Today, the Delaware Department of Education named 4 schools to its much ballyhooed Partnership Zone (herein referred to as: the PZ). The Christina School District has two of the schools named to this zone: Glasgow High School and Stubbs Elementary School. Neither is a shocking surprise, but the motivations to include each is somewhat murky when compared to some others. For example, Stubbs is only two years removed from being a 4-5-6 school into a K-5 school, so the comparatives on testing are odd. Anyway, there we are with 2 schools in the PZ.
The DOE began a PR campaign today with this gem:
Why are we calling the deployment of untested reforms an opportunity? Taking risks? Our children deserve to have more teachers and smaller class sizes, not plans that feed adult egos and lure people into a false sense of efficacy. Here’s a risk: take the 119 million and just hire educators in quantity to get our kids in smaller classes. Change the unit count rules and let us enter the hiring marketplace for educators in May, not July……
Where to begin…. A true partnership? Dr. Lowery, if this bypasses the local school board AGAIN, just like the entire RTTT process usurped our authority, this statement will confirm that the myths listed here ARE realities while your Realities are Fantasies. Evidence based? (I can’t wait!) Innovative? (means nothing if it doesn’t work) Rigorous? (Doing things longer and harder does not yield in education Dr. Lowery, it is about smarter)
Moving along we get more cool propaganda:
This one is very deceptive as the whole process has been very gotcha driven from a local control perspective. Parents have been completely marginalized by the Markell administration on the entire RTTT process, plan and implementation. With more artificial deadlines, this trend is set to continue….
That Respect arrow….WOW, can’t wait to see that one happen! I hereby pledge my complete openness and honesty and respect right now: RTTT is respectfully very flawed.
For those wondering about the models, here is a quick pic:
So after we go into our rooms and plan and plan and plan…here’s the handy dandy Secretary of Education holds ALL the cards flow chart:
I’m squinting….are school boards mentioned? Nope, shucks missed out again….guess local control is a fallacy in Delaware. The First State is the first state to tell elected school board members to go pound sand, once again I may add.
This may be my favorite slide….for once we get to the state of need a “Lead Partner” to run our PZ schools…check out the rules…..or lack thereof:
Experience: working in a school turnaround environment and working in high schools….whew, with a bar that high we are going to get AWESOME results!
Willingness: Operate under some but NOT most LEA procedures and regulations (so I can throw my board and district policy manuals in the trash Dr. Lowery?) Use some but not all LEA central office services (only the expensive ones? What are the rules here?)
Readiness: Ramp up quickly? (Define please!) Have excess cash or ability to raise capital quickly (going to give them taxing authority Jack?)
Check out the killer competencies: Execute a full community engagement plan (goals? Measurements? Scope?) Transform the existing culture to create positive learning environment (DOE has plenty of experience transforming cultures and as we all know this one is a simple as a finger snap!)
Of course we end any quality PPT with the obligatory:
I have tons. Let’s see if the DOE if going to listen.
We are here! We are here! We are here!
We don’t need no education……..
We dont need no thought control…….
No dark sarcasm in the classroom……..
Unproven Reforms are on the way!!!!!!!!!! Anyone who lines up against them is a criminal status quo“er”……
Newsflash: the status quo in education is constant upheaval. Our students will suffer under this construct, no doubt about it. The methods are simply and deeply flawed. As flawed as the grammar in this classic rock anthem!
We Dont Need No Education
I only know one welcome back song, and it’s about school……a teacher coming back to his roots……Brooklyn Style…this cover is a rare FULL VERSION of the SONG!
Welcome Back Kotter John Sebastian TV Theme Cover
And for those that like the original and Karaoke…..
AOL In2TV Welome Back Kotter TV Karaoke
By David Moberg
The theory that supports treating education as a marketplace is flawed, as is the practice. When faced with performance incentives, people typically end up gaming the system.
When President Barack Obama announced that his choice for Secretary of Education was Arne Duncan, chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, he extolled his basketball buddy as a pragmatic, successful school reformer. “He’s not beholden to any one ideology,” Obama said, adding that Duncan would speak with authority based on “the lessons he’s learned during his years changing our schools from the bottom up.”
As a critic on the campaign trail of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, Obama implicitly offered Duncan’s efforts in Chicago as an alternative model of how his administration would improve American schools, particularly the most troubled.
But so far Duncan and Obama have only modified Bush’s education plans, retaining many problematic elements. The administration’s hallmark program, Race to the Top (RTTT), encourages states to adopt specified changes in a competition for money they desperately need. But it offers only $4.35 billion in the first two rounds for school systems that spend roughly $580 billion a year, $47 billion of which is federal aid. Yet by emphasizing this program, Duncan is pursuing dubious reforms that are not only likely to fail, but do real harm.
Obama claims that Duncan’s reform agenda is based on experience, but some of its key features remain untested—and those that have been tested have not worked well, if at all. Unfortunately, Duncan’s approach is rooted in an ideology that threatens America’s system of public education.
RTTT gives points to states if they meet specific requirements, doing the opposite of what Duncan says is the Obama administration’s objective—being tight on goals, loose on implementation. The policies Duncan urges states to implement in their quest for federal dollars include: expanding charter schools; linking teacher pay to student test scores; enabling districts to dismiss entire staffs of failing schools; weakening teacher tenure; and testing and tracking student performance even more stringently, albeit more comprehensively.
In late July, after a group of civil rights organizations faulted Obama for not proposing and funding an education strategy that aimed to help all students, Obama defended RTTT before the National Urban League as “the single most ambitious, meaningful education reform effort we’ve attempted in this country in generations.”
A dubious record
The track record of similar reform efforts in Chicago and across the nation, however, is too spotty to justify pushing them on every financially desperate school district.
Under pressure from Chicago’s school reform movement, in 1988 the state legislature devolved many responsibilities of the central administration to elected local school councils (LSCs) that hired principals and exercised modest budget authority. (I served on the LSC of Kenwood High School, which my children attended, as a parent representative between 1996 and 2000.) The councils worked well in about one-third of schools, satisfactorily in a third and poorly in another third. But in 1995, when the state of Illinois made Chicago’s mayor directly responsible for the schools, Mayor Richard M. Daley shifted power back to the central administration. Generally skeptical of government and a believer in the superiority of private business, Daley appointed superintendents—called “CEOs”—who identified with business groups like the Commercial Club, an elite business group that advocated corporate-style school management and a free-market education ideology.
Following a wave of magnet-school creation in the late ’90s, in 2001 Daley made Duncan CEO of Chicago schools. Duncan promoted charter schools and a controversial program known as “Renaissance 2010,” which involved shutting down poorly performing schools (mostly in black neighborhoods), dismissing all staff (including the lunch ladies), and reopening them, with or without the old student body.
Many of Duncan’s initiatives, and those like them, have not succeeded:
•In the most definitive national study to date, Stanford University researchers reported last year that only 17 percent of charter schools outperformed traditional public schools in math, with 37 percent faring worse than public schools and 46 percent measuring up equally. Chicago’s charters (without tenure protection for their mostly nonunion teachers) have performed better in math, but no differently in reading, than public schools. Chicago’s public magnet schools—where teachers have tenure and a union, but students compete for admission—scored much higher in both math and reading.
•Duncan’s much-touted RTTT encouragement of bonus payments to “good” teachers—to spur both teacher development and higher student test scores—had “no significant impact on student achievement or teacher retention” in Chicago, according to Mathematica Policy Research, a leading firm in assessing performance of social programs. (A study of a New York City merit-pay program also showed little effect on student performance.)
•RTTT priorities also reflect Duncan’s Renaissance 2010 plan—close schools, then reopen them as small schools or charters—and his “portfolio strategy,” the school plan equivalent of an investment portfolio of private and public educational “assets.” But studies by SRI International and the Chicago Consortium on School Research (affiliated with the University of Chicago) concluded that Renaissance 2010 schools only occasionally performed better than demographically similar schools and that the portfolio strategy yielded “no dramatic improvements.”
•Both Duncan and the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind legislation encouraged increased reliance on standardized tests to measure student performance, thereby pressuring teachers to teach to the test so they and their students would “pass.” But strategies imposed on Chicago schools as a consequence for low scores—often against community and union protest—did not produce higher test scores, let alone better schools. Elementary school scores did rise sharply, but mostly because of a change in the test.
•The number of high school students who failed to meet grade-level performance remained between 69 and 73 percent from 2001 to 2008, the year before Duncan left Chicago for Washington. In 2009, the Commercial Club concluded that despite “moderate” elementary school gains, after all of Duncan’s policy changes, the city’s high schools remained “abysmal” and students were not prepared for success in college or beyond.
There were certainly individual school success stories, some of which do not manifest themselves through improved test scores. Chicago Public Radio’s Linda Lutton has reported on the night-and-day difference in atmosphere between a Renaissance 2010 school and one not similarly transformed. Yet the practical results of the policies pushed by Duncan and Bush in the last decade, now put forward in slightly different form by Duncan and Obama, do not merit repetition.
Ultimately, the issue is: How well do the students learn. But important ideological issues are at stake as well, such as, what should education achieve?
This question is at the heart of a longstanding battle between business-oriented educators, who want to churn out a ready workforce, and progressive educators, acting in the tradition of John Dewey, who believe schools should nurture well-rounded, independent-minded citizens.
Unfortunately, most Republicans and many Democrats, including some progressives, believe that the problems with American schools can be solved with more market-style policies, competition, financial incentives, charter schools, privatization, standardized testing and weakened teachers’ unions.
But the theory that supports treating education as a marketplace is flawed, as is the practice. Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute and others point out that few professionals in the private sector are paid for performance (except in finance, and that should be a cautionary example). And when faced with performance incentives, people typically end up gaming the system. In a 2003 study, economists Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago and Brian Jacob of Harvard found that as high-stakes testing increased, teachers were more likely to cheat, for example, changing student answers, giving students correct answers and teaching from illicitly obtained advance test copies.
The educational systems in the rest of the developed world, which famously outperform U.S. schools, are overwhelmingly public, highly unionized and protected from market-style funding. Even though American suburban schools vary dramatically, many of these schools—with unions and teacher tenure—perform so well that affluent families pick their homes partly on the basis of school quality.
A Chicago Consortium on Schools Research team led by Anthony S. Bryk recently published Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons From Chicago, the result of two decades of study. They found that successful schools had five essential pillars of support: educational leadership, parent-community ties, professional capacity, a student-centered learning climate and instructional guidance. The stronger these pillars, the more the schools thrived and test results improved.
Rather than focus on building complex systems that extend beyond the school, market-oriented reformers tend to focus on one factor—teachers. (See story, page 20.) Like most American managers, they see teachers, along with their unions, as a factor of production to be controlled, not as allies and resources for cooperation.
Americans across the political spectrum see education as a major solution to crime, inequality, unemployment and so on. But for decades, researchers have shown that the single most significant determining factor in students’ success in school is the socioeconomic status of their parents. (See Roger Bybee’s story below.)
That doesn’t mean poor students can’t learn. But their disadvantages—from untreated toothaches to constant transience of residence and school—can overwhelm even the best school.
What the children in America’s failing schools need is direct policy intervention to reduce inequality, to provide broader public services and to connect residents of very poor neighborhoods to jobs that pay a living wage.