The Transparent Desperation of Corporate Education Reformers to Privatize Education

The Corporate Education Reformers are becoming increasingly desperate in their goal to privatize public education.

Their original concept was to create a system whereby public schools and their teachers could be made to look like spectacular failures, thereby opening the door to charters schools, vouchers, outsourced curriculum, for-profit testing and the diminishment of teacher unions.

This plan called for high stakes testing, on a massive scale as we have detailed on Join the Future for over 3 years now. Their plan hit a snag. No one who actually has a stake in public education, from parents, students, teachers and administrators thought this "plan" was a very good one.

We'll let one of the biggest Corporate reform boosters explain their failure to enact their agenda:
a great many parents — and a huge fraction of teachers — appear to have had enough. They grump, with some justice, that
  • Too much school time is given over to test prep — and the pressure to lift scores leads to cheating and other unsavory practices.
  • Subjects and accomplishments that aren’t tested — art, creativity, leadership, independent thinking, etc. — are getting squeezed if not discarded.
  • Teachers are losing their freedom to practice their craft, to make classes interesting and stimulating, to act like professionals.
  • The curricular homogenizing that generally follows from standardized tests and state (or national) standards represents an undesirable usurpation of school autonomy, teacher freedom, and local control by distant authorities.
  • Judging teachers and schools by pupil test scores is inaccurate and unfair, given the kids’ different starting points and home circumstances, the variation in class sizes and school resources, and the many other services that schools and teachers are now expected to provide their students.
If that all sounds familiar it is because that's what everyone opposed to the profiteers have been saying all along.

The high stakes testing and "accountability" however was never their primary goal, so jettisoning it in order to save their real agenda becomes unfortunate but necessary.

From the same article, comes their new prescription:
1. Individualization.
2. Technology
3. Quality choices.
4. Attaching the money to the child.

More school "choice", more outsourcing of teaching to technology and more money for charters and vouchers. In their desperation, they are revealing their true agenda.

If it was ever about quality and accountability, why would they now argue for even more money to flow to Ohio's failing charter school boondoggle? Why ask for more money for vouchers when the current demand doesn't come close to what's being offered? And if anyone thinks computers are primed to replace teachers in the classroom - go ask students in Reynoldsburg how relevant and rigorous their online education has been these last 3 weeks.

It's time that the people responsible for creating the current mess took a timeout. We don't need another Corporate Education Reform "reboot", we need a whole new conversation.

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knowyourcharter.com gets charter boosters bent out of shape

Innovation Ohio and the Ohio Education Association have released a website that gives people, for the very first time, an easy way to comprehensively compare traditional public schools and charter schools: www.knowyourcharter.com.

As the site notes:
The new on-line tool – www.knowyourcharter.com – not only provides access to the state’s most recent Report Card information, but improves transparency by aggregating this and other relevant data at a single, easy-to-use website. Previously, locating this data required visiting multiple sites and extracting the information from numerous and often confusing spreadsheets.

At www.knowyourcharter.com, visitors will be able to compare schools in a particular geographical area across a wide variety of indices, including State Report Card grades, the amount of state money the schools receive, the percentage spent on classroom instruction, and the average number of years of teacher experience.
Check it out.

Predictably, the charter school boosters at the Fordham Foundation immediately had a fit. They erroneously complain that the site "selectively" displays information, even though the entire data set form the Ohio Department of Education is a click away on each charter school displayed!

They complain that the site compares districts to charters - yet fail to acknowledge that Ohio law treats each charter school as a district!

Finally, and perhaps most ironically, they complain about the use of the performance index to highlight just how terrible Ohio's charters truly are. What they don't point out is that their very own leader, Chester E. Finn, Jr., considers this measure to be of the upmost important, in a post titled "Let’s hear it for proficiency". Here's Chester in his own words
All true—but not reason enough to abandon proficiency. Not, at least, so long as it matters greatly in the real world. Do you want the pilot of your plane to be proficient at take-offs and landings or simply to demonstrate improvement in those skills? (Do you want to fly on an airline that uses only “growth measures” when hiring pilots?) How about dining in restaurants that use only growth measures when selecting chefs? Having your chest cut open by thoracic surgeons who showed “gains” on their surgical boards but didn’t actually “pass” them?

Kids can show plenty of “growth” in school—and yes, we should laud schools that accomplish this—but still not be ready for college because they aren’t actually proficient. This is why absolute levels matter, too, and why schools should be judged in part by how many of the students emerging from them have reached true proficiency or, in today’s parlance, are truly college and career ready.
Obviously, this is a case of charter boosters not liking to have their dirty laundry, or should we say, awful performance, aired so publicly. They'll even try to tell us, as Michael Petrilli did on twitter "@MichaelPetrilli: @jointhefutureOH #knowyourhistory Fordham has been fighting for charter accountability for over a decade". For such staunch fighters for quality, they sure haven't had many victories - and it is, at the end of the day, that demonstrates why www.knowyourcharter.com is so important. Charter school boosters like Fordham have had over a decade to produce results, and they have failed. For them to resort to knee-jerk criticism of others trying to fix the situation they have long supported is an embarrassment.

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The Fatal Flaw Of Education Reform

In the most simplistic portrayal of the education policy landscape, one of the “sides” is a group of people who are referred to as “reformers.” Though far from monolithic, these people tend to advocate for test-based accountability, charters/choice, overhauling teacher personnel rules, and other related policies, with a particular focus on high expectations, competition and measurement. They also frequently see themselves as in opposition to teachers’ unions.

Most of the “reformers” I have met and spoken with are not quite so easy to categorize. They are also thoughtful and open to dialogue, even when we disagree. And, at least in my experience, there is far more common ground than one might expect.

Nevertheless, I believe that this “movement” (to whatever degree you can characterize it in those terms) may be doomed to stall out in the long run, not because their ideas are all bad, and certainly not because they lack the political skills and resources to get their policies enacted. Rather, they risk failure for a simple reason: They too often make promises that they cannot keep.

I acknowledge that I am generalizing here, as there are countless exceptions, but one needn’t look very far to notice a tendency in “reformer” circles to sell their policy prescriptions by promising the kind of short- and medium-term results that most education policies, no matter how well-designed and implemented, simply cannot deliver. School quality is important, it can be improved, and even small improvements can make a big difference. But it is critical to maintain a level head regarding the magnitude and speed of impacts. We as a nation must be prepared for the long haul, and there is a thin line between ambitious goals and unrealistic promises.

Sometimes, the inflated expectations are stated explicitly. For example, in 2010, then-Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools Michelle Rhee predicted that her district would be the highest performing in the nation within five years. Several years ago, the U.S. Education Department (USED) announced a plan to “turn around” 1,000 schools every year for five consecutive years, thus giving rise to entities such as the Achievement School District in Tennessee, which promises to “move the bottom 5% of schools to the top 25% within five years.” USED is now reaping what it has sown.

Alas, these are not isolated incidents. The public is peppered with unrealistic promises or plans to “close the achievement gap” within ridiculously short periods of time, slogans such as “college for all,” and talking points, such as the ubiquitous “fire the bottom teachers” illustration, that imply the potential for huge short-term improvements.

And, of course, there was the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which included a provision by which the vast majority of students were required/expected to score above proficiency cutoffs in math and reading within just over a decade, barely enough time for a cohort of students to cycle through the K-12 system. Although this goal is now generally viewed as having been a fantasy, there are still several states banking on near-universal proficiency, and any state that attempts to be more grounded in setting new benchmarks risks criticism.

(Making things worse, the manner in which performance and improvement are measured is usually inappropriate.)

Continue reading at the Shanker Blog

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Support Reynoldsburg Teachers

By now you have probably heard that the Columbus suburb of Reynoldsburg has become the front line in the fight between two very different visions for the future of education in our state.

On one side, a well-connected Superintendent, hand-picked and groomed by State Superintendent Richard Ross, a deeply divided school board, and the management attorney involved in 8 of the last 12 teacher strikes in Ohio is pushing an anti-public education agenda. On the other side, the 364 educators of the Reynoldsburg Education Association and the strongly supportive Reynoldsburg community are standing up for the future of public education in Ohio.

This was a fight that was picked intentionally and with a purpose. The board’s first proposal, was an appalling list of concessions and corporate reforms; no language on class size, planning time to be spent in meetings rather than teacher self-directed planning time, the end of a traditional salary schedule to be replaced by merit pay without defined criteria for obtaining it, the end of traditional employer health insurance by shifting all employees to the Affordable Care Act. Nothing was offered by the board to address the fact that one in five teachers left the district after the last school year. The list read so much like a corporate reform playbook we’ve brought to light over the past few years on Join the future.

The Reynoldsburg teachers message to the community is clear and simple: We are fighting for the schools Reynoldsburg students deserve, including class size limits and addressing runaway teacher turnover.

The community has responded in a huge way. Six hundred supporters, community members and REA members packed board meetings. Parents swarmed the Superintendents “office hours” causing the Superintendent to escape out the back door of the board office and refuse media questions. Two thousand “We Support Reynoldsburg Teachers” yard signs were distributed and gone in less than 48 hours and now dot lawns across the city. On the night when teachers rejected the board’s “offer” by 97%, more than 50 students and community members waited three and a half hours outside the meeting to chant, greet teachers, and show their support.

Despite all of this pressure, the board remains dug in. September 8th, teachers issued a 10 day strike notice for a work stoppage to begin September 19th. Now Reynoldsburg teachers need our help. Here’s what we can do:

o “Like” the Reynoldsburg Education Association Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ReynoldsburgEA
o “Follow” Reynoldsburg teachers on Twitter: @standstrongrea

Events
Attend the massive Solidarity Rally on Saturday, September 20 at 11:00 a.m. Hueber Park, 1520 Davidson Drive, Reynoldsburg

Reynoldsburg Community Members
o Please put a “We Support Reynoldsburg Teachers” sign in your yard
o Email the BOE members and urge them to settle a fair contract
o Please support businesses that post a “We Support Reynoldsburg Teachers” sign in front of their stores

With your support, Join the Future will continue to fight for great public schools and the people who dedicate themselves to providing a quality education to Ohio's students.

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Campbell Browns Laws

We all know, or should know, about Campbell’s Law. That is a social science axiom that says:

“The more any quantitative social indicator (or even some qualitative indicator) is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”

The short translation: the more you measure people and tie high-stakes to the measurement, the more likely they are to make the measurement the point of their activity, which distorts the activity. Campbell’s Law explains why teachers teach to the test or even cheat, because so much is riding on achieving high test scores. So teachers forget about everything other than test scores, such as citizenship, character, ethics, and so on.

Arthur Goldstein, who teaches high school ESL in New York City, here explains how Campbell’s Law has been replaced by Campbell Brown’s Law. Campbell Brown is the media figure who is leading a lawsuit to eliminate tenure in New York State.

Here is Campbell Brown’s Law:

“Campbell Brown’s Law says whatever goes wrong in school is the fault of the tenured teachers. If you fail, it’s because the teacher had tenure and therefore failed you. Absolutely everyone is a great parent, so that has nothing to do with how children behave. Campbell Brown’s Law says parents have no influence whatsoever on their children. If parents have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, that will have no effect. If they provide no supervision because they aren’t around, that won’t affect kids either.

“Campbell Brown’s Law says kids themselves are not responsible either. If they don’t study, that isn’t their fault. The teacher should have made them study. If they fail tests because they didn’t study, it’s a crime and the teacher should be fired. Under Campbell Brown’s Law the only obstacle to studying is if the teacher has tenure. This is unacceptable and it is therefore the reason that the parents work 200 hours a week. It’s also the reason the kids didn’t study. The kids figured they didn’t have to study because their teachers had tenure.

“Campbell Brown’s Law is demonstrated in charter schools, where teachers don’t have tenure. All kids excel in charter schools, except for those who don’t. That explains why, in some charter schools, that all the students who graduate are accepted to four-year colleges. It’s neither here nor there if two-thirds of the students who began ended up getting insufficient standardized test scores and getting dumped back into public schools. That’s not the fault of the charter teachers, because they don’t have tenure and are therefore blameless. Campbell Brown’s Law says so.”

More at the link.

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People oppose using standardized tests to evaluate teachers

The new PDK/Gallup poll has lots of interesting findings. This one should cause pause among law makers

Table 6. Some states require that teacher evaluations include how well a teacher’s students perform on standardized tests. Do you favor or oppose this requirement?

2014 2013 2012
Favor 38% 41% 52%
Oppose 61% 58% 47%
Here's how the pollster interpreted this finding
— How teachers are evaluated is an important component to teacher quality, so it’s not surprising that Americans have opinions about teacher appraisal. A plan popular among some state and federal policy makers uses student standardized test results as a significant component in evaluating teachers, in some places comprising up to 50% of the evaluation. However, more than 60% of Americans do not support this approach, and their opposition is trending upward.

At the same time, Americans said they believe teacher evaluation should be primarily designed to help teachers improve their ability to teach. If we listen carefully to the opinions of Americans, we need to research better ways to evaluate teachers and principals that are not overly reliant upon how students perform on standardized tests.

The big question is, will law makers listen?

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