Progressives of all walks, educators, public education and union workers/supporters on site, can we please dig ourselves out of the mountain of feel-good Obama/Dem jottings that pile up here to note that Obama is once again going stage right non-progressive on a major issue - education "reform"?
Obama just wrapped up his health reform victory, ie, Romneycare writ large - which is markedly non-progressive at its core (since I began this diary, a few days ago, we now have his offshore drilling plan and a move to break his promise on the whaling moratorium, to add to an alarming pile up of bad policies and broken promises... ask Greenpeace about the whaling issue) and now President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, are seeking to further GOPify education, to more deeply embed and widely spread the worst aspects of NCLB, the privatization/race for money of our schools and the implementation of off-target policies that target teachers for punishment, which only hurts teachers and does not helps kids.
But dont take it from me - take it from Diane Ravitch whose quote I pulled for this title, from a recent interview on Democracy Now!
Diane Ravitch is a nationally reknowned education historian, someone who has been paying keen attention to education for decades and who has sided with both the left and the right, sometimes with both as when they merged in support of NCLB. She was a former advocate of NCLB, but came to see that it has done more harm than good and has publicly acknowledged her mistake. Here's a brief look at where she stood on it and where she stands now on Obama's ed "reform": Facing Up to Our Ignorance and The Big Idea -- it's bad education policy
Here's a portion of what she said recently about Obama's education plan, on Democracy Now:
DIANE RAVITCH: Well, unfortunately, the Obama administration has adopted and is building on the foundation of No Child Left Behind. [... ] The kids are getting a worse education as a result of No Child Left Behind.
The Obama administration, however, has bought into this rhetoric of accountability and choice, and they’re actually taking the Bush policies to a greater extreme. There is more support from the administration, this administration, for choice, because they have no opposition in the Congress[... ].
They’ve said to the states in the “Race to the Top,” this competition that was just held, that the requirements to be considered are, first of all, that the states have to be committed to privatizing many, many, many public schools. These are called charter schools. They’re privatized schools. The Bush administration would have never gotten away with that, because Congress would have stopped them.
They’ve also required states to commit to evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students, which means that that will put even more emphasis on standardized testing, more drill down of test prep, more emphasis on basic skills. And also, it’s a very unfair measure, [... ].
And Obama has said that he wants to see 5,000 low-performing schools transformed or closed, as we saw just recently in Rhode Island, where the only high school in a desperately poor community is supposed to fire all the teachers, close the school. And I think this is a terrible thing for public education. And I think we’re going to see a devastation of public education over the next—however long this president is in office, unless he changes course, which I hope he will, and doubt that he will.
Last Sunday, as I was reading some of Ravitch's writings on this issue, with Cspan's BookTV on in the background, I suddenly realized she was speaking from my TV... in yet another interview, this one on Afterwords with the Washington Post's education reporter, Valerie Strauss, an interview I recommend. In it Ravitch covers many chapters of her new book, .
In one of these chapters, "The Billionaires' Boys Club," she shines light on the adverse effect of high dollar influence from the private sector, increasingly pumped into our public ed system, eg, the Gates Foundation, to the tune of their mandates. She says, quite simply, it would be far better off for kids learning outcomes, the schools and teachers if the Gates Foundation would put its focus (and money) on addressing poverty issues, which often negatively impact kids' school performance, and get out of the business of managing and reshaping our schools.
It heartens me tremendously that Diane Ravitch is sounding the alarm, out in the forefront to counter Obama's alarmingly flawed education reform, but I have to wonder whether she will get the back up she needs. Why arent there more progressive voices spreading the same message of concern and criticism around Obama's Race to the Top education "reform"?
Ravitch says that since the publication of her book last month she receives hundreds of emails daily, many from teachers, filled with both gratitude for her stance, stories of experience with NCLB misery, and distress over Obama's plan to take us even further in the wrong direction, ie, NCLB testing and "teaching" to test with all its attendant baggage - dumbing down the curriculum, dumbing down the tests, dumbing down the promotional standards, and the cheating to avoid the axe, with teacher performance based on that muddled maze of uninformative testing results, along with rewards and punishments and merit pay based on all that. All this as part of the march to weaken unions and public education, while strengthening the privatization of our system (see: charter-ization/private funding)... etc and so... wrong.
A case in point: Bloomberg/Klein's self-interested horn-blowing of 'victory' in turning around the schools in NYC, based on students' test performance. (Bloomberg has guided us toward the taking of much private money eg, the Gates' "intervention" with its breaking up of high schools plan, now abandoned, deemed not helpful for all the turmoil it created). It has become quite a joke that so many of our schools are now graded "A" - proven to be a sham accomplished by dumbing down standards in testing and promotion. Any wonder why the success, when it's so hard to fail?:
Another part of the problem is that the states have been quietly but decisively lowering their expectations and passing students who know little or nothing. New York State's tests have recently been deconstructed and shown to be a sham. Diana Senechal, a New York City teacher, demonstrated on gothamschools.org a few days ago that she (or anyone) could pass the New York state examinations in the middle school grades by guessing, not even looking at the content of the questions but just answering A, B, C, D, A, B, C, D, in order. Frederick Smith, an independent testing expert, determined that virtually every student got enough credit on the written portion of the state tests to be able to guess randomly on the multiple-choice questions and pass.
Wow and ugh!
Here's more: yet another Ravitch interview in a recent Salon piece on this awful plan, written by a very concerned parent of a child in the NYC school system, who poses questions (bold text) to Ravitch, who lays down the score in her answers (italicized text). It is appropriately titled: Dear Obama: You're destroying education
Yet why not create competition if the public schools aren't doing well? What about the mantra that my own school's principal says all the time about standards and test scores, that the "data doesn't lie"?
Has your principal heard of Ponzi schemes? Has he heard of Enron? The data lie all the time. Business lies all the time. It's easy to fudge the numbers. In New York, for instance, the Board of Ed dropped the passing mark for the tests. In 2006 a seventh-grade student needed to get 59.6 percent to be considered proficient. By 2009 the mark dropped to 44 percent. That produced a dramatic increase in "proficiency."
That's like how our neighborhood school went from earning an F from the Board of Ed to an A in two years.
Last year, when Mike Bloomberg was running for reelection, 97 percent of New York City schools got an A or B. It's about prestige -- these people like Bloomberg are considered leaders and pioneers because they're saying they can improve the data. The data are sanctified and the data are bullshit.
Ravitch, yet again, on the score inflation of NYC, aptly and bluntly titled:
She starts out with this:
Education Secretary Arne Duncan says that when states lower their standards, "We are lying to our children." He must be talking about New York State, which has a well-established record of lying to our children about their progress in school.
Every year, state officials announce another set of dramatic gains on state tests for the children of New York.
Here's how she knows (as well as many others) that this is NOT true:
But last week, the federal government released scores for the nation and the states, and New York did not fare well. In fact, almost all of New York's reported gains for the past seven years disappeared into thin air.
The federal test - the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP - is the gold standard of testing. Congress requires all states to take NAEP tests to audit state claims. The federal audit was an embarrassment for New York.
But then, who can blame those who work in our public schools for accepting and promoting data manipulation when this is, after all, a desperate race to escape the NCLB sword that hangs over their heads... even though the "evidence" of success is as phony as Bush's claims of evidence of WMD in Iraq... New School Order, New World Order -->> The Bush Legacy of FAIL.
So why do Democrats buy into this shite?
Obama is not only putting teachers under that NLCB sword, but also, sharpening the blade, as he and Arne Duncan publicly demonstrated when they applauded the firing of an entire school, Central Falls High, in RI. (Guess Central Falls should have taken a leaf from NY's "fail-proof" ABCD guess-to-success testing instruments... maybe then their heavily disadvantaged, English Language Learner, special needs population wouldve made the grade, and teachers would have been spared that sword. How amazing that a school with the same test results not far away from Central Falls got kudos... because their promotional standard was much lower... so the school made the "grade")
Diane Ravitch is a force to be reckoned with in this fight (witness how many interviews and articles I have linked from her... If one simply googles Diane Ravitch Obama reform, one can find her all over the place, sounding the alarm on Obama's ed "reform" package. But no one can go it alone. (She said she had a very nice conversation with Arne Duncan last fall, but it was clear he wasnt buying her message, that he was singularly focused on the notion of merit pay as answer.)
It concerns me that, as with health care "reform", so many so-called "progressives" are willing to buy into whatever Obama and the Dems issue forth, now with Obama's piss poor model to get kids to gold at the end of the academic rainbow.
None are so blind as those who will not see. In this case, that would be those whose view of whether a policy is rotten or not is determined not by a clear eyed look at the policy, but rather, at whose hand is holding it out - Democrat √, Republican X
And that, like his education policy, is freakin' scary.
As Ravitch says in Obama's Awful Education Plan
This is not change that teachers can believe in. These are exactly the same reforms that President George W. Bush and his Secretary Margaret Spellings would have promoted if they had had a sympathetic Congress. They too wanted more charter schools, more merit pay, more testing, and more "accountability" for teachers based on those same low-level tests. But Congress would never have allowed them to do it.
Now that President Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan have become the standard-bearer for the privatization and testing agenda, we hear nothing more about ditching NCLB, except perhaps changing its name. The fundamental features of NCLB remain intact regardless of what they call it.
The real winners here are the edu-entrepreneurs who are running President Obama's so-called "Race to the Top" fund and distributing the billions to other edu-entrepreneurs, who will manage the thousands of new charter schools and make mega-bucks selling test-prep programs to the schools.
At the end of that Salon piece linked to earlier, the writer asked Ravitch: what can we parents do?
Ravitch starts her response by urging her (all of us) to act: Organize, organize, organize!