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.

Education Lessons JFK Left Behind

100 years after the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and with his birthday falling on Memorial Day, it seems fitting to look back in tribute at the education lessons JFK left behind.

President Kennedy recognized that our country

“requires a citizenry that understands our principles and problems. It requires skilled manpower and brainpower to match the power of totalitarian discipline. It requires a scientific effort which demonstrates the superiority of freedom. And it requires an electorate in every state with sufficiently broad horizons and sufficient maturity of judgment to guide this nation safely through whatever lies ahead.”

Final Special Message to the Congress on Education, January 29, 1963

Today, are this nation’s needs any different than when JFK made his proposals to congress?

In 1961, Kennedy’s first appeal to Congress on behalf of public schools was for support of his “twin goals”:

“a new standard of excellence in education and the availability of such excellence to all who are willing and able to pursue it.”

By April 11, 1965, over two years after JFK’s assassination, his “twin goals” became the aim of national education policy when President Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA),

An Act

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

Kennedy emphasized the need to address “depressed areas” and “slum neighborhoods” where children are known to have: poor diets, unaddressed speech, dental and visual disorders, and where older students are in need of job guidance and proper recreational activities.

The first titles of ESEA addressed Kennedy’s concerns for a spectrum of disadvantages:

Title IEducation of Children of Low Income Families to provide financial assistance to support educationally-deprived children.

Title IISchool Library Resources, Textbooks, and Other Instructional Materials to provide for access to educational materials for all students in the State.

Title IIISupplementary Educational Centers and Services to provide services not currently offered but deemed vital to educational improvement made available to the entire community.

Kennedy stressed that unlike in the health and agricultural fields where they “have established the worth of systematic research and development,”

the education profession “lags behind in utilizing the results of research.”

To remedy the problem;

Title IVEducational Research and Training; Cooperative Research Act to provide research, training, and dissemination of information aimed at improving the quality of teaching.

With variability in quality and access between the states recognized as a problem, ESEA’s last title clarified the intent of federal education law.

Title VState Departments of Education aimed to stimulate and assist in strengthening the leadership resources of State educational agencies.

In each education-focused special message to Congress, JFK expounded further and further on how he saw the proper federal role. He declared,

“Let us put to rest the unfounded fears that ‘Federal money means Federal control.’” And he held up the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the Morrill Act of 1862 (establishing the Land-Grant College system), and the National Defense Education Act of 1958 as examples where “the Congress has repeatedly recognized its responsibility to strengthen our educational system without weakening local responsibility.”

And the 35-page law, the 1965 ESEA, was completed with a statement limiting the boundaries of federal power:

“Federal Control of Education Prohibited

Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other print or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system.”

With the passage of ESEA, the major ideas that Kennedy and his advisers believed would strengthen and improve public schools were preserved — temporarily.

Today, both our federal boundaries and guiding principles are unclear.

So in memorial of President Kennedy’s birthday, May 29, 1917, let us recall how he wished to succeed in improving and strengthening educational opportunities for all the nation’s children.

Acknowledging that the quality of the students depends on…

“both the quality and the relative quantity of teachers and facilities,”

he emphasized class size, teachers’ salaries, and adequate classrooms as common problems particularly in need of assistance in states with limited financial resources.

Focusing on teachers, JFK felt…

our immediate concern should be to afford them every possible opportunity to improve their professional skills and their command of the subjects they teach.”

He believed “teachers would profit from a full year of full-time study in their subject-matter fields. Very few can afford to do so.” The funding then proposed was to “begin to make such opportunities available to the elementary and secondary school teachers of this country and thereby accord to this profession the support, prestige and recognition it deserves.”

And quoting Thomas Jefferson,

Let us keep our eye steadily on the whole system,

Kennedy asked that his final education proposal “be considered as a whole, as a combination of elements designed to solve problems that have no single solution.”

The nations’ goals were to be met “on the basis of three fundamental guidelines:

  1. An appraisal of the entire range of educational problems…;
  2. A selective application of Federal aid – aimed at strengthening, not weakening, the independence of existing school systems and aimed at meeting our most urgent education problems and objectives…; and
  3. More effective implementation of existing laws…”

To honor limited federal involvement in education, the “appraisal” is a necessary first step because,…

federal “participation should be selective, stimulative and, where possible, transitional” and “the proper Federal role is to identify national education goals and to help local, state and private authorities build the necessary roads to reach those goals.”

Today, we will only be able to finish building the necessary roads by first removing the roadblocks.

We must look back and recognize that our country

“requires a citizenry that understands our principles and problems.”

Do citizens clearly understand the problems?

Are we standing on the right education reform principles?

Did “we” change our goals?

Improving schools requires we understand the problems, understand the principles, and set the right goals. That is the lesson left behind.

Consider this. President Kennedy’s twin goals were a force that led our nation well for decades. But the changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) over many more decades has taken us further from meeting those twin goals of quality and equality.

Congress lost its footing. They overstepped. And they landed on a very slippery slope.

In 1965, it was JFK’s twin goals that LBJ ushered into this law.

Title I funds clearly were part of the War on Poverty.

The 1994 Clinton administration introduced “other purposes” — unchecked.

Those “other purposes” included basing the “quality” of education and access to it firmly upon standards and the tests associated with those standards. School Choice Programs were put in under Title I. Transportation costs were not included.

By the 2001 Bush administration, the whole law (NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND) was clearly Outcome-Based with accountability for all schools under federal control, flexibility with spending our federal dollars out of control, and school choice included in a variety of places. It was in sections under parental involvement, accountability, and supplemental services. The funding to assess transportation costs as well as picking up that cost in certain cases were included.

This is what NCLB Title I said ( “disadvantaged” ) but NCLB clearly had all public schools march to the same drummer – standards and testing – one-size-fits-all.

In a last-minute rush, the 2015 Obama administration signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act. The law was renamed so many times in the year preceding the push that the public couldn’t keep up and the writers wrote “achieves” instead of “succeeds” in the final version. ESSA is not what the public was told it would be.

Title I officially has the federal government involved in the basic programs of all schools still based on the principles of NCLB with a ramping up of school choice at every turn, including pre-K charters, with the Secretary of Education given more power to start-up charters as well as providing the first year of transportation costs.

Don’t you think its time we all took a step back, stopped the federal overreach, and corrected the mistakes that have been made?

The education lessons JFK left behind for this nation provides us solid ground upon which to stand. That platform was built where practical knowledge of improvement practices met the need for equal access under the law.

I hope more of you will make the time to read and contemplate President Kennedy’s three messages to Congress on education (the only links in this blog). All real reformers should stand on the solid principles they provide before continuing to fight in the American education reform wars. That war is currently dividing the nation along ideological and political lines while allowing the dismantling of a longstanding system that served us well.

Let us read, understand, remember, and use the education lessons JFK left behind.

Foreign Influence & America’s Choice

Wow! It took this crap-fest of a presidential election to get the issue of foreign influence to the national stage. But seriously, we actually do need to talk about foreign influence in the inner workings of our government —in the making of our laws.

Sure, we should be appalled by foreign governments trying to influence our elections but foreign influence in our government is nothing new; it’s business as usual in the cesspool of Congress. 878492

Oh, and I might as well be upfront with you. This blog isn’t about the presidential election. This is about BIG money in politics. This is about foreign interference in our lives on a regular basis.

So please, hang with me on this little, but disgusting, story. You need to know how multinational corporations stealthily exert foreign influence on Congress and pilfer our coffers. And even worse, the villains in this story are quietly working to privatize a whole public system and create a global monopoly on education. (Hidden Privatisation) TRUE STORY!

The story begins with the British-owned company Pearson Education Corporation. They aren’t the dreaded Russians but they are a foreign influence none-the-less.

Pearson provides publishing and assessment services to corporations and schools from Pre-K to higher education and …. professional learning (oh, that’s a story for another day!).

Do they influence our public policies through lobbyists? Yes, openly.

Sandy Kress, the controversial testing lobbyist, was the architect of No Child Left Behind who then lobbied for Pearson Education while simultaneously serving on several state advisory boards. Kress became so unpopular amid an anti-testing rebellion in Texas that the legislature made it illegal for him or any other testing lobbyist to make campaign contributions. Even registered sex offenders can give politicians money in Texas.

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Provided by Open Secrets

Pearson’s lobbying of Congress increased just after the writing of No Child Left Behind in 2001 and Common Core in 2008. Remember, this is foreign influence over dollars spent. They secure the law then secure the spending.

It’s legal. But it’s not right.

And it’s the stealthy part of this story that should really alarm us —the think tanks.

Think tanks influence the actual writing of the laws. Foreign powers do buy influence through them. Their goals become the aim of our laws. Terminology is of their choosing. Their influence fixes a law in place. That’s how the development of “an industrial complex” works — by influencing “public” policy. (“Public” in the sense that the public follows the law.)

And unbeknownst to most of the public, it can be foreign agents creating the loopholes that keep us running in circles unable to ever catch up to the truth in time. The money’s pocketed before we know it.

But, let’s get back to the story. We know this…

Pearson announced “in the summer of 2000 to spend $2.5 billion on an American testing company.” (Some thought it wasn’t a great investment. Ha!)

…“the next year, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandated millions of new standardized tests for millions of kids in public schools.”

Pearson just happened to be “in a prime position to capitalize.”

And we know…

School testing corporations have spent at least $20 million on lobbying along with wining and dining or even hiring policymakers in pursuit of big revenues from federal and state testing mandates under “No Child Left Behind” measures and the Common Core curriculum, according to a new analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).

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Yup. Lawmakers created a no profit left behind free-for-all targeting public school children.

Now, this is the point in this little story where the connection of Pearson to Marc Tucker—the unofficial consultant for our fundamental change to a standards-based (test-based) system under No Child Left Behind —was still only speculation in my mind….until I found the following fact.

On Sept. 10, 2001, President George W. Bush was at Jacksonville, Florida’s Justina Road Elementary School “to tout his $900 million education agenda.” He…

“chose Justina because test scores at the Duval County school have steadily increased in the past few years, thanks to a new program that emphasizes literacy skills.

That program – America’s Choice.”

ALWAYS, the plan was sold using this promise…

“Every student should leave high school capable of doing college-level work without remediation.”

These same words were in my states’ mission for “our” standards-based accountability system in 1999 and the words were reused again to sell Common Core. Is No Child Left Behind connected to Common Core in the minds of most Americans?

Is the choice of words, a coincidence? No. The connection is America’s Choice.

Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) first partnered with America’s Choice in May 2009. Financed with more than $3 million in federal Title I funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, America’s Choice is working with the district to implement the Rigor and Readiness Initiative into 19 middle and high schools. The initiative, which America’s Choice developed with ACT Inc., the company that creates the college preparation test, includes the Ramp-Up and Navigator curricula.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was also funded with money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The think tanks and other “education organizations” got together. And the same people continue to profit from selling us the same product (the standards & testing-based theory)— repackaged.

Funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars!?!!!?!! In the Great Recession our Recovery Act dollars fed the multinational education industry…. foreign companies instead of our children. Wall Street at the expense of Main Street! Wasn’t that the outcry?

At this point, we do need a good laugh.

At this point, we do need a good laugh.

So who founded America’s Choice? Marc Tucker. What think tank does he run? National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE). How influential is he? Way, way too influential.

When it comes to education law, if parents and teachers were half as influential as this one man, we might actually get to the promised land — equal educational opportunity.

Ah, but the rest of the story —the Coup De Grace $$$$$$$$$$

America’s Choice…

“began as a program of the National Center on Education and Economy (NCEE) in 1998 and became a private [for-profit] organization in 2004.”

…combined with Pearson…to seal the deal.

Pearson and America’s Choice Announce Acquisition Agreement

August 3, 2010 —Pearson…today signed a letter of agreement to acquire America’s Choice…Pearson’s extraordinary resources and technological expertise will facilitate the adaptation and reach of America’s Choice’s comprehensive and proven school improvement model to a global community of educators and students.

What do you think America? What’s America’s choice?

America’s choice isn’t high skills or low wages like Mr. Tucker says in his propaganda.

America’s choice is money-driven law versus people-driven policies.

1003583You think that when domestic influences (think-tanks) team up with foreign-born companies, they are unstoppable? Absolutely not.

But we have to face the facts.

Both political parties are corrupted to the core. And every person voting to return their boy or girl to congress is voting for more of the same. You want change. Change Congress.

You want revolution. Start with a peaceful tactic — revolt at the voting booth. Be the anti-incumbent vote. Then rise to the challenge of beating back the testing machine in your own schools.

Such a deplorable, revolting situation as allowing foreign corporate-created laws to control the education of U.S. children is intolerable. It ends with us.

The Education Reform Oligarchy & Stiff Accountability

Who convinced a nation that we should put “stiff accountability” in place without first ensuring that all schools and children had the necessary resources to achieve the excellence in education we demand of them? It was “them,” the rulers; not we, the People.

The education reform oligarchy marketed “accountability,” tied their sales pitch to freedom of choice, used statistics to the point of outright trickery, and suppressed the truth.

They set a game plan and methodically stuck to it.

They shifted our focus from what was set by the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — better educating teachers and counselors, providing sufficient instructional materials, ensuring students are supported, and engaging parents and the community —to— stiff accountability for student outcomes as judged by standardized test scores. And they took aim at teachers…from the start.

Hired to do public opinion polling by the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy under the direction of Marc Tucker, Mr. Lou Harris explained his findings at the 1986 National Governor’s Association (NGA) meeting.

“…people are convinced the heart of the matter lies in what is done about teachers.…

Of course, this means, in turn, new ground rules for teachers…such as, paying teachers by a new bottom line, …and finally, finally, at last, paying teachers competitive salaries on a level, for example, with accountants.

But then with these upside inducements must also go stiff, stiff accountability, such as annual reporting of school-wide student performance,… and this is the key one — allowing parents the chance to choose which public school to send their kids to as a device to reward schools that are successful.

…this means a new compact in education, a trade-off, if you will, between higher
 salaries and more autonomy for teachers on the one hand, in exchange for higher standards and accountability for teachers measured, in what: in terms of student performance. This is basic.”

There’s your basis for No Child Left Behind — in 1986. Mind you, it’s a theory… the outcome-based theory! Did it work? Did we get the results we sought?

Their focus was not on the unequal inputs that are inherent in a public school system the size and magnitude of our U.S. system. Their focus was not on our high level of poverty and the pockets of community decay that has been allowed to grow and fester. Instead, this group of politicians and think-tankers focused on “stiff, stiff accountability” in exchange for more pay.

They did it! We got a federal accountability system based on student performance but without elevating the teaching profession as a whole. Duped? You bet we were. Where is the accountability for that? Who is answerable for ignoring the needs of teachers and the desire of parents?hal-johnson-quote-we-feel-a-little-bit-like-weve-been-duped

You teachers…listen up…. jump those hoops, not because you are a professional doing your job but for the monetary reward. Worship the almighty dollar just like the oligarchy. It’s how they see things in their world…. these people who own and rule the world. This all made sense to them, well, not all of them.

Not everyone attending the 1986 NGA meeting agreed with the theory of outcome-based accountability.

Mrs. Mary Futrell, then head of the National Education Association, spoke out in favor of a different approach…

“We believe the primary responsibility of an accountability system or an evaluation system, it should be for professional growth. To help the teachers do a better job. We have a real concern that as we look at school-based or school performance or student performance, that we will try to tie teachers’ pay to that, even though there is no research to support it.”

Research? The agenda of the oligarchy was never backed by good research and still isn’t…29 more years later! Research and the dissenting voices have been ignored repeatedly. In this game, both are left on the sidelines.

The outcome-based political agenda moved steadily forward while the focus on inputs and real improvements took a back seat.

By the 1989 NGA annual meeting, President George H. W. Bush (41st president, 1989-93) had entered the picture and had been invited to speak.

“To have reform, excellence in achievement must be recognized and rewarded.

To have reform, federal dollars should be targeted to those most in need.

To have reform, we need flexibility and choice, choice for parents, choice for schools in their selection of teachers and principals.

And finally, the essence of reform is accountability in education and reward for those schools that show progress.”

The essence of reform is accountability — not improving schools to the point where all our schools are of high quality?

At that same gathering, then Governor Bill Clinton expressed,

“I support, as I think you know, your education position. I’m for accountability, choice, alternative certification.”

And by 1991, we had Lamar Alexander, a very strong player on the reform team, positioned at the D.C. front-line as the secretary of education.

“Alexander has also put together a new education agenda that includes a controversial proposal for instituting national achievement tests and more emphasis on adult learning and training for the work force. ”

New agenda? More adult training, just like better pay for teachers?

“His Better Schools program for the state [TN] included a new merit pay system for teachers, tougher standards for students and more emphasis on science, computers and mathematics.”

Then in 1996, the first Education Summit gathered together the governors with business and education leaders.

“Their mission: To start a national effort to establish high academic standards, assessment and accountability and improve the use of school technology as a tool to reach high standards.”

The gift that keeps on giving or taking?

The gift that keeps on giving or taking?

Education and the economy were wed in an unholy matrimony that put the quality of education for public school children at risk while putting a bundle of public dollars in a relatively small group of private pockets. This marriage also produced Achieve as “an external, independent, non-governmental” organization for moving the main agenda forward.

“All students should graduate from high school ready for college, careers, and citizenship.”

As we now know, the focus on citizenship didn’t happen. (For the research, scroll down to “In life” section of this blog.) Just like with teacher pay and more focus on adult training, we were duped again. They dangled carrots and we bit.

Throughout all these years, it was reported that the public supported “accountability.” There’s nothing wrong with that. But, did the public realize that it was always an accountability package that put the American education system up for sale?

The oligarchy’s plan always feed the education-industrial complex. William (Bill) Bennett, who went from being President Reagan’s second secretary of education to being a co-founder of K-12, Inc. in 1999, typifies how being politically powerful leads to profits and doesn’t require producing the promised results.

“As K12 Inc. notes in its annual report, ‘most of (its) revenues depend on per pupil funding amounts and payment formulas” from government contracts for virtual public charter schools and “blended schools'(combining online with traditional instruction) among other products. In 2014, K12 Inc. took in $919.6 million from its business.”

And all of the political maneuvering and manipulation of the public over these past decades opened the door further for the oligarchy to use ESEA (No Child Left Behind) as a way to forever (or maybe not) change the focus of the law from supports for children of low-income families and improvement of educational quality for all children —to—“accountability, flexibility, and choice.”

Enter Mr. Obama: He never promised anything that strayed too far from the NCLB goals. And the politics of neoliberalism (scroll to definition in this blog) has doomed him to repeat and amplify the mistakes of the past. The toxicity of D.C. politics is killing public education.

From Democrats for Education Reform - They say they are an "organization that cultivates and supports leaders ...who champion America’s public schoolchildren." Others beg to differ.

From Democrats for Education Reform – They say they are an “organization that cultivates and supports leaders …who champion America’s public schoolchildren.” Others beg to differ.

Education reform is their game and their message has been successfully framed. Data and disaggregation of it isn’t the problem. Who controls the data is.

Parents, you aren’t really players; you are targets of their messaging. And you are pawns. You need to get off the sidelines and into the action — and play responsibly. To do so, you need the truth.

What is missing is the truth.

In roughly 30 years, we have not been able to break away from Mr. Marc Tucker’s vision and plan for America’s education/workforce development system. This is the same man who now proposes that we can “fix” the accountability system by eliminating the power of local boards and putting us all under the thumb of State control (yes, with a capital “S”).

The country bought into the outcome-based theory of education reform. We experimented. Now, can’t we see the results?

Civil rights groups that support test-based federal accountability must face the facts.

Civil rights groups that support test-based federal accountability must face the facts.

“…a return to levels of integration last seen during the Johnson administration.”

Separate schools are inherently unequal which is why federal education law must focus on providing quality inputs while only monitoring outcomes for continuous improvement purposes.

The gains we made in narrowing the achievement gap, after the implementation of the 1965 ESEA, have slowed considerably since 2004. Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 11.15.33 AM

 

If we wanted equal educational opportunity, we are faltering.

 

 

If we wanted an accountability system that closes down neighborhood schools, fires teachers, and lowers the standards for entry to the teaching profession through alternative certification and emergency measures to fill needed teaching positions, we are there.

If we finally want to do the right thing for every child in our public schools right now, we have to kill No Child Left Behind, ditch the theory it was based on, and go back to a system that did produce results.

NCLB will be replaced, but, will the new law really be based on what we learned from this 30 year still-living experiment in outcome-based reform? Since Senator Lamar Alexander had a hand in developing the game plan from the beginning, he should be able to provide answers. Isn’t that what stiff accountability demands? Answers.

Bush’s Education “Blueprint” Before 9/11

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

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

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

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

About Bush’s education blueprint, Gary Ratner wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Debate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.34.00 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.34.48 PM

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JFKdebate…what debate?

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.

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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

Opportunity in America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The vision and framework are historical.

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

For America, this is what opportunity looks like.

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

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

No Child Left Behind Accountability: A Joke

At the signing ceremony for No Child Left Behind (NCLB), President Bush joked, “I don’t intend to read it all.” But he was sure that in NCLB we would “find that it contains some very important principles that will help guide our public school system for the next decades. First principle is accountability.”

The signing of America's first federal education accountability law - No Child Left Behind.

The signing of America’s FIRST federal education “accountability” law – No Child Left Behind.

President Bush didn’t read NCLB before signing it. (How about your representatives?) That’s joke number one. Funny, huh? But what is even more amusing — sarcastically speaking— is trying to find where the word “accountability” was defined in the law. In laws and policies, key words are often defined so as to leave no doubt about the laws’ intentions. I word searched the desk copy and original. Didn’t find “accountability” defined. I could have missed it. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.

Is the country in this accountable state of being? Definition: Merriam-Webster.com

Is the country in this accountable state of being?
Definition: Merriam-Webster.com

NCLB says it will provide “greater” accountability; it will “increase” the accountability. How exactly this increase would occur based on the dictates of the law was always left to people’s imaginations and driven by emotions because, by God, we want someone “held” accountable for low school “performance.” And the country was led to believe that standardized tests for math and language arts would determine school quality— accurately. That fallacy would be joke number two.

As Bush declared a decade later, “it’s time to celebrate success [mission accomplished, eh?], but it’s also a time to fight off those who would weaken standards or accountability. I don’t think you can solve a problem if you can’t diagnose it.”

Standardized achievement tests don’t “diagnose” problems. They are only one indicator and because of their “nature,” yearly-standardized achievement testing is unnecessary.

It’s like taking an animals temperature and finding they have a fever. Yes, they have a fever but the thermometer reading doesn’t diagnose the problem.

New standardized tests, even so-called “better” tests, only give us information about a school at one moment in time with their given population — a snapshot. That snapshot changes slowly (unless you teach directly to the test). The most consistent finding (over at least five decades) is that standardized test results most strongly correlate to socioeconomic status (schools already have that personal data). More students from low-income families score lower on standardized tests— partially because of the nature of standardized tests.

I once attended a conference where one of the breakout discussions was led by a teacher from a neighboring community with a high-poverty, high-migrant worker population. Over the years, she had made the correlation that her students whose parents only spoke Spanish in the household would (on the average) score 20 percentage points lower on standardized tests.

Some could argue that this demonstrates the value of testing but the reality is, she knew this without the tests. And she didn’t need to keep proving it. She knew her students, knew their family’s background, observed the phenomenon, and test scores made no difference in how she went about teaching. The community situation was out of her control because of the lack of local authority to act on what WAS diagnosed as a problem.

She knew she had to do everything she could to properly educate her students. I know that from what the breakout was really about, how to teach English Language Learners. The test score discussion was an aside. Assessments and interventions designed to help students must take place in the classroom.

So, truth is, test results don’t necessarily give us a diagnosis. And certainly, as we know by now, accountability for math and language arts instruction alone does not make for a well-rounded education. The joke has been on us.

How many of these types of jokes will we take before we quit being amused?

Former President Bush went on to tell us that “people like [former school superintendents] Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, people who are willing to challenge the status quo, tell you that one thing that made it [NCLB] effective was the accountability.”

Whoa! Klein – former chancellor of N.Y. city schools – and Rhee – former chancellor of D.C. schools – say NCLB accountability made their schools “effective.” We had better ask them to define THAT word. And ask this dynamic duo why they were so central to developing new standards (Common Core) and tests while turning their backs on other needs in their communities. In 2009, were their school districts adequately funded? By what measure did they make that call? Where’s the accounting? If their schools were so effective, why did they push their Smart Options agenda in 2009?

Genuine accountability for educating America’s children is both a shared responsibility and a national necessity because the public has and is demanding it. The only rational way to satisfy the People’s demand is to make it right by using what we know.

No Child Left Behind yearly mandate for nation-wide testing of math and language arts for the purported purpose of “accountability” misled the nation. (That requirement is unchanged in the NCLB replacement called the Every Student Succeeds Act that was signed into law on 12/10/15.)

No Child Left Behind “accountability” was a cruel joke. There is a better way.