November 28, 2012
By John Thompson | Published 11/27/2012 by the Huffington Post
The disappointing results of the Duncan administration’s controversial School Improvement Grants exemplify the fundamental flaw of test-driven school “reform.” The preliminary analysis of the SIG’s first year indicated that some schools produced double digit gains in math and/or reading test scores, that more produced single digit gains, and one third saw declines in student performance.
A quarter of those schools showed a reversal of the decline in test scores that had been occurring before the infusion of millions of dollars. Another quarter had been improving however, and saw a reversal of their previous gains. It could be argued that SIG benefitted elementary schools, but not high schools or, especially, middle schools.
These findings are consistent with the conclusions of the National Academies of Science’s blue ribbon panel, which explained that test-driven reforms may pressure some schools to become more productive while encouraging others to increase primitive teach-to-the-test and push out the harder-to-educate children. They are also consistent with the research of Paul Tough, who showed that the contemporary reform movement has achieved some successes, especially in schools that can exclude the most troubled children, but that it has probably worsened the lives of children in our toughest schools.
That leads to the metaphorical question of what parent would continue an experimental treatment that significantly helped one of his children, perhaps produced some benefit for another, while damaging a third? Why do we keep trying risky experiments that are bound to harm some children as they may or may not improve outcomes for others?
Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-thompson/the-failure-of_b_2177740.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false
November 23, 2012
By MICHAEL BRICK | Published: November 22, 2012 by the New York Times
IN his speech on the night of his re-election, President Obama promised to find common ground with opposition leaders in Congress. Yet when it comes to education reform, it’s the common ground between Democrats and Republicans that has been the problem.
For the past three decades, one administration after another has sought to fix America’s troubled schools by making them compete with one another. Mr. Obama has put up billions of dollars for his Race to the Top program, a federal sweepstakes where state educational systems are judged head-to-head largely on the basis of test scores. Even here in Texas, nobody’s model for educational excellence, the state has long used complex algorithms to assign grades of Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable or Unacceptable to its schools.
So far, such competition has achieved little more than re-segregation, long charter school waiting lists and the same anemic international rankings in science, math and literacy we’ve had for years.
And yet now, policy makers in both parties propose ratcheting it up further — this time, by “grading” teachers as well.
It’s a mistake. In the year I spent reporting on John H. Reagan High School in Austin, I came to understand the dangers of judging teachers primarily on standardized test scores. Raw numbers don’t begin to capture what happens in the classroom. And when we reward and punish teachers based on such artificial measures, there is too often an unintended consequence for our kids.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/23/opinion/grading-schools-isnt-the-answer-its-the-problem.html?_r=0
November 15, 2012
The media barely noticed, but voters in three states rejected the profit-driven fraud that is education “reform”
By David Sirota | Published November 13, 2012 by Salon.com
If your only source of news about American education came from docu-propaganda like “Waiting for Superman,” Hollywood politi-schlock like “Won’t Back Down” and elite-focused national news outlets in Washington, D.C., and New York City, you might think that the so-called education “reform” (read: privatization) movement was a spontaneous grass-roots uprising of good-old-fashioned heartlanders generating ever more mass support throughout the country. You would have no reason to believe it was a top-down, corporate-driven coalition of conservative coastal elites trying to both generally undermine organized labor and specifically wring private profit out of public schools, and you would similarly have no reason to believe it was anything but wildly popular in an America clamoring for a better education system.
In other words, you would be utterly misinformed — especially after last week’s explosive election results in three key states.
In Colorado, the out-of-state, corporate-funded group Stand for Children, which previously made national headlines bragging about its corrupt legislative deal making, backed a campaign to hand the state Legislature to pro-privatization Republicans, specifically by trying to defeat Democratic legislators who have stood on the side of public education. Though the group and its affiliated anti-union, pro-privatization allies have become accustomed to getting their way in this state, 2012 saw them handily defeated, as the targeted Democrats won election, giving their party full control of the statehouse.
In Indiana, the results were even more explicit. There, as the Indianapolis Star reports, Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Bennett became “the darling of the reform movement” by “enthusiastically implement(ing) such major reforms as the nation’s most expansive private school voucher program; greater accountability measures for schools that led to the unprecedented state takeover of six schools last year; an expansion of charter schools; and an evaluation system for teachers that bases their raises, at least in part, on student test scores.” For waging such a scorched-earth campaign against teachers and public education, Bennett was rewarded with a whopping $1.3 million in campaign contributions, much of which came from out of state. According to Stateline, Bennett was underwritten by “some of the biggest supporters of education reform in the country, including Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, billionaire financier Eli Broad and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,” and NPR reports that he also received big donations from private corporations that stood to profit off his school takeover policies.
Read more: http://www.salon.com/2012/11/13/phony_school_reform_agenda_takes_a_beating/
November 10, 2012
By Bill Ayers | Published November 6, 2012 by Good.is
“The landscape of “educational reform” is currently littered with rubble and ruin and wreckage on all sides. Sadly, your administration has contributed significantly to the mounting catastrophe. You’re not alone: The toxic materials have been assembled as a bipartisan endeavor over many years, and the efforts of the last several administrations are now organized into a coherent push mobilized and led by a merry band of billionaires including Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Sam Walton, and Eli Broad.
Whether inept or clueless or malevolent—who’s to say?—these titans have worked relentlessly to take up all the available space, preaching, persuading, promoting, and, when all else fails, spreading around massive amounts of cash to promote their particular brand of school change as common sense. You and Secretary Arne Duncan—endorsed in your efforts by Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, and a host of reactionary politicians and pundits—now bear a major responsibility for that agenda.
The three most trumpeted and simultaneously most destructive aspects of the united “school reform” agenda are these: turning over public assets and spaces to private management; dismantling and opposing any independent, collective voice of teachers; and reducing education to a single narrow metric that claims to recognize an educated person through a test score. While there’s absolutely no substantive proof that this approach improves schooling for children, it chugs along unfazed—fact-free, faith-based reform at its core, resting firmly on rank ideology rather than any evidence whatsoever.
The three pillars of this agenda are nested in a seductive but wholly inaccurate metaphor: Education is a commodity like any other—a car or a refrigerator, a box of bolts or a screwdriver—that is bought and sold in the marketplace. Within this controlling metaphor the schoolhouse is assumed to be a business run by a CEO, with teachers as workers and students as the raw material bumping along the assembly line while information is incrementally stuffed into their little up-turned heads.”
Read more: http://www.good.is/posts/an-open-letter-to-president-obama-from-bill-ayers
November 8, 2012
To listen to Tommy Shnurmacher’s discussion on parent-teacher interviews with Robert Green and parent Kate Marien click here. (To download as mp3 right-click and select ‘save link as’)