congress was led to believe that money went to teachers to use as they wished and it didn’t “work,” then the policy advisers in D.C. were ignorant or disingenuous and the history of the law distorted beyond recognition or understanding. I’m truly surprised that Mr. Tucker doesn’t know the history of ESEA any better than what he stated in this newest diatribe of his. His rendition was simplistic and erroneous.

So this topic of “national accountability” comes back to the fact that there is no reason for a test-based national/federal education accountability law. That is not what ESEA was – and in my humble and unheard opinion, nor should it ever be. We need to do away with the very idea that we can hold students and teachers “accountable” through high-stakes standardized testing dictated from above…..but let’s continue considering “facts.”

Another “FACT” as stated by Tucker is that;

education is a monopoly, so we need other ways of ensuring that the people delivering the service have strong incentives to work hard and deliver high quality at a reasonable cost.”

Monopoly means “the exclusive possession or control of something.” Who has had exclusive control over public education? There has never been a single person or entity possessing “exclusive control.” There are multiple “controllers”; some good, some bad. But public education has never been a true monopoly. The word “monopoly” has been used as a propaganda tool.

davekoller.com

davekoller.com

Currently, it is the powerful and their lobbyists that are controlling education policy.

And we are coming dangerously close to allowing the public education system to be controlled by a handful of individuals — a private monopoly by way of the international giant in education, Pearson Inc. with their cozy relationship to Mr. Tucker.

At this point, I’d like to know a fact or two myself (but I’m not really expecting answers); who made Marc Tucker King of Education Reform? How many share the throne with him? And why would we allow a non-representative of the People to direct education policy?

That is “Education without Representation.”

In a system that should operate on trust, we should NOT give power to the untrustworthy. All of those who have pushed the test-based accountability scheme should be dethroned.

To move forward based on facts, truth requires that we abandon our test-based federal accountability system, NOT fix it.

THE END