Sunday, May 18, 2014

More Ed Reform, Same Pattern - Direction, Down

A fairly amazing week in national ed reform news. 

Common Core.

- the Chicago Teachers Union issued a resolution against Common Core that was brilliant.
- in NY state, a former Regent spoke out against Common Core, mostly because of the work that had gone into developing NY State standards (only to see them tossed aside).  
- from the right, came Peggy Noonan (formerly President Reagan's speechwriter) with a piece in the Wall Street Journal.  It's a good piece that didn't come from Tea Party people but true conservatives. 

That law exists because the people who pushed for it fell in love with an abstract notion and gave not a thought to what the law would actually do and how it would work.

- yet another prominent, non-Tea Party conservative, George Will, broke down CC in under two minutes.  


From Diane Ravitch: Pearson, the British publisher, plans to launch a new PR offensive to push back against the anti-testing and anti-Common Core groundswell. Pearson has been steadily buying up every aspect of American education: 
  • it recently won the contract to administer the Common Core test called PARCC, which is worth at least $1 billion; 
  • states using Pearson tests buy Pearson textbooks; 
  • Pearson bought the GED; 
  • Pearson owns the online EdTPA, to evaluate teachers as they finish their training; 
  • Pearson owns virtual charter schools called Connections Academy; 
  • Pearson owns a curriculum aligned with Common Core. 
From an article in Politico, the CEO, John Fallon, says they will pump up their social media presence and make "more of an effort to talk to teachers unions and parents" and be "very transparent about what we are doing and why.."  "We are willing to be accountable."  

What?  A business is accountable to its stockholders/owners.  How would the public - especially parents and teachers - hold Pearson accountable? 

Despite millions poured into the Newark mayor's race by DFER (and other ed reformers), their candidate lost and Ras Baraka, a Newark school principal, won.   It was seen as something of a slap to former mayor, Cory Booker (now a U.S. senator). 

One television spot featured a clip of Mr. Christie declaring: “I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.”

Part of me hopes Christie will run for president in 2016 just to hear him say this kind of nonsense to the American public.  

Wyoming is also not applying a waiver for NCLB.  They actually chose not to apply because they weren't ready to meet waiver demands.  Once again, the issue seems to be the evaluation system for teachers and educational leaders.   It's interesting because no on in that state seems to be tearing their hair out over this issue.

Arne Duncan wants to create a corps of "principal ambassadors."  This from the Deutsch29 education blog which is probably one of the best public education blogs in the country. 

To this end, Eli Broad offers former TFAers (and others willing to privatize public education) “training” in corporate-reform-friendly “leadership” via his unaccredited Superintendents Academy. Here is the lure to districts: Broad agrees to subsidize its superintendents’ salaries during a two-year “residency and enlists long-term career support for its grads.

You may recall Broad did this in the past as well for some other administrative positions.  SPS had some Broad "residents."

Now Duncan is creating its own "Principal Ambassador Leadership Program (PAF)." From the DOE:

"Over time, it is possible that like Teaching Ambassador Fellows, all PAFs will spend time gaining greater knowledge of the content of key federal programs and policies, in addition to the context and process by which they are designed and implemented. They will be asked to share their expertise with federal staff members; provide outreach and communication about federal initiatives to other educators on behalf of the Department; and facilitate the involvement and understanding of educators in developing and implementing these efforts at the federal, state and local levels, to improve the likelihood of their success. [Emphasis added.]"

Thus, it appears that Duncan’s “ambassadors” might be equipped to reshape the CCSS development narrative into a clearly-false-yet-feel-good fluff designed to convince teachers that they must buy into CCSS because they really did write it.

The “outreach to other educators” is the component in which the USDOE is able to model Eli Broad’s technique of supplying privatization-minded converts (in this case, “ambassadors”) to school districts in order to “assist” a district without that district’s having to pay a full salary:

"…The Campus Principal Ambassador Fellowship is a paid part-time position that enables principals to work with the Department on a more limited basis in addition to their regular school responsibilities. In the first year, this is anticipated to be approximately 20 hours a month, though may vary from month to month. [Emphasis added.]"

5 comments:

n said...

I've always been a proponent of national standards. I believe the standard by which we judge a child's education should be commensurate across state lines. So I agreed with the intention of the common core standards.

However, the reality of its implementation nationwide falls far short of the expectation. As a primary teacher, I agree that it seriously misses the mark developmentally. Even our "best and brightest" children have socio-emotional challenges that conflict with the goals of the standards in the early years. And it appears that Pearson has customized a whole industry that will define common core from concept to standards to implementation to assessment. It might as well be called Pearson's Common Core.

As much as I disdain what the common oore movement is becoming, I will take issue with one complaint I hear pretty often even from my own classroom parents: It takes away a teacher's creativity.

No, it doesn't. The truth be told there is a percentage of poor teachers out there. Within the construct of the common core, one can still be creative. "Creativity" has become synonymous with "let me teach the way I always have whether it works or not." Let's work on making the standards more age appropriate and continue to work on developing better teaching practices so that all of our kids will be better served by every teacher.

That "creativity" word should be banned from a teacher's lexicon. I consider myself very creative and I don't use it to denigrate the intention of the common core standards.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Great points all, N.

Anonymous said...

Pearson also owns almost all of the psychological tests used for determining eligibility for special education.

-They Don't Own Me

dw said...

n,

I don't always agree with everything you write here, but I think your comment above is excellent.

I'd like to flush out bit more around the edges of this topic.

Common Core may not explicitly take away teachers' creativity, but some of the movements around standards definitely are. If your principal isn't putting the squeeze on you, then count yourself lucky, because others are. They've been chasing away many of their best teachers in the name of standards and consistency over the past few years. Specifically, this happened at Lowell a few years back, with devastating results, and it's still happening to this day at Lincoln, although virtually all the (great) teachers that dared to question the methods have been forced out.

This is not to say that I think teachers should be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want, to the detriment of a solid education for their students. It's just that some principals haven't a clue what creative, effective teaching methods look like. You might say this is just a problem with certain principals, and you'd be partly right, but they are leaning on Standards to hammer their ideals home.

The other problem with national standards (and like you, I believe in the general intent), or any high-stake standards, for that matter, is that they tend to reduce the teaching of other valuable lessons. Civics, basic respect for your fellow students, music, art, keeping up on current events - national and local, etc. Some of these lessons cannot be planned, they happen when teachers are able to recognize a "teaching moment", and they're willing to turn on a dime and take the time to see it through. If teachers are hounded when they go "off script", it not only demeans them as professionals, but it robs our kids of important life lessons.

When teachers, schools, principals and entire districts are measured and rated according to how well students perform on national tests, it's a near-certainty that in most classrooms teachers will feel compelled to focus more on those particular tested topics and less on optional lessons.

I don't know what can even be done about this issue, because the problems are tightly embedded within the basic framework. I don't want to see students and teachers completely excused from meeting basic standards, but there's a very difficult balance, and the ability to measure a teacher's overall effectiveness doesn't boil down to a few test scores, it's really difficult to measure. National standards want to boil it down to a few numbers and call it a day, but I don't believe that's good enough.

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