Why A New Generation of Teachers is Angry at Self-Styled Education ‘Reformers’

This is an excellent essay at Medium that I learned about from Peter Greene of Curmudgucation. I copy and paste it in its entirety in case you don’t like signing into Medium.

Why New Educators Resent “Reformers”

Let’s consider why so many young educators today are in open rebellion.

How did we lose patience with politicians and policymakers who dominated nearly every education reform debate for more than a generation?

Recall first that both political parties called us “a nation at risk,” fretted endlessly that we “leave no child behind,” and required us to compete in their “race to the top.”

They told us our problems could be solved if we “teach for America,” introduce “disruptive technology,” and ditch the textbook to become “real world,” 21st century, “college and career ready.”

They condemned community public schools for not letting parents “choose,” but promptly mandated a top-down “common core” curriculum. They flooded us with standardized tests guaranteeing “accountability.” They fetishized choice, chopped up high schools, and re-stigmatized racial integration.

They blamed students who lacked “grit,” teachers who sought tenure, and parents who knew too much. They declared school funding isn’t the problem, an elected school board is an obstacle, and philanthropists know best.

They told us the same public schools that once inspired great poetry, art, and music, put us on the moon, and initiated several civil rights movements needed to be split, gutted, or shuttered.

They invented new school names like “Green Renaissance College-Prep Academy for Character, the Arts, and Scientific Careers” and “Hope-Horizon Enterprise Charter Preparatory School for New STEM Futures.” They replaced the district superintendent with the “Chief Educational Officer.”

They published self-fulfilling prophecies connecting zip-coded school ratings, teacher performance scores, and real estate values. They viewed Brown v. Board as skin-deep and sentimental, instead of an essential mandate for democracy.

They implied “critical thinking” was possible without the Humanities, that STEM alone makes us vocationally relevant, and that “coding” should replace recess time. They cut teacher pay, lowered employment qualifications, and peddled the myth anyone can teach.

They celebrated school recycling programs that left consumption unquestioned, gave lip-service to “student-centered civic engagement” while stifling protest, and talked up “multiple intelligences” while defunding the arts.

They instructed critics to look past poverty, inequality, residential segregation, mass incarceration, homelessness, and college debt to focus on a few heartwarming (and yes, legitimate) stories of student resilience and pluck.

They expected us to believe that a lazy public-school teacher whose students fail to make “adequate yearly progress” was endemic but that an administrator bilking an online academy or for-profit charter school was “one bad apple.”

They designed education conferences on “data-driven instruction,” “rigorous assessment,” and “differentiated learning” but showed little patience for studies that correlate student performance with poverty, trauma, a school-to-prison pipeline, and the decimation of community schools.

They promised new classroom technology to bridge the “digital divide” between rich, poor, urban, and rural, while consolidating corporate headquarters in a few elite cities. They advertised now-debunked “value-added” standardized testing for stockholder gain as teacher salaries stagnated.

They preached “cooperative learning” while sending their own kids to private schools. They saw alma mater endowments balloon while donating little to the places most Americans earn degrees. They published op-eds to end affirmative action but still checked the legacy box on college applications.

They were legitimately surprised when thousands of teachers in the reddest, least unionized states walked out of class last year.

Meanwhile……

The No Child Left Behind generation continues to bear the fullest weight of this malpractice, paying a steep price for today’s parallel rise in ignorance and intolerance.

We are the children of the education reformer’s empty promises. We watched the few decide for the many how schools should operate. We saw celebrated new technologies outpace civic capacity and moral imagination. We have reason to doubt.

We are are the inheritors of “alternative facts” and “fake news.” We have watched democratic institutions crumble, conspiracies normalized, and authoritarianism mainstreamed. We have seen climate change denied at the highest levels of government.

We still see too many of our black brothers and sisters targeted by law enforcement. We watched as our neighbor’s promised DACA protections were rescinded and saw the deporters break down their doors. We see basic human rights for our LGBTQ peers refused in the name of “science.”

We have seen the “Southern strategy” deprive rural red state voters of educational opportunity before dividing, exploiting, and dog whistling. We hear climate science mocked and watch women’s freedom erode. We hear mental health discussed only after school shootings.

We’ve seen two endless wars and watched deployed family members and friends miss out on college. Even the battles we don’t see remind us that that bombs inevitably fall on schools. And we know war imposes a deadly opportunity tax on the youngest of civilians and female teachers.

Against this backdrop we recall how reformers caricatured our teachers as overpaid, summer-loving, and entitled. We resent how our hard-working mentors were demoralized and forced into resignation or early retirement.

Our collective experience is precisely why we aren’t ideologues. We know the issues are complex. And unlike the reformers, we don’t claim to have the answers. We simply believe that education can and must be more humane than this. We plan to make it so.

We learned most from the warrior educators who saw through the reform facade. Our heroes breathed life into institutions, energized our classrooms, reminded us what we are worth, and pointed us in new directions. We plan to become these educators too.

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Mayoral Control of Schools in Washington DC Appears to have Benefitted Children of College Grads, But Nobody Else

The reason given for having the office of the Mayor (originally Adrian Fenty) take over the school system in Washington DC, and abolishing all the powers of the elected school board, was to help the poorest kids.

But that’s not how it worked out, according to official test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Using those stats, harvested for me by the parent of a former student of mine from the NAEP database, we see that children in DC whose parents did NOT finish college made lower gains after 2007 (the date of the changeover) than they did before that date. However, children of college graduates in DC made higher gains after 2007.

Amazing.

And yet another sign that the education ‘reform’ movement is a complete failure.

Here are my graphs and raw data. (Right-click to see them enlarged, if you have a PC – not sure what to do if you have an Apple product.)

annualized gains pre and post mayoral control, DC, 8th grade math, by parental education

The vertical orange line shows the date (June of 2007) when Michelle Rhee was appointed as the first Chancellor of DC Public Schools. The black, dashed line represents average scale scores on the 8th grade math NAEP for students who reported that their parent(s) graduated from college, and the other lines shows scores for kids whose parent(s) did or did not graduate high school, had some college courses. The thin, double blue line represents those students who were unsure of their parental education.

I asked Excel to calculate the annual rate of change pre- and post-mayoral control, and you can see the results in the last two columns. The boxes filled in with yellow are the ‘winners’, so to speak. Note that for the period 2000-2007, the annualized change in NAEP scale scores on the 8th grade NAEP math test in DC is 2.63, which means that on the average, that group of students (yeah, it’s a different group of students for each testing event) saw their scores rise by 2.63 points per year, or 5.26 points every two years. However, for the period 2007-2017, after mayoral control, that same group of students saw their gains cut nearly in half – it tumbled to 1.41 points per year. Kids whose parents did graduate from high school (but went no further) and those whose parents had some education after high school, also saw their rates of increase tumble drastically. Kids who were unsure of their parental education levels or who didn’t report it also saw a drop, but not so large: dropping from 2.08 down to 1.88 points per year.

The only group which saw their annualized scores increase after mayoral control were the children of college graduates: their rate went from 1.16 points/year to 2.60 points per year, which to me looks rather significant.

Ironic, huh?

And here are the results for reading:

annualized gains pre and post mayoral control, dc, 8th grade reading, by parental education

Once again, the results for students whose parents did NOT graduate from college (the first three lines of the table) tumbled dramatically after mayoral control. However, students whose parents did graduate from college (the fourth line) saw a dramatic increase. The last line, representing kids who didn’t know or didn’t report their parental education, saw a little uptick after mayoral control.

Remind me again why  we got rid of the elected school board and put the mayor in charge? Was it really to make sure that the ‘haves’ would get more and that the ‘have-nots’ would have less?

Let me point out the obvious: white parents in DC are overwhelmingly college-educated. Those in DC who did not graduate from high school, or who graduated from 12th grade and went no further, are overwhelmingly African-American or Hispanic. So our ‘reforms’ have had a disproportionately negative impact on black and hispanic students, and a positive one on white kids.

Was that really the intent all along?

Remedial College Courses and Real Problems

From a recent discussion on the Concerned4DCPS list about a recent NYT article on the numbers of students taking remedial courses at the college level. I have taken the opportunity to revise and extend my remarks. If you want to read these in chronological order, start at the bottom.

===========================

(From me:)

The Matthew Effect in College Tuition Costs

The Matthew Effect is where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath— Matthew 25:29, King James Version.

An interesting article in the NYT Magazine points out that In the United States, students at the top tier of universities and colleges collectively get enormous subsidies on the cost of their enormous tuition bills — even those who pay the entire bill themselves. From the article:
colleges
Published in: on September 28, 2015 at 7:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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That so-called report on the nation’s schools of education

Diane Ravitch has a worthwhile entry on the survey that’s in today’s news — the one from the self-named NCTQ (National Center for Teacher Quality).

That’s the report that gave most of the US teacher-training schools very low marks.

I read the report in the Post, twice, once online and once in the form of black marks on paper (remember those?).

I thought it strange that the authors of the NCTQ report had visited exactly none of the actual colleges or universities that they were supposedly surveying, nor talked to any of the professors, nor even to any of the students in those programs (past or current), nor made any effort to find out what fraction of their graduates were even still teaching after some number of years later.

Diane’s analysis explained why. And she in fact knows it quite well: she herself used to be on the board of that organization, back when she herself used to be a right-wing educational ideologue under the leadership of Rodney Page, George Bush and other, similar lying creeps. (We all should be amazed at the complete, 180-degree about-face Ravitch has undergone — not very often that anybody does that!)

As it is, she is performing a very valuable service, and has been doing so for a little more than a year IIRC.

I thought it worthwhile to repost her entire post. I don’t often do that. I’ve accentuated a small part of her piece.

Apparently, according to Diane, the only thing that the NCTQ was looking for was the fraction of course syllabi that mention or emphasize “Common Core”. Sheesh.

Here goes:

That NCTQ Report on Teacher Education: F

by dianerav

The just-released NCTQ report on teacher education gives an F to the nation’s colleges of education. It was published in association with U.S. News & World Report.

But the report itself deserves an F.

To begin with, there are professional associations that rate the nation’s education schools, based on site visits and clear criteria.

NCTQ is not a professional association. It did not make site visits. It made its harsh judgments by reviewing course syllabi and catalogs. The criteria that it rated as most important was the institution’s fidelity to the Common Core standards.

As Rutgers’ Bruce Baker pointed out in his response, NCTQ boasts of its regard for teachers but its review of the nation’s teacher-training institutions says nothing about faculty. They don’t matter. They are irrelevant. All that matters is what is in the course catalog.

There are many reasons not to trust the NCTQ report on teacher education. Most important is that it lacks credibility. Not only is it not a professional association. it lacks independence. It has an agenda.

NCTQ was founded by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in 2000 with the explicit purpose of harassing institutions of teacher education and urging alternative arrangements. I was on the board at the time. Initially, the new organization floundered but was saved by a $5 million grant from U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. Just lucky.

So, knowing NCTQ’s history, and reading Mercedes Schneider’s posts about the organization, I conclude that NCTQ cannot be considered a fair, credible, independent judge of the quality of teacher training institutions.

I certainly agree that some such institutions are weak and inadequate, though I don’t think NCTQ’s superficial methodology identifies them.

I also agree with the report’s recommendation that teacher education institutions should have higher standards for admission.

But I don’t agree that the mark of a great education school is how many courses it offers on the Common Core standards or how attentive it is to raising test scores..

The great Robert Hutchins once wrote that the purpose of a professional school is to teach students to criticize the profession. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the profession would prepare them to make it stronger. The NCTQ report–looking at education schools from a mountain top–would have them conform to the status quo, to the conventional wisdom. This is not a prescription for the future, nor for the creation of a profession of strong teachers. It is a prescription for docility and conformity. Robert Hutchins would not approve.

dianerav | June 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Categories: Common CoreCorporate R
Published in: on June 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm  Comments (7)  
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How Teach for America Could Have Been Useful – But Wasn’t

Imagine if Wendy Kopp had taken a different tack.

Instead of throwing untrained elite, newby college grads into an inner-city classroom with virtually no connection between what they studied at their university and what they were teaching, with the promise that once they had those 2 years under their belt, they could then get all their college loans paid off and go on to make big bucks coasting on their resume — while having in fact been AT BEST only vaguely successful (in other words, “Teach For Awhile”)

Instead of that:

Recruiting bright young college sophomores and juniors to seriously consider teaching AS A CAREER, and to take courses on educational theory and practice along with whatever subject they are already interested in;

Making sure that they had a full year, post-graduation, of student teaching and observation, as well as intensive grad-school courses that further promote their understanding of teaching as a craft and of how to teach their own chosen subject matter;

Getting them to commit to at least five years in the Title I classroom, not two, since we know that it takes at least three years to begin to become an effective classroom teacher, and it’s bad to have constant teacher turnover, and it’s wasteful to do all this training and have it all be thrown away;

Encouraging these college grads NOT to become derivative traders, mortgage bankers, corporate lawyers, or educational shucksters, but instead, real, practicing teachers and leaders in that profession;

Then we could have said that Wendy Koop had done something positive for the youth of America.

Instead, we have had a colossal con job foisted on our public educational system.

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