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America is a bully nation.

America is the embodiment of might-makes-right. When another country (USSR) invades Afghanistan, America is filled with righteous indignation, but when America invades Afghanistan, well, all is right with the world.

America has bred the bully tactic of vigilantism in the sanctified Petri dish of law (Stand Your Ground), and the result is the person with the gun is the law while the victim's innocence is extinguished along with the person's life.

To mask the bully culture of the U.S., bullying is confronted as a school-based problem among children (note the distraction of the R rating in the documentary on bullying addressed by Nancy Flanagan and Douglas Storm). Yet, the exact ruling class who denounces bullying among children are themselves bullies.

So there is no surprise that the current education reform movement is characterized by bully politics.

NCTQ: Teaching Teachers a Lesson

In the mid-1800s, public education was called a “'dragon. . .devouring the hope of the country as well as religion. [It dispenses] 'Socialism, Red Republicanism, Universalism, Infidelity, Deism, Atheism, and Pantheism—anything, everything, except religion and patriotism,'” explains Jacoby (2004, pp. 257-258). Bullying public education, then, has long roots, at least stretching back to the threat of universal public schooling detracting from the Catholic church's control of education in the nineteenth century.

From there, the bullying of public schools continued, judging the quality of our public schools based on drop-out rates (Get adjusted, 1947). We must recognize that the demonizing of public schools and the condemnation of school quality are the way we talk about and view schools in the U. S. as popular discourse and understanding, but this historical badgering of schools has evolved recently into a more direct and personal attack on teachers.

While it appears we cringe when children bully each other, we have no qualms about inexpert, inexperienced, and self-proclaimed education reformers bullying an entire profession.

While the bullying can be witnessed in the discourse coming from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former-chancellor Michelle Rhee, and billionaire-reformer Bill Gates, one of the most corrosive and powerful dynamics embracing bully politics is the rise of self-appointed think-tank entities claiming to evaluate and rank teacher education programs. A key player in bully politics is the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

NCTQ represents, first, the rise of think tanks and the ability of those think tanks to mask their ideologies while receiving disproportionate and unchallenged support from the media.

Think tanks have adopted the format and pose of scholarship, producing well crafted documents filled with citations and language that frame ideology as "fair and balanced" conclusions drawn from the evidence.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

NCTQ grew out of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and the Education Leaders Council (ELC), which is associated with the Center for Education Reform, securing in the process unsolicited federal funds (over $9 million under George W. Bush).

In short, NCTQ is not an unbiased and scholarly enterprise to evaluate and reform teacher education. NCTQ is a right-wing, agenda-driven think tank entity determined to marginalize and discredit teacher education in order to promote a wide range of market-based ideologies related specifically to public education.

Further, and powerfully connected to the bully politics of NCTQ, is the association between NCTQ and U.S. News & World Report. In other words, NCTQ lacks educational and scholarly credentials and credibility, but gains its influence and power through direct and indirect endorsements from government, the media, and entrepreneurs (re: Gates foundation and funding).

NCTQ has released one report on student teaching, and is poised to release a self-proclaimed national review of teacher preparation programs in the fall of 2012.

How, then, is this bully politics?

In both reports, NCTQ contacts departments and colleges of education with a simple but blunt request: Cooperate with us or we'll evaluate you however we can, and publish our report regardless. These requests demand extensive data from the departments and colleges, and then subject these programs to standards and expectations designed by NCTQ completely decontextualized from the departments and colleges being "evaluated" against those standards. In other words, the basis for NCTQ's evaluations have not been vetted by anyone for being credible. A department or college could very well be rated high or low and that rating mean little since the department or college may or may not consider the criteria of any value.

In fact, the first report by NCTQ has been reviewed (most think tank reports receive tremendous and uncritical coverage without review, and when reviewed, those reviews tend to receive almost no media coverage), confirming that NCTQ produces biased and careless work. Benner's review concludes, in part:

"The NCTQ review of student teaching is based upon the assumption that it is not only possible, but also worthwhile and informative to isolate student teaching from the totality of a teacher preparation program. This notion is in direct conflict with the perspective that effective teacher education programs avoid the isolation of pedagogy and classroom management content, offering such knowledge and skills within a learning environment centered upon a clinical experience.

"The sample of programs cannot be characterized as representative based on any statistical standard or recognized sampling technique. The problems include disproportionate samples, artificial restrictions, selection bias toward the weakest programs within universities, lack of clarity regarding sample size, and unsound selection procedures for the sample-within-sample. The problems with data collection include how the ratings were derived, how site visit destinations were selected and how the site visits were used in the data analysis, and how principals were surveyed and/or interviewed.

"Limitations in the development and interpretation of the standards, sampling techniques, methodology, and data analysis unfortunately negate any guidance the work could have offered the field and policy makers. However, the fact that this particular review is ill-conceived and poorly executed does not mean that all is well in teacher education. The education of future teachers can be greatly improved by increased selectivity of the students admitted into teacher preparation programs, strengthened clinical experiences woven into the study of teaching and learning, increased demand for teachers to have strong content knowledge and understanding of content-specific instructional strategies, and stricter enforcement of program approval standards."

NCTQ, espcially in its relationship with the media, appears more concerned about creating an appearance of failure within tecaher education than with genuinely addressing in a scholarly way what works, what doesn't work, and how to reform teacher education.

The bully depends on status—the weight of appointment, designation—and the threat of wielding that power regardless of credibility. The bully depends on repetition and volume of claims over the confirmation of evidence or logic.

The current education reform movement is in the hands of bullies and in the vortex of bully politics. Left unchecked, bullying is incredibly effective for the benefit of the bullies and detrimental to everyone else.

Calling out the bullies, however, is possible and even relatively simple since the bully has nothing genuine to stand on.

In the long run, truth trumps bullying, but truth cannot win in the cloak of silence and inaction.


Get adjusted. (1947, December 15). Time.

Jacoby, S. (2004). Freethinkers: A history of American secularism. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Originally posted to plthomasEdD on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 11:08 AM PDT.

Also republished by Education Alternatives.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Eh... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Glen The Plumber
    When another country (USSR) invades Afghanistan, America is filled with righteous indignation, but when America invades Afghanistan, well, all is right with the world.
    While I think we don't have a current reason to stay, I think we had a good reason to go there. We might have been out of there by now, if Bush had focused on getting Osama Bin Laden, instead of getting oil from Iraq.

    "Progress is possible. Don't give up on voting. Don't give up on advocacy. Don't give up on activism. There are too many needs to be met, too much work to be done." - Barack Obama

    by eaglekid85va on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 03:23:45 PM PDT

    •  Maybe...maybe not... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      This point was chosen to be purposefully provocative...

      All superpowers believe they are justified in their actions...and their status as superpowers makes it difficult for any powerful country to distinguish between might-makes-right and genuine justification for actions...

      The USSR felt justified in their actions as well...

      This example is must more complicated than if I had referenced Iraq, for example, so I went with the example that is far more ambiguous and complicated to highlight the problem with being "most powerful"...

      The US should use that status with much greater humility than we do, but instead we often fall into the mode of bully politics...

  •  Not even propaganda, just a smoke screen (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    plthomasEdD, grimjc

    The NCTQ report is so utterly and completely flawed that one cannot imagine that it was an accident unless we are to believe that a million monkeys at type writers actually did write ""War and Peace". Too few have the skills needed to debunk such tripe, though it has been very well done by Susan Benner in this case. The report is in reality a tactical weapon composed of mass amounts of pseudo data pretending to be analysis. It's a diversionary bluff meant to give cover for it's predetermined, ideologically driven conclusions that are designed to be used in attacking the teaching profession itself.

    •  privatization and deprofessionalizing teaching (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "It's a diversionary bluff meant to give cover for it's predetermined, ideologically driven conclusions that are designed to be used in attacking the teaching profession itself." Exactly. De-professionalizing teaching opens the door to online teacher-ed training, Teach for America, and a host of for-profit fast track programs. NCQT justifies the motives of their financial sugar daddies- cheap labor. Human capital is such a drag on profits.

      The 1%ers have overtaken Obama's DoEd and have infiltrated our legislatures, our inner cities with money laundering charter schools and unaccountable private contractors, and legislation ending teacher autonomy and rights (e.g., testing publishers, teacher training consultants, TfA and for-profit alt licensing companies, ending raises for seniority, VAM, retirement, and merit pay)

      Dora Taylor highlighted this diary here along with other  bullies (e.g., Rahm Emanuel)

  •  Facts about NCTQ Review of Teacher Prep (0+ / 0-)

    When we set out to review the country's 1,400 or so schools of education — the institutions responsible for training almost 200,000 new teachers per year — we didn't think it would be easy. Until now, this multi-billion dollar sector of higher education, whose graduates go on to teach 1.5 million students every year, has largely escaped public scrutiny. There are some signs that our effort is sparking a serious dialogue on how we can best ready new teachers to help their students achieve. It's too bad that discussion about the review has at times devolved into name-calling.

    Here are the facts about the review:

    1.) NCTQ is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that every child has an effective teacher. Our board and staff are made up of Democrats, Republicans and independents. Most of the people working on the review are themselves former teachers who want to make sure that new entrants into the profession get the kind of training they need to succeed in the classroom.

    2.) The principles of our review are the same ones laid out in a 2010 National Research Council report on teacher preparation. Programs training teachers should choose reasonably smart people, make sure they know the subjects they will teach and provide them with structured opportunities to learn their craft. The 18 standards by which we assess teacher prep have been vetted by a technical panel, which includes state superintendents, education experts and teacher educators.

    3.) We are proud that 50 funders, large and small, from around the country have invested in the review. 115 district superintendents, who hire the graduates of teacher prep programs and are held responsible for how well they do in their classrooms, have endorsed our effort. 11 state school chiefs and 22 education-focused non-profit organizations have also signed on in support thus far.

    4.) Last year, we issued a report on student teaching, teacher prep's capstone experience where aspiring teachers practice teaching in real classrooms. We examined programs at randomly selected institutions around the country looking for evidence that programs chose mentor teachers who were effective teachers themselves and had qualifications to supervise a novice. Only 14 percent did so. If you were the parent of a child with a new teacher, wouldn't you want that teacher to have learned from a pro?

    5.) All teacher preparation programs are publicly approved to prepare teachers for public schools, and as such should be transparent to the public. Currently, two-thirds of the teacher preparation programs at public universities, including heavyweights such as the University of Michigan, Penn State University and the University of Virginia, are working with us to provide the data we need for the review.

    Everyone wants teachers to be accorded the respect that is their due. To get there, let's take a lesson from countries that out-perform us educationally, countries like Finland, Singapore and South Korea — where, not coincidentally, the teaching profession is held in the highest esteem. These countries took a long hard look at the institutions training their teachers and made sure they were highly selective, academically rigorous and eminently practical. Preparation that honors the incredibly difficult challenge of teaching — that's our vision, and it's the way to make sure that our students get the very best teachers.

    •  Fair and open (0+ / 0-)

      I think it is a shame that the teaching profession has been demonized and marginalized historically, and then more recently in the past decade through agendas misrepresented as nonpartisan.

      And would appreciate a response that isn't anonymous and addresses the review of the first report that was found to be deeply flawed.

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