All comments due by Feb 2, 2015 at the federal registry here https://www.federalregister.gov/...
In February, while attending a science teacher’s professional development at Mar Vista High School, I first heard the rumor that Mar Vista Middle School (MVM) was going to be closed, all of its staff dismissed and the school reopened as a charter school. Since 1961, this venerable institution has been a treasure in the poverty stricken neighborhood situated one mile north of the world’s busiest border crossing (San Diego-Tijuana). At the March 11, 2013 board meeting (Sweetwater Union High School District) the rumor was confirmed, a restructuring plan for MVM was approved. Or as one person observed, “they legally stole an asset belonging to a poor community for their own purposes.”
The largest change in the history of American education is rolling out across America in a most unusual and imprudent way. The Common Corporate State Standards (CCSS) written by corporations to facilitate profits are a colossal copyrighted Trojan horse. The official CCSS web site says, “The NGA Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) hereby grant a limited, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to copy, publish, distribute, and display the Common Core State Standards for purposes that support the Common Core State Standards Initiative. These uses may involve the Common Core State Standards as a whole or selected excerpts or portions.”(1). It sounds very much like some ‘alphabet soup’ government agency has copyrighted the standards but that is not the case - it would be illegal for a government agency to copyright the standards! No, the corporate sponsors and foundations who finance the private non-profits NGA and CCSSO, who wrote the standards, own the copyright. Bill Gates has more sway over these rights than anyone because he put in the most money. No elected or school official has the legal right to alter any of the standards. They must be used as written. Support for the CCSS has been developed by giving money to generate good media and positive scholarly responses. The standards have not been thoroughly piloted. Curriculum supporting the standards has not been written and educators certainly have not been trained in how best to institute this new approach. In fact, most educators do not know much about the CCSS other than it is supposed to increase testing significantly and anyone who questions CCSS or the rush to implement them is for the status quo and for giving incompetent teachers the right to continue harming children with the aid of their evil teachers union.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to share my thoughts about education policy with Congresswomen, Susan Davis (Democrat CA-53). Like many high government office holders, Davis got her start in the 1980’s as a member of the local school board. I immediately launched into my heartfelt belief that standardized testing was destroying public education and leading to the privatizing of public schools. She almost immediately asked me what I find a peculiar and telling question, “How are we going to monitor schools without testing?” This question implies that standards and standardized testing do indeed present a way of evaluating quality of teaching or schools. They do not. It also implies that monitoring schools is the job of the federal government. It is not. And for someone that had almost a decade working with schools not to know what a good job accrediting organizations do monitoring and guiding schools is significant. It demonstrates why it is so important to promote professionalism in the operation of our schools. Politicians and rich businesspeople are not well enough informed about the intricacies and variables involved in education to run schools and dictate policy. We respect the opinions of professionals in other arts such as the medical field when we make policy because they are experts in a complicated field, likewise we should respect professionalism in education because it is an even more complicated field. The bottom line is that since the passage of NCLB the education of children in how to think has atrophied. Like Diane Ravitch prophesized, “And so we may find that we obtained a paradoxical and terrible outcome: higher test scores and worse education.”(1) Higher test scores because we made that the ultimate goal of our pedagogy and worse education because children are taught discrete pieces of information to recite but get no practice in using that information to reason and create.
Another untested therefore dangerous theory is being foisted on public schools. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are still being written but we already have schedules for implementation. Budget strained school districts across the country are spending money on CCSS implementation. This is not a reasonable approach when radically changing education in America. A new airplane design is tested, a new marketing system is piloted but a radical and significant restructuring of public education is being instituted with no field tests. Diane Ravitch recently wrote, “The Common Core will be implemented in 45 states without that kind of trial. No one knows if they will raise expectations and achievement, whether they will have no effect, whether they will depress achievement, or whether they will be so rigorous that they increase the achievement gaps.” This risky endeavor with the future of America’s children should be abandoned. It is based on bad education philosophy; however, if this foolish approach to education reform cannot be stopped at the minimum it should be implemented in a prudent way. Slow down the entrepreneurs lusting for new business, be responsible stewards for America’s schools and run some thorough field tests on these proposed Common Core State Standards.
In August 2008, many teachers in America and this one in particular were thrilled about Barack Obama’s nomination. Linda Darling-Hammond was a leading spokesperson articulating the Obama campaigns’ education positions. Darling-Hammond had pushed for professional education standards for teachers and had presented data showing the importance of teacher training. Yet, by November Alexander Russo of the Huffington Post was reporting “The possibility of Darling-Hammond being named Secretary has emerged as an especially worrisome possibility among a small but vocal group of younger, reform-minded advocates who supported Obama because he seemed reform-minded on education issues like charter schools, performance pay, and accountability. These reformists seem to perceive Darling-Hammond as a touchy-feely anti-accountability figure who will destroy any chances that Obama will follow through on any of these initiatives.” In December, Obama tapped Chicago’s Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. Because Duncan had no real education experience it was considered highly likely that Darling-Hammond would be the Deputy Secretary of Education. On February 19, 2009 the New Republic reported, “Darling-Hammond was a key education adviser during the election and chaired Obama's transition education policy team. She has been berated heavily by the education reform community, which views her as favoring the status quo in Democratic education policy for her criticisms of alternative teacher certification programs like Teach for America and her ties with teachers' unions.” They reported that she was going home to California to work on other priorities and would not be a part of the new administration.
I suppose there are some bad teachers out there but from my observation in the five schools I have worked in, the phenomena of bad teachers is NOT plaguing public education. This is another one of those canards along with failing schools that are being used to ruin the reputation of public schools in America. Four of the five schools I have worked in are labeled failures by the federal government but I observed that all four “failing” schools had well trained excellent staff members who did their job and produced many gifted students who matriculated to America’s most highly regarded universities. These “failing” schools were not performing well on standardized tests because they were one of the few functional institutions in failed communities.
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