So much news, so little time.
First, the good news from edushyster:
How to convince the public to abandon the wishy-washy notion of education for all in three easy steps.
It is an indisputably true fact that our public schools are *hopelessly* failing beyond any hope of excellence. Yet the public remains strangely attached to the idea that publicly-funded schools have an obligation to educate all kids. Alas, that old-fashioned notion of equity is like the Lindsay Lohan of principles: washed-up and of waning interest. Today’s edu-visionary is all about excellence: the laser-honed vision of a 21st century skills-lined path to prosperity for a few outstanding strivers. But how to convince the public to abandon the wishy-washy notion of education for all?
Step One: Bad News Bears
The news is bad folks. In fact it’s worse than bad. It’s *terrible.* You thought you knew just how badly our union-stifled public schools were doing? Take what you thought you knew and ratchet up (or is that down?) the failure by a factor of 9—no, make that 10. While there may be astonishing news to the contrary (like the fact that African American 8th graders in Massachusetts outscored the Finns in math on last year’s TIMSS tests, the global equivalent of March Madness), I can’t think of any reason to report that—can you?
As for long-term good news trends which contradict the daily barrage of bad news about our hopelessly failing public schools TO AN ALMOST COMICAL DEGREE, forget about those too. High school graduation rates in Boston at their highest level in history? Nothing to see here folks, move it along. College enrollment and completion numbers way up too? Yawn…And don’t even get me going on that non-story about the unprecedented math gains recorded by students in the Boston Public Schools between 2003-2011. While *technically* the largest ever recorded anywhere in the US in the 30 year history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, this does not change the fact that the news is bad. Did I say bad? I meant worse than even bad. I meant “F minus,” “fall into the achievement gap,” “vote with your feet” bad.
Step Two: Hype, Hype, Hooray
The good news is that there is some great news about schools that are achieving outstanding results with the exact same students being failed on a daily basis by our failing public schools (see above). Reader: join me as we traverse the peak up high expectations mountain to Boston’s City on a Hill Charter Public School, one of the most outstanding academies of excellence in the entire nation. In fact none other than Arne Duncan proclaimed City on a Hill a Blue Ribbon School for outstandingness just last year. City on a Hill has attracted particular praise for its trajectory of excellence that catapults students to college and directly into 21st century careers. As for that silly nonsense about the tiny number of students who actually graduate from City on a Hill, nothing to see here folks. Please completely disregard the following. In fact, I recommend closing your eyes and humming a gentle tune until this next section is over.
- Number of ninth graders in the City on a Hill 2012 cohort: 130
- Number in that cohort who made it to 12th grade: 47
- Number of boys in the 12th grade class: 18
- Percentage of 2012 cohort who will graduate: 66%
- Number of students in the 2012 cohort who will graduate from college according to City on a Hill’s own predictions: 23.
- Number of boys who will graduate from college: 7*
To read this post in full, go to edushyster.
Ed reform protocol is to label a school “failing”, close it and usually convert it into a charter school. The target areas are the minority communities and the privatizers are rolling through Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia, closing schools and destroying neighborhoods in their wake. Some of the reason is because of the Title 1 money that comes with many of the students and the other reason? There are very few middle and upper class white communities that want a KIPP or its equivalent. The privatizers know better.
Parents, students, teachers and community citizens have voiced their concerns and indignation over the wholesale closing of schools that is to occur most recently in Chicago.
Here is one voice of many:
As the top official in Cook County government, Toni Preckwinkle didn’t have any formal say in the decision by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his education team to shutter 54 Chicago elementary schools.
But she does have a few thoughts on the matter. Like: What are they thinking?
“I talked to a member of the school board that I knew and said what a terrible idea I thought it was,” Preckwinkle told me in an interview. “You know, schools are community anchors. They’re social centers. They’re part of a community’s identity. And often kids go half a dozen blocks and they’re in different gang territory.
“The closings are going to take place almost entirely within the African-American community, and given the problems we already have with violence, I think it’s very problematic.”
To read this article in full, go to the Chicago Reader.
Now more on the reality of closing schools.
From the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research:
This report reveals that eight in 10 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students displaced by school closings transferred to schools ranking in the bottom half of system schools on standardized tests. However, because most displaced students transferred from one low-performing school to another, the move did not, on average, significantly affect student achievement.
The report demonstrates that the success of a school closing policy hinges on the quality of the receiving schools that accept the displaced students. One year after school closings, displaced students who re-enrolled in the weakest receiving schools (those with test scores in the bottom quartile of all system schools) experienced an achievement loss of more than a month in reading and half-a-month in math. Meanwhile, students who re-enrolled in the strongest receiving schools (those in the top quartile) experienced an achievement gain of nearly one month in reading and more than two months in math.
To read the report, go to CCSR.
And now, let’s follow where all this leads to. Even The Young Turks get it.
And more money…
The next stop on TFA’s “listening tour” should be CEO Matt Kramer’s hometown: Minneapolis
The first stop on today’s Minnsanity tour is the Minneapolis board of education, a topic of near EduShyster obsession due to the recent purchase of a school board seat by Teach for America, whose co-CEO happens to reside in the city. So what do board meetings look like when everyone agrees that the achievement gap is the civil right$ issue of our time? At one recent meeting:
- Eli Kramer (brother of TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer) urged the board to sell a shuttered public school to Hiawatha Academy, the outstanding and innovative charter that he runs.
- Hiawatha Academy’s expansion is backed by Charter School Partners, which employs TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer’s wife.
- The TFA-backed school board member who moved to Minneapolis to run for office had to recuse himself from the vote because his girlfriend will be the principal of the new Hiawatha facility.
- A second board member also recused himself from the vote because he sits on the board of Hiawatha Academy.
- The board voted to sell the shuttered public school to Hiawatha Academy. According to the MinnPost, the newspaper owned by TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer’s father, the sale heralds a new era of collaboration. I’ll say.
There’s more. To find out all of the machinations of this group, go to edushyster.
And even more money:
A long post that is worth a read here on the rise and influence of Pearson and corporate influence in education reform. Take pause, friends. Take pause but feel free to share and post comments here. Thoughts?
The Pearson Monopoly Jennifer Job, UNC Chapel Hill
If you haven’t heard of Pearson, perhaps you have heard of one of the publishers they own, like Adobe, Scott Foresman, Penguin, Longman, Wharton, Harcourt, Puffin, Prentice Hall, or Allyn & Bacon (among others). If you haven’t heard of Pearson, perhaps you have heard of one of their tests, like the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the Stanford Achievement Test, the Millar Analogy Test, or the G.E.D. Or their data systems, like PowerSchool and SASI. 
In a little over a decade, Pearson has practically taken over education as we know it. Currently, it is the largest educational assessment company in the U.S. Twenty-five states use them as their only source of large-scale testing, and they give and mark over a billion multiple choice tests every year. They are one of the largest suppliers of textbooks, especially as they look to acquire Random House this year. Their British imprint EdExcel is the largest examination board in the UK to be held in non-government hands.
Pearson has realized that education is big business. Last year, they did 2.6 billion pounds of business, with a profit of 500 million pounds (close to a billion dollars). And business is looking up, which I will return to in a minute. First, I want to talk about the vicious cycle that Pearson drives through education.
Pearson’s first big jump was acquiring Harcourt’s testing arm in 2008, taking Harcourt’s 40% market share and parlaying it into controlling more than half of all assessments taking place that year. At this point, Pearson began to coordinate all of the textbook imprints it owns (as one of the three biggest textbook publishers in the U.S.) with its tests, completing its own equation of curriculum and assessment. It was just a matter of locking down their territory and growing it.
To grow into the multibillion-dollar corporation they are today, Pearson blurs every line among for profit, nonprofit, and government systems. They have prominently partnered with University of Phoenix, whose parent company’s CEO also sits on the board of Teach for America. They acquired America’s Choice, which partners with the Lumina, Broad, and Walton Foundations. The Chief Education Advisor for Pearson is Sir Michael Barber, a lobbyist who pushes for free-market reforms to education. And the list of executives and partnerships goes on.
What are some of the benefits of these partnerships? Pearson’s advocates for education reform were instrumental in the development of the Race to the Top initiative, from which they have benefitted in numerous ways. For example, Race to the Top requires significant data accumulation, and thus Pearson partnered with the Gates Foundation to be the ones to store the data. Pearson also is a key partner of the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State Schools Officers. When the plan for the Common Core Standards was hatched, Pearson paid to fly the policymakers to Singapore for luxurious “education” trips to promote the educational methods they promote. 
As a result of their work with the NGA, the Common Core Standards and Race to the Top assessment requirements for those standards work heavily in Pearson’s favor. It doesn’t matter that Stephen Krashen found that 53% of educators oppose the Common Core—nearly every state has adopted it anyway, and they encourage a 20-fold increase in the number of tests given every age from preschool to grade 12.  Tests that will be administered by Pearson.
To read this post in full, go to newteacher.
And speaking of the Common Core Standards:
I confess that I was naïve. I should have known in an age in which standardized tests direct teaching and learning, that the standards themselves would quickly become operationalized by tests. Testing, coupled with the evaluation of teachers by scores, is driving its implementation. The promise of the Common Core is dying and teaching and learning are being distorted. The well that should sustain the Core has been poisoned.
I hear about those distortions every day. Many of the teachers in my high school are also the parents of young children. They come into my office with horror stories regarding the incessant pre-testing, testing and test prep that is taking place in their own children’s classrooms. Last month, a colleague gave me a multiple-choice quiz taken by his seven-year old son during music. Here is a question:
Kings and queens COMMISSIONED Mozart to write symphonies for celebrations and ceremonies. What does COMMISSION mean?
- to force someone to do work against his or her will
- to divide a piece of music into different movements
- to perform a long song accompanied by an orchestra
- to pay someone to create artwork or a piece of music
Whether or not learning the word ‘commission’ is appropriate for second graders could be debated—I personally think it is a bit over the top. What is of deeper concern, however, is that during a time when 7 year olds should be listening to and making music, they are instead taking a vocabulary quiz.
To read this post in full, go to The Answer Sheet.
And more about the Common Core and Pearson:
I found this disturbing little tidbit on @TheChalkFace.com:
Here’s another case of a frustrated mother and distraught child – another child who is being taught to hate school from the start.
Sara Wottawa is a parent in New York who is highly conscientious of her kids’ school work and progress. Today, she posted the following on Facebook:
Today I am very emotional and upset. My son, who is in kindergarten, is very cooperative in school but when he comes home he emotionally falls apart. Today after trying to assist him with his developmentally inappropriate homework I reached my breaking point. I decided for the remainder of the year he will no longer take part in completing developmentally inappropriate homework.
Here is his Kindergarten homework, brought to you by the Pearson Envision math program (which, according to Pearson, is very well aligned to the Common Core State Standards):
Check out tested to despair for more interesting tidbits.
Another item that the corporate reformers don’t want you to know is how many states are opting out of the Common Core Standards.
From Truth in American Education:
The Pending Rejection states are so marked as a result of serious discussion or action taken towards withdrawing from the Common Core State Standards, withdrawing from PARCC or SBAC, delaying implementation of standards or assessments, or not funding the implementation. The discussions or actions considered include public forums, legislative bills, and hearings on state legislative floors in 2012 or 2013.
- SB 190
- Alabama Exits National Common Core Tests
- Common Core’s Race to the Middle in Colorado Dec. 6, 2012
- HB 377 SB 524
- Should Florida postpone implementation of the Common Core?
- Florida Lawmakers Might Delay New Education Standards, Testing For Some Grades
- Lawmakers, commissioner sow seeds to delay Common Core in Florida
- Florida Contemplates ‘Backup’ Tests for Common Core
- Common core ed standards face hearing in House committee
- Senate Bill No. 193
- HB 4276
- HB 616
- SB 210
- SC Gov Nikki Haley Backs Bill to Block Common Core Standards 2012
- Utah Withdraws From Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Developing Common Core Tests
- Utah drops out of consortium developing Common Core tests
- Legislature questions common core standards 2012
**Minnesota appears on the map as having rejected the CCSS. MN did not adopt the CCSS for Mathematics.
Check here for links to groups actively working to stop the Common Core State Standards implementation and related issues.
Check out Truth in American Education for more information on the Common Core Standards.
Now for something that works, A year at Mission Hill
This is a 10-part series, which chronicles a year in the life of one of America’s most successful public schools. Guiding Question for Chapter 1: What characterizes a great school, and how do schools sustain greatness over time?
To watch all of the chapters as they are posted, go to A Year at Mission Hill.
Have a good one.