DeVos Distractions & The Pursuit of Truth

Betsy DeVos joins the Lamar Alexander D.C. charter/voucher/privatization team. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Anticipating the Title IX speech by Secretary of Education DeVos, the media last week was abuzz .Their verbiage included words like “overturn,” “roll-back,” “scrap,” “rescind.” They stirred it up and the protests grabbed our attention. But, does that help direct us towards solutions, or create distractions? What’s the truth of the matter?

In pursuit of the truth, please consider this. DeVos is a shrewd political operative, more so than our typical political appointee. She has the means to create distractions.

POLITICO 2016 A Look at Betsy DeVos Charitable Giving (Campbell Brown needed “charity”?) The Partnership for Educational Justice joined forces with 50CAN who previously merged with StudentsFirst (Michelle Rhee’s original anti-teacher/pro-charter organization). The organization’s names are changing quickly as their power grows!

DeVos’ Title IX speech was impressively delivered. But the reporting that followed, some of her words, and the relative scarcity of facts within her speech fueled controversy.

The real controversy?

Those unfamiliar with Title IX, and the 2011 Office for Civil Rights (OCR) directives under the Obama administration, would be hard-pressed to find the time necessary to piece together the truth. Before last Friday, I felt under-informed on the issue.

So Friday morning, I spent 40 minutes before work searching for information. On Saturday, between putting up tomatoes, baking cookies, cleaning house, fixing dinner, and walking my dog, I spent hours reading a variety of news sources, listening to DeVos’ speech, and reviewing its transcript.

Can we really expect most people to have the time to dig for enough facts about public education to make a thoroughly informed decision? … Anyway…

Let me be clear at the onset: Title IX federal anti-discrimination law, which includes protection from sexual harassment and violence, is a serious matter. By insinuating that DeVos is creating distractions, using Title IX  in the process, is not to say that the issue isn’t important or deserving of the media’s attention.

But the public needs less hype and more facts. Here’s what I can now tell you.

During the Obama administration, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) sent out a letter requiring colleges and universities to use a “preponderance of the evidence” to determine innocence or guilt in sexual violence or harassment cases. As the FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) explains…

…a “preponderance of the evidence”…merely requires that it is “more likely than not” that someone is responsible for what they are accused of…it is our judiciary’s lowest standard of proof…50.01% certain that the accused person is at fault….a “more likely than not” standard…

…in a real court for any crime, no matter how minor, the more familiar “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard must be used, which means that the judge or jury must be virtually certain of your guilt.

So the question becomes, do the directives sufficiently protect the accused person’s right to due process as well as the victims’ rights?

The letter also resulted in creation of situations where  …

…a judicial process …[could result in]…a student found innocent in a hearing [being] retried, even if the charges against him or her had already been proven baseless.

At the time, this letter was also criticized for failing to clarify free speech rights as previous OCR letters had done.

Did Betsy DeVos’ speech clarify those issues?

Well, yes, but…in all honestly, if I hadn’t read the FIRE article before listening to DeVos I would have been distracted by the stories she told. They were stories gathered from DeVos’ listening sessions with people. Listening is good. But it was the number of stories she told that I found distracting from the issues.

Was this DeVos’ best attempt at informing the public?

If clarity of the issues and swift resolution were the secretary’s main objectives, her inflammatory language and anti-Obama, anti-government rhetoric sprinkled into the speech certainly didn’t help. They were added distractions.

Truth be told. The problems aren’t that difficult to explain (explain, not solve) especially if your job depends on understanding the laws. Yet, they weren’t clearly explained. Reason enough to question whether or not there is something more to this story. Betsy DeVos isn’t stupid.

So what is the bigger picture? 

As Frederick M. Hess & Grant Addison wrote,

“The balance and tenor of her remarks was just right.”

That’s EXACTLY right. DeVos did appear “just right.” She appeared “re-framed.” She was delivering her new image!

The secretary softly spoke well-chosen words. And her actions on the Title IX topic thus far —listening sessions, collecting opinions and stories—were the right way to go. She used the process just right.

But keep in mind; this is exactly what we experienced with President Obama’s secretary of education and the president himself — the promise to listen yet their actions only furthered the political agenda of the ruling elite.

The agenda is privatization of pre-K-12 public schools.

The truth: If you follow today’s Orwellian nature of the media and politics, you can feel the school choice movement advocates drooling over DeVos’ speech. People like Frederick M. Hess want the Trump/DeVos school choice agenda to appear dead. All distractions are welcomed.

They want the media talking about anything other than vouchers, charters, and the federal funding of them through ESSA (the Every Student Succeeds Act) and tax laws.

After all, creating distractions is standard operating procedure in American politics.

And all too often, what the country is hearing about education reform is scripted talking points, not the truth.

Now, that leaves the long-standing reform agenda in the hands of Trump, DeVos, and Congress. And America seems willing to follow these leaders.

As stated in Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools. That’s a Mistake…

Our secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has repeatedly signaled her support for school choice and privatization, as well as her scorn for public schools, describing them as a “dead end”…

and claiming that unionized teachers …“care more about a system, one that was created in the 1800s, than they care about individual students.”

The agenda hasn’t changed. The following is one of the most succinct and accurate description of the agenda that I’ve ever read.

New Directions, Federal Education Policy in the 21st Century, 1999.

Note the reference to funding portability, vouchers, charters, testing, and the lack of respect for preserving the system. And there is always the promise “to educate children.” But what is the truth here? Do we think we can deliver on the promise of education as a public service — absent a public system? That IS privatization. Is that what we want?

1986 to today, the agenda remains the same.

Clearly we have not taken a better way forward.

In total, we’ve had 30 years of propaganda behind this never wavering political agenda.

There is a better way. It starts with refusing to blindly follow the leaders. It begins when we quit taking a wait-and-see attitude about ESSA — the law DeVos will execute.

ESSA was pushed through congress by Lamar Alexander without open public debate. This is the same man who proposed the first federal voucher legislation in 1992 as then Secretary of Education. He’s leading us full circle. It’s time to stop the spin.And thanks to the same media I am lambasting in broad strokes, I can connect some dots. My apologies to honest hard-working reporters who I am dumping into the same barrel as a bunch of bad apples (astroturf).

But our general lack of trustworthy media coverage of education issues is leaving America inadequately informed on KEY ISSUES. It has left us ill-equipped in the propaganda war being waged on public schools.

The truth: Betsy DeVos came into this politically appointed position with no intention of strengthening and improving the system.

Her history is one of disrupting already struggling public schools, dismantling them —and the system (community) surrounding them— and supporting privately run charters instead. That’s what she did in Michigan. Are we going to wait and see if she does the same to the country?

Many “school choice” proponents, who themselves write for the media, want you to believe that the Trump/DeVos/Alexander funding for school choice initiatives are going nowhere this year. Well, guess what is already in ESSA? Betsy knows. Alexander knows.

HERE’S THE KICKER!

If Congress fully funds ESSA —without restrictions on charter expansions—they fund the way forward for the Trump/DeVos/Alexander school choice/privatization plan.

If Congress includes tax credits —under any variety of names – opportunity, scholarship, tuition, etc. —as part of tax “reforms,” they fund the Trump/DeVos/Alexander de facto voucher/privatization plan.

What say you, Betsy DeVos?

“…we live in a country where an open debate of ideas is welcomed and encouraged.

But good intentions alone are not enough. Justice demands humility, wisdom and prudence.

[Justice] requires a serious pursuit of truth.”

Hear, hear; let’s do THAT!

Renegade Researchers: In Education Hell

Education hell has nothing to do with the afterlife. The hell created in our schools, in the name of education reforms, is a result of the fight between rhetoric and reality.

A living hell is created when the same empty rhetoric is used on the public over and over and over again. And it works!

It’s crazy! If you aren’t part of the education oligarchy —those who make the rules creating this education hell— your facts don’t count. It doesn’t matter what you know; it is who you know. Throw in who has been bought and what media is manipulated and you have created the hell on earth called education reform. And it isn’t reform!

But in education hell, the truth doesn’t matter.

Here’s an example from 1992.This is an article with the message to readers framed from the beginning with the words “Renegade Researchers.” And as you read, it sets up the false scenario of The Renegades versus The Scholars.

The word “renegades” implies “traitors” yet they are referred to as “the defenders of America education” (as if that is a bad thing?).

“I’m interested in a focus on the worst kids in the worst schools. Given the fact that everyone agrees that the bottom third of our kids are awful, they get very little spent on them.”

Was that the voice of a renegade?

Yes, a pesky researcher named Harold Hodgkinson (then director of the Center for Demographic Policy). And the counterattack from “the scholars”?

“The critics are wrong in saying the schools are just as good as they ever were. That is deeply damaging; it inspires complacency and a false sense of self-esteem.” A quote from then Assistant Secretary of Education, scholar, Diane Ravitch

The scholars were fighting for reforms based on developing “higher standards.”

Those ever-changing but “higher” standards formed the theoretical foundation of our education reforms for the last 30 years. Marc Tucker, the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), has been the “unofficial consultant to the cadre of officials” who coerced the nations’ schools into using this reform theory.

Tucker is the artful dodger. He claims to be a researcher but is counted as a scholar. (It’s a bit murky if you haven’t read the script and don’t know the actors.)

But as the news article goes on to explain, “Many scholars argue that the researchers are right to say that schools have NOT gone downhill, but are drawing the wrong conclusions.” (?)

It’s true, but it’s irrelevant,” said Tucker. “Doing as well or slightly better than we used to do is doing appallingly badly relative to the rest of the world.”

From the Sandia National Laboratories – The Sandia Report.

How is “appallingly badly” defined? In the case of Mr. Tucker and his education and the economy argument, his scholarly opinion was NOT based on solid statistical analysis.

The late, great statistician Gerald Bracey, as well as the Sandia National Laboratories researchers and others, demonstrated the flawed thinking of “the scholars.” Did the public know that? Nope.

Financed by the Department of Energy in 1991, Sandia research engineers ( not professional educators) were given our education statistics and asked to provide an “outsider’s’ look at the status of education in the U.S.” They did; those damned renegade researchers! They gave us their honest opinion.

The condition of education? Buried as quickly as possible! And the game continues, hide the truth and put out the spin. But the Sandia Report is not forever buried and forgotten. Gerald Bracey, for one, tried to keep the truth alive. He wrote.

David Kearns, former CEO of Xerox and then deputy secretary of education, said something along the lines of, “You bury this or I’ll bury you.”

And Bracey continued to point out the role of the media…

In February 1992 an international comparison in mathematics and science appeared. With enthusiastic help from Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander and Assistant Secretary Diane Ravitch, the media gave it a highly negative spin. (The 10th Bracey Report on the Condition of Education, Page 2)

Vouchers and tuition tax credits were being pushed then. Vouchers and tuition tax credits are being pushed now.

This was all happening under the Bush administration —the first Bush administration under which Lamar Alexander served as secretary of education. Yes, the same Lamar Alexander that now controls the Senate Education Committee.

Was the manipulation of the media effective?

“The debate, both sides say, has crucial implications for education policy. The revisionists argue that exaggerating the crisis in all American schools distorts policies that should be focused on poor schools where children are really failing.”

So looking back at the Renegade Researchers article, by prefacing the above statement characterizing the renegades as “revisionists,” the author taints our view of what is said next — policies “should be focused on poor schools.”

That targeted focus is what the education venture capitalists — those looking to make a profit off of school children— never wanted the public to focus policy (or resources) on. REAL reforms would focus on the smaller number of schools needing attention. It’s a smaller market share. REAL public policy solutions wouldn’t have us restructuring the whole system like we are.

It looks like the media manipulation produced the desired results.

So What Can We Do?

Don’t take it anymore! Fight back against the lies. In his own way, Gerald Bracey did. He didn’t take being called a “revisionist” lying down. He continued to speak up.

Proudly remain, or become, a renegade researcher.

Few researcher are in the same class as Gerald Bracey, but, we are living in the same education hell.

Unfortunately when this debate was going on in 1992, I was just a public school parent unaware of the political shenanigans interfering with the progress we were making in my high-poverty schools. It was a living hell because schools and teachers were being asked to do things that made no sense! Way back then!

This problem isn’t going away on its own. As another parent researcher recently asked, “what new hell is this?”….. More rules, regulations, policies all promoting “higher” standards, different tests, altered accountability mechanisms, and technology to track a child’s every move…on the keyboard…..yes, all reality.

Anyway, I now have an answer to her question, what “new” hell is this? It’s not new; it is the same education hell where politically driven rhetoric overshadows reality. The lies have “crucial implications for education policy.” We are wasting money by doing the same wrong things over and over and over again.

So, as Duane Swacker reminds us in his book, Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractice in American Public Education,

“…truth is ‘the control of belief by fact.’… Yes, truth matters!”

What we can do is insist that this never-ending political tit-for-tat debate ends NOW. Enough of the lies! Demand the truth be told and that our reality now guide education policies.

The education law of the land right now—the Every Student Succeeds Act—is based on decades of lies. If truth matters, let’s demand the facts be made transparent.

With standards-based education “reforms” in place since 1992, what have we got to show for having lived through, and paid for, this education hell? I honestly don’t know.

I do know one thing. It burns my ass to think that not one person involved in the lies surrounding the Sandia Report has ever worked like hell to set the record straight —for the public.

Oh, and speaking about truths, how are we doing with “closing the achievement gap”?

If education reform was really about closing the achievement gap, why did we change policies when we were making progress? Was it about something else?

FACT: We aren’t talking about what we were doing right in the 70’s and 80’s.

The Education Reform Oligarchy: How They Used Us

The education reform oligarchy set an agenda, carefully selected their mode of operations, and agreed upon the bait. They developed a vision, knew what they needed to do, how to do it, and they had the monetary and political support to move a nation to do their bidding. They used us to advance their plan.

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NOTE: Published in 1983.

With wisely selected words, they tapped into our frustration with bureaucracies and BIG government while marketing their wares, following their map, and sticking to their strategies — repeatedly and relentlessly.

They used mass messaging, mass media, and massively powerful organizations to launch and continue to float THEIR mass movement. Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 11.41.31 AMTo succeed with their plan, the oligarchy needed to undermine what was a strong public institution.

There was never any dispute that schools need to constantly be improving themselves and that unequal access to quality education exists because of socioeconomic factors.

And the oligarchy always claimed their plan was about systemic improvements.

At this point, I challenge the notion that their agenda was ever about educational improvement.

Published May, 1986

Published May, 1986

Did they really care about this country’s future?

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American Federation of Teachers, National School Board Association, and the National Education Association went along with the recommendations while ignoring the fact that the plan was market-based from its inception.

Business people look at markets. The oligarchy faced a fact, parents liked their schools. So, they expanded their market shares by creating an illusion of need. Their public persuasion took several forms.

This 1986 public poll shows that very few parents think their schools are failing.

This 1986 public poll shows that very few parents thought their schools were failing. (For the record, I’m one of the few.)

THEY TARGETED A POPULATION:

The marketing plan needed to target a politically active portion of the population who mostly lacked any real contact with —or direct knowledge of— the reality of our schools.

May 27, 1986

Voters understand that to get better jobs, you have to have better schools,” said [then] Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

August 26, 1986

“…parents are a declining percentage of the voting population in this country. It will not be sufficient to have just the parents in favor of better schools. We have got to have the retired population understanding that their future Social Security payments depend upon the earnings of kids who are now going into school.” —Mr. Lewis Branscomb , IBM scientist at the National Governors Association (NGA) meeting.

Was this about better schools or the education market?

“…the knowledge-based economy… ‘What 
is industry in a knowledge-based economy?’ The answer is the education industry.” —Mr. Lewis Branscomb, IBM, NGA meeting.

“Can we do education as an investment, a moneymaking profitable investment?” —Mr. Bradford Butler, Procter & Gamble, NGA meeting.

They had a financial target — to grow the education industry. (Now globally a $4.4 Trillion industry.)

They knew what was needed

“I think the key to engaging a long-term interest and commitment of companies is the adoption of a reform strategy…” Mr. Lewis Branscomb, 1986 NGA meeting.

THEY TAPPED INTO OUR VALUES and CORE BELIEFS.

We wanted assurances that our schools would improve; they sold us test-based accountability. We value freedom of choice and know how important parents are to a child’s education; they peddled school choice as parental involvement.

We have repeatedly asked for better-prepared teachers with a decent salary to match; they put forth merit pay and career ladders based on an unproven, and now statistically dis-proven, theory of reforms. The basis, “standards.” The weapon, “testing.” The attraction, “accountability.”

The standards, testing, accountability movement was rolling forward.

THEY — USED OUR GOVERNMENT RESOURCES.

Regional educational laboratories that were established in 1965 to do research and development were used to push the outcome-based strategy.

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New Standards Project was Marc Tucker’s project. He is the director of NCEE (National Center on Education and the Economy).

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Source: It began as one of our regional educational laboratories. Now McREL International.

THEY — USED OUR SYSTEM OF GOVERNING.

From 1991 to 1993, Lamar Alexander was secretary of education with Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch serving as his counsel and being responsible for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement.

What is most notable about this time-frame, other than the advancement of standardization, is what did not happen.

  • The Sandia Report was not discussed — it clarified many reform issues.
  • The warnings of the Education Counts panel were ignored —so we moved on with test-based accountability instead of a system that measures what matters.

THEY — USED OUR LAWS to continue putting the outcome-based theory into practice throughout the states, as planned…

“…the Governors were the key to the necessary revolution in school policy.” Marc Tucker, 1986 NGA meeting.

And just like they created a false market for “financial products,” they did the same with the education market.…”To Market, To Market: The School Business Sells Kids Short

“Mary Tanner, managing director at Lehman Brothers, which sponsored the first educational investment conference last year, compares it to health care – ‘a local industry that over time will become a global business.’”

Then as tragedy hit us on  9/11/2001, the federalization of their movement moved forward without much national discussion. With billions on the line, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) sealed the deal with the wording “accountability, flexibility, and choice.” And once again, our government structure was used to support their goals. Instead of research centers, NCLB put in place technical assistance Comprehensive Centers. Now those centers are being used for a new product. But standards and tests are only one product. They want it all!

We believe in having the freedom to choose but with schools, most didn't NEED to do so.

We believe in having the freedom to choose but with schools, most didn’t NEED to do so.

But with only 1 in 4 parents willing to choose a school other than their neighborhood one, the education market needed to expand further. The oligarchy went big on this one.

With the Eli Broad Foundation and Michigan Governor John Engler starting the ball rolling in 2002, the BROAD CENTER leadership development program was launched and their graduates landed (or were strategically placed) in our largest urban school districts to lead school turnarounds. Mostly, we saw disruption through school closures.

The biggest market shares were in the fifty largest cities where the "dropout factories" were ripe for plucking.

The biggest market shares were in the fifty largest cities where the “dropout factories” were ripe for school closures.

Marc Tucker’s National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) wasn’t far behind. He took a different approach to school closures but he continues, to this day, to use our money for his projects. Why isn’t that money going into public institutions?Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 10.16.34 PM

The oligarchy went on to use what they know will work… “disruptive innovation.”

“a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market , eventually displacing established competitors.”

Traditional public schools are seen as their competitors.

And they “never let a serious crisis go to waste.” Hurricane Katrina – school closures and re-opening as privately run charters. The Great Recession – an opportunity to accelerate the whole money-making plan using our Recovery Act dollars.

Over and over, they dangled autonomy, better teacher pay, and better schools in front of us. THEY — USED OUR INCESSANT WILLINGNESS TO SUPPORT SCHOOLS.CDjZ3EQUEAA0IZI

But, finally, the resistance to pseudo-reforms has been growing. It is a fight against the GERM – Global Education Reform Movement.

The oligarchy’s sustained campaign —outcome-based, neoliberal, greed-driven, pretense of reforms — isn’t unique to the U.S. because this is a global market. So what we see here in the U.S. is what is being seen the world over. We win a battle here and there but…

“…the same ‘reforms’ are again back after one year, albeit in a new package this time. What does this tells us? This tells us that even though the [resistance] movement was strong enough to highlight one specific and temporary aspect of the ‘reform’ agenda; it was not able to make popular the comprehensive critique of the whole process.”student-protests-cbcs-fyup

We need to see their whole process.

As resistance to “disruptive innovations” rises, THEY will use “intervention design thinking principles” to manage the challenges involved in getting us “to engage with and adopt innovative new ideas and experiences.” But remember “innovative” or “new” doesn’t mean better schools for our kids. It more likely means a repackaged education product.

When will this nightmare end? It will only end when enough of us see that the oligarchy has used us, and, only we —collectively—have the power to stop it.

Accountability & ESEA Reauthorization

“Accountability is not a bad thing, but it can be done badly. And that’s where we find ourselves now…No single idea, policy or solution can begin to address all the challenges in 50 states, 15,000 districts and 90,000 public schools…we need accountability for the entire system.” — Dennis Van Roekel, President of NEA, 6/10/14

Accountability in ESEA reauthorization needs to take into account all the major issues involved in student performance.

Accountability in ESEA reauthorization needs to take into account all the major issues involved in student performance.

When you look at the visual provided here, it’s easy to see that our myopic focus on student outcomes as the basis of accountability for No Child Left Behind set us on a tragic course destined to sink the U.S. education system.

To attempt an explanation of how accountability for the entire system is possible, I elected to begin with a statement from this, October 28, 2014, letter from key civil rights organizations.

To: President Obama, Secretary Duncan, Congressional and State Educational Leaders:

Re: Improving Public Education Accountability Systems and Addressing Educational Equity.

“…many struggling school systems have made little progress under rules that emphasize testing without investing.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 3.48.00 PMThe focus on “testing without investing” can very simply be brought to a halt. If the government won’t stop this, parents will have to take the law into their own hands as they are doing with the United Opt Out Movement.

If those continuing to insist on forced yearly testing are doing so because they do not trust state and local officials to work towards equal opportunity, that is understandable. But IF Congress cannot “fix” their mistakes now, after being aware of them for a decade, a two-year federal moratorium on all federally mandated testing except NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) is reasonable given what we know.

We know we created a lost generation in education and in our economy. We tested without investing in real school improvements. We ignored much while focusing only on the tip of the iceberg.

Here’s the problem:

“Common sense dictates that in order for students to achieve they must have appropriate opportunities to learn.” Wendy Schwartz – Opportunity To Learn Standards, 1995

The concept of “opportunity to learn assessments” isn’t something that the public hears much about but as Schwartz explained, they are “used to indicate overall educational quality, and, more specifically, the availability and use of education resources.

Hopefully that helps people better understand the concerns of the civil rights groups and their requests to Congress and the Obama administration. The eight points below are theirs; the elaboration on them is mine. Their emphasis was on providing “productive learning conditions for all students in each school” using measures of educational inputs and outcomes based on eight requirements for effective accountability:

  1. Appropriate and Equitable Resources to ensure opportunities to learn,
  2. Multiple Measures of both inputs and outcomes,
  3. Shared Responsibility – from the community to the classroom to all levels of the system – to fulfill their obligation to support learning for all students,
  4. Professional Competence requiring proper preparation, continuing education,and professional learning opportunities for all,
  5. Informative Assessments that are indicators of continuous improvement of both the students’ progress and the systems’ responsiveness to identified problems,
  6. Transparency requiring that the indicators of improvement be specific, targeted, meaningful, and easily accessible and readable,
  7. Meaningful and Responsive Parental and Family Engagement must be made a priority in funding and practice,
  8. Capacity Building should be the focus of all interventions whether it is for the student, school, or system because it is only by strengthening and increasing an individuals’ or institutions’ capability to perform that we ensure a strong foundation for progress.

HOW?

The structure for a responsive and responsible accountability mechanism was recommended in 1991 by the Special Study Panel on Education Indicators and presented to the Acting Commissioner of Education Statistics, Emerson J. Elliott, then Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, and Assistant Secretary of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement Diane Ravitch.

The panels’ goal was to “develop a comprehensive education indicator information system capable of monitoring the health of the enterprise, identifying problems, and illuminating the road ahead” which meant they were looking at leading indicators as well as an evaluation of the systems’ current status.

The panel began by clarifying that “unlike most other statistics, an indicator is policy-relevant and problem-oriented…but indicators cannot, by themselves, identify causes or solutions.”

Understanding that “information requirements of the federal government have little in common with those of the school superintendent or principal,” the panel anticipated the need for indicator systems corresponding to federal, state, and local needs.

Their first step was to define “the conceptual framework” and “fundamental principles” by which to create and guide an education indicator information system to meet the demands of the public and policymakers.

These fundamental convictions were outlined and explained:

  • Indicators should address enduring issues. We should assess what we think is important, not settle for what we can measure.
  • The public’s understanding of education can be improved by high-quality, reliable indicators.
  • An effective indicator system must monitor education outcomes and processes wherever they occur.
  • An indicator system built solely around achievement tests will mislead the American people.
  • An indicator system must respect the complexity of the educational process and the internal operations of schools and colleges.
  • Higher education and the nation’s schools can no longer be permitted to go their separate ways.

The panel set down a framework around six issues and the main factors contributing to success in those areas. They expressed the concept as “clusters of indicators” designed to give us the best understanding of these complex issues.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 6.50.01 PMIn essence, this panel was encouraging us to develop a “mixed model of indicators — national indicators, state and local indicators, and a subset of indicators held in common.”

But — always a “but” — in 1991, the public and this panel still held the belief, and clearly pushed it forward, that international comparison data was “the ultimate benchmarks of educational performance.” It wouldn’t be until 1993 that a brief glimpse at the Sandia National Laboratories report on education put the interpretation of international test scores, and standardized test scores in general, in perspective. “The major differences in education systems and cultures across countries diminish the value of these single-point comparisons.”

Sandia researchers critically evaluated “popular, not necessarily appropriate” measures of performance and in the end stated that the available data was collected for such “specific purposes” that it was “often used in unintended and sometimes inappropriate applications.” They warned, “this practice may result in poorly focused actions, with disappointing outcomes.” On that point, both of these groups of researchers were in agreement.

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To avoid too narrow a focus yet not be overwhelmed by statistics or the collection of them, the 1991 Panel on Education Indicators went for a “comprehensive” issue-focused approach.

 

 

 

For each of the six issue areas, they further detailed the system with subsets.

 

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They did the same with issues of “leading indicators” particularly changes in society affecting a child’s readiness for school…

 

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…and the supports necessary for student success.

 

 

 

The panel stressed that “the most powerful system of indicators will start from the perspective of what consumers and the public expect and need from education” understanding that “the people of the United States also clearly expect the nation’s schools and colleges to advance certain national values above and beyond the benefits education provides to individual students.”

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To accommodate the public, these two issues were included: education and economic productivity, and…

 

 

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… equity in American education.

 

 

Is this doable? Could a “mixed model of indicators” be used to assess all the elements laid out in the civil rights letter? For our large and diverse country, would this system better fit our needs than the test-based accountability of No Child Left Behind?

The original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was NOT an accountability law until the No Child Left Behind version of it. ESEA was one of a group of anti-poverty laws.

Do we want to return ESEA to its original goals? Should accountability be set nationally in a manner such as outlined here, but, maybe under its own law? Now would be the time to decide.

What we know with certainty is that current federal education law, as it stands, has neither served us well nor protected children from the harmful effects of politics-gone-wrong.

Our lawmakers have proven themselves incapable of responsible decision-making in the arena of education policy. It is time for the People to make demands.

Choices to consider: 1) Push Congress to make the law right, 2) call for a moratorium on testing if they can’t produce a reauthorization we can live with and prosper by, 3) boycott testing now. Unfulfilled promises of action are no longer good enough.

PARENTS: submit your tests refusal letters now. The parents that came before you in the standards, testing, accountability movement waited for lawmakers to act. They didn’t; you must.

CITIZENS: what happened to leaving a place better than you found it? The public education system is systematically being dismantled. Get off the sidelines!

To read more about accountability at the different levels, see Accountability Where It Matters Most, Accountability for School Quality, and Accountability for Administration.

We aren’t short on ideas; we are stymied by the corrupted politics of education.

Update 5/6/2015 PLEASE view the accountability summary chart now under the Federal Education Law drop down menu. Thank you for considering.

Reformer, or Transformer?

To transform means to change the appearance, character of, or function of.  To reform means to make better. Now, what ARE we doing to our education system?

I saw problems in my local schools and I offered solutions. Is there a high poverty rate in my area? Yes, now 83% free & reduced lunch children. Could the solutions not be accomplished because of poverty? No. And let me give you an example.

When we were in the process of expanding into a brand new school building, our district was going to have empty classrooms. Having helped in first grade classes with 28 students and seen the behavioral distractions that then led to decreased instructional time, decreased personalized attention, and the creation of at-risk students — I didn’t give a damn what research said or didn’t say — it makes good sense to start kids off on the right foot! Race of life and all that, ya know?

So, I did my math and brought a proposal to the school board to decrease only first grade class size; not as an experiment, but because it was the right thing to do at the right time. Before this, limited facilities had always been the excuse for the crowded classrooms. Could we not afford to do it? No, we could at the time. “We” just chose not to. Proposal rejected; no explanation.

Enter what Diane Ravitch in Reign of Error called the “’reform’ agenda including high-stakes testing, test-based accountability, competition, and school choice.” Did these efforts make the public education system better? NO – they are not reforms. Did they change the appearance of the system? YES – it appears more dysfunctional than ever. Did they change the character of schools? YES – much more test-based. Did they change the function of the system? Let me answer using Ravitch’s words here: “What began as a movement for testing and accountability has turned into a privatization movement.” The function of policies and practices did change.

The people pushing the privatization movement are transformers, transforming public institutions into private profits.

I am a reformer. They have not earned the right nor deserve the privilege to wear that label. Reformers work to make things better, not destroy them.

Call them what they are - TRANSFORMERS.

Call them what they are – TRANSFORMERS.

 

Transformational change is not the change we need. STOP the Dismantling of the PUBLIC SYSTEM so we may begin to make things better.

Understand what reform is and is not.