Testing resistance in Colorado takes to the road

January 20, 2014

From Susan O'Hanian's NCLB Cartoons:   Every year, the Coalitition for Better Education raises grassroots funds to put up these billboards.  You can contribute.  You can go forth and do likewise in your state.

From Susan Ohanian’s NCLB Cartoons: “Every year, the Coalitition for Better Education raises grassroots funds to put up these billboards. You can contribute. You can go forth and do likewise in your state.”

Dr. Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education for Research, said at her blog:

The corporate types who hate teachers’ unions and public schools have been running a billboard and mass media campaign in New York and New Jersey.

But they are not the only ones who know how to frame a message.

Here is a fabulous billboard posted on a major highway in Colorado by critics of the nutty testing regime imposed by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.


War on Teachers and Education, Part 1: Prof. Ravitch’s emotion-touching call for a cease-fire on teachers

June 10, 2013

This is the first of five parts needed to document and lay the background for what unfortunately promises to be a pitched public relations battle, if not a serious battle to rescue a California school from being crushed by a corporation making a hostile takeover of a school using California’s “parent trigger” law.  Follow-ups may be needed.

Diane Ravitch in Dallas, April 28, 2010 - Copyright 2010 Ed Darrell (you may use freely, with attribution)

Diane Ravitch in Dallas, April 28, 2010 – Copyright 2010 Ed Darrell (you may use freely, with attribution)

If you’ve followed education issues, you know Dr. Diane Ravitch is a professor of education at Columbia, one of the most respected schools of education in the world.  Her work on education reform was popular with the Reagan administration in the period after the Report of the Commission on Excellence in Education in 1983, and particularly with education reformers at the time I was tapped to work at the Department of Education, in the old Office of Educational Research and Improvement.  Dr. Ravitch was appointed to head that arm of Education in the administration of George H. W. Bush, but after I had left government for the private sector.

More recently, Dr. Ravitch has looked hard to find evidence that the testing regimes imposed by the “No Child Left Behind” Act (NCLB) actually produce benefits to the education of students.

Finding no such evidence, Dr. Ravitch has called for an end to unproven methods of destruction of schools and school systems in pursuit of foggy, unattainable goals.

Recently, big-dollar guys have backed efforts to kick out teachers and trained educators from schools, and in particular with “parent-trigger” laws, which allow a group of parents to petition for the removal of professionals at a school, and for a group of parents to then take over the management of that school.

Oddly, the first places these laws have been applied is against teachers in schools where parental involvement has been historically abysmal.  A closer look shows that in these cases professional organizers, well-financed by businessmen who fancy themselves education reformers, did the load-carrying to get the petitions signed, and to get the educators ousted.

One of the schools where this process is moving is Weigand Avenue Elementary School in Watts, that troubled, poverty-ridden section of Los Angeles more famous for riots and gangs than educational attainment.

Dr. Ravitch wrote on her blog on May 25:

Parent Revolution Force Out Excellent Principal

The billionaire-funded Parent Revolution flexed its muscle and got enough parent signatures to force the resignation of a highly effective principal.

Please read the story.

This is the principal who was ousted by Parent Revolution:

“Third-grade teacher Kate Lewis said Irma Cobian is the best principal she’s had in nine years at Weigand Avenue Elementary School in Watts.

“Joseph Shamel called Cobian a “godsend” who has used her mastery of special education to show him how to craft effective learning plans for his students.

“Los Angeles Unified Supt. John Deasy praised a plan developed by Cobian and her team to turn around the struggling campus — where most students test below grade level in reading and math — calling it a “well-organized program for accelerated student achievement.” He thanked Cobian for her commitment and hard work.”

21 of the school’s 22 teachers have requested transfers because of Cobian’s ouster.

Parent Revolution is a malevolent organization funded by Walton, Gates, and Broad.

There is a special place in hell reserved for everyone who administers and funds this revolting organization that destroys schools and fine educators like Irma Cobian.

Dr. Ravitch has a good sense of justice, and injustice in my opinion.  This situation got her thinking, and she had more comments later.

Wondering About Ben Austin

Earlier today, I posted an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times about Parent Revolution forcing the ouster of an excellent principal, Irma Cobian.

I keep thinking about it. I think about the way her staff admired and respected her, how 21 of 22 teachers requested a transfer when she was targeted by the phony Parent Revolution.

Ben Austin is loathsome. He ruined the life and career of a dedicated educator. She was devoted to the children, he is devoted to the equally culpable foundations that fund his Frankenstein organization–Walton, Gates, and Broad. His biggest funder is the reactionary Walton Family Foundation [line added here], which spends $160 million every year to advance privatization.

Ben Austin is Walton’s useful idiot. He prattles on about his liberal credentials, but actions speak louder than words.

Here is my lifelong wish for him.

Ben, every day when you wake up, you should think of Irma Cobian. When you look in the mirror, think Irma Cobian. Your last thought every night should be Irma Cobian.

Ben, you ruined the life of a good person for filthy lucre. Never forget her. She should be on your conscience–if you have one–forever.

W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming,Wikipedia image. Oddly, few, if any, education reform efforts work to incorporate any of Deming’s rules for running high-efficiency, highly-productive, championship-quality organizations; its as if there is a different agenda being pursued.

Ravitch makes a good point.  Organizational turnarounds rarely work when they start with mass firings.  It didn’t work in the French Revolution, it didn’t work in Russian in 1917.  Management experts like W. Edwards Deming, the most famous of the tough-reorganization management consultants in the drive for high quality organizations, bluntly warn that such efforts generally are destructive — the people fired are not the problem, nor do they have the authority to fix the problems, most often.  People on the front line know the problems better than anyone else, and can provide the leadership to turn organizations around, however — and for those reasons, you don’t get rid of them, if your goal is to effect an organizational turnaround.

Mr. Austin should have a framed photo of Mrs. Cobian on his desk so he must see her, every day.

Mr. Austin disagrees.

See part 2.

This series, on the dustup between Prof. Diane Ravitch and Ben Austin in California:

More, different views, and resources:


Diane Ravitch’s “U-turn”: The teachers were right

March 4, 2010

Were I to advise Diane Ravitch right now, I’d tell her to change all her computer passwords and redouble the security on her servers.  Why?  After what happened to the scientists who study global warming, I expect many of the same wackoes are working right now to get her e-mails, knowing that the mere act of stealing them will be enough to indict her change of heart on education in America.

It’s much the same mob crowd in both cases.  [I’m hopeful it’s not a mob.]

Dr. Ravitch thinks big thoughts about education.  She stands in the vanguard of those people who are both academically astute in education, and who can make a case that appeals to policy makers.  Working under Checker Finn at the old Office of Educational Research and Improvement, we quickly got familiar with Ravitch’s works and views.  Finn and Ravitch, good friends and like-minded in education issues, were the running backs and sticky-handed receivers for any conservative education quarterback, back in the Day.

Finn was Assistant Secretary of Education for Research under Bill Bennett.  Ravitch succeeded Finn, under Lamar Alexander.  While Bennett and Alexander took troubling turns to the right, and Finn stayed much where he was, Ravitch has been looking hard at what’s working in schools today.

Ravitch doesn’t like the conservative revolution’s results in education.  She’s changed her views.  Says one of the better stories about her changing views, in The New York Times:

Once outspoken about the power of standardized testing, charter schools and free markets to improve schools, Dr. Ravitch is now caustically critical. She underwent an intellectual crisis, she says, discovering that these strategies, which she now calls faddish trends, were undermining public education. She resigned last year from the boards of two conservative research groups.

“School reform today is like a freight train, and I’m out on the tracks saying, ‘You’re going the wrong way!’ ” Dr. Ravitch said in an interview.

This is big stuff, and good news to teachers who, since I was at Education in 1987, have been telling policy makers the same things Ravitch is saying now.

David Gardner and Milton Goldberg wrote in the report of the Excellence in Education Commission in 1983 that America faces a “rising tide of mediocrity” because of bad decisions.  That’s true of much education reform today, too.

Gardner and Goldberg also said that, had a foreign nation done that damage to us, we’d regard it as an act of war.

Maybe Ravitch’s turn can help mediate an end to the Right’s War on Education and pogroms against teachers.

Here in Texas the conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education didn’t like Ravitch’s views when she was in the conservative camp, so Texas has started, finally, to vote out commissioners who don’t get it, who prefer a state of war on Texas’s children to promoting public education

Let’s hope more people listen to Ravitch now.

More:

Be sure to listen to the NPR interview from Morning Edition, yesterday (you can read it, too).

And, in next Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, a story about how to build a better teacher; do you know the difference between testing and teaching?


Dallas to cut nearly 700 teachers

September 25, 2008

Let’s get back to education nuts and bolts for a while.  I have not commented on this partly because I’ve been on the road and just busier than most teachers with three preps, and partly because this is just jaw-droppingly unbelievable stuff.

Education nuts, anyway, maybe without the bolts.

Officials at Dallas Independent School District (DISD) announced over a week ago they had discovered an accounting error that led to hiring too many new teachers, and a $64 million shortfall.  The Board of Trustees asked for more details to a plan proposed last week that includes layoffs of teachers, including some that were newly-hired.

The second report is due this afternoon, and the DISD Board will meet tonight to consider action.  If people are not cut, the budget shortfall will double in the rest of this fiscal year.

Most teachers have been working on estimates that 750 teachers will be axed, which works out to about 3 from each campus.

The Dallas Morning News’s DISD Blog says fewer than 750 will go.

More employees could be laid off than expected. We’re hearing from a good source that 1,209 employees would be let go if the board approves to have a reduction in force at today’s 3 p.m. meeting.

The layoff numbers breakdown like this:

Central office – 164
Campus non-contract support staff – 250
Campus administrators – 50
Teachers – 675
Non-teaching campus support staff – 70

One more battle lost in the War on Education.  For Dallas, this is a big one, for the effects on morale alone.

Coupled with the collapse of schools in Milwaukee, lack of gasoline in Tennessee, the unmitigated and unreported natural disaster from the storm named Gustav that hit Baton Rouge, the known disaster caused by Hurricane and Tropical Depression Ike, one might be excuse for thinking much of the U.S. is sinking to second- or third-world status.  Oh, and did I mention that most of our larger financial institutions are in ruins, too?

As one of the more recent hires in Dallas ISD, excuse me while I go back to working with the kids.

What?  You thought I’d have time to chew my fingernails?  You don’t know jack about teaching, or teachers, if you thought that.

Stay tuned.  Check out resources listed below.

Resources:


$1 billion boondoggle: Bush’s reading program doesn’t work

May 2, 2008

From today’s New York Times:

Published: May 2, 2008

President Bush’s $1 billion a year initiative to teach reading to low-income children has not helped improve their reading comprehension, according to a Department of Education report released on Thursday.

Read the study here:

Created under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001, the Reading First program provides assistance to states and districts in using research-based reading programs and instructional materials for students in kindergarten through third grade and in introducing related professional development and assessments. The program’s purpose is to ensure that increased proportions of students read at or above grade level, have mastery of the essential components of early reading, and that all students can read at or above grade level by the end of grade 3. The law requires that an independent, rigorous evaluation of the program be conducted to determine if the program influences teaching practices, mastery of early reading components, and student reading comprehension. This interim report presents the impacts of Reading First on classroom reading instruction and student reading comprehension during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years.

The evaluation found that Reading First did have positive, statistically significant impacts on the total class time spent on the five essential components of reading instruction promoted by the program. The study also found that, on average across the 18 study sites, Reading First did not have statistically significant impacts on student reading comprehension test scores in grades 1-3. A final report on the impacts from 2004-2007 (three school years with Reading First funding) and on the relationships between changes in instructional practice and student reading comprehension is expected in late 2008.


NCLB comes to football — No Halfback Left Behind

March 21, 2008

Who was the genius who wrote this? It’s an internet e-mail masterpiece, and it comes without attribution. Do you know who wrote it? Please tell us in comments.

And if you don’t understand it, you’re not a teacher. Pass it to a teacher to explain to you what’s really going on; tip of the old scrub brush to Pam at Grassroots Science; she pointed to this piece in Shibby’s Alaska Journal:

No Child Left Behind – Football Version

The football version of what is going on in education right now. (If you’re not an educator, this may not make a lot of sense to you. But send it to your friends who are in education. They will love it!) For all the educators – In or out of the system.

1. All teams must make the state playoffs and all MUST win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable. If after two years they have not won the championship their footballs and equipment will be taken away UNTIL they do win the championship.

2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time even if they do not have the same conditions or opportunities to practice on their own. NO exceptions will be made for lack of interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities of themselves or their parents. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL!

3. Talented players will be asked to workout on their own, without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes who aren’t interested in football, have limited athletic ability or whose parents don’t like football.

4. Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in the 4th, 8th, and 11th game. This will create a New Age of Sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimum goals. If no child gets ahead, then no child gets left behind.


Why not treat kindergarteners like college students?

November 18, 2007

Vouchers in Utah have the wooden stake right in the heart. That’s one proposal in one state. More voucher proposals are promised, and the debate continues.

Voucher advocates generally make a plea that colleges have something akin to school vouchers with Pell Grants (Basic Education Opportunity Grants), Stafford Grants, the GI Bill and other federal programs, plus many state programs, which give money to a student to use at a college of the student’s choice.

Why won’t this work for kindergartners, 8th graders and 10th graders? the voucher advocates ask.

The short answer is that we regard college students as adults. Beyond that are several other differences between elementary schools and colleges that we should, perhaps, explore.

Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas has a couple of posts that provide some insights to the issues. In the first one, “We Have Vouchers for Higher Education,” the question is raised about why not let elementary students operate like veterans, and take their government money where they choose to.

In the second, “Vouchers Are About Choice, Not Quality,” we get a glimpse of real life — parents fighting to keep open their neighborhood school, despite there being better performing schools available to take their kids.

We might want to compare systems, at least briefly.

Read the rest of this entry »


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