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On March 28, President Obama did a Town Hall Meeting on Education from Bell Multicultural High School in DC televised on Univision.  In his answers to a question from one student, the President made some remarks that seemed somewhat in contradiction to the policies of his Department of Education as demonstrated in Race to the Top and the Blue Print for Education that is the administration's plan for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the most recent version of which is commonly called No Child Left Behind.  

Among those focusing on the apparent contradiction was Anthony Cody, a science education coach in Oakland who is also a regular blogger at the Teacher Magazine Website, his blog called Living in Dialogue.  The following day Anthony (who is a friend and professional colleague) posted Obama Blasts His Own Education Policies.  Anthony was not the only one to notice the discrepancy -  the Bolder Broader Approach to education sent out a remarkably similar sounding email cosigned by among others Tom Payzant and Pedro Noguera on Friday.   Meanwhile, on March 30, Valerie Strauss used her Answer Sheet Blog at the Washington Post to crosspost Anthony's blog.

It would be an understatement to say the Department of Education was not happy.   Please keep reading to see more, and for some of my observations.

Anthony has given me permission to quote as much as I need to in this posting.

In the exchanges back and forth between Anthony and the Department, they asked to be able to explain why the President's remarks were not in conflict with the policies of the Department of Education.   Anthony posed four questions for which he thought answers were necessary.  The Department requested that he not post the questions until they had a chance to respond, and both sides agreed to a time of 12 Noon on Friday, April 1, although Anthony did share the questions in private communications with several of us.

When he had not heard back from the Department of Education by the agreed upon deadline of Noon, at 12:15 or so he posted this diary in which he made public these four question:

Question 1: The original question from the student expressed the view that students have too many tests. President Obama replied:
"we have piled on a lot of standardized tests on our kids," and suggested perhaps we might move to a system that tests less frequently.

Isn't the Department of Education proposing a significant expansion in the frequency of tests, in order to capture growth? Is it not possible we will have tests in the fall and spring both for this purpose? And isn't the Department also proposing to greatly increase the subjects that are tested, beyond reading and math? Won't this have the effect of increasing, rather than decreasing, the number and frequency of tests?

Question 2: President Obama said:

   Too often what we've been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools. And so what we've said is let's find a test that everybody agrees makes sense; let's apply it in a less pressured-packed atmosphere; let's figure out whether we have to do it every year or whether we can do it maybe every several years; and let's make sure that that's not the only way we're judging whether a school is doing well.

The Department of Education's Blueprint for a new NCLB calls for the continuation of the practice of labeling schools as failures, although it will impose this crushing status on only the bottom 5% of our schools. If punishing schools has not worked - as the President acknowledges in this remark, (and was not shown to work in Chicago under then CEO Arne Duncan) why is it being continued for any schools at all?

Question 3: President Obama also said this:

   Because there are other criteria: What's the attendance rate? How are young people performing in terms of basic competency on projects? There are other ways of us measuring whether students are doing well or not.

As a proponent of project-based learning, I am happy to hear the president acknowledge that this form of learning is not measured by current forms of assessment. Will project based learning be included in the assessments used for accountability purposes? If so, how will this be done?

Question 4: President Obama also said:

   So what I want to do is--one thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test. Because then you're not learning about the world; you're not learning about different cultures, you're not learning about science, you're not learning about math. All you're learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and the little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test. And that's not going to make education interesting to you. And young people do well in stuff that they're interested in. They're not going to do as well if it's boring.

Many of the core elements of Race to the Top and the Blueprint are related to test scores. Department of Ed policy calls for the linking of teacher evaluations and pay to student test scores. The Blueprint calls for tracking of student test scores of teachers according to the place they were prepared. We still have the threat of reconstitution hanging over the bottom tier of schools, attended exclusively by children in poverty. All based on test scores. The President described the tests that Sasha and Malia took as "low stakes." All these changes RAISE the stakes on the tests, for teachers and schools. How does this move us towards the "less pressure-packed environment" the President is advocating?

Within the hour, the Department responded with a message that they were giving serious consideration to Anthony's questions and would respond, and Anthony promised to post the answers when received.   More than 5 hours later He received a messsaged with answers to only the first 3 questions, which he posted, and then asked:  

What do you think? Who has been misinterpreting President Obama? Me - or the Department of Education?

My reaction is similar to that of many I know, that Obama however unintentionally spoke what he really believes, which is far more in tune with what he said during the campaign than have been the policies formally proposed by his administration.  That said, that does not mean he is backing away from his education policy as espoused by the Department.   In prepared remarks he never seems to stray from the policies pushed in Race to the Top and the Blue Print.  The remarks that caught the attention of Anthony Cody and others were in dialog with students, and that may account for their candor.

As of my writing this post, midday on Sunday April 3, the response to the 4th question is still pending, and expected tomorrow.  Meanwhile, Anthony Cody has made two additional posts that are relevant to this thread.

In Obama Knows Best, Part One: How Should we Assess Learning? Anthony begins thusly:  

The journalist Michael Kinsley once said "a gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth." A week ago, President Obama opened his mouth in an unscripted town hall, and the truth accidentally fell out. By now, you have read his words.

President Obama was responding as a father, and reflecting on how he sees his own daughters, Sasha and Malia, experience tests at their exclusive private school. This is an excellent model for the way student learning should be assessed.

 Cody's focus is one part of the President's remarks, specifically these words:  
Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn't a high-stakes test. It wasn't a test where they had to panic. I mean, they didn't even really know that they were going to take it ahead of time. They didn't study for it, they just went ahead and took it. And it was a tool to diagnose where they were strong, where they were weak, and what the teachers needed to emphasize.

That I might note is a PROPER use of standardized tests -  diagnostic.  

That posting was part 1 of 2, the second of which was Obama Knows Best, Part 2: "Too Often we are Using These Tests to Punish Students or Schools."  This is an absolute must-read.   Cody takes the response offered by Justin Hamilton on behalf of the Department of Education which justifies "forceful intervention" then, after noting the 4 strategies allowed in Race to the Top:

    * Turnaround: Fire the principal and at least half the staff.
    * Restart: Close the school and reopen as a charter.
    * Closure: Simply close the school and ship students elsewhere.
    * Transformation: Fire the principal and engage in extensive restructuring.

takes readers through how this has been applied in the real world, which does not speak well for these as strategies that will make a real difference for students.

Here I note that Diane Ravitch has written that there is NO research base demonstrating the success of any of these, that what evidence exists for where they have been applied, for example in Chicago, should give real pause to anyone considering using them.

The administration is still committed to what many in education believe is a misuse if not an abusive use of tests.  Spokesmen point to the $350 million committed to the two consortia making "improved" tests as a recognition that the current tests are flawed, and Secretary Duncan has recently noted that the moving clock on Adequate Yearly Progress under NCLB may find as many as 82% of American public schools failing to make AYP THIS YEAR!  If the administration knows the tests are flawed, why does it let the clock run, why does it not ask Congress to suspend the punitive sanctions, or act through executive order?  Why is it continuing to use the scores on such tests as the measure by which the four strategies noted above -  which I remind you lack a research base as to their effectiveness - have to be imposed?

Not only that, the administration is still committed to tying teacher evaluation to student performance.  Here is is worth noting that neither Sidewell Friends, where the Obama girls attend, nor Arlington Virginia Public Schools, attended by the Duncan children, evaluate teachers in this fashion.   Those on the likes of the Fairtest email list or who read Jim Horn's School Matters Blog, where he reproduced what Monty Neill of Fairtest recently sent out, would have encountered this:  

From Monty Neill:
Bill Schechter here in MA, noting Obama's talk on testing and that the MA board of elementary and secondary education will soon be debating use of student test scores to evaluate teachers, wondered if the schools that Obama (Sidwell Friends) and Duncan (Arlington,VA public schools) send their children to evaluate their teachers based on student test scores.

The responses, which Bill said I could share, are:
"We do not tie teacher evaluations to scores in the Arlington public school system."  (Arlington school district teacher, March 31, 2011)
"We don't tie teacher pay to test scores because we don't believe them to be a reliable indicator of teacher effectiveness."  (Sidwell Friends faculty member, April 1, 2011)

The entire idea of Merit Pay for teachers tied to student performance is an idea far older than most people realize.  As Walt Gardner wrote in this piece in The Guardian, which appeared last Sunday,

Pay-for-performance began in England in about 1710, when salaries were based on test scores in reading, writing and arithmetic. The rationale was that it would help keep students from poor families in school, where they could learn the basics. The plan became part of the Revised Education Code in 1862, and remained on the books for more than 30 years.

The trouble was that the strategy sucked the creative life out of classrooms, as teachers became obsessed with the code. When it became apparent that the approach demeaned education, it was dropped in the 1890s. Pay-for-performance re-emerged briefly in Canada in 1876, but it ran into similar difficulties and was terminated in 1883.

  It keeps coming up here in the US, but the most recent studies, including that by Roland Fryer of Harvard of the current New York City plan (pdf),  about which Gardner writes
found "no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance or graduation". On the contrary, Fryer reported that teacher incentives may actually decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools

So what DOES Obama believe about education, what his department espouses or what in a moment of candor he said to some students at a Town Hall?   I don't know.   I do know that were he to spend time unannounced in a school being forced to follow the prescriptions of his education department I would hope he would be appalled.  I know he would not allow his daughters to be subjected to such an education.

Which is one reason why Anthony Cody and I are among those on the organizing committee for the forthcoming Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action in DC in July.   Diane Ravitch is supporting us, as are many other notables in education who are absolutely dedicated to the well being of our school children.  So are parents organizations like Parents Across America.  

Anthony Cody's most recent posting ends with an invitation, which I'd like to repeat:  

Once again, I believe it is Department of Education policy that is out of step with President Obama. We are organizing the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action, with a march and rally on July 30th in Washington, DC, in order to suggest that our schools be guided by President Obama's vision, as expressed in his honest statement Monday. Please join us.

Mr. President, Secretary Duncan, perhaps you might consider the words the  President offered to the the students, and realize what we organizing the March and Call to Action  already recognize - that what we are seeking is in conformity with the vision expressed in those words.

In fact, perhaps either or both of you would like to join us in July?

Originally posted to teacherken on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:19 AM PDT.

Also republished by oo, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Teachers Lounge.

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Comment Preferences

    •  this unfortunately went up w/html errors (6+ / 0-)

      not caught by the editor

      the blockquoting at the end was messed up, but is now correct.

      Sorry.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 11:04:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You may want to clarify the type of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bigrivergal

        Incentives that were studied in the "TEACHER INCENTIVES AND STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT: EVIDENCE FROM NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS" report by Roland G. Fryer that you link.

        The incentives used in the study was based on school-wide performance, not individual teacher performance.  The study title is misleading and should have been  "SCHOOL INCENTIVES AND STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT

        The incentives used in this study were:

        To our surprise, an overwhelming majority of the schools decided on a group incentive scheme that varied the individual bonus amount only by the position held in the school.

        Each participating school could earn $3,000 for every UFT-represented sta! member, which the school could distribute at its own discretion, if the school met the annual performance target set by the DOE based on school report card scores
        . Note: given that the average New York City public school has roughly sixty teachers

        Anyone familiar with incentive programs would recognize this as being an ineffectively designed incentive program.  This would explain why the researchers were surprised by the incentive program the schools chose to use. This is not an incentive program based on what an individual does, but what a group of 60 do.  So the impact that any individual can have on their getting the incentive award is 1/60th - this creates a massive "free-rider" effect.  

        Considering how the size of an award is about $3,000, and whether or not the teacher gets an award is 98.4% based upon what 59 other people do and only 1.6% on what the individual teacher does this study only verifies the obvious - a poorly designed incentive program will not have a significant effect on outcomes.

         

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 12:56:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  but perhaps their performance *is* (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mostel26

          dependent on how well other teachers teach. After all, if I teach English, and ask students to assess the persuasiveness of a piece of nonfiction writing that cites survey data, then my students can only perform well if their math teacher has also explained the appropriate use of statistics to them.

          As a teacher, this is why I help my colleagues when they ask -- because I know that if they succeed, that makes my job easier.

          Teaching is not like sales, where it makes sense to pay on commission.

  •  When President Obama spoke during that (39+ / 0-)

    campaign townhall, he was campaigning. It's different, you see. In campaigning, you usually say what people want to hear, and when you govern, you do what people backing you financially want you to do.

    I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

    by slinkerwink on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:27:59 AM PDT

    •  Alas, a truth I hate. (7+ / 0-)

      I will give Obama the benefit of the doubt regarding his answers in this venue only - since he was speaking to children, and they tend to being out the honesty in adults - perhaps he does believe these views in a personal way -  but his professional political agenda is controlled by those who pay his political bills - his bosses in the Corporatacracy, as evidenced by the Progressive campiagn rhetoric of 2008 vs. the reality of his neo-liberal administration.

      "But such is the irresistable nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants is the liberty of appearing." -Thomas Paine

      by Tommymac on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 11:22:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not true at all. When President Obama (0+ / 0-)

      spoke at that Town Hall he spoke from the heart and spoke what he truly believed, and campaigned on in 2008 .  The fact that the Department of Education is not 100% in lock step with him is not unusual.  It has happened in other administrations and for those of us who have been observing Presidential administrations for more than one term, we have seen this dissonance before.

      With all of your negativity toward this President I would be interested to know which Republican Presidential candidate you intend to vote for?  Which one do you think is better poised to serve the needs of your community?  

      Can you imagine if George Bush were still President? What if McCain/Palin had been elected?

      by Blogvirgin on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 01:34:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do you realize that the DOE sets out forth (6+ / 0-)

        administration policy? They don't operate in isolation when it comes to policy from the White House.

        I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

        by slinkerwink on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 01:38:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Of course I fully understand that having worked (0+ / 0-)

          for the federal government for 26 years. How many years have you actually worked in the federal system?

           None?  I thought so, as evidenced by your many comments.   So, with my inside experience, I know that there are levels of every agency that have been filled with political appointees from prior administrations who have burrowed into the civil service system and cannot now be fired.  They are then free to thwart the agenda of the incoming President and his appointees.  When President Obama entered the White House a little over two years ago this country was in a financial collapse with two ongoing wars, and a middle east that was in crisis.  Since then he has had to contend with everything except the plague and locusts if you don't count the so called progressive left among those two.  That has not left him time to get into the weeds of the department of education as he would like, because he has had one or two other issues to deal with.

          Further, why is this President expected to have cured all the ills of this society and this government in 24 months?  Other Presidents were not able to do it in eight years.

          Can you imagine if George Bush were still President? What if McCain/Palin had been elected?

          by Blogvirgin on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 03:45:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Weren't we talking about education policy? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            slinkerwink

            and isn't Arne Duncan Obama's man?

            Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich. -- Napoleon Bonaparte

            by denise b on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:45:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Ah Denise ( I come to DK to argue)b. (0+ / 0-)

              Always late, always ready to jump in whether fully understanding the topic or not.  We weren't talking about anything.

              Can you imagine if George Bush were still President? What if McCain/Palin had been elected?

              by Blogvirgin on Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 09:04:25 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Hey, I don't need your permission (0+ / 0-)

                to join the conversation, so you can stuff it.

                The subject of the diary was, in fact, education policy, and I am here because it is a topic of interest to me. So it's quite annoying that you, on the other hand, appear as usual to be here only to fight with anyone who is critical of the president.  No matter what people are discussing you can be counted on to come out with something stupid like this:

                With all of your negativity toward this President I would be interested to know which Republican Presidential candidate you intend to vote for?  Which one do you think is better poised to serve the needs of your community?  

                Asinine, juvenile, and off-topic.

                And by the way, if you really did intend your comment to be about the DOE and implementation of policy there, then you are the one who doesn't understand the topic:

                They are then free to thwart the agenda of the incoming President and his appointees.

                The problem is not that the civil service is thwarting the president and his appointees. The problem is the president's appointee and his agenda. If only the civil service would thwart them.

                Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich. -- Napoleon Bonaparte

                by denise b on Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 11:28:38 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  But just so you know, my comment above is (0+ / 0-)

              completely about the Department of Education and implementation of policy there. Are you here to represent or defend the person I was actually talking with who had declined to comment but did take the time to rec your comment?

              Hmm. I defend my positions myself. I feel them strongly and I feel I am capable of defending them.

              Can you imagine if George Bush were still President? What if McCain/Palin had been elected?

              by Blogvirgin on Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 09:08:10 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  By the way with your infinite wisdom and ability (0+ / 0-)

          to know all things, especially your ability to predict the future (Obama is going to do this, and Obama is going to do that) most of which never comes to fruition; you completely neglected to answer my question with regard to which Republican you will be supporting in this election?  

          Can you imagine if George Bush were still President? What if McCain/Palin had been elected?

          by Blogvirgin on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 03:53:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I would believe that (5+ / 0-)

        if Arne Duncan had not been Obama's personal pick for Secretary of Education. Either the department is pursuing exactly the agenda the president favors, or he does not understand the issues well enough to realize how his agenda is undermined by the policy he's set forth.

        "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

        by Geenius at Wrok on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 02:22:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Are you seriously still saying that you don't (0+ / 0-)

          believe this  President understands an issue? Seriously?  Hasn't he demonstrated his intellectual abilities and his grasp enough already?  Much smarter that the last 5 or 6 Presidents definitely.  

          Can you imagine if George Bush were still President? What if McCain/Palin had been elected?

          by Blogvirgin on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 03:48:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well if he is so smart (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Geenius at Wrok, slinkerwink

            and understands the issue so well, one would think he'd pick up on the  major discrepancies in the policies as compared to what you say is truly in his heart and what he understands so well that he just so happens to speak of on the campaign trail. He's so smart he'd realize how policies that are coming from individuals he's hand picked (Duncan) are very contrary to what you tell me is really his serious understanding/grasp of the issue.... One would think he'd understand and know that...one would think?

            "When will the American teachers follow the lead of Wall Street and start making some sacrifices for the children"..Jon Stewart

            by emal on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 04:40:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  "Still"? When did I say it last? (0+ / 0-)

            And to suggest that he doesn't understand what goes on in a classroom every day is to give him the benefit of the doubt. I'd rather doubt his comprehension than his sincerity.

            "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

            by Geenius at Wrok on Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 04:32:12 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  So, what's good for the head goose... (14+ / 0-)
    Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn't a high-stakes test. It wasn't a test where they had to panic. I mean, they didn't even really know that they were going to take it ahead of time. They didn't study for it, they just went ahead and took it. And it was a tool to diagnose where they were strong, where they were weak, and what the teachers needed to emphasize.

    needs to be good for the rest of the flock.

    let's go to project-based learning tracked by portfolios to show true student growth - and reflection. then, we can show actual learning gains.

    "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

    by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:37:51 AM PDT

  •  Here's What I Think Obama Believes About (14+ / 0-)

    education:  HIS kids are gonna get the possible education.

    Beyond that, who really knows?

    You can't always tell the truth because you don't always know the truth - but you can always be honest.

    by mattman on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:39:43 AM PDT

  •  What I don't understand at all... (19+ / 0-)

    (maybe someone can explain this to me)

    is how everyone assumes that teachers just somehow magically become teachers.  Are they grown in test tubes by mad scientists at the evil Teacher's Union?

    Nobody has ever addressed the fact that public school teachers go to school and get degrees and then have to take tests and do apprenticeships and then have to become certified.

    So, tell me...why does everyone blame the fucking unions for bad teachers and never stop to ask where bad teachers might come from?  Maybe there's a problem with the process of training teachers and certifying teachers?

    I don't know if there is, but it seems to me that would be a better place to start investigating the problems with teachers than pointing fingers at Unions.

    My wife is a High School teacher here in Canada and has been one for going on 15 years.  Every 3 or 4 years she has student teachers she manages and her constant criticism is that they are very poorly trained at the university to be teachers.  They don't learn to manage classrooms.  They don't learn child or adolescent psychology.  They don't learn how to continue to learn after they leave the university.

    So, you're essentially throwing young teachers to the wolves and the good ones will adapt and the bad one's won't.

    From what I've read about this issue so far, it seems to me to be something similar in the US.

    •  Well, that's one approach. (10+ / 0-)
      it seems to me that would be a better place to start investigating the problems with teachers than pointing fingers at Unions.
      OR . . .

      We could stop assuming that there are more bad teachers than there are bad practitioners of any other profession, and start looking at what additional resources even excellent teachers need in order to be able to practice their profession at the highest standards.

      As mentioned in my comment yesterday:

      I want enough funding that I will have enough time to do all the things I know I should be doing to make my teaching even better, but that it is literally impossible to do when I have 140 students and so little built-in time for planning, preparation, communication and collaboration.

      In what other profession do people think that the end product -- the teaching -- can happen without massive hours of time spent behind the scenes making it happen? Would people expect an attorney to spend 80% of their working time in court? When do you do the legal research? The client meetings? The examination of evidence and discovery responses? Writing the motions and briefs? Of COURSE there is a lot of time needed to do all these tasks, in order to be effective when you do go to court. If an attorney does spend 80% of their time in court, it's because they are a partner or high-level associate in a large firm and they have armies of associates and legal assistants doing a lot of the other work for them. Teachers do not have that luxury.

      But somehow people think teachers are supposed to be able to teach effectively when they get one hour of paid "conference and planning" time daily. In that time, we're supposed to plan two or three or four lessons, monitor the individual progress of 140 students [I'm lucky; I think teacherken has about 200 students], devise plans to address the needs of struggling students, meet with colleagues to address those needs more comprehensively, meet with parents and respond to parent phone calls and emails, create and copy documents needed to make our teaching more responsive to our students, create assessments, grade homework, grade projects, grade tests, organize mountains of paperwork, create and implement professional development plans, align curriculum with state learning standards, etc.


      "These are not candidates. These are the empty stand-ins for lobbyists' policies to be legislated later." - Chimpy, 9/24/10

      by NWTerriD on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 12:42:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agree, in my previous occupation I spent .... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mostel26, NWTerriD, peregrine kate

        ... Weeks and even months planning and arranging my trips to the field to do mineral exploration.  Additional time evaluating results while work was in progress and more months reporting and summarizing what was accomplished.

        As a teacher nearly every spare minute not in front of a class is taken by requests from administration and parents.  If and when time to plan is programmed into our day it is often directed by management into group meetings with goals different than those of the classroom teacher.  

        Real planning and preparing takes place in the evenings, on weekends and during the summer.  I work more hours and have much less time to myself as a teacher than I did as a professional in the mineral industry.

    •  Bingo (0+ / 0-)

      Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich. -- Napoleon Bonaparte

      by denise b on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:48:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Though I can't be sure, from observation I think (0+ / 0-)

    that in this, as in other ways in which he's been governing, he has taken an "Okay, let's try it your way" approach, for whatever reason. To diffuse resistance to change or whatever, to show he respects other ideas, whether he agrees with them or not, etc. I don't know that that is what he has done/is doing with education but it sounds like he might be on that path. It's what I would do, in some cases (but that doesn't mean anything.)

    Now that these plans have been in place for the couple of years he has been in office, there is data to say if things are working one way or another. And if the data says it's not (and that sounds like what he is saying) then it might be easier to change things with the support of Democrats formerly hostile to removing the various testing and punitive measures, as well as... well, no, probably no Republicans, no matter what evidence is presented. But definitely with more support from the people, I imagine.

    Anyway, we'll see how things shake out.

    “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

    by Nanette K on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:44:25 AM PDT

  •  I think, perhaps, there could be one or two (6+ / 0-)

    explanations here:

    First, the President is making a case for the proper use of a "test", and that he would like to see a policy like the one he described.  It could lead to higher performance, and subsequently higher evaluations and increased pay along the lines he describes.

    OR

    There could be a disconnect between what is perceived and what is reality.  Both in the President AND in the Department of Education.  When the people who provide the "studies" commissioned to study things are biased one way or another, the data they provide becomes so as well.

    Of course, there are also more nuances as well.

    Our job as educators and advocates should be to guide policy towards the good things said.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:52:02 AM PDT

  •  Does this President have a beilef or (14+ / 0-)

    issue that is non negotiable? Does he have deeply held beliefs about governance or the big social challenges of our time? I haven't seen anything that suggests that he does.

  •  What does Obama believe? (25+ / 0-)

    As always, look at what a man or woman does (and how they spend their own money) and you will know what they believe. Obama might well believe what he let slip. However, since his education department does not do that, we know that Obama must believe in something more important to him than what he claimed in his gaffe.

    Whatever it is, by supporting Rhee and other agenda-driven "reformers" (including Arne Duncan), in effect, he is a participant in the attempted gutting of public education and teacher unions.

    But don't forget that most men without property would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich, than face the reality of being poor. (1776)

    by banjolele on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:53:47 AM PDT

  •  Your headline should read "What does Obama believe (9+ / 0-)

    About anything"? Because frankly I see no core believes about anything in the man.

    •  I disagree (0+ / 0-)

      I see core beliefs... keeping the status quo, not rocking the boat with big business/bankstahs running the show and the ruling class elite calling the shots...(big core belief), crossing an item off of a "to do" list in order to tout it as completed despite just how badly or poorly it was done. Those are a couple of core beliefs.

      I believe his core beliefs are playing out very well based on his policy actions and from the actions/inactions of those with whom he's surrounded himself..big banks, big corporations, his inner circle...Rahm to now Daley ..etc.

      I think President Obama's actions speak to his core beliefs very loudly, they just happen to be very different than those that Campaign Obama  speaks.

      "When will the American teachers follow the lead of Wall Street and start making some sacrifices for the children"..Jon Stewart

      by emal on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 05:04:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Teachers need to stand up for education. (5+ / 0-)

    Wages and unions distract us from the bigger issue.  I dp not want my child educated in a puppy mill.

    If you don't stand for something, eventually you stand for nothing.

    by dkmich on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 11:13:53 AM PDT

    •  How, exactly, (13+ / 0-)

      do wages and unions distract from education?  Another way to ask the question is, how would justice for teachers result in injustice for students?

      •  One thing that teachers strike for (14+ / 0-)

        is class size and number of sections per day.  I think that benefits both the teachers and the students.  What makes the students' lives difficult makes the teachers' lives difficult.  It doesn't matter their motives, although I do think they are honorable.  

        movin' to DK4 soon, gonna be a dental floss tycoon ...

        by alliedoc on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 12:18:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Absolutely, but... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          alliedoc

          the tea party types twist that into an ignorant argument against lazy teachers and ignore the fact that smaller class size is really about access and quality.  

          If you don't stand for something, eventually you stand for nothing.

          by dkmich on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 01:25:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I am somewhat against the uniform pay (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dkmich, Mostel26

            scale (no incentives) but I get it.  It's just a gut level thing.

            movin' to DK4 soon, gonna be a dental floss tycoon ...

            by alliedoc on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 07:17:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  supplemental contracts (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              alliedoc

              There is some level of "merit pay" for those of us who teach and go above and beyond doing things for the students and school. I am on the same salary scale as my fellow teachers, but earn extra pay for running a few activities and doing some administrative tasks. It takes a lot more of my time, but it is my choice to do so.

              •  I'm sure it isn't enough. My kids (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Mostel26

                graduated from a high school that was called "maybe the best music program in the country" and I believe it.  All of the fine arts teachers are extremely dedicated.  The amount of work to handle performances, rehearsals, trips, adjudications, etc. is boggling.  And, there is a lot they do that isn't part of the supplemental salary deal.  They stay after school to help kids with audition practice and to make audition DVDs.  They help at concerts for their colleagues' classes.  I can't say enough about the "above and beyond" of these people.  Whatever you get paid for supplemental stuff, trust me, I am sure it isn't enough.

                movin' to DK4 soon, gonna be a dental floss tycoon ...

                by alliedoc on Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 04:08:06 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  When the issue turns to wages, (0+ / 0-)

        the detractors bring out the straw dog accusations of more concerned about paychecks than kids.   I don't disagree that teachers (most) earn their paychecks, and the time they have off helps students and teachers to avoid burning out.  Because it doesn't work in a sound bite, what is most often missing is the conversation on the science behind the data.  You know,  the facts.  

         

        If you don't stand for something, eventually you stand for nothing.

        by dkmich on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 01:19:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Teachers do stand up for education. (12+ / 0-)

      And they go to work for education, and give up family time for education, and jeopardize their health for for education, and have on average 12-minute lunch breaks for education, and pay hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket annually to buy school supplies for education, and generally eat/sleep/breathe for education.

      It makes me sick when people imply that what the unions are advocating for is somehow deleterious to children.

      Because unlike the corporatists who think they know more about how to teach a child than we do, we chose our profession not for love of money (or the hope of ever having enough to sneeze at), but for love of, passion for, and dedication to, education.

      "These are not candidates. These are the empty stand-ins for lobbyists' policies to be legislated later." - Chimpy, 9/24/10

      by NWTerriD on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 12:50:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I spend a lot of time reading newspapers; and (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NWTerriD, JanL, JamieG from Md, emal

        while cuts to seniors and film are in the headlines regularly, cuts to education aren't - unless it has to do with teacher pay and the taxpayers.  Parents need to know how badly these cuts will hurt their children - not their teachers.  

        If you don't stand for something, eventually you stand for nothing.

        by dkmich on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 01:28:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  "Supporting Obama" (12+ / 0-)

    typically means believing that there can be some sort of seamless partnership between the neoliberals in power (who in this case have created a regime of standardized testing for the purposes of extorting money from the system through test-prep contracts and "charter schools") and the public interest.  

    The fact that no such seamless partnership can exist is to be hushed up at every opportunity.

    "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us" -- Gandalf, in Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings"...

    by Cassiodorus on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 11:22:31 AM PDT

  •  Important questions. (9+ / 0-)

    Great diary Ken.

    Send your old shoes to the new George W. Bush library.

    by maxschell on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 11:24:50 AM PDT

  •  Excellent work, Ken (and Anthony) (8+ / 0-)

    Good on you to hold President Obama's feet to the fire on this.

    It sometimes feels like the president is somehow an 'unwitting hostage' to his teams in Education or Treasury (or even Defense and State, given all the mixed messages that came out surrounding Libya). But then one remembers that "the buck stops" at his desk -- if his Cabinet secretaries (or their organizations) are not doing or saying what he wants them to, they serve at his pleasure and he has EVERY opportunity to fix things. So fix them already, Mr. President! Sheesh, this 'leadership' behavior is getting so damned OLD...

    "A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future." – Leonard Bernstein

    by frisco on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 11:52:52 AM PDT

  •  I maintain that so-called "Education Reform" (10+ / 0-)

    is not, and never has been, a good faith effort to improve our schools. It is about privatization. We may not know how the President feels about this aspect, but we know Mr. Duncan's thinking. In a PBS Frontline program about for-profit "colleges" called College Inc., Arne had this to say:

    I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with a for-profit educating students, um, where they are providing them with a great education, where they've been honest about it, where there's value for the investment, and long-term, you want to see those players do well.

    Does he think this would be good for K-12 as well, and does the President share this view ?

    •  Quote interp (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello

      While I don't know Duncan's true inclinations on private schools, I don't interpret his quote at all the way you are here.  In fact I would agree with it myself.  I hope that as a nation we have a diversity of options for educating children and I hope all of "the players" do well for the sake of the children.  That doesn't mean I don't want a strong public system or that I support policies that would strengthen private schools at the expense of public education.

      •  The term "players" (5+ / 0-)

        is Wall St. speak for investors. We don't need them making profits on education. The students and taxpayers are more important to me than Wall St. players and they should be to Arne as well. Maybe he's angling for a job after his government service.

        ¡Viva Baja Libre!

        by Azazello on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 01:08:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  of course (0+ / 0-)

          they are investors, he is talking about for-profit private schools.   Any school has to have a stable funding base, private or public.   And all of us are also "players" i.e. investors in the public education system.  Saying he hopes that for-profit ventures with an appropriate mission--his qualifier--succeed does not in any way mean he supports policies that would help them succeed at the expense of public education.  Basically I think his quote is pretty bland and pretty much states the obvious.    It is theoretically possible that he does advocate policies that would enhance profits for for-profit private schools,  but this quote of yours is not illustrative.  

          •  We are not investors. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mostel26

            We, the taxpaying public, do not expect a return on our investment. We are not seeking monetary rewards. The difference is crucial, equivocating on the terms does not help. I understand that in the consumer culture meanings have been blurred. We are asked to "invest" in expensive consumer goods. I am using the terms in their strict sense. With privatization the funding base will still be public, that's the point of vouchers, it is the profits that will be private.

            ¡Viva Baja Libre!

            by Azazello on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:09:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  that has nothing (0+ / 0-)

              to do with Duncan's quote. He wasn't saying anything about vouchers at all.   I do feel that I am "invested" in public education even though our family did not make use of it for our own children ( we are freedom-loving unschoolers).  I believe most people have some sense that if they are paying taxes for public schools they have some say in the process, that is why citizens can be on school boards, school councils, etc.  If local schools are really crappy people feel they are not getting an appropriate return on the taxes they have invested in the process.  

              Personally, I think that for-profit education is likely to run towards corruption of the true mission and not likely to be as successful at holding true to the educational mission as non-profit private or public approaches.  This is based on experience with non-profit systems in rehab and healthcare compared with for-profit systems.  My last two jobs have been in for-profit healthcare companies (home health and a hospital) and I would much prefer to be working for a non-profit instead as my spouse does (at an Easter Seal Center).  

  •  the PROPER use of standardized tests - diagnostic (7+ / 0-)

    why is this not rule number one for anyone involved on any level with education. they have become the end & be-all for students & schools.

    Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues. The Gita 3.21

    by rasbobbo on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 12:20:06 PM PDT

  •  Obama comes from a biased milleau. (0+ / 0-)

    When attending an Ivy-League school, students are kept from failing at all costs, and if necessary they are failed upward.  I wonder how that, and the fact that he now is part of the class that sees public education as beneath them, influences his outlook?

    His ignorance about education and the application of testing in an education system captive to corporate interests appears comprehensive.

    Distrust of authority should be the first civic duty. - Norman Douglas

    by Fossil on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 12:22:41 PM PDT

  •  Excellent diary. Right to the heart of the... (8+ / 0-)

    ...matter.

    Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 12:40:30 PM PDT

  •  I think President Obama was asking for help (5+ / 0-)

    Is there tension between what he said and how many perceive current policy? Yes, there is tension.

    Did President Obama provide an opening for those who oppose current policy to engage and help construct better policy? I think he did:

    ...Too often what we've been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools. And so what we've said is let's find a test that everybody agrees makes sense; let's apply it in a less pressured-packed atmosphere; let's figure out whether we have to do it every year or whether we can do it maybe every several years; and let's make sure that that's not the only way we're judging whether a school is doing well...

    I do hope interested parties will offer solutions and then work, community by community, to see that the necessary changes are made. I would like to see less Obama-centric thinking and more grassroot effort to push from the bottom up. It is clear that President Obama will not stand in the way, but I think we have to offer more than just pointing out differences.

    "Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so." ...Bertrand Russell

    by sebastianguy99 on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 12:54:08 PM PDT

    •  perhaps you should join our efforts at SOS (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JamieG from Md, Egalitare

      linked to in the diary, because this IS a ground up effort.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 01:11:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Perhaps you should reread my comment (0+ / 0-)

        I haven't stopped working or asking others to do the same, thanks. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with my activities and didn't think it worth an effort to ask? You seemed to have taken my comment as a slight and that wasn't my intention.

        It's not about you, it's not about me, it's about all of us. I want to see more organizing and more focus on people who do not agree with us rather than give our backhand to those that do.

        Nonetheless, thanks for your reply.

        "Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so." ...Bertrand Russell

        by sebastianguy99 on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 03:25:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  great diary! (9+ / 0-)

    This a very good diary - thanks for the insight!

    I am an economist and I took a look at the Roland Fryer working paper and it is stunning.  I think that the evolving economic literature more or less proves that most economic incentives don't work in American schools.  I would like to see schools experiment with very different incentives.  For example, I'd like to see schools pay more to school personnel that work in schools where the children are more difficult to teach (poorer, in more dangerous neighborhoods, etc.).  That might not work either, but it would be worth a shot.

    My wife is a teacher and I think that the whole debate on education needs to be reframed.  I think our schools are doing fine - it's our society that needs to change.  Currently almost 25% of our children live in poverty.  In places like Finland, only about 5% of their children live in poverty.  No wonder they get better educational outcomes than we do.

    •  why not ask teachers (7+ / 0-)

      for example, a group of the teachers in the Teacher Leaders Network ( I am a member, but joined after this effort) produced this:  Teacher Solutions:  A Performance- Pay System Students  Deserve.

      If you are interested in exploring merit pay for teachers, you could do worse than start here.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 01:35:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I will read the report - thanks! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        joycemocha, emal

        I will read the report - I am very interested in seeing what these teachers think.  I'm sure the report is more logical than many of the ideas the "reformers" have come up with.

        I've done a lot of thinking about our schools lately.  My wife has taught for seven years, in very different types of schools, including one year in a really tough school.  Our teachers, and our children, deserve better than our society gives them.

      •  OK - I skimmed the report (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        David Kroning II

        The report is interesting - heck, the recommendations in the report might even work (they even include my suggestion above!).  But, if we are going to invest more $$$ in our schools (and the report strongly suggests we need to), I wonder if we shouldn't just extend the school day and year for the kids that most need it, and pay teachers and other staff accordingly.  So many kids need so much help, and I think they may need more time in school (like the KIPP schools) to be successful.

    •  The Roland Fryer Report is a report on (0+ / 0-)

      school based incentives not individual teacher based incentives.

      Anyone familiar with incentive programs would recognize this as being an ineffectively designed incentive program.  This would explain why the researchers were surprised by the incentive program the schools chose to use. This is not an incentive program based on what an individual does, but what a group of 60 do.  

      Considering how the size of an individual's award is about $3,000, and whether or not the teacher gets an award is 98.4% based upon what 59 other people do and only 1.6% on what the individual teacher does this study only verifies the obvious - a poorly designed incentive program will not have a significant effect on outcomes.

      The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

      by nextstep on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 02:00:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fryer report supported by Peabody study (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        econlibVA, JanL, tardis10

        which studied merit pay stipends directly to individual teachers, and found by themselves they did not improve test scores.  You can read about it here

        Deming opposed them in business/industry as being counter-productive.  To date there is NO study that demonstrates their effectiveness in education.

        "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

        by teacherken on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 02:04:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Fryer report discusses individual incentives (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, joycemocha, tardis10

        The Fryer report discusses other studies that used merit pay for individual teachers.  Those studies show that individual merit pay doesn't work either.

        Plus, good education is based on teamwork within schools - my wife works closely with other teachers so that they can all be more effective.  Individual merit pay hurts that teamwork and is counterproductive, or at least not productive.

  •  The DoE being "out of sync" with Obama is (0+ / 0-)

    questionable. Since it is part of the executive branch, Obama has absolute last say on what they do. I think what Obama said at that meeting was great, but the fact that the DoE's policies don't reflect that is more Obama's fault than anyone else. I generally like the guy, but he's sucked so far on education, and if his administration isn't implementing the policy he seems to believe in then there's something weird going on behind the scenes.

    Great diary though, it was very informative

    •  read through the material Anthony Cody posted (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, David Kaib, Egalitare, tardis10

      especially the responses to the first 3 questions by Justin Hamilton of the Dept of Ed -  seems like they are really scrambling right now.

      Part of my reason for posting this is to give the apparent conflict more visibility, although thanks to Valerie Strauss Anthony already had a LOT of eyeballs.

      So will this be "clarified" away, will Obama himself step back, who knows?  But for people like Cody and me this is a real chance to hammer on the words the President himself spoke, which were NOT scripted.

      BTW -  I have gotten some fabulous messages from some major names in education to whom I sent the link.  Makes me feel justified in the time taken to put the diary together.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 02:40:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Please do hammer away (0+ / 0-)

        And I really do think it was a great diary, and that it was informative. I wasn't being sarcastic about that, sorry if I gave you that impression.

        But if those are Obama's true feelings, which I certainly hope they are, I don't understand why he wouldn't be instructing the DoE to follow them. They are entirely under his command, and he has absolute final say in whatever they do. I read the whole diary, including Cody's material about how the DoE is scrambling, which makes sense since their boss just contradicted a majority of what they've been pushing, but that doesn't explain why there is such a discrepancy. Maybe Obama just decided that his former plan wasn't working and we will see him start to implement policy following those comments in the coming months. But it just all seems so strange to me. Why did he change his mind now? If he's going to do a 180 on his policy why do it at a town hall meeting talking to little kids instead of one of his weekly addresses at the very least?

        So please, hammer away at Obama and the DoE and get some answers from them. I really do appreciate this diary uncovering the problem, I didn't know Obama said that, but I have so many questions now.

        •  consider this a gift (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tardis10

          which gives us an opportunity to hammer away.  Anthony Cody grasped that immediately.  When Valerie Strauss reposted his blog, the Department of Education was forced to respond.  They have made a bit of a hash of what they have done so far.  We are waiting to see what they offer for the 4th question tomorrow.

          My role was largely to make more people aware, as well as to tie in a few other pieces of info I thought relevant, such as last weeks Guardian piece by Walt Gardner.

          Once upon a time the Education Department would do outreach to me.  Even further back, I had been told by a high-ranking campaign official that they paid attention to what I wrote about education.  Somehow I do not think, as critical as I have been of their education policy, I am on their good guys list at this point.  But even a recommended diary here does not have to concern them as much as something appearing on the Washington Post website.

          So my "hammering" is subsidiary to what Anthony has been and is still doing.

          And besides, it gives us both an opportunity to yet again call attention to the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action in  July.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 05:34:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Very true (0+ / 0-)

            Hopefully some positive change will come about from this, aided by you and Cody I'm sure. Maybe if it does start to change, they will reach out to you again, that's pretty cool that they did in the past.

            I wish I could come to that March, but I will have just returned from a class abroad. Send my regards to everyone there.

  •  Thanks very much for this diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    emal

    I appreciate that you diaried Anthony Cody's questions and the responses. Perhaps, as the campaign season nears, President Obama will "re-focus" his own Dept. of Education -although I have my doubts, I am trying very hard to remain a little positive.
    Here in Ohio, and in other states, teachers are fighting for their livlihoods, and there are millions of us. I have to think the president knows he better somehow get on our side on this issue PDQ.
    I believe the other side has entrenched interests, deeping committed to raiding the coffers of public education tax dollars, as well as keeping "certain" kinds of people relatively uneducated. The budget documents that we will see coming from the US House should focus our attention.
    I hope that it will focus the president's, as well.

    Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

    by JanL on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 02:49:09 PM PDT

  •  AMENDMENT XIV (0+ / 0-)
    Section 1. ....No state shall...deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law....

    Section 5. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

    There is a really fancy courthouse in the District of Columbia that can ultimately decide if NCLB is appropriate.

  •  Secretary Duncan and others (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare

    wrote an article for The Huffington Post saying unions weren't the problem and that Singapore turned its education system from a miserable failure into a top performer by selecting from the top third of high school students and by preparing and paying for them to become teachers.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

    •  IF (notice the "big IF")... (0+ / 0-)

      ...POTUS and Duncan continued this public second guessing on their funded policy to date, could they change course/modify future policy without being accused of "pre-election flip-flopping?"

      The so-called "rising tide" is lifting only yachts.

      by Egalitare on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 04:41:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Unfortunate (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL, boots on the ground

    This diary raises questions about what Obama really believes about education by juxtaposing his unscripted comments at a public event with the stated policies of the Department of Education.

    Furthermore, by asserting that the Dept. of Education was unhappy about Obama's statements, this diary sets up a narrative of Obama as victim, as though he is captive or somehow not in charge of his staff.

    Even as you briefly note that Obama's unscripted comments not only conflict with official policy, but conflict with his own previous comments, it is presented in the context of an Obama vs. the Department of Education narrative, even suggesting that the unscripted remarks somehow reflect what Obama really believes, and that there must be an internal conflict between the president and his own agency.

    Even your choice of words reinforces this narrative by repeatedly referring to the "policies of the Deptartment of Education." This subtle, yet indicative choice of words implies that the DOE somehow has its own policy agenda independent of the president .

    Frankly, this is just more Obama apologentsia disguised as critical inquiry. Here, once again, we have the dichotomy of an Obama speech or statement against an Obama policy wherein the speech is given greater weight than the action.

    Worse, we have one Obama comment given more weight than not only action, but other Obama comments.

    By other comments, I am mean comments like this one in which Obama expressed approval for the firing of the entire staff of Central Falls High School last year:

    "So if a school is struggling, we have to work with the principal and the teachers to find a solution," Obama said, according to a White House transcript. "We've got to give them a chance to make meaningful improvements. But if a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn't show signs of improvement, then there's got to be a sense of accountability."

    "And that's what happened in Rhode Island last week at a chronically troubled school, when just 7 percent of 11th graders passed state math tests -- 7 percent."

    No mention of the fact that an overwhelming percentage of Central Falls students live in a veritable combat zone of extreme poverty, gang violence, and drug addiction - effectively the complete breakdown of anything resembling society. Who's accountable for allowing so many of our cities and towns to turn onto economic wastelands? No one on Obama's accountability list.

    Isn't  it far more plausible, given the president's record of saying one thing and doing another that he is just saying whatever he thinks will sound good to that student?

    And even if you don't buy that, isn't the real point that it doesn't make a difference what Obama said in a speech, that talk is always cheap for a politician, and that what does matter is the policy?

    Isn't what really matters that while the progressive left in this country sits around trying to reconcile the president's practiced agenda with his image as a community organizer, his White House is facilitating the the privatization - corporatization of the public school system?

    What Obama says in some small gathering to some teenager is completely irrelevant.

    What Obama "really believes" is not only irrelevant, it is unknowable.

    What matters is what he and his staff do. As such, Obama's official statements, those which are designed to communicate and coordinate actual policy, are always the most important.

    And here's what Obama said about turning over our schools to corporate profiteers whose sole purpose for existence is to make money:

    For those video impaired, this is a clip where Obama talks about "doubling of our investment in charter schools".

    Now that's not just talk:

    Not only has he included hundreds of millions in charter school carrots through his budget proposals, but he has also wielded a big charter school stick through the Race to the Top Program. A state’s willingness to foster charter schools was considered a critical reform element in its bid for a share in the original $4 billion Race to the Top program. As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made clear at the time, “States that do not have public charter laws or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools will jeopardize their applications under the Race to the Top Fund.”

    Charter Schools aren't just not the way to fix education. They are the opposite of the way to fix education. They are nothing less than another front in the corporatist attack on this country. And as usual, Obama is on the wrong side of the fight.

    •  boy are you off base! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      David Kaib, slinkerwink

      Considering that both Anthony Cody and I have been persistent critics of the Obama administration on education policy, including about Central Falls and the LA Times report of value added scores.  Further, I have in addition been critical of the administration's policies on many other issues -  energy, not examining the misdeeds of the Bush administration, unwillingness to go after the financial institutions, willingness to give away the store in negotiations, etc. etc. etc.

      That you read either Anthony Cody's words or mine as an apologia on behalf of Obama is ridiculous, even without any outside knowledge.

      We are using the contradiction between Obama's candid words to students and the policies of his administration as a big stick with which we are pounding.  That is why it is almost amusing to see the Department of Education trying to square the circle, without too much success.

      Let me put it to you this way -  both Anthony Cody and I have received off line thanks from some of the biggest names in education who have been critical of the administration's policies for what we have posted, he all week and me today.  They at least understand what we are doing.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 05:39:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I appreciate your best intentions (0+ / 0-)

        I even considered adding a qualifier that I wasn't challenging your intent, only your methods. I decided against it because I am just annoyed with all the pussy-footing around this president among the progressive left.

        But emotions aside, I stand by my criticism which, incidentally, your defense didn't address. You say you've been critical of the president in the past which I don't doubt. And you assert that my characterization of your criticism as disguised apologia is "ridiculous" because? It's really a big stick and I just missed it?

        lol. A big stick would have been if you had simply told the truth as I'm sure you know it: Obama is lying. Is that really so hard?

        But that would be too harsh for some company and we certainly don't want to ruffle any feathers do we?

        I'm sorry man. I have always believed you are good people. I just don't consider you up to the fight ahead. I mean, you can't even get it right on Bush.

        "not examining the misdeeds of the Bush administration"?

        Misdeeds? Is murder a misdeed? Torture?

        I am sick of liberal weakness. These people are monsters. Serial killers. The kind of people who would blow up a whole village of women and children just to demonstrate to Iran or Russia what they are capable of.

        Obama made his choice. I don't care why. I just know there is no longer any doubt that he is on the side of the corporatist looters who are determined to destroy what's left of our way of life, our environment, our schools, and our society.

        Change will not occur without conflict. And there is no way to fight for your life without ruffling feathers. Let Chris Hedges explain why you and Cody will fail to affect anything:

        The liberal class is discovering what happens when you tolerate the intolerant. Let hate speech pollute the airways. Let corporations buy up your courts and state and federal legislative bodies. Let the Christian religion be manipulated by charlatans to demonize Muslims, gays and intellectuals, discredit science and become a source of personal enrichment. Let unions wither under corporate assault. Let social services and public education be stripped of funding. Let Wall Street loot the national treasury with impunity. Let sleazy con artists use lies and deception to carry out unethical sting operations on tottering liberal institutions, and you roll out the welcome mat for fascism.

        The liberal class has busied itself with the toothless pursuits of inclusiveness, multiculturalism, identity politics and tolerance—a word Martin Luther King never used—and forgotten about justice. It naively sought to placate ideological and corporate forces bent on the destruction of the democratic state. The liberal class, like the misguided democrats in the former Yugoslavia or the hapless aristocrats in the Weimar Republic, invited the wolf into the henhouse. The liberal class forgot that, as Karl Popper wrote in “The Open Society and Its Enemies,” “If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

        Workers in this country paid for their rights by suffering brutal beatings, mass expulsions from company housing and jobs, crippling strikes, targeted assassinations of union leaders and armed battles with hired gun thugs and state militias. The Rockefellers, the Mellons, the Carnegies and the Morgans—the Koch Brothers Industries, Goldman Sachs and Wal-Mart of their day—never gave a damn about workers. All they cared about was profit. The eight-hour workday, the minimum wage, Social Security, pensions, job safety, paid vacations, retirement benefits and health insurance were achieved because hundreds of thousands of workers physically fought a system of capitalist exploitation. They rallied around radicals such as “Mother” Jones, United Mine Workers’ President John L. Lewis and “Big” Bill Haywood and his Wobblies as well as the socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs.

        Lewis said, “I have pleaded your case from the pulpit and from the public platform—not in the quavering tones of a feeble mendicant asking alms, but in the thundering voice of the captain of a mighty host, demanding the rights to which free men are entitled.”

        Those who fought to achieve these rights endured tremendous suffering, pain and deprivation. It is they who made possible our middle class and opened up our democracy. The elite hired goons and criminal militias to evict striking miners from company houses, infiltrate fledgling union organizations and murder suspected union leaders and sympathizers. Federal marshals, state militias, sheriff’s deputies and at times Army troops, along with the courts and legislative bodies, were repeatedly used to crush and stymie worker revolts. Striking sugar cane workers were gunned down in Thibodaux, La., in 1887. Steel workers were shot to death in 1892 in Homestead, Pa. Railroad workers in the Pullman strike of 1894 were murdered. Coal miners at Ludlow, Colo., in 1914 and at Matewan, W.Va., in 1920 were massacred. Our freedoms and rights were paid for with their courage and blood.

        American democracy arose because those consciously locked out of the system put their bodies on the line and demanded justice.

  •  Liberals (0+ / 0-)

    As a member of Save Our Schools March, I'd like to point out that our movement began because we want authentic school reform rather than the unintended and destructive consequences that have resulted from No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Blueprint. But something has happened along the way. The dwindling middle class in America has awakened -- yes, the sleeping giant suddenly understands that our country has been taken over and rearranged  by the wealthy -- so they can have a bigger piece of the pie -- and by the crazies, because these ideologues are just plain ignorant.

    Our movement, interestingly enough, is bringing together the left and the right, people who voted for Obama and those who didn't, people of color and people who are not. Our movement has the potential to change American politics because those who leaned to the left have now experienced how plain dumb the federal government can be when it doesn't know anything about an issue like education and so depends solely on the DC think tanks and lobbyists and do-gooder billionaires who know nothing about education either. What Bush and Congress and now Obama have done to our public schools is outrageous and the height of stupidity and arrogance.

    Liberals are liberals no longer. The world is suddenly a much more complex place where solutions are not easily come by, especially if they emanate from Washington. Our government is broken and we -- you, teacherken,
    Anthony Cody, and I -- are simply not going to put up with it any more. Teachers voted for Obama in droves. I hear again and again from teachers that they will not vote for him next time. Sure, if he's up against a Palin or Bachman, I don't know what they'll do. Maybe not vote?
    I hope not - - but it will be so hard for me to cast that vote if he doesn't wake up and change his position on education.

    Our movement has now become bigger than school reform. Here's what we hear now: "Let's Take Our Country Back -- It Was Never Yours to Give Away." Joining us are  parents, students, college professors, college students policeman, firemen- -- people who go to work everyday and work for someone else. We are the middle class and we plan to stay the middle class. We know that if Obama doesn't get Virginia and North Carolina in 2012 that he's in trouble. We are ready to play hardball. If he wants our vote, he better trot over to Congress and withdraw his bill that reauthorizes NCLB. And he better throw RTTT and Blueprint out the window along with Arne -- (please no more Arne -- that little Chicago piece of fluff!).

    Join us in DC on July 30 and help us take America back.
    Our country 'tis of thee -- that's you and me. Never forget it. We stand together as ONE, as ONE VOICE.
    www.inthetrencheswithschoolreform.com

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