Race to the Top

Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority — NOT Fiscally Responsible

How Michigan’s EAA Chancellor Covington can’t stay on budget:

The double-standard imposed on Detroit Public Schools by the Snyder Administration is the height of hypocrisy.

DPS was taken-over by an Emergency Manager with the claim that their $500 million dollar long-term debt was the result of fiscal irresponsibility of the elected school board and administration. The rationale was that bringing in a strong business leader to shore-up the balance sheet was just the remedy for years of supposed poor leadership. Starting with Robert Bobb in 2009, and now under former GM executive, Roy Roberts, Detroit students daily suffer the consequences of their misguided corporate tactics.

Under their leadership, the district has been subjected to brutal cut-back management practices typically found in the private sector for the purpose of “turning-around” a troubled company — which is code for: parting-it out like an old Buick. First cannibalized by the fire-sale of school assets, and more recently balkanized through the establishment of the Education Achievement Authority under Roberts, Detroit schools continue in a fiscal death spiral with little hope in sight. This new separate district, the EAA, was set-up to better “serve” the unique needs of under-achieving schools in DPS, with the intention of expanding the program statewide to capture the bottom 5 percent of academically stressed schools– along with their meager per pupil foundation grants.

Under Chancellor John Covington, the EAA currently runs 15 schools from DPS, but is under pressure to rapidly expand that number to include 60 schools statewide . A lot of money rides on their ability to grow the EAA to become what is projected to be the largest school district in the state with approximately 46,000 students — under the leadership of one un-elected official using non-union, under-compensated staff, operating day-to-day with shaky job security at best.

What’s the rush? More →

Obama Education Policy – RACE, RACE, RACE

While I support President Obama, I will state clearly that his education policies are terrible.  Mainly – Race to the Top.  And I have absolutely no faith in his appointed Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

What is Race to the Top?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_to_the_Top

Race to the Top, abbreviated R2TRTTT or RTT, is a $4.35 billion United States Department of Education contest created to spur innovation and reforms in state and local district K-12 education. It is funded by the ED Recovery Act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and was announced by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on July 24, 2009. States were awarded points for satisfying certain educational policies, such as performance-based standards (often referred to as an Annual professional performance http://www2.ed.gov/news/staff/bios/duncan.html) for teachers and principals, complying with nationwide standards, promoting charter schools and privatization of education, and computerization.

The Main Player

Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, is applauded for good reason by the extreme right for his privatizing and testing frenzy creating, Race to the Top education policies.  In fact, education reform is the most bipartisan effort the current Obama administration has been able to affect.

Actually, I take that back.  The Democrats have moved to the extreme right with their current education policy.  The Republicans love it.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/11/17/jeb-and-arne-together-again/

If you look at Arne Duncan’s biography you can see his personal history:  Harvard Graduate (sociology not education) and Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

http://www2.ed.gov/news/staff/bios/duncan.html

In that time, he won praise for uniting education reformers, teachers, principals and business stakeholders behind an aggressive education reform agenda that included opening more than 100 new schools, expanding after-school and summer learning programs, closing down underperforming schools, increasing early childhood and college access, dramatically boosting the caliber of teachers, and building public-private partnerships around a variety of education initiatives.

This is unusual to see.  Closing down schools as part of the democratic party plank?  And exactly what is the public-private partnership?  And where is the research that shows the caliber of teachers was boosted?  What was the research based measurement tool that showed improvement?  Hmmmm? Sketchy.

I remember now.  Thousands of teachers, students, parents, and community members protested in the streets recently in Obama’s hometown against Rahm Emmanuel because of these reforms – established and implemented first by Arne Duncan.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-10-04/news/sns-rt-us-usa-chicago-schoolsbre89309m-20121003_1_chicago-teachers-union-karen-lewis-part-on-student-performance

90% of teachers voted to strike – I hardly believe they supported Arne Duncan’s reform as an Chicago Executive or the Secretary of Education.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-16/news/chi-teachers-union-cps-work-to-iron-out-contract-details-20120915_1_chicago-teachers-union-strike-vote-lorretta-johnson

Tens of thousands of people were in the streets of Chicago because they KNOW and have EXPERIENCED the reforms.  Reforms implemented unsuccessfully in Chicago, that are now encouraged to go national by the current Race to the Top education policy.  The people on the ground have seen schools taken over by corporations.  The people on the ground have seen the draining of public schools funds by privatizers.

We compete to be able to do this to our public schools?  RACE, RACE, RACE.

The Grant Awarded by Competition

The Race to the Top grant requires a certain amount of reform.  The lucky applicants get to compete with all the other districts around the country in an effort to get the money.  It requires a certain amount of charters/privatization, a move toward common core standards, a large time/money commitment from the personnel who are in the race, and testing.

If you can’t understand that there is MORE to public schools than competing with all the other schools in the nation – perhaps you should stop reading at this point, because you are really NOT going to like my further arguments against this policy.

Charters

When you compete in the race – you must charter.  What is so bad about a charter?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_school

Charter schools are primary or secondary schools that receive public money (and like other schools, may also receive private donations) but are not subject to some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools. Instead, charter schools are expected to produce certain results, set forth in each school’s charter.[1] Charter schools are attended by choice.[2] Although charter schools provide an alternative to other public schools, they are part of the public education system and are not allowed to charge tuition. Where enrollment in a charter school is oversubscribed, admission is frequently allocated by lottery-based admissions systems. However, the lottery is open to all students.[3] In a 2008 survey of United States charter schools, 59% of the schools reported that they had a waiting list, averaging 198 students.[4] Some charter schools provide a curriculumthat specializes in a certain field—e.g., arts, mathematics, or vocational training. Others attempt to provide a better and more cost efficient general education than nearby non-charter public schools. Charter school students take state-mandated exams.[5]

Some charter schools are founded by teachers, parents, or activists who feel restricted by traditional public schools.[6] State-authorized charters (schools not chartered by local school districts) are often established by non-profit groupsuniversities, and some government entities.[7] Additionally, school districts sometimes permit corporations to manage chains of charter schools. The schools themselves are non-profit entities. Corporate management does not affect the status of a school. As of September 2012, in the United States, the only school system with the majority of children educated in charter schools was the New Orleans Public Schools.[8]

Cue the Republican applauding.  What better way to improve a government institution – than to remove the government?  After all. . . states, communities, and neighborhoods always do the right thing when left unregulated – right?

If you are not following . . . let me direct you to reflect on the civil rights movement.

Let’s address tax payer funds paying for private school ideas.  Yep.  This is essentially a way for groups to drain funds from public schools for their personal preferences.  It’s called “choice”.  Who could argue with choice?  Except for the fact that our COLLECTIVE funds are being used now for some interesting unregulated “choice”.

http://boingboing.net/2012/08/08/crazy-stuff-theyll-teach-in.html

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/08/08/1117894/-LA-Charter-School-Curriculum-Lies#

Privatizing works so well!  It’s great for social security, medicare/medicaid, and everything right?  Let’s do it to our schools!  Cue the Republican applauding.

Now the main selling point of charters .  . . research.  OK?  Where is the research?  We are turning hundreds of schools into charters because the research indicates this is an important national movement toward authentic learning correct?  WAIT!  No research?  HMMMM?

OOOOOOO  I see a little research.  But Arne Duncan is NOT going to like it.  Charters do no better than public schools?  Ouch!

http://www.edweek.org/ew/marketplace/products/spotlight-charter-school-research.html

Vegas alone is scheduled to create 100 more charters soon.  That way we can compete against all of America for $40 million dollars.  A $40 million dollar carrot.  It costs three carrots to compete for one carrot.  And a carrot every year to maintain the changes after the initial grant.  But I digress. . . my focus should not be about money or the poor use of it.  Let’s get back to the national movement – let’s move together America!

That brings me to standardization across the nation.  Great idea!  Right?  Cue the Republican applauding.

Common Core Standards

To compete, districts must implement common core standards.  The whole nation should get on the same page.  We all need to teach to a certain standard at a certain grade level.  Let’s race!

OK.  A few questions . . . which culture and person gets to determine the common core standard for everyone in America?  America got ahead by moving in lockstep together – that is our strength right?  We should celebrate a national movement to make sure everyone is exactly the same – learning at the same rate – learning at the same time!  America does better when we all prance in a drone like fashion to the same drum on the same day, at the same time.  Right?

OK.  How much does it cost for districts to change everything?  How much time does it take for teachers to switch their curriculums to be like everyone else in the nation?  What materials will we use?  That is a lot of expense when you calculate the time and money.  WOW – the grant is $14 million but will cost that and more to implement the changes.  The grant is gone and then who pays to maintain the systems even after the grant money is spent?  STRINGS.  Never accept the gift without knowing the strings.  Right?

Materials. . . . awwwwwww.  I see.

Textbooks corporations could really roll in the dough if they did not have to develop curriculum for individual districts.  They could sell NATIONAL systems.  Imagine the profits!  Cue the Republican applauding.

The real winner when moving to common core isn’t going to be creativity, innovation, diversity, culture, ethnicity, minorities, thinking outside the box and authentic learning.  It’s going to be the corporation that wins the right to the national contract to provide materials.  That’s what America is all about right?  We compete.  We race.  We have winners and we have losers.  It’s what makes us great.  Right?

To identify the winners and losers – let’s test.  We can tell common core is effective by testing everyone?

TEST

Let’s forget that standardized testing has been and will always be racially and culturally biased.

Let’s forget that standardized testing is a bell curve – effectively moving along a continuum that is determined by MOST students always achieving at 50% (which is considered failing) – everyone knows that adequate progress is 70%.  A bell curve slides right?  So however hard students race – 50% are ALWAYS below the curve.  So by using standardized testing as the measure – and 70% as the cut-off – public schools will never be adequate.  Our measurement tool will always fail half our students.

Let’s forget that standardized testing is based on bubble tests.  Answering A, B, C, D – has been recognized by the public in general as the most important life skill.  When I go to work everyday, I often choose C as the answer.

Let’s forget that the research has always shown that standarized testing is considerably limited in the measuring of students.

Let’s forget the extreme cost to districts and the time taken from instruction to test.  Ignore the billions of dollars lining test maker pockets.  Ignore teachers teaching to tests developed by the nations elite and people interested in money.  Someone is getting rich, but it’s not teachers or students.  Forget the cost.

OK – erase any common sense or research.  Blank minds only must proceed.

Race to the Top is based on standardized testing.  Race to the Top uses this testing to determine who fails and who succeeds. Then you can use that (statistically invalid) data to properly determine which schools to privatize at once.  You can also use that (statistically invalid) data to remove life-long teachers from their positions.  You can also use that (statistically invalid) data to track kids in a computer over time.  Because data is what is the most important indicator of winners and losers.  We will improve the life of every learner in America by numbers?

And this is better for everyone.  Right?

Teachers

One fat Kindergarten teacher looks at the Race to the Top from my North Las Vegas at-risk neighborhood.  The words that come to mind are #crazytown and #insanity.  Kids need to learn to think, become good citizens, and feel safe at school.  There is no race that helps them do that.

But I will . . . if they don’t use the data to fire me.  Remember when teachers were loved and honored instead of abused and fired by a policy like Race to the Top?

If these policies continue – I predict teachers, parents, students, and community members will be in the streets marching all over the nation.  Women and men who love children and teach them to read –  are onto this scam.  We are tired of people in power seeking money from corporations and privatizers.  We are tired of people in power selling off and damaging our public schools.

We don’t believe in the race.  It’s no good.

Lifelong Democrat ready for fight in Charlotte over school reform

With the Democrats, alas, are coming some of the most powerful voices in so-called education “reform” — purveyors of policies whose failures we and other Charlotte parents have experienced first hand. They bring not the patience and determination required to build up struggling schools and students, but rather a sharp critique of teachers and a steamroller philosophy that the Broad Foundation (which funds many of these groups) calls “disruptive” change.

Here in Charlotte, we are all too familiar with the damage such “disruptive” policies have done to children, schools and communities.

photo of Pam Grundy by Peter Wong

In the fall of 2010, despite pleas and warnings from students, parents and community members, our board of education voted to abruptly close a set of “failing” schools, most of which served low-income neighborhoods. As students were crowded into other schools, discipline infractions rose and test scores fell. The deep damage done to school system-community relations has yet to be repaired.

* A few months later, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) unveiled a battery of 52 new standardized tests, with the goal of testing every child in every subject, from kindergarten through high school, and then using the scores in teacher salary calculations. Our schools quickly became testing factories, and learning ground to a halt. Community protest managed to stop that madness, but we now face a similar barrage of state exams, mandated by our president’s Race to the Top initiative. Fed up with all the testing, more parents are abandoning the public schools for private institutions.

* Finally, two weeks ago, a pair of longtime CMS employees spoke out about the “crisis of heart” our district is experiencing, describing a stress-filled, dehumanizing atmosphere whose results include “too many fine educators, both novice and veteran, deciding to leave their beloved profession or questioning how much longer they can endure the stressful madness.” Statistics on principal and teacher departures from our district bear out their words.

Yet despite such on-the-ground experiences — as well as a stunning lack of evidence that these “disruptive” measures do anything to improve teaching or learning — the “reform” bandwagon rolls on, dragging federal policy along with it. The programs of the president I worked so hard to get elected have become just another obstacle.

I know many right-wingers want to dismantle our nation’s public education system, using charter and voucher laws to fragment education into a plethora of privately run institutions. When the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held a summit here last spring, it felt good to be outside, protesting their attacks on public schools. It’s much harder to watch members of the party I support strike equally devastating blows, seemingly unaware of their effects.

We here at the grass roots face quite a challenge. Groups like StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) spend a lot of money…We hold home-printed signs and yellow pencils crafted from pool noodles.

The difference says a lot. There’s big money in many of the endeavors these “reformers” propose: money for testing companies, for charter school management firms, for computer and software producers.

To read this entire article and sign on to their very important petition, please click here