It’s time to restructure the US Department of Education

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The structure of the USDOE as of 2013 and now with 5,000 employees.

 

Two of our constitutional amendments played an important role in public education. In 1791, the 10th Amendment stated, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Public education was not mentioned as one of those federal powers, and so historically has been delegated to the local and state governments.

The League of Women Voters: Role Of Federal Government In Public Education: Historical Perspectives

Let’s restructure the US Department of Education so we don’t have another DeVos or Duncan.

Donald Trump Holds Weekend Meetings In Bedminster, NJ
Betsy DeVos with Donald Trump.

For the last decade, educators and parents have been in a reactive mode in terms of federal policies on education starting with No Child Left Behind, then Race to the Top, charter schools, vouchers and now the selection of Betsy DeVos as the new Secretary of Education.

Looking at the last eight years while following public education closely, I have continuously been in a reactive mode, constantly writing about what shouldn’t be rather than what should be.

It’s time to turn the tables and look at where we are now, how we got here and a better way forward and I suggest starting at the top with the US Department of Education (USDOE).

Over the years there has developed a disconnect between what teachers are doing and achieving in the classrooms and what a President with a politically appointed Secretary of Education has in mind for those teachers and their students. It has become a top-down approach to education with little to no public participation and loss of local control over the priorities of the community and how money is spent.

The USDOE has become less responsive to the needs of students, teachers and parents year after year.

In the last few decades, the USDOE has created a constant state of flux in our public schools, based on the whims of politicians and guided by big money with the tacit or explicit approval of the President in office.

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US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with Eli Broad at Obama’s first Inaugural Ball.

For example, billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad, influenced federal policy that affected teachers and students around the country in every district and township. Neither have credentials in education or child development, have not taught in a public school and have no direct knowledge of what’s happening in classrooms or neighborhoods around the country, and yet they determined education policy for millions of students. The revolving door of employees between the Gates Foundation and the Department of Education has been well-documented and the Broad Prize trophy is displayed in the offices of the USDOE.

How did we get to the point where education has become top-down, starting with the President of the United States appointing a cabinet level Secretary of Education – in clear violation of the 10th Amendment? Many of the past appointees have not been educators. Shirley Ann Mount Hufstedler, the first Secretary of Education, was a lawyer and judge, while William Bennett, Lamar Alexander and Richard Riley were politicians, and Arne Duncan, a basketball player who, through personal connections, found his way to being CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

And, has the U.S. Department of Education gotten too big to be accountable? If so, how can it be streamlined? What should its role be? Where is the accountability in terms of its policies’ successes or failures? And finally, what has the cost been to enforce Federal policies on a state and district-wide basis such as the required and costly technology upgrades of school districts and the computerization of classrooms to provide access to the Common Core Standards’ required testing?

These are the questions I began to ask after chronicling the many failings of former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with his push for the Common Core Standards, high-stakes testing, merit pay based on students’ test scores, Race to the Top, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Waiver, the privatization of public schools by way of charter schools and the weakening of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Duncan’s final “accomplishment” was the rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) now called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that places greater pressure to adhere to Federal “guidelines” with the threat of withholding Federal funding, a push to increase the number of charter schools in the country and promotion of “personalized” or “blended” learning in which you have a student interact with a computer, rather than a human instructor, for the greater part of their class time.

And let’s not forget the millions of dollars in grants that the USDOE provided to Teach for America and to aid in the proliferation of charter schools.

“Personalized learning” and the Common Core State Standards provides an inexpensive way to provide an “education” to students. This is particularly useful for charter school owners wanting to keep their operating costs and staff budgets to a minimum. It’s also being seen as a path to digital edu-bucks, “Edublocks”, and digital badges creating a permanent gig economy of piecework employment.

In the last few decades, the direction of public education has gone from bad to worse, starting with former President Clinton’s propensity for privatization of public schools in the 1990s by way of charter schools and a desire to establish national standards which is unconstitutional, George W. Bush’s unrealistic No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy which required 90% of high school students graduate on time by 2015, (The date was moved to 2020 by Arne Duncan) and the rewrite of it by President Obama’s administration titled Every Child Achieves Act (ESEA), and Race to the Top legislation.

Now with a new President and Secretary of Education along with a rearranged Congress, no one knows which way the wind will blow for us or our students. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be like this.

When do we begin to take back public school education on a local level and have it reflect the goal of creating well-educated responsible citizens with the capacity for thoughtful, critical and creative thinking and discourse? An informed citizenry that is necessary to support a strong democracy? When will we have a curriculum created by educators who have an understanding of child development and the requirements of a diverse population? Do we need the behemoth of a bureaucracy that has become the USDOE passing down to us the latest edicts for us to faithfully adhere to?

Let’s take a look at the evolution of the US Department of Education. It’s time to determine if we should go back to its original intent with modifications to address our growing and diverse population or leave it as it is now which doesn’t seem to be working for anyone but the 1%.

The state constitutions of Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the early 1780’s, set up systems of public education that reflected the thinking of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Horace Mann who understood the importance of an educated citizenry to grow a fledgling democracy.

Money was raised through taxes for public schools along with the buying, selling or renting of public land and Congress granted land in the public domain as endowments. The federal government also granted surplus money to states for public education.

In 1867, the Office of Education this minor bureau was established within the Department of the Interior. Seventy-two years later, the bureau was transferred to the Federal Security Agency, where it was renamed the Office of Education. Then in 1953, the Federal Security Agency was upgraded to cabinet-level status as the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

President Carter advocated for creating a cabinet-level position for the Department of Education and in 1980, a bill to create the Department of Education was approved by Congress. The primary functions of the Department of Education were to “establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on US schools, and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights” and “to increase the accountability of Federal education programs to the President, the Congress and the public.”

Since the approval of a Department of Education to be run by a political appointee, that arm of government has grown into a bureaucratic behemoth retaining approximately 4,000 employees in 32 different divisions with a budget of $70.7 billion in 2016. Imagine what each state could do with their piece of $70B in one year. Which leads to the question of where is this money going? No one sees it in our schools, some which are in poor repair and unsafe. Nurses, librarians and counselors are rare in urban school districts and teachers pay for their own supplies many times.

Even though the term “Accountability” was used ad nauseam during Arne Duncan’s era as Secretary of Education and reverberated throughout school districts across the country, no one seems to be holding the USDOE accountable for anything.

With all of the new regulations that have been passed due to ESSA and the NCLB waiver requests, the USDOE asked Congress for additional employees in 2015. The question is, were these policies necessary? How successful have these programs been? And, how much are they costing school districts and taxpayers? Where is the accountability?

A principal said to me when I raised the concern about the Common Core Standards, “Wait a few years and it will all change again”. But is this the way we want to teach our students, with changes made according to the political whims of those in power and the whimsy’s of a few billionaires?

To follow is how our students have been affected by those in power on the federal level.

The report “A Nation at Risk” was published in 1983 and promoted by William Bennett, a politician who served as Secretary of Education under President Reagan. Bennett later went on to co-found K12, Inc., a publicly traded online education company.

There is much hyperbole in “A Nation at Risk” and yet it is devoid of substantiated evidence, statistics or peer-reviewed studies but it was enough to open the gateway for privatization, first with Milton Friedman stating that school vouchers were the answer to this dire emergency, and continued with charter schools, the privatization of a public trust. This phenomenon is described in Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine where she outlines how public education privatizers exploited the devastating event of Hurricane Katrina to reconstitute the New Orleans school districts entirely with charter schools (which, by most measures, has been a failed experiment).

With President George W. Bush, work began on national standards and a national assessment system, which is illegal according to ESEA, and an education reform program called Goals 2000: Educate America Act  “To improve learning and teaching by providing a national framework for education reform” and establishing “school choice” as a priority. The term “school choice” is a euphemism for vouchers and charter schools. It is the “choice” of profiteering education reformers whose goal has been to redirect public funds into private hands and replace elected oversight of school districts with appointed boards with no public accountability

President Clinton continued Goals 2000 setting up a “Goals Panel” and a Director position with staff to determine “voluntary national content standards, voluntary national student performance standards and voluntary national opportunity-to-learn standards”.

Along with Goals 2000 came AmeriCorps which funded a new organization, “Teach for America”. This multi-million-dollar enterprise hires recent college grads, no background in education required, trains them for five weeks and sends them into low income schools and charter schools for a two to three year stint to teach the most vulnerable of our children. With the influence of Bill Gates and Eli Broad, the USDOE has granted Teach for America, Inc. $100 million so far in grants, although certified teachers could be hired for these same positions.

Then former President George Bush brought us “No Child Left Behind,” which included punitive measures if schools and districts did not perform to a specified standard and the unrealistic goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2015. If schools did not meet the standard, federal funding would be diminished or cut off entirely, taking money away from schools as opposed to supporting them.

President Obama stepped up “No Child Left Behind” a notch by introducing “Race to the Top” with $5 billion to incentivize states to accept the Common Core State Standards and offered four possible options for addressing “failing” schools which was defined as the bottom 5 percent of all schools in each district based on standardized test scores. These extreme, at times draconian measures, included closing the schools, converting them into charter schools, firing half of the school staff or replacing the principal.

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President Obama with Melinda Gates at Tech Boston Academy.

This policy was greatly influenced by billionaire Eli Broad, a proponent of charter schools, and Bill Gates who has spent millions of dollars promoting charter schools, merit pay and the Common Core State Standards.

What have we gained with these presidential decrees that have been influenced by politicians and their multi-billionaire backers who have their own ideas about education?

So far we have an explosion of unregulated charter schools with little regard to whether they are any better than public schools, high-stakes standardized testing, which has taken classroom and recess time away from students and substituted it with test prep, and the unproven and costly experiment known as the Common Core Standards where every student is to be on the same page as all other students around the country with no exceptions, sucking the creativity and opportunity for critical thinking out of the classrooms with little room for teachers to respond to the student’s needs and intellectual growth.

Somewhere along the way, this nation has forsaken the opportunity for parents, teachers, students and the community, to be involved in public education and instead handed over all policy decisions to politicians with no understanding of the methods, practices or the art of teaching and the processes of learning.

This was not the original intent when an arm of the federal government was established in 1780 to ensure there were public schools and teachers available to all school-aged children.

In Finland, a country that is held up as a model of providing quality education, decentralized governance in the early 1990’s. Per Finland’s Board of Education:

Education providers are responsible for practical teaching arrangements as well as the effectiveness and quality of the education provided. Local authorities also determine how much autonomy is passed on to schools. For example, budget management, acquisitions and recruitment are often the responsibility of the schools.

And while we’re on the subject of making major and much needed changes to our educational system:

Most education and training is publically funded. There are no tuition fees at any level of education. An exception are the tuition fees for non-EU and non-EEA students in higher education, effective from autumn 2016. Most higher education institutions will introduce such tuition fees in 2017, and more information can be found here. In basic education also school materials, school meals and commuting are provided free of charge.

With the majority of $70 billion going to the states, we could fund community and state colleges and provide lunch to students free of charge. I was shocked to find that my daughter had to pay for lunch in Washington State public schools. Lunch, snacks and transportation were covered when I attended public school and there is no reason it shouldn’t be covered now.

Back in the day we also had nurses, librarians taking care of well-stocked libraries, counselors to bridge the gap between school and families and then other counselors who helped us reach our goals when graduating from high school.

Much of the money that could have stayed with the districts instead has gone to every failed federal policy since No Child Left Behind.

Taking local control of schools and how federal money is spent is not a radical idea.

If we are to survive as a country, and we are in a survival mode at this time, we need to look at all of our institutions and question what has worked and what hasn’t and make the necessary changes for this country to thrive. Of the greatest importance is having an educated and informed citizenry as understood by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Horace Mann, but at this time, we have failed reaching that goal.

It’s time to look at the history of public schools and evaluate where we need to be today in terms of federal edicts. It’s time to reassess the role of the US Department of Education and whether the head of the USDOE should be a cabinet level position that is influenced by the party in power.

This is our opportunity to affect change, through conversation and debate. In four years we need to be prepared to take back the reins and have structures in place which will make for a stronger society and democracy.

Dora Taylor

Suggested reading:

  • The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, And The Attack On America’s Public Schools, David Berliner
  • The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein
  • The Reign of Error, Diane Ravitch
  • Role of Federal Government in Public Education:  Historical Perspectives, the League of Women Voters.
  • Got dough?: How billionaires rule our schools, Joanne Barkan for Dissent Magazine
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Common Core Standards: Ten Colossal Errors

CCS Cody

This article was written by Anthony Cody and first published in Education Week in November, 2013 and then reposted on his blog Living in Dialogue.

Common Core Standards: Ten Colossal Errors

The sad facts about Common Core are most visible in its reduction in the study of classic, narrative fiction in favor of “informational texts.” This is a dramatic change. It is contrary to tradition and academic studies on reading and human formation. Proponents of Common Core do not disguise their intention to transform “literacy” into a “critical” skill set, at the expense of sustained and heartfelt encounters with great works of literature.

A recent book described the “Reign of Errors” we have lived through in the name of education reform. I am afraid that the Common Core continues many of these errors, and makes some new ones as well.

The Business Roundtable announced last month that its #1 priority is the full adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is likewise making a full-court press to advance the Common Core. Major corporations have taken out full-page ads to insist that the Common Core must be adopted. Many leading figures in the Republican party, like Jeb Bush, have led the charge for Common Core, as have entrepreneurs like Joel Klein. And the project has become a centerpiece for President Obama’s Department of Education.

Yet in New York, the first large state to implement the tests associated with the new standards, students, parents and principals are expressing grave concerns about the realities of the Common Core. Common Core proponents like Arne Duncan have been quick to ridicule critics as misinformed ideologues or delusional paranoiacs.  Defenders of the common standards, like Duncan and Commissioner John King in New York, insist that only members of the Tea Party oppose the Common Core. In spite of this, the opposition is growing, and as more states begin to follow New York’s lead, resistance is sure to grow.

With this essay, I want to draw together the central concerns I have about the project. I am not reflexively against any and all standards. Appropriate standards, tied to subject matter, allow flexibility to educators. Teachers ought to be able to tailor their instruction to the needs of their students. Loose standards allow educators to work together, to share strategies and curriculum, and to build common assessments for authentic learning. Such standards are necessary and valuable; they set goals and aspirations and create a common framework so that students do not encounter the same materials in different grades. They are not punitive, nor are they tethered to expectations that yield failure for anyone unable to meet them.

The Common Core website has a section devoted to debunking “myths”  about the Common Core—but many of these supposed myths are quite true.  I invite anyone to provide factual evidence that disproves any of the information that follows. (And for the sake of transparency, I ask anyone who disputes this evidence to disclose any payments they or their organization has received for promoting or implementing the Common Core.)

Here are ten major errors being made by the Common Core project, and why I believe it will do more harm than good.

Error #1: The process by which the Common Core standards were developed and adopted was undemocratic.  

At the state level in the past, the process to develop standards has been a public one, led by committees of educators and content experts, who shared their drafts, invited reviews by teachers, and encouraged teachers to try out the new standards with real children in real classrooms, considered the feedback, made alterations where necessary, and held public hearings before final adoption.

The Common Core had a very different origin. When I first learned of the process to write new national standards underway in 2009, it was a challenge to figure out who was doing the writing.  I eventually learned that a “confidential” process was under way, involving 27 people on two Work Groups, including a significant number from the testing industry. Here are the affiliations of those 27: ACT (6), the College Board (6), Achieve Inc. (8), Student Achievement Partners (2), America’s Choice (2). Only three participants were outside of these five organizations. ONLY ONE classroom teacher WAS involved—on the committee to review the math standards.

This committee was expanded the next year, and additional educators were added to the process. But the process to write the standards remained secret, with few opportunities for input from parents, students and educators. No experts in language acquisition or special education were involved, and no effort was made to see how the standards worked in practice, or whether they were realistic and attainable.

David Coleman is credited publicly as being the “architect” of the process. He, presumably, had a large role in writing the English Language Arts standards; Jason Zimba of Bennington College was the lead author for the math standards.  Interestingly, David Coleman and Jason Zimba were also members of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst original board of directors.

The organizations leading the creation of the Common Core invited public comments on them. We were told that 10,000 comments were submitted, but they were never made public. The summary of public feedback  quotes only 24 of the responses, so we are left only with the Common Core sponsors’ interpretation of the rest.

The process for adopting the Common Core was remarkably speedy and expedient.  Once the standards were finalized and copyrighted, all that was required for states to adopt them were two signatures: the governor and the state superintendent of education. Two individuals made this decision in state after state, largely without public hearings or input. Robert Scott, former state Commissioner of Education in Texas, said that he was asked to approve the standards before there was even a final draft.

The Common Core process could not have been directly paid for by the federal Department of Education, which is prevented by law from enacting or promoting national standards. So Bill Gates footed the bill. The Gates Foundation has, so far, paid $191 million to develop and promote the Common Core. Of that sum, $33 million was earmarked for the development of the Common Core. The remaining $158 million was spent on myriad organizations to buy their active support for the standards—with $19 million awarded just in the past month. Many of the voices in the public arena, including teacher unions, the national PTA, journalistic operations like John Merrow’s Learning Matters, and the National Catholic Educational Association, have received grants for such work.

Although specifically prohibited from interfering in the curriculum or instruction in the nation’s classrooms, the federal Department of Education has used threats and bribes to coerce states to adopt Common Core. Indeed, the active role of the U.S. Department of Education in supporting, advocating for, and defending the Common Core may be illegal,  as may the Department’s award of $350 million to develop tests for the Common Core. The Department might reasonably argue that it was appropriate to encourage the development of “better” tests, but in this case the tests were specifically intended to support only one set of standards: the Common Core.

Public Law 103-33, General Education Provisions Act, sec 432, reads as follows:

No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, [or] administration…of any educational institution…or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials…

In spite of this prohibition, Race to the Top gave major points to states that adopted “college and career ready standards” such as Common Core.

Here is what the Memorandum of Understanding that state officers were asked to sign said about federal support:

…the federal government can provide key financial support for this effort in developing a common core of state standards and in moving toward common assessments, such as through the Race to the Top Fund authorized in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Further, the federal government can incentivize this effort through a range of tiered incentives, such as providing states with greater flexibility in the use of existing federal funds, supporting a revised state accountability structure, and offering financial support for states to effectively implement the standards.

When the Department of Education announced Race to the Top there was a complex application process with a short timeline. The Gates Foundation created a process where their staff would assist states in applying for RttT grants. In order to receive this help, state leaders had to fill out a qualifying questionnaire. The first question on the qualifying criteria questionnaire is, “Has your state signed the MOA regarding the Common Core Standards currently being developed by NGA/CCSSO? [Answer must be “yes”]”

Thus, the Gates Foundation worked within the Race to the Top process to apply additional pressure on states to sign on to the Common Core.

Coming at a time when state education budgets were under great pressure, these inducements were significant in overcoming any hesitations on the part of most governors. The pressure continues, as NCLB waivers depend on the adoption of “college and career ready standards,” which are most readily provided by the Common Core.

It is also worth noting that alongside the adoption of Common Core standards, both Race to the Top and NCLB waivers being issued by the Department of Education require states to include test scores in the evaluations of teachers and principals. This is a package deal.

Error #2: The Common Core State Standards violate what we know about how children develop and grow.

One of the problems with the blinkered development process described above is that no experts on early childhood were included in the drafting or internal review of the Common Core.

In response to the Common Core, more than 500 experts signed the Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative. This statement now seems prophetic in light of what is happening in classrooms. The key concerns they raised were:

1.            Such standards will lead to long hours of instruction in literacy and math.

2.            They will lead to inappropriate standardized testing

3.            Didactic instruction and testing will crowd out other important areas of learning.

4.            There is little evidence that such standards for young children lead to later success.

Many states are now developing standards and tests for children in kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade, to “prepare” them for the Common Core. Early childhood education experts agree that this is developmentally inappropriate. Young children do not need to be subjected to standardized tests. Just recently, the parents of a k-2 school refused to allow their children to be tested. They were right to do so.

Error #3: The Common Core is inspired by a vision of market-driven innovation enabled by standardization of curriculum, tests, and ultimately, our children themselves.  

There are two goals here that are intertwined. The first is to create a system where learning outcomes are measurable, and students and their teachers can be efficiently compared and ranked on a statewide and national basis. The second is to use standardization to create a national market for curriculum and tests. The two go together, because the collection of data allows the market to function by providing measurable outcomes. Bill Gates has not spoken too much recently about the Common Core, but in 2009, he was very clear about the project’s goals.

He said that

…identifying common standards is just the starting point. We’ll only know if this effort has succeeded when the curriculum and tests are aligned to these standards. Secretary Arne Duncan recently announced that $350 million of the stimulus package will be used to create just these kinds of tests – “Next Generation assessments,” aligned to the Common Core. When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well. And it will unleash a powerful market of people providing services for better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large, uniform base of customers looking at using products that can help every kid learn, and every teacher get better.

This sentiment was shared by the U.S. Department of Education, as was made clear when Arne Duncan’s Chief of Staff, Joanne Weiss, wrote this in 2011:

The development of common standards and shared assessments radically alters the market for innovation in curriculum development, professional development, and formative assessments. Previously, these markets operated on a state-by-state basis, and often on a district-by-district basis. But the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale.

In the market-driven system enabled by the Common Core, the “best products” will be those which yield the highest test scores. As Gates said: “The standards will tell the teachers what their students are supposed to learn, and the data will tell them whether they’re learning it.”

Thus, the overriding goal of the Common Core and the associated tests seems to be to create a national marketplace for products. As an educator, I find this objectionable. The central idea is that innovation and creative change in education will only come from entrepreneurs selling technologically based “learning systems.” In my 24 years in high poverty schools in Oakland, the most inspiring and effective innovations were generated by teachers collaborating with one another, motivated not by the desire to get wealthy, but by their dedication to their students.

Error #4: The Common Core creates a rigid set of performance expectations for every grade level, and results in tightly controlled instructional timelines and curriculum.

At the heart of the Common Core is standardization.  Every student, without exception, is expected to reach the same benchmarks at every grade level. Early childhood educators know better than this. Children develop at different rates, and we do far more harm than good when we begin labeling them “behind” at an early age.

The Common Core also emphasizes measurement of every aspect of learning, leading to absurdities such as the ranking of the “complexity” of novels according to an arcane index called the Lexile score. This number is derived from an algorithm that looks at sentence length and vocabulary. Publishers submit works of literature to be scored, and we discover that Mr. Popper’s Penguins is more “rigorous” than Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Cue the Thomas B. Fordham Institute to moan that teachers are not assigning books of sufficient difficulty, as the Common Core mandates.

This sort of ranking ignores the real complexities within literature, and is emblematic of the reductionist thinking at work when everything must be turned into a number. To be fair, the Common Core English Language Arts standards suggest that qualitative indicators of complexity be used along with quantitative ones. However in these systems, the quantitative measures often seem to trump the qualitative.

Carol Burris recently shared a 1st grade Pearson math test that is aligned to the Common Core standards for that grade level.

Would (or should) a 6 year old understand the question, “Which is a related subtraction sentence?”  My nephew’s wife, who teaches Calculus, was stumped by that one.

Keep in mind that many New York State first graders are still 5 years old at the beginning of October, when this test was given.

You can review the first grade module for yourself, and imagine any five or six year olds you might know grappling with this.

The most alarming thing is the explanation Burris offers for how these standards were defined:

If you read Commissioner John King’s Powerpoint slide 18, which can be found here, you see that the Common Core standards were “backmapped” from a description of 12th grade college-ready skills.  There is no evidence that early childhood experts were consulted to ensure that the standards were appropriate for young learners.  Every parent knows that their kids do not develop according to a “back map”–young children develop through a complex interaction of biology and experience that is unique to the child and which cannot be rushed.

Error #5: The Common Core was designed to be implemented through an expanding regime of high-stakes tests, which will consume an unhealthy amount of time and money. 

It is theoretically possible to separate the Common Core standards from an intensified testing regime, and leaders in California are attempting to do just that. However, as Bill Gates’ remarks in 2009 indicate, the project was conceived as a vehicle to expand and rationalize tests on a national basis. The expansion is in the form of ever-more frequent benchmark and “formative” tests, as well as exams in previously untested subjects.

Most estimates of cost focus only on the tests themselves.  The Smarter Balanced Common Core tests require the use of relatively new computers. Existing computers are often inadequate and cannot handle the “computer adaptive tests,” or the new Common Core aligned curriculum packages. This was one of the reasons given to justify the expenditure of $1 billion of construction bonds on iPads and associated Pearson Common Core aligned curriculum software in Los Angeles. The Pioneer Institute pegs the cost of full implementation of the Common Core at $16 billion nationally – but if others follow the Los Angeles model those costs could go much higher.

The cost in terms of instructional time is even greater, so long as tests remain central to our accountability systems. Common Core comes with a greatly expanded set of tests. In New York City, a typical 5th grade student this year will spend 500 minutes (ten fifty-minute class periods) taking baseline and benchmark tests, plus another 540 minutes on the Common Core tests in the spring. Students at many schools will have to spend an additional 200 minutes on NYC Performance Assessments, being used to evaluate their teachers. Students who are English learners take a four-part ESL test on top of all of the above.

Thus testing under the Common Core in New York will consume at least two weeks worth of instructional time out of the school year. And time not spent taking tests will be dominated by preparing for tests, since everyone’s evaluation is based on them.

Error #6: Proficiency rates on the new Common Core tests have been dramatically lower—by design.

Given that we have attached all sorts of consequences to these tests, this could have disastrous consequences for students and teachers. Only 31 percent of students who took Common Core aligned tests in New York last spring were rated proficient.  On the English Language Arts test, about 16 percent of African American students were proficient, five percent of students with disabilities, and 3% of English Learners. Last week, the state of North Carolina announced a similar drop in proficiency rates.  Thus we have a system that, in the name of “rigor,” will deepen  the achievement gaps, and condemn more students and schools as failures.

Because of the “rigor,” many students—as many as 30 percent—will not get a high school diploma. What will our society do with the large numbers of students who were unable to meet the Common Core Standards? Will we have a generation of hoboes and unemployables? Many of these young people might find trades and jobs that suit them, but they may never be interviewed due to their lack of a diploma. This repeats and expands on the error made with high school exit exams, which have been found to significantly increase levels of incarceration  among the students who do not pass them—while offering no real educational benefits.

It should be noted that the number of students (or schools) that we label as failures is not some scientifically determined quantity. The number is a result of where the all-important “cut score” is placed. If you want more to pass, you can lower that cut score, as was done in Florida in 2012.  The process to determine cut scores in New York was likewise highly political, and officials knew before the tests were even given the outcome they wanted.

Error #7: Common Core relies on a narrow conception of the purpose of K-12 education as “career and college readiness.”

When one reads the official rationales for the Common Core there is little question about the utilitarian philosophy at work. Our children must be prepared to “compete in the global economy.” This runs against the grain of the historic purpose of public education, which was to prepare citizens for our democracy, with the knowledge and skills to live fruitful lives and improve our society.

A group of 130 Catholic scholars recently sent a letter expressing their opposition to the Common Core.  They wrote,

The sad facts about Common Core are most visible in its reduction in the study of classic, narrative fiction in favor of “informational texts.” This is a dramatic change. It is contrary to tradition and academic studies on reading and human formation. Proponents of Common Core do not disguise their intention to transform “literacy” into a “critical” skill set, at the expense of sustained and heartfelt encounters with great works of literature.

Error #8: The Common Core is associated with an attempt to collect more student and teacher data than ever before.

Parents are rightfully alarmed about the massive collection of their children’s private data, made possible by the US department of education’s decision in 2011 to loosen the regulations of FERPA , so that student data could be collected by third parties without parental consent.

There are legitimate privacy concerns, for both students and teachers, as data, once collected, can be used for all sorts of purposes. The vision that every student’s performance could be tracked from preschool through their working lives may be appealing to a technocrat like Bill Gates, but it is a bit frightening to many parents.

This is one aspect of the project that is already in big trouble. The Gates Foundation invested about $100 million to create inBloom, a nonprofit organization that would build a system to store the massive amount of student data their reform project requires. However, as parent concerns over privacy have grown, seven of the nine states that had signed up to  use the system have withdrawn. Only Illinois and New York remain involved, and in New York this week a lawsuit was filed to block the project.

Error #9: The Common Core is not based on any external evidence, has no research to support it, has never been tested, and worst of all, has no mechanism for correction.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed by state leaders to opt in to the Common Core allows the states to change a scant 15 percent of the standards they use. There is no process available to revise the standards. They must be adopted as written. As William Mathis (2012) points out,

As the absence or presence of rigorous or national standards says nothing about equity, educational quality, or the provision of adequate educational services, there is no reason to expect CCSS or any other standards initiative to be an effective educational reform by itself.

Error #10: The biggest problem of American education and American society is the growing number of children living in poverty.  As was recently documented by the Southern Education Fund (and reported in the Washington Post) across the American South and West, a majority of our children are now living in poverty.

The Common Core does nothing to address this problem. In fact, it is diverting scarce resources and time into more tests, more technology for the purpose of testing, and into ever more test preparation.

In conclusion: Common standards, if crafted in a democratic process and carefully reviewed by teachers and tested in real classrooms, might well be a good idea. But the Common Core does not meet any of those conditions.

The Common Core has been presented as a paradigmatic shift beyond the test-and-punish policies of NCLB. However, we are seeing the mechanisms for testing, ranking, rewarding and punishing simply refined, and made even more consequential for students, teachers and schools. If we use the critical thinking the Common Core claims to promote, we see this is old wine in a new bottle, and it turned to vinegar long ago.

For all these reasons, I believe any implementation of the Common Core should be halted. The very corporations that are outsourcing good jobs are promoting the Common Core, which deflects attention from their failure to the nation’s economy and their failure as good citizens. I do not believe the standards themselves are significantly better than those of most states, and thus they do not offer any real advantages. The process by which they were adopted was undemocratic, and lacking in meaningful input from expert educators. The early results we see from states that are on the leading edge provide evidence of significant damage this project is causing to students already. No Child Left Behind has failed, and we need a genuine shift in our educational paradigm, not the fake-out provided by Common Core.

The frustration evident in recent public hearings in New York is a powerful indicator of a process gone badly awry. The public was not consulted in any meaningful way on decisions to fundamentally alter the substance of teaching and learning in the vast majority of schools in our nation. This process and the content of these standards are deeply flawed, and the means by which student performance is measured continues to damage children.

This did not happen by accident. Powerful people have decided that because they have the money and influence to make things happen, they can do so. But in a democracy, the people ought to have the last word. Decisions such as this ought not be made at secret gatherings of billionaires and their employees. The education of the next generations of Americans is something we all have a stake in.

And so, fellow citizens: Speak Up, Opt Out, Teach On!

What do you think? Is it time to end the reign of Common Core errors?

i REFUSE !…the Common Core Standards

From the Long Island Press:

‘We’re Not Gonna Take It!’ Thousands of Long Island Students Opt-Out of Common Core Testing

New York State United Teachers union President Richard Ianuzzi blasts Common Core at the "iRefuse!" rally at Comsewogue High School on March 29, the eve of the first round of the education reform's state tests. Hundreds of parents and teachers participated in the protest. (Jaime Franchi/Long Island Press)

New York State United Teachers union President Richard Ianuzzi blasts Common Core at the “iRefuse!” rally at Comsewogue High School on March 29, the eve of the first round of the education reform’s state tests. Hundreds of parents and teachers participated in the protest.

 

“We will not allow the New York State Education Department to use our children to aid in the systematic breakdown of our public education system.”

-Jeanette Deuterman, a mother from Bellmore who spearheaded the Long Island Opt-Out movement

 

Speakers opposed to the state’s new public education policies whipped an audience of hundreds into a furor at Comsewogue High School on March 29, 2014 as Opt-Out supporters, preaching from the stage in the auditorium, vowed to “starve the beast”—calling on parents to have their children skip the rigorous standardized tests and deprive the school system of the data upon which the system depends. Long Island’s own Dee Snyder’s voice blasted from the speakers as his refrain has become this multifaceted group’s mantra: “We’re Not Gonna Take It!”

Many Long Islanders were true to their word. More than 20,000 school children here did not take the first round of state tests that began April 1.

The protest against the Common Core Standards and state testing has reached a fever pitch, sparking a profound debate that is about more than preset standards or global competition, but about the civil rights of our schoolchildren. By coming together, parents, educators and students have brought their growing concerns over the future of public education to the front pages of local newspapers, into social media forums reaching tens of thousands, and into the speeches of those who profess to govern for all.

In March, their collective voices were heard at three major events. Two expert panels on education convened on college campuses on Long Island to discuss the current peril students and teachers face and to propose possible solutions. And at Comsewogue High School, hundreds gathered on the eve of the state tests to communicate one message: We refuse.

Education experts gathered in Long Island University’s Tilles Center on March 10 at a panel hosted by Long Island University’s Dr. Arnold Dodge, the chairman of the Department of Educational Leadership and Administration at LIU-Post and a retired superintendent from the East Rockaway School District. Discussing the theme, “A Return to Common Sense: Restoring Developmentally Appropriate Education to Our Schools,” were a current superintendent, Dr. Bill Johnson; a principal; a mother, Jeanette Deuterman; a teacher, Dr. Anthony Griffin; and student Nikhil Goyal  to give a full report from the frontlines of education reform.

Three days later, Stony Brook University hosted its own expert panel, framed by a discussion of the book, Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School, by Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves, both of whom participated in the discussion; Hargreaves in person, Fullan via Skype. Other panelists included Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg and Carol Burris, South Side High School principal and 2013’s New York Principal of the Year, aptly filling in for headliner Diane Ravitch who couldn’t make it.

The Common Core initiative put into place in New York by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and overseen by the Board of Regents and the State Education Department has been the subject of scathing critique by both parents and educators alike that has not escaped the governor’s attention.

“The flawed implementation of the Common Core curriculum has resulted in frustration, anxiety, and confusion for children and parents,” he has said.

That the implementation has been a disaster is almost universally acknowledged, but where to go from here is something upon which almost no one can agree. The Cuomo administration has put together its own panel to make recommendations.

At Comesewogue High School on March 29, Richard Ianuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers, said that the state education department needs to “stop it, fix it, or scrap it.”

With state tests for grades 3 through 8 beginning April 1, trying to salvage New York education has grown in urgency. State testing is at the heart of the issue, thanks to unrelenting criticism from educators and parents who argue that the tests, upon which the entire Common Core initiative rests, are invalid.

What determines the validity of the assessment is whether the data from the tests can be used to improve instruction. Since teachers are banned from seeing the graded exams their students took, they cannot know where their students’ weaknesses lie. Therefore, they cannot use that information to strengthen their skills. The data instead is used for a rating system to determine the teachers’ effectiveness.

Parents and educators are taking strong issue with that. Under the guidance of Jeanette Deuterman, a mother from Bellmore who spearheaded the Long Island Opt-Out movement, many parents are exercising their rights to opt their children out of the tests this year. Deuterman projected the unofficial tally that more than 20,035 Long Island students refused this year.

“We will not allow the New York State Education Department to use our children to aid in the systematic breakdown of our public education system,” Deuterman said at the Tilles Center. “We will not allow them to use our children to unfairly evaluate our teachers, principals, and schools through their test scores. Parents know that test scores do not correlate with good teaching. The teacher evaluation system is broken, and our children are the ones that have suffered the consequences. Our children will not participate…until significant changes are made.”

Dr. Bill Johnson, superintendent of Rockville Centre Schools, agrees.

“One of the sad things about it is that I truly believe that assessment should be an important component of every child’s life in school,” he said. “But in fact when the state has developed tests that are quite frankly never found to be valid, it is very difficult for me to encourage parents to have their children sit for a nine-hour exam knowing full well that the results are not going to used by anybody in the school district to do anything with at the end of the day.”

“As a superintendent,” he continued, “I need to honor the rights the parents have within their school.”

But what about the rights of the child?

Pasi Sahlberg, an author and educator from Finland, speaking at the education forum at Stony Brook University’s Wang Center, dissected the difference between the education system in the United States and the much-lauded system in Finland. Finnish law dictates that between each 60-minute lesson, students are allotted a 15-minute recess. In Finnish culture, children are entitled to recess as an inherent part of their rights.

“Children must play,” Sahlberg stated.

Finnish children do not start academic lessons until they reach 7 years old and do not experience standardized tests until they take their college entrance exams.

In the United States, educational reform financed by federal Race to the Top funds and standardized through the Common Core State Standards Initiative has brought buzzwords like “grit” and “rigor” into the national lexicon, while quietly doing away with play-based developmental learning in the lower grades in favor of an increasingly academic structure. This approach has been sold to the American people by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as a way to elevate the educational system and produce students who can better compete in the global economy. South Side High School principal, Carol Burris, believes that rationale to be false.

“There is this myth that there was once this great American school system and somehow, we have fallen to the bottom and we are hopelessly falling behind the rest of the world,” Burris said. “The truth of the matter is, since the beginning of international tests, we’ve always been kind of in the middle. Sometimes at the bottom. If you take a look at the performance of American students, it is actually stronger than it’s ever been before. Our graduation rates have never been higher.

“We’re creating this myth that everything is awful, which then gives people permission to just say, ‘Well, let’s blow the whole system up. How can it possibly get worse?’ Well, it can get worse,” she continued.

That’s not the only falsehood, Burris added.

“There’s another myth that somehow rigorous standards are going to solve all of the problems,” she said.

Compared to American standards, she explained that the standards of Finland were “almost skeletal.” Their guidelines were left to the teachers’ discretion based on their experience with their individual students’ needs.

“I’m afraid for [our] kids,” Burris continued. “Because I’m afraid that all of the advances that we’ve made in equity in my school, where teachers have learned to work together collaboratively, where they’ve been able to take a special-ed kid and find a place for him in an international baccalaureate class, that all that good work will be undone by all of these reforms.”

Here, standardization is the goal. Based upon modules offered by the state Education Department and sanctified in these Common Core tests, they are the antithesis of innovative thinking. And innovation is at the heart of the entrepreneurial spirit this country prides itself on.

Sahlberg said that the United States already has an exemplary education system—it just needs to be allowed to flourish.

“I would say all of the successful education systems have one thing in common: They have built their success on American education, innovation and ideas,” Sahlberg said. “Same thing if you go to Singapore, China, or even Canada. This proves that you have everything it takes to build not only schools that work, but to build a system that’s successful. It’s about sharing what you do, what you know; having the policies and reforms in place that are encouraging.

“Your problem is not that you need to invent again with new ideas,” Sahlberg said, “but so you can learn again from one another and make the best use out of the ideas that you already have. If you want proof that the American ideas and innovations of education really work, come to Finland.”

The mother from Bellmore who spearheaded the Long Island Opt-Out movement, Jeanette Deuterman, issued a stern warning to those who she believes are threatening the education of her children.

“To all of the corporations that stand to make billions at the expense of our children, education officials with little or no education experience, Board of Regents members that put status quo over common sense, and legislators that place politics over the protection of our children, watch out!” she said. “The parents of New York are awake. We’re organized. And we will not stop until we return common sense to the education of our children.”

Starve the Beast
Deuterman’s voice was amplified at Comsewogue High School. Torrential rain did little to dissuade the hundreds of people who came out to express their opposition to the state tests this April. Against the backdrop of the aptly named Comsewogue Warriors logo, Superintendent Joe Rella and parent advocate Mark Ferraris hosted speakers such as clinical social worker Mary Calamia, Assemb. Al Graf (R-Holbrook), president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association Beth Dimino, co-founder of Stop Common Core in New York State Yvonne Gasperino, Michael Bohr, the founder of advocate group Badass Parents, and upstate principal Tim Farley, and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the newly announced Republican gubernatorial candidate running on the anti-Common Core platform—whose own kids have opted out of taking the tests.

The lobby was full of advocacy groups such as the Badass Teachers Association to the Guardians, Stop Common Core in New York State, Lace to the Top, and Badass Parents selling T-shirts and stickers, sharing battle stories and offering support to each other.

Tim MacDowell, a concerned father, said that his Longwood fourth grader Lucas will refuse the test this year. His son took the test last year.

“I didn’t want him to,” MacDowell said, “but I thought I was alone. I didn’t know any of this existed. And he passed. But I don’t know what he passed. He got a 3 on the ELA [English Language Arts] and a 3 on the math. But as a parent, one who really rides him hard, I don’t know what that means. I’d like him to get a 4, but I don’t get any feedback. The teachers don’t get any feedback. They don’t individualize the results. They just tell me he got a 3. It’s useless.”

MacDowell certainly doesn’t feel alone any longer. These protesters have little common ground in other issues but in this increasingly polarized political atmosphere they stand together against Common Core.

Richard Ianuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers, hammered home that message.

“The New York State United Teachers will stand behind every one of our members and every parent in this audience and every parent in New York State who makes that choice,” he said. “The moment a choice is taken away from a parent, that’s the moment when public education is destroyed. The moment when choice is taken away from a teacher, then public education is destroyed.”

Bookends: Anti-Common Core advocates Mark Naison (L), co-founder of Badass Teachers Association, and Michael Bohr, of Badass Parents Association, lent their voices to the opt-out movement at the "iRefuse!" protest rally on March 29. (Jaime Franchi/Long Island Press)

A vocal opponent of this reform, Dr. Mark Naison, history professor and chair of African-American Studies at Fordam University and co-founder of the Badass Teachers Association, railed against what he called the “Walmart-izaton of Education.”

“It implements a kind of authoritarianism that we’re seeing more in the workplace,” he said. “It is unacceptable. Children need freedom, they need self-expression, they need space and they need to be allowed to make mistakes; they need to learn from those mistakes.

“This issue is not going away,” he continued. “We have found a fault line in education policy that is so profound that we’re going to flip the script in terms of how this issue is going to be regarded in American politics. Some people think it will take a year. I think it will take five to 10 for us to win it.”

Naison stopped to take in the surroundings: a group encircling a candidate for governor, parents and children awash in green shoelaces and t-shirts proclaiming “I refuse!” and a camaraderie born of a shared cause.

Naison smiled at the audience assembled at Comsewogue.

“I see this as a step forward,” he said.

We ARE winning. Here’s the scorecard

From the Network for Public Education:

Top-Ten-Graphic
Top Ten “Why We Will Win” Stories of 2014

At the 1st annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Austin, Texas in March, NPE President Diane Ravitch delivered a speech titled “Why We Will Win.” She told the crowd of over 400 public education activists from around the country that everything the “faux reformers” are doing is failing or has already failed, and that “students, teachers, parents, and communities” are organizing to fight back.

In that spirit, here are the Top Ten stories of 2014 (in no particular order) that highlight the pushback to the failed policies of the faux reformers, and the crumbling foundation of the reform movement.

These stories can carry us into the New Year with a sense of hope and purpose that together we will save our schools.

Multiple states drop out of Common Core, PARCC/Smarter Balanced

Click on the link above for an informative map of where each state currently stands on Common Core, and whether they are in or out of the PARCC and Smarter Balanced consortiums. The interactive map also includes an analysis of which states are contemplating measures against the standards and the standardized tests that accompany them. The smart money says 2015 will see more states dump either or both.

Race to the Top defunded in 2015 omnibus bill

Race to the Top has been the signature education reform program of the Obama administration and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. RTTT began in 2010 with $4.35 billion dollars to distribute to state that were still crippled by the recession. States were forced to compete for federal education funds, with winners coerced into adopting the reforms favored by the administration, such as the Common Core standards and aligned PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests. The complete defunding of the grant program is quite a blow to the Obama education agenda.

Collapse of inBloom

In a true win for grassroots advocacy and student privacy rights, data management behemoth inBloom was toppled in 2014. Fortified with 100 million dollars from Bill Gates, and toppled by parent activists in New York City and beyond, the demise of inBloom is a righteous example of parent power.

First Annual NPE Conference

2014 marked the first annual Network for Public Education Conference in Austin, Texas. The powerful event brought together education activists from around the nation to talk about the issues of the day, with livestreamed panel discussions and keynote addresses from education luminaries Karen Lewis, John Kuhn and NPE President Diane Ravitch. You don’t want to miss the 2015 conference in Chicago, April 25-26!

Pro Public Education Candidates elected

Education issues were the central focus of numerous high profile, big money races around the country in 2014. The election of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Newark, NJ Mayor Ras Baraka focused not only on the pro-public education views of the candidates, but on the failed policies of their corporate reform predecessors Michael Bloomberg and Cory Booker. Also critical was the California State Superintendent race, where incumbent educator and legislator Tom Torlakson kept his seat despite an onslaught of corporate reform money backing his challenger, Marshall Tuck. Tuck, a Broad Residency graduate and former Wall Street and charter school executive, was eager to uphold the Vergara decision, which declared tenure unconstitutional in California. Visit our website to learn more about other successful pro public education candidates endorsed by NPE.

Michelle Rhee leaves StudentsFirst

When Michelle Rhee founded StudentsFirst in 2010 she boasted that she would raise $1 billion to create a public school system that conformed to the policies she favored. Not only did Rhee never accomplish her fundraising goals, she fell far short on her policy goals as well. StudentsFirst’s National Report Card became somewhat of a joke too. The Report Card gave high performing states like Massachusetts and New Jersey D grades, and low performing states like Florida and Louisiana B grades (the highest score any state achieved on the report card) for their willingness (or unwillingness) to submit to the StudentsFirst policy agenda.

Louis CK takes Common Core opposition mainstream

Lois CK, a New York City public school parent, took to twitter to express his frustration with Common Core and how the increased focus on standardized testing is impacting students and teachers alike. His tweets led to articles about his criticism of Common Core and standardized testing in Salon, Politico, and the Huffington Post, and was even part of his appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Pro public education books hit the shelves

Make sure to peruse the list of books written by pro public education bloggers, teachers, administrators, professors, activists and NPE Board Members. The list includes the book Diane Ravitch named “the most important book of the year,” Bob Herbert’s Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America. And don’t miss the book by NPE 2015 conference keynote speaker Yong Zhao, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World. In her review for the New York Review of Books, Diane wrote that “Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, members of Congress, and the nation’s governors and legislators” need to read Zhao’s book.

Teach for America to shut NYC training site

Facing declining recruitment in New York City, TFA will close the city’s only training site. The Executive Director of TFA in NYC attributed the low recruitment numbers to “a contentious national dialogue around education and teaching in general, and TFA in particular.” TFA has been called out, both by critics and alumni, for placing recruits with only 5 weeks of training into some of the most challenging schools in the country, with a commitment of only 2 years, adding to high turnover and instability in the communities that need the most support.

Two Oklahoma first grade teachers refuse to give the MAP test

First grade teachers Karen Hendren and Nikki Jones wrote a poignant letter to the parents of their students explaining why they would refuse to administer a mandated standardized test know as the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress). In their letter they point out that the increased focused on testing has “gradually squelched the creativity and learning from our classrooms.”

Possible end to yearly standardized testing?

Education Week reported that a draft bill reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act would drop the federal requirement for annual standardized testing. This would leave the decision to the states to either continue with annual standardized testing or to return to grade span testing, which would require testing once in elementary, once in middle and once in high school.

Happy New Year!

 

10 Reasons why the city’s Preschool for All Proposition 1B is not a good idea

Caveat emptor, Latin for let the buyer beware.
“Buyer beware”

On face value, Initiative 1B appears to be a proposal with great promise but it’s the details, or lack thereof, that is of greatest concern to me.

If Initiative 1B passes, then an implementation plan will be developed to create the program structure. There are many questions that will remain unanswered until this process begins and we will not see this until after we have voted.

Because we will not know the details until after we vote in November, I am providing a list of reasons based on what I know so far and the City of Seattle’s Preschool Program Action Plan which the implementation plan is to be based on.

One of the consultants hired to create this Action Plan was BERK Consulting. BERK was also the consulting firm used to develop “The Road Map Project/CCER Local Race to the Top Application Development”. For more on the Road Map Project as developed in conjunction with Community Center for Education Results (CCER) , see CCER, the Road Map Project and the loss of student privacyThe Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates and your student’s privacy and A Look at Race to the Top.

Now for the list

1.The city and its employees do not know enough to create such a program and then run it.

For example, the city has such a limited knowledge of how to establish and run a program that they have hired expensive consultants, rather than local “experts” who have had years of experience and training in this area, to come in and create the program for them. Unfortunately they don’t know who they have hired. See reason number 2 for an example.

2. One of the two consultants who was hired to create and implement the preschool program, Ellen Frede, is also an employee of Acelero, a for profit group that has taken over four Head Start programs in other cities where Universal preK has been established in a similar fashion by the city.

Ellen Frede is Senior Vice President of Education and Research, for Acelero. See A for-profit approach to Head Start and Seattle PreSchool for All Proposition 1B: Acelero, the fox watching over the hen house

3. Even though the city wants to use Seattle Public School space and money for the program, the district has neither, they do not have a seat at the table and so far have not been invited to be part of the oversight committee.

Throughout the development of the initiative and now proposition, the Seattle Public School Board was not brought into these conversations until last week when the Mayor and Tim Burgess’ plan was presented to the board. By the way, Mayor Murray recently called Burgess the “King of Preschool” at a public event for Proposition 1B. King, Czar….

4. There is already talk by the city to increase their influence by growing into a prek-3 and preK-5 program. This project appears to be led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

See A PreK 3rd Coalition.

 5. Test balloons are being floated via the Seattle Times on the idea of mayoral    control of our schools in Seattle.

Not a good idea, see Mayoral Control: The short of it. You can see where this is going with Preschool for All as a vehicle.

6. The KIPP charter chain and Teach for America, Inc. (TFA) are both part of Universal pre-K programs in other cities and have plans to expand.

Needless to say, I am sure Seattle is one of their next targets, using city and possibly state and Federal money to increase their coffers. See A Model Built on Rigor, Structure Adapting to the Schooling Needs of a Younger Group of Students and TFA’s  Early Childhood Initiative.

KIPP is one of the approved programs for Washington state and Teach for America is struggling to stay alive in Seattle.

7. There will be a bloated city administrative staff with the addition of 42 individuals which comes out to 1 administrator for every 50 students.

This does not include actual teaching and support staff in the pre-schools.

Approving Proposition 1B comes with a price tag of over $50M to implement. Read your ballot carefully.

8. Programs such as Montessori and Reggio Emilia will not be included in the Preschool for All Proposition 1B plan because the material that is to be used in the pre-schools will be standardized and prepared by Pearson or a similar publishing company.

Pearson has been bandied about by city staff.

9. Will the Preschool for All program in Seattle be taking Race to the Top money for their program? It’s happening in Federal Way with the concomitant Common Core Standards and testing as the basis for their preschool program.

With the acceptance of Race to the Top money also comes a requirement to share all student information.

Federal funds, Race to the Top money, is available for pre-school initiatives and the City of Seattle has expressed an interest in these funds. But buyer beware, these funds come with lots of strings attached including assessments and personal information gathered and shared.

See The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates and your student’s privacy and A Look at Race to the Top. By the way, the seed for this Proposition 1B was planted by none other than Bill Gates whose people put together a presentation for the City Council. This presentation was also seen by some of our state legislators.

10. There is no specific language in the Action Plan or Proposition about providing meals to the children.

Many of these children will be living at or below the poverty level and the first thing they will need is a good hot breakfast to start off their day. Breakfast and lunch might be the only opportunity for them to have well-balanced and healthy meals.

 

Looking at the framework of Proposition 1B, this is not a school I would send my daughter to. In response to that, someone who is part of the push for Proposition 1B said that it is not a mandatory program. To that I say, then we are creating a two tier system, one that has programmed lessons and assessments for lower income children and another tier for those parents who want their children to grow and develop at their own pace and within a preschool that is rich with intellectual exploration and stimulation and no testing and, oh yeah, lots of time for singing, dancing, art and playing, also known as fun.

Dora Taylor

For a flyer that can be printed, go to https://sites.google.com/site/seattleducation2012/10-reasons-why-the-city-s-preschool-for-all-proposition-1b-is-not-a-good-idea.

 

 

 

The big fail of Common Core Standards

common-core

In the state of Washington, the math standards have been lowered by accepting the Common Core Standards. Before the state legislature even knew what the new standards would be, the legislators in their divine knowledge, accepted Race to the Top money not knowing all of the ramifications. This happened around the country.

Peter Greene, on his blog Curmudgucation, lays out the reasons for the big fail of the Common Core Standards in his post:

Why Did the Core Have a Bad Year?

Support for the Core among teachers dropped like a stone, from 76% in 2013 to 46% in 2014. That’s a lot of love lost. Now, as we move from the “Holy schneikies!” phase into the “Got some splainin’ to do” phase, we’ll start to ask the big question.

Why?

Over at The Fordham, Mike Petrilli hopes he knows why– Note the phrase, “they will be used to hold public schools accountable for their performance.” Perhaps these words triggered the more negative response. I think Petrilli is hoping in vain. I think there’s a much more likely explanation for CCSS’s bad year among teachers.

Let’s think back to May of 2013. Personally, I’m a fine example of what teachers were like at that point. I didn’t know a lot about the Core, and what I did know didn’t sound all that bad. As far as I’d heard, a bunch of important people had called together a bunch of teachers to write some standards that could be used across the country to bring a little coherence to the higgledy-piggledy crazy-quilt that is US education. I’m not really a fan of national standards, but as long as they came from educational experts and were largely voluntary, it couldn’t hurt to look at them. Heck, if you had asked me in May of 2013 if I supported the Common Core standards, I might very well have said yes. And though there were teachers out there who had already caught on, there were plenty of teachers like me who were perfectly willing to give the whole business
a shot.

So how did the reformsters lose all those hearts and minds?

I think it’s a measure of how detailed and painstaking and inch-by-inch this massive debate has been that it’s easy to lose track of the big picture, the many massively boneheaded things that CCSS supporters did along the way. Let’s reminisce about how so many teachers were turned off.

The lying.

Remember how supporters of the Core used to tell us all the time that these standards were written by teachers? All. The. Time. Do you know why they’ve stopped saying that? Because it’s a lie, and at this point, most everybody knows it’s a lie. The “significant” teacher input, the basis in solid research– all lies. When someone is trying to sell you medicine and they tell you that it was developed by top doctors and researchers and you find out it wasn’t and they have to switch to, “Well, it was developed by some guys who are really interested in mediciney stuff who once were in a doctor’s office”– it just reduces your faith in the product.

The Involuntariness

In many places, it took a while for it to sink in– “You mean we’re not actually allowed to change ANY of it, and we can only add 15%??!!”

It quickly became clear– this was not a reform where we would all sit around a table at our own schools and decide how to best to adapt and implement to suit our own students. Session by session, we were sent off to trainings where some combination of state bureaucrats and hired consultants would tell us how it was going to be. We were not being sent off to discuss or contribute our own professional expertise; we were being sent to get our marching orders, which very often even our own administrators were not “important” enough to give us (or understand).

Shut up.

Particularly in the latter half of 2013, we all heard this a lot. Phrased in diplomatic language, of course, but on the state and federal level we were told repeatedly that this was not a discussion, that our input was neither needed nor wanted, and that if we were going to raise
any sort of questions, we should just forget about it.

This was particularly true for public schools. After all, the narrative went, public schools were failing and covering it up by lying to students and their parents about how well they were doing. It became increasingly clear that the Common Core were not meant to help us, but to rescue America’s children from us. “Just shut up and sit down,” said CCSS boosters with a sneer. “You’ve done enough damage already.”

The slander.

Arne Duncan told newspaper editors to paint core opponents as misguided and misinformed. Then he portrayed objectors as whiny white suburban moms. Opposition to CCSS was repeatedly portrayed as coming strictly from the tin hat wing of the Tea Party. If you opened your mouth to say something bad about the Core, you were immediately tagged a right
-wing crank. There was no recognition that any complaint about any portion of the Core could possibly be legitimate. It had to be politically motivated or the result of ignorance.

The Money.

The longer the year went on, the more it seemed that every single advocate for the Core was being paid for it. I’ve been wading into this for a while, and I’ll be damned if I can name a single solitary actual grass-roots group advocating for the Core. Instead, we find a sea of groups all swimming in the same money from the same sources.

And at the school level, we also see lots of money– all of it outbound. Suddenly, with Common Core, there’s a long list of things that have to be bought. Can’t get new books– we have to buy computers to take the PARCC. And let’s watch a parade of consultants, all making more money than we are, come in and tell us how to do our jobs.

The child abuse.

Many of us just finished our first year of Core-aligned curriculum, and in many cases it was awful. We were required to force students to operate at or beyond frustration level day after day. We watched school stamp out the spirit of the smallest students, whose defining characteristic is that they love everything, including school. While CCSS boosters were off sipping lattes in nice offices, we were there at ground zero watching 180 days of exactly how this reform affected real, live students.

The testing.

You keep saying that the tests are separate from the CCSS. We keep telling you that there is no daylight visible between them here on the ground.

The plan for failure.

There was a moment, even a day for the strong-hearted, where it looked like the Obama administration was going to release us from the educational malpractice that is NCLB. But no– it soon became clear that we were still trapped in the same terrible movie. Our fates would still be linked to high stakes tests, just in more complicated and stupid ways. You did not have to be terribly cynical to conclude that the goal was for public schools to fail, so that reformsters could “rescue” the students “trapped” in “failing schools.”

The backpedaling

As support has crumbled, Core boosters have retracted some of their pronouncements. “We have to build the airplane as we fly it” becomes “we have to take our time.
and fix these implementation problems.” This has the effect of confirming what we suspected– that they didn’t really know what they were doing in the first place.

The implementation dodge was particularly telling. Teachers have heard “That the resource/program/widget will work great. You’re just using it wrong” a gazillion times. It translates roughly as “This won’t help you complete that task, but if you do some other task, it might be useful.”

But the thing about CCSS implementation is that Core boosters got to everything that they said they wanted to. So if the implementation messed things up that either means 1) they don’t know what they’re talking about or 2) the Core really are that bad.

Location location location.

Politicians have understood for at least several decades that you can convince people if you lie deliberately and sincerely, but sometimes (like this one) they forget an important detail. It is easy to lie to people about what is happening in a faraway place like Iran or Siberia. It is much harder to pull of lies about what is going on right in front of their faces.

Core boosters can tell stories all day about what’s happening on the business end of their pride and joy, but teachers are actually at ground zero, and they have eyes and ears and brains and professional judgment.

This was a big field test year for CCSS as it spread into more schools than ever before. The drop in teacher support is one more clear indicator that, in the latest phase of rollout, the Core is failing. And as more and more teachers become entangled in this mess of botched national standards, things are only going to get worse. The Core lost support for the same reason that liver seems like a great thing to eat until you actually take a bite of it.

In short, I believe the Core lost teacher support because so many teachers spent the year face to face with it, looking it right in its beady little eyes. They don’t love it because they know it so well. I’m willing to bet that by next May, when it’s survey time again, the Core is not going to be awash in a new wave of teacher love.

Seattle pushes back on Common Core Standards and high-stakes testing

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The Battle for Seattle continues.

Please submit this resolution, modified for your district, for adoption at the March 9th Democratic district caucuses, specifically the legislative district chair. The deadline for submissions is this Wednesday. The more districts that pass a resolution against Common Core Standards, the more likely it will pass at the county and, ultimately, the state levels.

RESOLUTION CONCERNING

RACE TO THE TOP AND COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS EDUCATION “REFORMS”

WHEREAS the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of academic standards, promoted and supported by two private membership organizations, the National Governors’ Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), who receive millions of dollars from private third parties, philanthropies, and corporate interests to advocate for and develop the CCSS without a grant of authority from any state; and

WHEREAS the CCSS were developed by a committee of 24 individuals, almost all of whom were associated with educational corporations, with no decision-making authority granted to practicing K-12 teachers, through a process not subject to public scrutiny or Freedom of Information Act laws, and were adopted by the Legislature without sufficient opportunity for public review or comment; and

WHEREAS funding the implementation of the CCSS, its associated reforms, and the assessments developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is a substantial financial burden on local school districts, the state, and taxpayers in a time when Washington is already insufficiently fulfilling its paramount duty to fully fund K-12 education; and

WHEREAS the CCSS have never been piloted, tested, or proven in any arena to increase student learning or prepare students for college or career, and the funds allocated for their implementation and associated reforms and assessments are made unavailable for purposes that have been proven effective, such as reducing class sizes and hiring teachers, providing special education services, diversifying course offerings, etc; and

WHEREAS research has proven that high-stakes, standardized tests of any kind limit the curriculum to tested subjects and have caused changes to pedagogy in ways that are detrimental to student learning, and there is no evidence that SBAC developed assessments for the teaching and learning of the CCSS will depart from this historical norm, and

WHEREAS research has continually raised serious and substantive questions about the accuracy and statistical reliability of using high-stakes, standardized tests to measure learning and evaluate teaching, and there is no evidence that the SBAC developed assessments for the teaching and learning of the CCSS are any more accurate and statistically reliable for evaluating teaching and learning; and

WHEREAS Race to the Top (RTTT), CCSS “reforms”, and the SBAC developed assessments include and facilitate the collection of confidential personal and non-educational student, family, and teacher data, and the SBAC Cooperative Agreement allows for access to that data by the federal government and third party organizations without parent, student, or teacher notification or prior written consent;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the King County Democratic Party recognizes RTTT and CCSS “reforms” as a coordinated effort to centralize control of public education under the influence of private interests; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we oppose high-stakes testing and any attempt to tie teacher evaluations to the SBAC developed assessments or other state test, further raising the stakes of high stakes testing and distorting the teaching profession; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Legislature to reconsider its adoption of the CCSS and direct the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) to withdraw Washington state from the SBAC, allowing local control of education to return to Washington state and Washington districts.

Adopted                                              by                                                                                     

Submitted by:

Breann Treffry, Washington State Against Common Core

Wayne Au, PhD, Associate Professor: Education Program at UW Bothell

Dora Taylor, President: Parents Across America

Post Script:

We encourage people in Seattle and beyond to print this resolution and take it with you to school events, PTA meetings, your community and civic meetings and your district’s legislative town hall for discussion and action.

We can do this.

For additional information on the Common Core Standards with a focus on Washington State as well as opting out of the MAP test and state test, see:

Stop Common Core in Washington State

Truth in American Education

Common Core Standards

A recommended article is The Trouble with the Common Core.

Post Script 2:

March 10, 2014

The resolution passed in the 36th District which is where I reside. Now it’s on to the County and State meetings to vote on the resolution being a part of the Democratic Party platform.

Dora Taylor

The facts about the Common Core Standards

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The State of Washington signed on to administer the Common Core Standards in our schools with approval of the ed reform Bill 6696. That means that there will be new textbooks, lesson plans, worksheets with correlating homework and tests to make sure that our students are all on the same page at the same time no matter the location of the district or your child’s abilities or the level of each class academically.

Charter schools, option schools or public schools, each student is to know the same material at the same time at the same age. Is that how actual children grow and develop? No matter. It wasn’t educators who designed the curriculum, it was a few people who decided it would be a good idea to develop (market) “standards” even if in comparison the standards were lower than the state’s orignal standards. So much for thinking “outside the box” as many “innovative” charter entrepreneurs claim their schools will be. They’ll be stuck with the Common Core Standards also as well as the tests.

Diane Ravitch sums it up best in a speech she gave this month to the Modern Language Association:

Everything you need to know about the Common Core

As an organization of teachers and scholars devoted to the study of language and literature, MLA should be deeply involved in the debate about the Common Core standards.

The Common Core standards were developed in 2009 and released in 2010. Within a matter of months, they had been endorsed by 45 states and the District of Columbia. At present, publishers are aligning their materials with the Common Core, technology companies are creating software and curriculum aligned with the Common Core, and two federally-funded consortia have created online tests of the Common Core.

What are the Common Core standards? Who produced them? Why are they controversial? How did their adoption happen so quickly?

As scholars of the humanities, you are well aware that every historical event is subject to interpretation. There are different ways to answer the questions I just posed. Originally, this session was designed to be a discussion between me and David Coleman, who is generally acknowledged as the architect of the Common Core standards. Some months ago, we both agreed on the date and format. But Mr. Coleman, now president of the College Board, discovered that he had a conflicting meeting and could not be here.

So, unfortunately, you will hear only my narrative, not his, which would be quite different. I have no doubt that you will have no difficulty getting access to his version of the narrative, which is the same as Secretary Arne Duncan’s.

He would tell you that the standards were created by the states, that they were widely and quickly embraced because so many educators wanted common standards for teaching language, literature, and mathematics. But he would not be able to explain why so many educators and parents are now opposed to the standards and are reacting angrily to the testing that accompanies them.

I will try to do that.

I will begin by setting the context for the development of the standards.

They arrive at a time when American public education and its teachers are under attack. Never have public schools been as subject to upheaval, assault, and chaos as they are today. Unlike modern corporations, which extol creative disruption, schools need stability, not constant turnover and change. Yet for the past dozen years, ill-advised federal and state policies have rained down on students, teachers, principals, and schools.

George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top have combined to impose a punitive regime of standardized testing on the schools. NCLB was passed by Congress in 2001 and signed into law in 2002. NCLB law required schools to test every child in grades 3-8 every year; by 2014, said the law, every child must be “proficient” or schools would face escalating sanctions. The ultimate sanction for failure to raise test scores was firing the staff and closing the school.

Because the stakes were so high, NCLB encouraged teachers to teach to the test. In many schools, the curriculum was narrowed; the only subjects that mattered were reading and mathematics. What was not tested—the arts, history, civics, literature, geography, science, physical education—didn’t count. Some states, like New York, gamed the system by dropping the passing mark each year, giving the impression that its students were making phenomenal progress when they were not. Some districts, like Atlanta, El Paso, and the District of Columbia, were caught up in cheating scandals. In response to this relentless pressure, test scores rose, but not as much as they had before the adoption of NCLB.

Then along came the Obama administration, with its signature program called Race to the Top. In response to the economic crisis of 2008, Congress gave the U.S. Department of Education $5 billion to promote “reform.” Secretary Duncan launched a competition for states called “Race to the Top.” If states wanted any part of that money, they had to agree to certain conditions. They had to agree to evaluate teachers to a significant degree by the rise or fall of their students’ test scores; they had to agree to increase the number of privately managed charter schools; they had to agree to adopt “college and career ready standards,” which were understood to be the not-yet-finished Common Core standards; they had to agree to “turnaround” low-performing schools by such tactics as firing the principal and part or all of the school staff; and they had to agree to collect unprecedented amounts of personally identifiable information about every student and store it in a data warehouse. It became an article of faith in Washington and in state capitols, with the help of propagandistic films like “Waiting for Superman,” that if students had low scores, it must be the fault of bad teachers. Poverty, we heard again and again from people like Bill Gates, Joel Klein, and Michelle Rhee, was just an excuse for bad teachers, who should be fired without delay or due process.

These two federal programs, which both rely heavily on standardized testing, has produced a massive demoralization of educators; an unprecedented exodus of experienced educators, who were replaced in many districts by young, inexperienced, low-wage teachers; the closure of many public schools, especially in poor and minority districts; the opening of thousands of privately managed charters; an increase in low-quality for-profit charter schools and low-quality online charter schools; a widespread attack on teachers’ due process rights and collective bargaining rights; the near-collapse of public education in urban districts like Detroit and Philadelphia, as public schools are replaced by privately managed charter schools; a burgeoning educational-industrial complex of testing corporations, charter chains, and technology companies that view public education as an emerging market. Hedge funds, entrepreneurs, and real estate investment corporations invest enthusiastically in this emerging market, encouraged by federal tax credits, lavish fees, and the prospect of huge profits from taxpayer dollars. Celebrities, tennis stars, basketball stars, and football stars are opening their own name-brand schools with public dollars, even though they know nothing about education.

No other nation in the world has inflicted so many changes or imposed so many mandates on its teachers and public schools as we have in the past dozen years. No other nation tests every student every year as we do. Our students are the most over-tested in the world. No other nation—at least no high-performing nation—judges the quality of teachers by the test scores of their students. Most researchers agree that this methodology is fundamentally flawed, that it is inaccurate, unreliable, and unstable, that the highest ratings will go to teachers with the most affluent students and the lowest ratings will go to teachers of English learners, teachers of students with disabilities, and teachers in high-poverty schools. Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of Education wants every state and every district to do it. Because of these federal programs, our schools have become obsessed with standardized testing, and have turned over to the testing corporations the responsibility for rating, ranking, and labeling our students, our teachers, and our schools.

The Pearson Corporation has become the ultimate arbiter of the fate of students, teachers, and schools.

This is the policy context in which the Common Core standards were developed. Five years ago, when they were written, major corporations, major foundations, and the key policymakers at the Department of Education agreed that public education was a disaster and that the only salvation for it was a combination of school choice—including privately managed charters and vouchers– national standards, and a weakening or elimination of such protections as collective bargaining, tenure, and seniority. At the same time, the political and philanthropic leaders maintained a passionate faith in the value of standardized tests and the data that they produced as measures of quality and as ultimate, definitive judgments on people and on schools. The agenda of both Republicans and Democrats converged around the traditional Republican agenda of standards, choice, and accountability. In my view, this convergence has nothing to do with improving education or creating equality of opportunity but everything to do with cutting costs, standardizing education, shifting the delivery of education from high-cost teachers to low-cost technology, reducing the number of teachers, and eliminating unions and pensions.

The Common Core standards were written in 2009 under the aegis of several D.C.-based organizations: the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve. The development process was led behind closed doors by a small organization called Student Achievement Partners, headed by David Coleman. The writing group of 27 contained few educators, but a significant number of representatives of the testing industry. From the outset, the Common Core standards were marked by the absence of public participation, transparency, or educator participation. In a democracy, transparency is crucial, because transparency and openness builds trust. Those crucial ingredients were lacking.

The U.S. Department of Education is legally prohibited from exercising any influence or control over curriculum or instruction in the schools, so it could not contribute any funding to the expensive task of creating national standards. The Gates Foundation stepped in and assumed that responsibility. It gave millions to the National Governors Association, to the Council of Chief School Officers, to Achieve and to Student Achievement Partners. Once the standards were written, Gates gave millions more to almost every think tank and education advocacy group in Washington to evaluate the standards—even to some that had no experience evaluating standards—and to promote and help to implement the standards. Even the two major teachers’ unions accepted millions of dollars to help advance the Common Core standards. Altogether, the Gates Foundation has expended nearly $200 million to pay for the development, evaluation, implementation, and promotion of the Common Core standards. And the money tap is still open, with millions more awarded this past fall to promote the Common Core standards.

Some states—like Kentucky–adopted the Common Core standards sight unseen. Some—like Texas—refused to adopt them sight unseen. Some—like Massachusetts—adopted them even though their own standards were demonstrably better and had been proven over time.

The advocates of the standards saw them as a way to raise test scores by making sure that students everywhere in every grade were taught using the same standards. They believed that common standards would automatically guarantee equity. Some spoke of the Common Core as a civil rights issue. They emphasized that the Common Core standards would be far more rigorous than most state standards and they predicted that students would improve their academic performance in response to raising the bar.

Integral to the Common Core was the expectation that they would be tested on computers using online standardized exams. As Secretary Duncan’s chief of staff wrote at the time, the Common Core was intended to create a national market for book publishers, technology companies, testing corporations, and other vendors.

What the advocates ignored is that test scores are heavily influenced by socioeconomic status. Standardized tests are normed on a bell curve. The upper half of the curve has an abundance of those who grew up in favorable circumstances, with educated parents, books in the home, regular medical care, and well-resourced schools. Those who dominate the bottom half of the bell curve are the kids who lack those advantages, whose parents lack basic economic security, whose schools are overcrowded and under-resourced. To expect tougher standards and a renewed emphasis on standardized testing to reduce poverty and inequality is to expect what never was and never will be.

Who supported the standards? Secretary Duncan has been their loudest cheerleader. Governor Jeb Bush of Florida and former DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee urged their rapid adoption. Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice chaired a commission for the Council on Foreign Relations, which concluded that the Common Core standards were needed to protect national security. Major corporations purchased full-page ads in the New York Times and other newspapers to promote the Common Core. ExxonMobil is especially vociferous in advocating for Common Core, taking out advertisements on television and other news media saying that the standards are needed to prepare our workforce for global competition. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed the standards, saying they were necessary to prepare workers for the global marketplace. The Business Roundtable stated that its #1 priority is the full adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards. All of this excitement was generated despite the fact that no one knows whether the Common Core will fulfill any of these promises. It will take 12 years whether we know what its effects are.

The Common Core standards have both allies and opponents on the right. Tea-party groups at the grassroots level oppose the standards, claiming that they will lead to a federal takeover of education. The standards also have allies and opponents on the left.

I was aware of Common Core from the outset. In 2009, I urged its leaders to plan on field testing them to find out how the standards worked in real classrooms with real teachers and real students. Only then would we know whether they improve college-readiness and equity. In 2010, I was invited to meet at the White House with senior administration officials, and I advised them to field test the standards to make sure that they didn’t widen the achievement gaps between haves and have-nots.

After all, raising the bar might make more students fail, and failure would be greatest amongst those who cannot clear the existing bar.

Last spring, when it became clear that there would be no field testing, I decided I could not support the standards. I objected to the lack of any democratic participation in their development; I objected to the absence of any process for revising them, and I was fearful that they were setting unreachable targets for most students. I also was concerned that they would deepen the sense of crisis about American education that has been used to attack the very principle of public education. In my latest book, I demonstrated, using data on the U.S. Department of Education website that the current sense of crisis about our nation’s public schools was exaggerated; that test scores were the highest they had ever been in our history for whites, African Americans, Latinos, and Asians; that graduation rates for all groups were the highest in our history; and that the dropout rate was the lowest ever in our history.

My fears were confirmed by the Common Core tests. Wherever they have been implemented, they have caused a dramatic collapse of test scores. In state after state, the passing rates dropped by about 30%. This was not happenstance. This was failure by design. Let me explain.

The Obama administration awarded $350 million to two groups to create tests for the Common Core standards. The testing consortia jointly decided to use a very high passing mark, which is known as a “cut score.” The Common Core testing consortia decided that the passing mark on their tests would be aligned with the proficient level on the federal tests called NAEP. This is a level typically reached by about 35-40% of students. Massachusetts is the only state in which as many as 50% ever reached the NAEP proficient level. The testing consortia set the bar so high that most students were sure to fail, and they did.

In New York state, which gave the Common Core tests last spring, only 30% of students across the state passed the tests. Only 3% of English language learners passed. Only 5% of students with disabilities passed. Fewer than 20% of African American and Hispanic students passed. By the time the results were reported in August, the students did not have the same teachers; the teachers saw the scores, but did not get any item analysis. They could not use the test results for diagnostic purposes, to help students. Their only value was to rank students.

When New York state education officials held public hearings, parents showed up en masse to complain about the Common Core testing. Secretary Duncan dismissed them as “white suburban moms” who were disappointed to learn that their child was not as brilliant as they thought and their public school was not as good as they thought. But he was wrong: the parents were outraged not because they thought their children were brilliant but because they did not believe that their children were failures. What, exactly, is the point of crushing the hearts and minds of young children by setting a standard so high that 70% are certain to fail?

The financial cost of implementing Common Core has barely been mentioned in the national debates. All Common Core testing will be done online. This is a bonanza for the tech industry and other vendors. Every school district must buy new computers, new teaching materials, and new bandwidth for the testing. At a time when school budgets have been cut in most states and many thousands of teachers have been laid off, school districts across the nation will spend billions to pay for Common Core testing. Los Angeles alone committed to spend $1 billion on iPads for the tests; the money is being taken from a bond issue approved by voters for construction and repair of school facilities. Meanwhile, the district has cut teachers of the arts, class size has increased, and necessary repairs are deferred because the money will be spent on iPads. The iPads will be obsolete in a year or two, and the Pearson content loaded onto the iPads has only a three-year license. The cost of implementing the Common Core and the new tests is likely to run into the billions at a time of deep budget cuts.

To read Dr. Ravitch’s speech in full, go to the Washington Post.

Post Script:

And for our state, who is responsible for this and how much will it cost?

Thanks to that ed reform bill passing a few years ago, Bill 6696, that the League of Women Voters, Stand for Children and the Washington State PTA, bloated with Gates money, pushed, we now have the Common Core Standards.

From a fellow Parents Across America member and expert on the Common Core Standards in our state:

SB 6696, passed March 11, 2010, authorized the Superintendent of Public Instruction to provisionally adopt a common set of standards developed by a multistate consortium.  Superintendent Randy Dorn did provisionally adopt such a set of standards–the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  He later officially adopted the CCSS.  You can see a timeline with links to supporting documents on the WA State and the Common Core State Standards Official Commitments and Involvement Timeline and References page at http://stopcommoncorewa.wordpress.com/ccss-in-wa/history-and-timeline/.

The implementation of the CCS will cost a fortune.  No one has done a good job of providing an accurate cost estimate and no tracking of costs is taking place.  OSPI’s first estimates are likely a low ball estimate for the state at $300,000,000 with texts and curriculum materials factored in.  Then less than a year later, OSPI tried to make it look like the costs will only be around $23,000,000.  The costs are being passed on to the districts and the taxpayers without it being attributed to the CCS.  See the Cost Estimates for Implementing the Common Core State Standards in Washington State page at http://stopcommoncorewa.wordpress.com/ccss-in-wa/costs/.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Legislative Alert: HB 2133 Student Privacy Bill: Contact the House Education Committee now

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Update: January 22, 2013

House Bill 2133 for Student Privacy has been pulled from Executive Session for revisions and will be rescheduled for a committee vote next week.

Stay tuned.

What is the issue with student privacy?

There are a few:

It used to be that students’ grades, disciplinary records, teachers comments and test scores on standardized tests were kept in files that could only be accessed by personnel in the school or the district. Not so anymore.

The requirements now, thanks to Race to the Top, are that school districts are to hand over more student information than most parents would feel comfortable doing… if they knew what was being collected.

For as little as $1M, our district will be required to turn over a vast amount of information. This will cost the district far more than any amount of money that is rewarded. See The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates and your student’s privacy for the details.

Here are a few items that are being demanded (remarks in italics are mine):

Children ready to succeed in school by kindergarten (will this require pre-K testing?)

Students triggering Early Warning Indicator 1 and 2*

* Early warning indicators are for 6th and 9th grade students. EW1: Six or more absences and one or more course failure(s). EW2: One or more suspension(s) or expulsion(s)

Students who graduate high school on time

Students at community and technical colleges enrolling in pre-college coursework

Students who enroll in postsecondary education by age 24 (this will require tracking students beyond high school graduation)

Students who earn a post-secondary credential by age 24 (ditto)

Children born weighing less than 5.5 pounds

Families reading to their children daily

Children meeting age-level expectations at the end of preschool (Pre-school testing?)

English language learning students making progress in learning English

Students absent 20 or more days per year

Students who make a non-promotional school change

Students motivated and engaged to succeed in school (How is this measured?)

Students attending schools with low state achievement index ratings

Females age 15-17 giving birth

8th graders reporting select risk factors on the Healthy Youth Survey

Students exhibiting 21st century skills (?)

High school graduates completing a formal career and technical education program (This also requires tracking students beyond high school)

Graduating College Bound students who have completed the FAFSA

Students who directly enroll in postsecondary education

Students who did not complete high school on time who achieve a postsecondary credential

Students employed within 1 and 5 years of completing or leaving postsecondary education, including wage (Again, a requirement to track students past high school graduation.)

There is additional information that is required. To see the details, go to CCER, the Road Map Project and the loss of student privacy.

Is this more than you want others to know about your child?

Is it OK with you that any third-party who has an interest, commercial or otherwise, will be able to access this information including the Seattle Times?

Do you think this requirement for data could ultimately expand into additional areas of a students’ life?

House Bill 2133, Maintaining privacy of student educational records, has been revised since the public hearing last Wednesday.

The revised bill will require parental or guardian notification and consent for the sharing of student information.

If you are concerned and you live in the state of Washington, then contact the House Committee on Education and let them know as soon as possible. The committee will be meeting this Wednesday, January 22nd, to vote on whether the bill will move forward or not.

Santos, Sharon Tomiko (D) Chair JLOB 321 (360) 786-7944
Stonier, Monica (D) Vice Chair JLOB 309 (360) 786-7994
Dahlquist, Cathy (R) * JLOB 426 (360) 786-7846
Magendanz, Chad (R) ** JLOB 427 (360) 786-7876
Bergquist, Steve (D) JLOB 322 (360) 786-7862
Fey, Jake (D) JLOB 330 (360) 786-7974
Haigh, Kathy (D) JLOB 320 (360) 786-7966
Hargrove, Mark (R) JLOB 409 (360) 786-7918
Hawkins, Brad (R) LEG 122G (360) 786-7832
Hayes, Dave (R) JLOB 467 (360) 786-7914
Hunt, Sam (D) LEG 438B (360) 786-7992
Klippert, Brad (R) JLOB 410 (360) 786-7882
Lytton, Kristine (D) JLOB 310 (360) 786-7800
Muri, Dick (R) JLOB 424 (360) 786-7890
Orwall, Tina (D) JLOB 326 (360) 786-7834
Parker, Kevin (R) JLOB 421 (360) 786-7922
Pollet, Gerry (D) JLOB 317 (360) 786-7886
Seaquist, Larry (D) LEG 132C (360) 786-7802
Warnick, Judy (R) LEG 427 (360) 786-7932

Next we will need to know who is getting what in terms of our student’s data. Too many agreements have been made behind closed doors about student information without our knowledge.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Post Script:

How Murdoch, Bill Gates and Big Corporations Are Data Mining Our Schools

gates mining

Last week, students across New York finished a set of tests taken over a two week period designed to measure their proficiency at reading and math against new federal college readiness standards known as Common Core. Some parents opted their children out of the exams in protest against what they described as the school system’s over-emphasis on testing and its use of data as the principle indicator of their children’s achievement.

Starting next year, those scores, along with students’ personal information – race, economic background, report cards, discipline records and personal addresses – will be stored in a database designed by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

That’s right, Rupert Murdoch can read your child’s report card anytime he likes and he knows where your kid is sleeping. The database will be managed by inBloom inc, a non-profit outfit that, like Wireless Generation, is under the domain of billionaire Bill Gates – who, together with the Carnegie Corporation and other philanthropic organizations, set up the company via his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

inBloom is receiving $50 million for their services from the New York Education Department through a contract awarded last fall. Data analyzing firms, educational software designers and other third-party venders, both for and not-for-profit, will be granted access to student information.

inBloom is receiving $50 million for their services from the New York Education Department through a contract awarded last fall. Data analyzing firms, educational software designers and other third-party venders, both for and not-for-profit, will be granted access to student information.

New York is not alone in turning to student data tracking system to measure performance. Some 200,000 U.S. teachers use Wireless Generation software as part of a national trend in which education administrators are increasingly turning to data analysis to grasp why America’s pupils are flunking when compared to the rest of the world.

To read more on this, go to the Indypendent.

Testimony regarding Race to the Top funds for Seattle and student privacy

privacy

The following is testimony that I will be giving at the Seattle School Board meeting on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 regarding the approval of Race to the Top funding that is to be approved by the school board.

Good evening.

As many districts around the country have discovered, Race to the Top money comes with strings attached. Many districts have been loath to meet their part of the bargain after understanding what the price would be. States and districts have pulled out of the race after discovering that their part of the bargain could not be paid for, literally.

I understand the importance of funding education but this easy money has come with a price. For us, the payment for this funding is the loss of privacy for our students.

There are 38 items of information that we are to provide to the US Department of Education about our students. This list can be viewed on the home page of the Seattle Education blog. This information will in turn be uploaded into a data bank such as inBloom, a platform created with $100M of Gates money to store data ultimately on every student in every state. The protections of FERPA have been peeled away through amendments that were made to it in 2008 and 2011 by the Obama administration so that any interested third party can have access to this data.

Besides the loss of privacy, another promise that we have made is to have all students, starting in pre-Kindergarten, be assessed with no end date agreed to. Assessments means testing, possibly as much as three times each year as is done with the MAP test. This information will also be available to any third party with an interest in making a profit by selling everything from software to books and lesson plans to districts and marketed as customized to those students. This information will stay in place for an unlimited amount of time because without the previous FERPA protections, a parent now cannot request that this information be erased out of the data bank.

Assessment testing of this magnitude will cost millions of dollars and before the board approves this proposal, there should be an understanding of how much we will have to pay in terms of assessments and the gathering of information and for how long this is to continue.

Some of the highlights of the 38 “indicators” that are to be provided, besides test scores, is as follows:

% of children born weighing less than 5.5 pounds
% of eligible children enrolled in select formal early learning programs
% of families reading to their children daily
% of children meeting age-level expectations at the end of preschool
% of students absent 20 or more days per year
% of students who make a non-promotional school change
% of students motivated and engaged to succeed in school
% of females age 15-17 giving birth
% of students exhibiting 21st century skills
% of high school graduates completing a formal career and technical education program
% of students employed within 1 and 5 years of completing or leaving postsecondary education, including wage

By the time all of this information is mined and correlated, there will be no money left for the programs that the Road Map Project promised will diminish the self-professed achievement gap.

Please take a look at the promises that we have made to Education Secretary Arne Duncan in terms of the information we are to provide to ensure that we are not burdened with a bill we cannot pay.

Thank you

Post Script:

A must watch by all parents is this video of Parents Across America Co-Founder Leonie Haimson discussing inBloom and data security in Chicago on November 22, 2013, at a forum hosted by Parents United for Responsible Education and More Than A Score:

To follow are links regarding the issue of student privacy and the pushback by parents:

CCER, the Road Map Project and the loss of student privacy

Privacy concerns grow over Gates-funded student database

NYC Parents Raise Questions About InBloom

From Politico:

INBLOOM OFF THE ROSE? — Another state has pulled out of using the Gates Foundation’s $100 million technology service project, inBloom. The withdrawal further shrinks the project after other states pulled out in part because of concern about protecting students’ privacy. Guilford County, N.C. told POLITICO on Wednesday that the state decided to stop using the service, which is designed to hold information about students including names, socioeconomic status, test scores, disabilities, discipline records and more in one place, and ideally, help in customizing students’ education.

Guilford schools’ departure doesn’t put the project in any kind of jeopardy, inBloom said, although Louisiana withdrew in April and other states once affiliated with the project no longer are. That leaves New York, two Illinois districts and one Colorado district as firm participants for now; Massachusetts is on the fence. At first inBloom will be free, but by 2015 states and districts using it will be charged $2 to $5 per student for the service.

InBloom and the need to protect student privacy: Overview for parents, teachers and students

Chicago School System Decides Against Partnership With inBloom

Parents say no to sharing student data

Parent Opposition Slims Student Data Collection

Submitted by Dora Taylor

The Weekly Update: Money, power and corruption; Gates is not so sure his ideas will work…but, oh well; TFA, Inc cashes in again and more

error

Corruption kills.

This post is dedicated to Laporshia Massey.

From Parents United for Public Education in Philadelphia:

Her name is Laporshia Massey and our hearts are breaking

laporshia-massey
Our hearts are breaking over the death of beautiful 12 year old Bryant Elementary student Laporshia Massey, who died following an asthma attack that apparently started at school.  We grieve for her entire family and the Bryant community.

According to the City Paper, Laporshia became ill during the school day. No nurse was scheduled. Laporshia called a family member, telling her repeatedly, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” A staff person drove the sixth grader home.

Seeing his daughter’s state when she arrived home at about 3:15 p.m., [father Daniel] Burch says, he immediately gave her medication and then rushed her to the hospital. She collapsed in the car, at which point Burch flagged down a passing ambulance in the middle of traffic. Burch says his daughter later died at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which could not confirm any details, including the time of her arrival, due to privacy constraints.

“They told her school was almost out, and she’d get out of school and go straight home,” says one district source, who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the press. “She went to the teacher,” who told her “there’s no nurse, and just to be calm.”

In January 2012, the District moved to a 1:1500 nurse to student ratio, the maximum allowed by state law. Previously the District had held to a 1:750 nurse to student ratio, which still meant the majority of public schools lacked a full-time school nurse. Ratios are established by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, rather than the Department of Education.

The District currently has 179 school nurses serving 331 public, private and Catholic schools. Only 82 public schools have full-time nurses, according to a Philadelphia school nurse organizer; one Catholic school also has a full-time nurse, paid for from the District’s budget. The rest are allocated at the 1:1500 student ratio.

To read this post in full, go to Parents United for Public Education.

No nurses, no counselors, no librarians. Where did all that Race to the Top money go?

Our children are becoming the most vulnerable rather than the most protected in our country. What are our priorities?

On the Edge of Poverty, at the Center of a Debate on Food Stamps

Making Food Last Republicans are pushing to scale down the food stamp program, which now assists nearly 48 million Americans.

 “We don’t splurge,” Ms. Adams said, “and it doesn’t last.” She shops at Save-A-Lot and cooks frequently with pasta, because it is filling. One recent evening, she baked a tray of mostaccioli, an Italian pasta, with meat and cheese. Hoping it would last for two meals, she had none herself. “You hate to tell your child, ‘You can’t eat this, you have to save it for another day,’ ” she said.
“We don’t splurge,” Ms. Adams said, “and it doesn’t last.”
She shops at Save-A-Lot and cooks frequently with pasta, because it is filling. One recent evening, she baked a tray of mostaccioli, an Italian pasta, with meat and cheese. Hoping it would last for two meals, she had none herself.
“You hate to tell your child, ‘You can’t eat this, you have to save it for another day,’ ” she said.

As a self-described “true Southern man” — and reluctant recipient of food stamps — Dustin Rigsby, a struggling mechanic, hunts deer, doves and squirrels to help feed his family. He shops for grocery bargains, cooks budget-stretching stews and limits himself to one meal a day.

Dustin Rigsby unlocked his front door after returning home from food shopping with food stamps in Dyersburg.
Dustin Rigsby unlocked his front door after returning home from food shopping with food stamps in Dyersburg.

Tarnisha Adams, who left her job skinning hogs at a slaughterhouse when she became ill with cancer, gets $352 a month in food stamps for herself and three college-age sons. She buys discount meat and canned vegetables, cheaper than fresh. Like Mr. Rigsby, she eats once a day — “if I eat,” she said.

When Congress officially returns to Washington next week, the diets of families like the Rigsbys and the Adamses will be caught up in a debate over deficit reduction. Republicans, alarmed by a rise in food stamp enrollment, are pushing to revamp and scale down the program. Democrats are resisting the cuts.

No matter what Congress decides, benefits will be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires.

Yet as lawmakers cast the fight in terms of spending, nonpartisan budget analysts and hunger relief advocates warn of a spike in “food insecurity” among Americans who, as Mr. Rigsby said recently, “look like we are fine,” but live on the edge of poverty, skipping meals and rationing food.

The home of Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, who recently voted for a farm bill that eliminated food stamps.
The home of Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, who recently voted for a farm bill that eliminated food stamps.

Surrounded by corn and soybean farms — including one owned by the local Republican congressman, Representative Stephen Fincher — Dyersburg, about 75 miles north of Memphis, provides an eye-opening view into Washington’s food stamp debate. Mr. Fincher, who was elected in 2010 on a Tea Party wave and collected nearly $3.5 million in farm subsidies from the government from 1999 to 2012, recently voted for a farm bill that omitted food stamps.

“The role of citizens, of Christianity, of humanity, is to take care of each other, not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country,” Mr. Fincher, whose office did not respond to interview requests, said after his vote in May. In response to a Democrat who invoked the Bible during the food stamp debate in Congress, Mr. Fincher cited his own biblical phrase. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said.

To read this article in full, go to the New York Times.

During the shutdown, while Congress kept all their staffers and their private gym remained open but the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC) which helps pregnant women and new moms buy healthy food and provides health care referrals was closed until further notice; the military kept rolling along but the National Institute of Health stopped answering hotline calls about medical questions, its seasonal flu program was put on hold and there was a “significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations”, one special “non-profit”, tax exempt organization benefited.

From the Washington Post:

The debt deal’s gift to Teach For America (yes, TFA)

This makes a rich,”Nonprofit” even more powerful, when they “sneak” their HQT language, once again, into a budget bill. Yes, for those of you who were not aware of what happened, Teach For America was able to continue the resolution that notes that all of its novice recruits, who train to work with children over a one-week leadership and four-week teacher preparation program, are highly qualified across all disciplines, including special education through 2016.

Unobtrusively slipped into the debt deal that Congress passed late Wednesday night to reopen the federal government after 16 days and allow the United States to keep borrowing money to pay its bills is a provision about school reform that will make Teach For America very happy.

In language that does not give a hint about its real meaning, the deal extends by two years legislation that allows the phrase “highly qualified teachers” to include students still in teacher training programs — and Teach For America’s  recruits who get five weeks of summer training shortly after they have graduated from college, and are then placed in some of America’s neediest schools.

On page 20 of this bill passed by the House, it says:

SEC. 145. Subsection (b) of section 163 of Public 5 Law 111-242, as amended, is further amended by striking 6 ”2013-2014” and inserting ”2015-2016”.

The law that is being amended includes the highly qualified provision, which Teach For America and other school reformers had persuaded legislators to pass a few years ago.

Under No Child Left Behind,  all children are supposed to have highly qualified teachers, school districts are supposed to let parents know which teachers are not highly qualified, and these teachers are supposed to be equitably distributed in schools. They aren’t. It turns out that teachers still in training programs are disproportionately concentrated in schools serving low-income students and students of color, the very children who need the very best the teaching profession has to offer. The inequitable distribution of these teachers also has a disproportionate impact on students with disabilities.

To read this post in full, go to Valerie Strauss’ column.

tfa (2)

TFA, Inc. was also in the news in the Harvard Crimson:

Don’t Teach For America
“Education reform” that helps only your resume

Last month, I got an email from a recruiter. An associate of Teach For America, citing a minor leadership role in a student organization as evidence that I “have distinguished [myself] as a leader here on Harvard’s campus,” asked me to meet with Harvard’s TFA representative on campus. Dropping phrases like “race and class,” “equal opportunities,” and “educational injustice,” the recruiter promised that I could have a significant impact on a classroom in an underserved community.

I have thought for many years about teaching high school history. But I stopped replying to this email after a few exchanges.

I am not interested in TFA.

For one, I am far from ready to enter a classroom on my own. Indeed, in my experience Harvard students have increasingly acknowledged that TFA drastically underprepares its recruits for the reality of teaching. But more importantly, TFA is not only sending young, idealistic, and inexperienced college grads into schools in neighborhoods different from where they’re from—it’s also working to destroy the American public education system. As a hopeful future teacher, that is not something I could ever conscionably put my name behind.

Wendy Kopp
Wendy Kopp

Princeton alumna Wendy Kopp originally founded TFA with the mission of filling teacher shortages in U.S. public schools. The program, which helps young college grads find placements teaching in public schools after they graduate from college, combines the persistence of a five-person recruiting team with the cache of a competitive on-campus-interview process. It has quickly become one of the most popular destinations for Harvard seniors after graduation.

Clearly, some Harvard students still believe that TFA’s model of recruiting young idealists, throwing them into five weeks of intensive training, and then placing them into schools in neighborhoods very unlike the ones they came from is truly the answer to everything from income inequality to underfunded public school systems. Perhaps they even think that teaching is such an unattractive profession that bright college graduates should be bribed with a feel-good resume booster to fill the vast shortage of competent teachers in the United States.

But it has become increasingly clear to anyone who thinks critically about teaching that there’s something off with TFA’s model. After all, TFA alumni repeatedly describe their stints in the American public education system as some of the hardest two years of their lives. Doesn’t it bother you to imagine undertrained 22-year-olds standing in front of a crowded classroom and struggling through every class period? Indeed, most of the critiques of TFA in The Crimson have focused on students’ unpreparedness to teach.

However, unpreparedness pales in comparison to the much larger problem with TFA: It undermines the American public education system from the very foundation by urging the replacement of experienced career teachers with a neoliberal model of interchangeable educators and standardized testing. If TFA intended to place students in schools with insufficient numbers of teachers, it has strayed far from its original goal. As an essay by Chicago teacher Kenzo Shibata asked last summer, “Teach For America wanted to help stem a teacher shortage. Why then are thousands of experienced educators being replaced by hundreds of new college graduates?” Journalist James Cersonsky notes that veteran teachers and schools alike may suffer from this type of reform: “Districts pay thousands in fees to TFA for each corps member in addition to their salaries—at the expense of the existing teacher workforce. Chicago, for example, is closing 48 schools and laying off 850 teachers and staff while welcoming 350 corps members.”

To read this article in full, go to the Harvard Crimson.

Now it seems that Gates is having second thoughts about his ideas on education, at least for the rest of us. He has finally admitted, in so many words, that our children are simply guinea pigs and maybe in ten years, after a generation of students have move through the public school system that he has had a hand in deforming, we’ll all see if it was a good idea or not.

From the Washington Post:

Bill Gates: ‘It would be great if our education stuff worked but…’

“It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”

gates5

That’s what Bill Gates said on Sept. 21 (see video below) about the billions of dollars his foundation has plowed into education reform during a nearly hour-long interview he gave at Harvard University. He repeated the “we don’t know if it will work” refrain about his reform efforts a few days later during a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative.

Hmmm. Teachers around the country are saddled every single year with teacher evaluation systems that his foundation has funded, based on no record of success and highly questionable “research.” And now Gates says he won’t know if the reforms he is funding will work for another decade. But teachers can lose their jobs now because of reforms he is funding.

In the past he sounded  pretty sure of what he was doing.   In this 2011 oped in The Washington Post, he wrote:

What should policymakers do? One approach is to get more students in front of top teachers by identifying the top 25 percent of teachers and asking them to take on four or five more students.

Actually, that’s not an approach any educator I know would think is a good idea, but Gates had decided that class size doesn’t really matter. Earlier, he had put some $2 billion into forming small schools out of large high schools, on the theory that small schools would better serve students. When the initiative didn’t work out as he hoped, he moved on by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on teacher evaluation systems that in part linked teacher assessments to student standardized test scores, an approach that many assessment experts have warned against.

Now he says that the success of his experiments on public education won’t be known for a decade, but we already know that evaluating teachers by student test scores is a bad idea.

Education reform should not be driven by private philanthropists with their own agendas, however well-intentioned.

To read this article in full, go to Valerie Strauss’ column.

So, let’s see if Bill’s musings on education are working for our students now.

To begin with, the school districts of Chicago and Philadelphia where the grand experiment began look more like the wastelands of Iraq than Pleasantville, USA with schools closing dozens at a time leaving neighborhoods and communities without a center, public school funding is being sucked up by corporate owned charter schools leaving children vulnerable to violence when gang territories are merged, other students being pushed out of charter schools when they become too much of a financial liability just to return to public schools with nothing left in them including necessary staff such as nurses and counselors and not enough special education teachers for all of the students who were “counseled out” of charter schools.

How is that working out for us? Should we cut our losses now and tell Bill to stick to sculpture parks and public libraries?

Let’s take a look at the Common Core Standards, another Bill fave, with its endless testing and data mining of students’ personal information to be housed indefinitely in computer vaults created by Murdoch and Gates.

How are parents feeling about that now?

Parents Launch Executive Order to Stop Common Core and to Stop Student Data Mining

This week, a group of Florida parents, supported by parents and educators nationwide, released an executive order, demanding an end to Common Core and the parentally unauthorized student data mining that’s taking place in every state.

As parents, we claim the privilege of directing our childrens’ educations, free from SLDS (state longitudinal database tracking systems), free from Common Core-aligned testing, standards, or “model” curriculum; free from private trade group EIMAC/CCSSO data collection, free from federal micromanagement, free from federal “accountability”; free from the both student and teacher data mining and tracking that is offensive to individual liberty and to Constitutional, local control.

As parents and teachers, we claim the privilege outlined in the Declaration of Independence that government is by consent of the governed. We, the governed, have not been asked nor have we approved these unvetted standards and systems. Therefore, any governance of children or school staff under the Common Core agenda is simply invalid.

Why: The promises of the promoters of the Common Core Standards do not add up. The evidence is overwhelming, and increases daily, that the Common Core agenda damages where it claims to serve; yet those who push back against the Common Core agenda are disrespected by school boards and in hearings around the nation. This is outrageous. We are the children’s parents; children are not the government’s human capital” despite what the Department of Education repeatedly claims.

Along with the executive order, parents have issued a longer, referenced document that explains the reasoning behind the executive order. This document is entitled “Welcome to the Common Core Fuzzy Math: Common Core Equals Conditions Plus Coercion Plus Conflict of Interest.”

Here is a partial list of all the parent-educator groups working to fight the federal-and-corporate partnered machine of Common Core.

Alabama: http://www.facebook.com/al.againstcommoncorestandards?fref=ts

Alabama: https://www.facebook.com/AlabamiansUnitedForExcellenceInEducation?fref=ts

Alaska: https://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreAK

Arizona: https://www.facebook.com/groups/533815266661341/?fref=ts

Arizona: https://www.facebook.com/groups/178924678928084/

Arkansas: http://www.facebook.com/groups/ARKANSASAGAINSTCOMMONCORE/

Arkansas: https://www.facebook.com/ArkansasAgainstCommonCore?fref=ts

California: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-California/436128033134967?fref=ts

California: https://www.facebook.com/groups/239664519505257/

Colorado: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Parents-and-Educators-Against-Common-Core-Curriculum-in-Colorado/369263259855000

Colorado: https://www.facebook.com Mesa County Citizins/Businesses Against Common Core Curriculum & Colorado Parents Against Common Core

Colorado: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Parent-LED-reform/183654775048900?fref=ts

Connecticut: https://www.facebook.com/TheCommitteeToCombatCommonCoreCurriculumInCT?fref=ts

Connecticut: https://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreinCT

Delaware: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Delaware-Against-Common-Core/141637639346274?ref=ts&fref=ts

Delaware: https://www.facebook.com/groups/157115501116902/

Florida: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Florida/516780045031362

Florida (Central): https://www.facebook.com/groups/CentralFPACC/?fref=ts

Georgia: http://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreInGeorgia?fref=ts

Georgia: https://www.facebook.com/groups/505453512861887/

Idaho: https://www.facebook.com/IdahoansAgainstCommonCore?fref=ts

Idaho: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Idahoans-for-Local-Education/120194641494340?fref=ts

Illinois: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Illinois/388021897963618

Indiana: http://www.facebook.com/HoosierMomsSayNoToCommonCore?fref=ts

Indiana: https://www.facebook.com/HoosiersAgainstCommonCore?fref=ts

Iowa: https://www.facebook.com/IowansforLocalControl

Kansas: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kansans-Against-Common-Core/166572220165485?fref=pb

Kentucky: https://www.facebook.com/KentuckiansAgainstCommonCoreStandards

Louisiana: http://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreLa andhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Louisiana/325178490918603?fref=ts

Maine: https://www.facebook.com/groups/StopCCMaine/?fref=ts

Maryland: https://www.facebook.com/groups/StopCCSSinMaryland/

Michigan: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Michigan/303312003109291?fref=ts

Minnesota: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MinnesotansAgainstCommonCoreStandardsinEducationCG/

Mississippi: https://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreInMississippi

Missouri: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Missouri-Against-Common-Core/115085478685281?fref=ts

Missouri: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Missouri-Education-Watchdog/107272389320928

Missouri: https://www.facebook.com/groups/missouriagainstcommoncore/

Montana: https://www.facebook.com/groups/475298309202714/

Nebraska: https://www.facebook.com/groups/nebraskafamilypolicyforum/

Nevada: https://www.facebook.com/groups/183062228539486/184305295081846/?notif_t=group_activity

New Hampshire:https://www.facebook.com/NHSchoolChoice; https://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreInNH?ref=hl; https://www.facebook.com/CornerstonePolicyResearch?ref=hl

New Hampshire: http://nhfamiliesforeducation.org/;https://www.facebook.com/groups/nhfamiliesforeducation

New Mexico: http://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreInNewMexico

New Jersey: https://www.facebook.com/pages/CURE-NJ/274974855970782

New Jersey: https://www.facebook.com/groups/220888071386355

New Jersey: http://www.facebook.com/groups/363967600385017/

New York: https://www.facebook.com/groups/607166125977337/

New York (State Island specifically): http://www.facebook.com/groups/638305829518125/

New York (Long Island specifically): https://www.facebook.com/groups/141680156005331/

North Carolina: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-NC/150345585132550?fref=ts

North Dakota: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-North-Dakota/431076243650481

Ohio: http://www.facebook.com/OhioCommonCore

Ohio: https://www.facebook.com/groups/415835035179973/

Ohio: https://www.facebook.com/groups/516040641778582/?bookmark_t=group

Oklahoma: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Restore-Oklahoma-Public-Education/116011401766695

Oregon: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Oregon/310461619079878

Pennsylvania: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pennsylvanians-Against-Common-Core/566916409995216

Rhode Island: https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=542616145789229&_mn_=11&refid=7&_ft_=qid.5865817560745279255%3Amf_story_key.-1168715708737317007

Rhode Island: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-common-core-in-Rhode-Island/542616145789229?ref=ts&fref=ts

South Carolina: https://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreInSouthCarolina?ref=stream

South Dakota: http://www.facebook.com/SouthDakotansAgainstCommonCore

South Dakota: http://www.facebook.com/groups/stop.common.core.in.south.dakota/

Tennessee: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Tennessee/322248557894269?fref=ts

Texas: https://www.facebook.com/groups/157776591054666/

Utah: http://www.facebook.com/UtahnsAgainstCommonCore

Virginia: https://www.facebook.com/groups/134077993445892/

Washington State Group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/WAstateAgainstCommonCore/?fref=ts

Washington State Page: http://stopcommoncorewa.wordpress.com/

West Virginia: https://www.facebook.com/pages/WV-Against-Common-Core/359684890815537

Wisconsin: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Wisconsin/185213384959404?ref=ts&fref=ts

Wyoming: https://www.facebook.com/groups/434220420005865/

Special Education Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/249171258560458/249174031893514

Gee, I don’t know Bill, looks like you’re in the minority on this one.

Bill’s been so busy paying for research papers to prove his ideas are right, funding charter school initiatives, pouring money into one faux roots group after another and creating the NSA of public schools with inBloom, that a few key aspects of education were forgotten like…libraries.

A Nation Without School Librarians

LibrariansTo view the interactive map above, go to the Google map.)

“This map marks the cities, towns, communities, and states that have made the decision to either eliminate certified school library positions (indicated in blue) or require one school librarian to work with two (2) or more school library programs throughout the week (indicated in red).

Although hundreds of studies show the impact that School Librarians have on student achievement, these school districts believe otherwise.

Let’s compare the student achievement scores without a school librarian in a year or so to discover what thousands of library supporters already knew.

School Librarians DO make a difference!”

But Nancy White said it best….

• “In these schools, who will teach the children how to effectively search for information?
• In these schools, who will teach them how to discern the good information from the questionable?
• In these schools, who will model for the children how to persist in their information-seeking tasks?
• In these schools, who will select engaging books that can capture the imagination of students and promote a lifelong joy of reading? …”

When it comes to Bill Gates’ report card, I don’t think anyone can say it better than the US Department of Education itself, a place staffed by Bill Gates and Eli Broad disciples:

Education Department suspends ‘Doing What Works’ website

DOE

The U.S. Education Department routinely awards millions of dollars in grants to states and organizations, but it seems that it doesn’t have enough money to maintain its “Doing What Works” Web site.

Here’s a description on what it used to offer, from a department website page:

Videos, slideshows, and tools for using proven teaching practices. Based on findings from the What Works Clearinghouse. GO (http://dww.ed.gov/)

Subscribers to the Doing What Works site recently received the following e-mail:

Dear subscriber: The U.S. Department of Education has suspended operation of the Doing What Works website. We sincerely regret this unfortunate event. You can still acquire many DWW media and materials through other channels. Please email dww@wested.org for specific instructions on how you can gain access to DWW media and materials. Sincerely, The DWW Team

The site has already disappeared.

According to Massie Ritsch, the department had no money for Doing What Works. He said in an e-mail:

The ED office managing Doing What Works did not have sufficient funding to continue operating the website and producing new material, but we are working to place the archive of resources on another site for educators to use.

I won’t mention the irony in the fact that department spends millions on school reform that has no proven record of success but ran out of cash for its Doing What Works website.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

chicago2

The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates and your student’s privacy

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The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates, a national data bank, Wireless Gen…and FERPA?

One of the deals that we made with the devil when it came to accepting Race to the Top dollars is the relinquishing of our children’s information.

Gates and others have begun to collect information about our children from New York to LA and it is about to happen in Seattle thanks to the efforts of the Road Map project, school administrators are falling all over themselves to receive a pittance of educational funding, $40 M to be split between 7 districts in our state. That’s $5.7M for each school district, if it were to be divided equally.

To put that into perspective, West Seattle High School’s budget for this year is a little over $6M and that does not include building upkeep or other building costs including utilities.

The money will not go into established programs or to help with our budget crunch which happens to be a $32 M shortfall in Seattle, but is to go to “assessing” students starting in pre-school. Assessments basically mean testing on a long-term basis. This is not sustainable but oh well, there is some pie in the sky reasoning about receiving yet another largesse from Bill Gates, and maybe someday we would be able to continue to pay for everything that we have promised to deliver forever.

One of the items on that checklist of deliverables is data and lots of it. That “data” is information about our students.

Per a previous post, A Race to the Top Winner. Really?, the following is the information that people want culled from our students’ “data”.

Road Map On-Track Indicators

The following is a list of the Road Map Project on-track indicators. These are reported annually against specific targets.

% of children ready to succeed in school by kindergarten

% of students who are proficient in:

3rd grade reading

4th grade math

5th grade science

6th grade reading

7th grade math

8th grade science

% of students triggering Early Warning Indicator 1*

% of students triggering Early Warning Indicator 2*

% of students who graduate high school on time

% of graduating high school students meeting minimum requirements to apply to a Washington state 4-year college

% of students at community and technical colleges enrolling in pre-college coursework

% of students who enroll in postsecondary education by age 24

% of students continuing past the first year of postsecondary

% students who earn a post-secondary credential by age 24

* Early warning indicators are for 6th and 9th grade students. EW1: Six or more absences and one or more course failure(s). EW2: One or more suspension(s) or expulsion(s)

Other Indicators to be Reported

The following is a list of the Road Map Project contributing indicators. These are reported annually or whenever possible, but do not have specific targets. These contributing indicators combined with the on-track indicators make up the full list of Road map Project indicators.

% of children born weighing less than 5.5 pounds

% of eligible children enrolled in select formal early learning programs

% of licensed childcare centers meeting quality criteria

% of families reading to their children daily

% of children meeting age-level expectations at the end of preschool

% of children enrolled in full-day kindergarten

% of students taking algebra by the 8th grade

% of students passing the exams required for high school graduation

% of English language learning students making progress in learning English

% of students taking one or more Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses

% of students absent 20 or more days per year

% of students who make a non-promotional school change

% of students motivated and engaged to succeed in school

% of students attending schools with low state achievement index ratings

% of females age 15-17 giving birth

% of 8th graders reporting select risk factors on the Healthy Youth Survey

% of students exhibiting 21st century skills

% of students who graduate high school by age 21

% of high school graduates completing a formal career and technical education program

% of eligible students who complete the College Bound application by the end of 8th grade

% of graduating College Bound students who have completed the FAFSA

% of students who directly enroll in postsecondary education

% of students who did not complete high school on time who achieve a postsecondary credential

% of students employed within 1 and 5 years of completing or leaving postsecondary education, including wage

Quite frankly, by the time all of this information is mined and correlated, there will be no money left for all of the wonderful programs that the Road Map Project professes will diminish the achievement gap forever. But, oh well, we won Race to the Top money! Woo-hoo!

Oh the excitement when Seattle found out we were receiving RTTT funds! Front row center, Dr. Susan Enfield, former Acting Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools (SPS), now Superintendent at Highline School District, right front row, former Superintendent of Renton School District, Dr. Mary. Alice Heuschel, who brought TFA Inc. into the district over parents' objections last year and is now Chief of Staff for Washington Governor, Jay Inslee. Coincidence? 2nd row far right, our present SPS Superintendent, Jose Banda.
Oh the excitement when Seattle found out we were receiving RTTT funds! Front row center, Dr. Susan Enfield, former Acting Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools (SPS), now Superintendent at Highline School District, right front row, former Superintendent of Renton School District, Dr. Mary. Alice Heuschel, who brought TFA Inc. into the district over parents’ objections last year and is now Chief of Staff for Washington Governor, Jay Inslee. Coincidence? 2nd row far right, our present SPS Superintendent, Jose Banda.

Now about FERPA, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

This is the pertinent proviso in FERPA per the Department of Education’s website:

      • Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):
      • School officials with legitimate educational interest;
      • Other schools to which a student is transferring;
      • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
      • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
      • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
      • Accrediting organizations;
      • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
      • Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
      • State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.

Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.

It does not appear that what the state and various districts have signed onto jibes with a student’s right to privacy. And why is that? Read on.

Update: From Diane Ravitch’s post, What You Need to Know About Your Children’s Privacy Rights:

In 2008 and 2011, amendments to FERPA gave third parties, including private companies, increased access to student data. It is significant that in 2008, the amendments to FERPA expanded the definitions of “school officials” who have access to student data to include “contractors, consultants, volunteers, and other parties to whom an educational agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions it would otherwise use employees to perform.” This change has the effect of increasing the market for student data.

In Seattle student information was placed in the hands of a marketing company. See: Should the School District Be Allowed to Give Our Kids’ Phone numbers, Addresses and Photos to Every Tom, Dick and Pollster?

Needless to say, a system can also be hacked into but at this time, there is no need to hack into a system when people within the district will pass off information to anyone considered having an “interest” in a student’s education.

aclu

At least in Massachusetts they are trying to stop the flow of untethered information of our children. Consider the following, a letter from the ACLU to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

February 5, 2013

Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

75 Pleasant Street

Malden, MA 02148

Dear Board Members,

It has come to our attention that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education intends to share confidential student and teacher data with the Gates Foundation, as part of its Shared Learning Collaborative, consisting of personally identifiable information including student names, test scores, grades, disciplinary and attendance records, and most likely, special education needs, economic status, and racial identity as well. 

The Gates Foundation is building a national “data store” of such information, and intends to hand all this information to a new, separate corporation, which in turn plans to make it available to commercial vendors to help them develop and market their “learning products.”[1][1] The operating system of this “data store” is being built by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of the News Corporation, which has been investigated for violating the privacy of individuals both here in the United States and in Great Britain.[2][2]

The Foundation has stated that this new corporation, inBloom, will be financially sustainable and independent of philanthropic support by 2016, meaning that states, districts, and/or vendors will likely have to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the “data store,” which is to be placed on a cloud run by Amazon.com.[3][3] Of particular concern, inBloom has stated that it “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored in inBloom or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted” to third party vendors.”[4][4]

We have grave concerns about this unprecedented plan to disclose highly sensitive information with private entities, and we urge you to take the following steps to ensure that student privacy rights are fully protected:

1. 1.   Provide and post publicly the contract between the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Gates Foundation concerning this matter;

2.  2.  Hold hearings and explain to the public what specific confidential information will be shared and for what purposes;

3.  3.  Require parental consent before a child’s data is shared with the Gates Foundation or any other private corporation that intends to store it and/or make it available to others, as FERPA requires[5][5];

4. 4.  Promise that this data will never be used for commercial purposes;

5.  5. Ensure maximum protections against data breaches and explain who will be held liable if a child’s personal information leaks out or is used in an unauthorized fashion;

6.  6. Explain what resources are being used to facilitate this project, and what further costs will accrue to state taxpayers for the long-term maintenance of this “data store,” once the new corporation becomes independent of philanthropic support;

7.  7.  Create an advisory group to oversee this project, including public school parents, advocates, independent experts in data security and privacy, and other stakeholder groups.

The Federal Trade Commission has recently strengthened restrictions on the capture and use of a child’s personally identifiable information, in recognition of the huge risks to safety and privacy that occur when commercial entities obtain access to it.[6][6] The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should be leading the effort to protect this data, rather than involved in facilitating its disclosure. The Board should have as its top priority securing the privacy rights of the state’s schoolchildren and their families, rather than serving the interests of private corporations. Until and unless the above steps are taken, we trust that you will not allow any disclosures to occur.

We await your reply,

ACLU of Massachusetts

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Citizens for Public Schools

But there’s more bad news:

K-12 student database jazzes tech startups, spooks parents

A guard helps a student cross an intersection in Pelham,
A guard helps a student cross an intersection in Pelham,

By Stephanie Simon

An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as startups eagerly show off their latest wares.

But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.

In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.

Local education officials retain legal control over their students’ information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.

Entrepreneurs can’t wait.

“This is going to be a huge win for us,” said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software.

CompassLearning will join two dozen technology companies at this week’s SXSWedu conference in demonstrating how they might mine the database to create custom products – educational games for students, lesson plans for teachers, progress reports for principals.

The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc, which will run it.

States and school districts can choose whether they want to input their student records into the system; the service is free for now, though inBloom officials say they will likely start to charge fees in 2015. So far, seven states – Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Massachusetts – have committed to enter data from select school districts. Louisiana and New York will be entering nearly all student records statewide.

“We look at personalized learning as the next big leap forward in education,” said Brandon Williams, a director at the Illinois State Board of Education.

IF DATA LEAKS, WHAT REMEDIES?

Federal officials say the database project complies with privacy laws. Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any “school official” who has a “legitimate educational interest,” according to the Department of Education. The department defines “school official” to include private companies hired by the school, so long as they use the data only for the purposes spelled out in their contracts.

The database also gives school administrators full control over student files, so they could choose to share test scores with a vendor but withhold social security numbers or disability records.

That’s hardly reassuring to many parents.

“Once this information gets out there, it’s going to be abused. There’s no doubt in my mind,” said Jason France, a father of two in Louisiana.

While inBloom pledges to guard the data tightly, its own privacy policy states that it “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored … or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.”

Parents from New York and Louisiana have written state officials in protest. So have the Massachusetts chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and Parent-Teacher Association. If student records leak, are hacked or abused, “What are the remedies for parents?” asked Norman Siegel, a civil liberties attorney in New York who has been working with the protestors. “It’s very troubling.”

To read this article in full, go to REUTERS.

So you see folks, for a mere pittance of cash that our students will never see, all of their data will be collected and sent off into a great unknown called Wireless Gen, to be used in any fashion deemed acceptable by people who we will never know.

And who do you have to thank for this? I’d start with our school board members and the superintendent. At least they can be held accountable even if Gates can’t.

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

For more information see InBloom and the need to protect student privacy:

Overview for parents, teachers and students.