Ten things teachers need to reclaim their profession – The Answer Sheet – The Washington Post

Ten things teachers need to reclaim their profession – The Answer Sheet – The Washington Post


Ten things teachers need to reclaim their profession

This was written by Horace B. Lucido, a retired physics instructor, author and educational consultant, and a founding member of Educators and Parents Against Testing Abuse.

By Horace B. Lucido

Sports referees make split second decisions. Judges and doctors do too, sometimes decisions that are life changing. Despite the subjective nature of their judgments, they are given respect and trust because of their training and experience, and we most often accept their decisions as valid.

This was once the same type of respect given to our public school teachers, the professionals who work in the classroom. But since the onslaught of state and national high-stakes testing regimes, too many teachers have been relegated to mechanized assembly line workers who have little say about the process but are required to follow the company line.

This is in direct conflict with the national Model Core Teaching Standards, which give the teacher responsibility to adjust, modify and pace the lessons according to the needs of their individual students. In today’s classrooms, though, teachers are taken out of the equation, becoming functionaries in a system of rigorous “manufacturing” controls by local, state and national directives.

High-stakes tests are said by proponents to provide “objective” truth whereas teachers’ opinions are classified as subjective and, thus, believed to be less trustworthy.

But test scores aren’t really objective. Who writes the test questions on these tests? People. Who chooses the test questions, the number of questions, the time allowed and when the test will be given? People. Who chooses the cut scores that decide where proficient or passing is? People. Who determines the meaning of these scores? People. These are all subjective not objective processes and most of these people are not even educators.

Teachers are trustworthy, trained professionals. Throughout the year they have a long sustained contact with their students. They know their students’ strengths and weaknesses. Their judgments are based on multiple sources of information over the entire school year and are more valid than the results of a few hours of annual high-stakes testing.

Why else would some states, like California, in their Testing Report to Parents, contain a clear disclaimer on the reporting sheet:


A note on using this information: A single test can provide only limited information. A student taking this same test more than once might score higher or lower in each tested area in a small range. You should confirm your child’s strengths and needs in these topics by reviewing classroom work, standards-based assessments, and your child’s progress during the year.


California’s Department of Education thus admits that assessments, assignments and progress provided by the classroom teacher should be the place to assess the real meaning and accuracy of standardized test results. But it doesn’t act like it really believes it because schools and districts are judged almost entirely by standardized test scores.

Which is a more valid predictor of student success in college: “objective” SAT and ACT college entrance scores or “subjective” teacher grades? Several studies have found that high school grades more accurately predict academic college achievement than any other factor. But still the standardized test remains dominant in admissions decisions.

In many detailed analysis of international tests such as the PISA and TIMSS, as well as our own national report card, National Assessment of Educational Progress, what is clearly evident is that poverty and the gap between the wealthy and the poor are the major contributors to test performance.

Our top-performing students far outnumber other nations. They come from schools that have less than 10% poverty. When we compare these students to the other participating nations we are among the leaders. No analysis in any of these studies points to poorer teaching in America than elsewhere.

So what are some key elements in teachers regaining the professional respect and trust they deserve? State, district and site practices and policies should:

1. Allow our teachers to use best practices in lesson design and pedagogy rather than canned programs that require rigorous adherence to step-by-step procedures without flexibility.

2. Permit teachers to adjust and modify their lessons to fit their students’ knowledge and skills rather than prepare them for high-stakes testing. Forgo all site and district high-stakes testing that is not required by state or national law. Do away with site and district tests used to prepare for more tests.

3. Test score ‘data’ can only become relevant when interpretation for individual students is corroborated by their teachers — individually or groups — who have evaluated said students using multiple sources of information. No judgments, placements or qualifications for individual students should be made solely on the basis of annual high-stakes testing.

4. Abolish all goal-setting based on annual high-stakes testing scores. This includes targeting students, teachers and schools for score improvement. Each should be evaluated using multiple sources of information before making plans for any corrective actions. Teams of educators, parents, psychologists and community members should be employed in developing helpful strategies.

5. Eliminate both scripted and paced lesson mandates. It is not in standardizing our classrooms that students learn to be creative and innovative-attributes that are highly prized in the world of work. Just as the diversity of plants and animals is the strength of the Earth’s ecosystem, our ‘edusystem’ should model that diversity in the manner in which teachers provide unique lessons using a variety of methods. Standardized sameness is not conducive to how students learn nor is it an attribute valued in our culture — otherwise we would all be driving only Fords and wearing only Levi jeans.

6. Eliminate all punitive policies that pronounce harsh judgments on students, teachers, schools and districts based on unchallenged interpretations of student test scores. Teacher evaluations of their students’ knowledge and skills should be the hallmark and cornerstone of valid conclusions about what students know and are able to do. They are the professionals in the classroom.

7. Codify regulations against administrative use of direct and/or implied threats of repercussions to those teachers who follow their State Standards for the Teaching Profession rather than curricular and/or pedagogy directives which utilize a script-like pacing without allowing for teacher modification and adjustments to fit the classroom clientele.

8. State Standards for the Teaching Profession should be the guiding principles for all teacher evaluation protocols used by administrators. Terminate ‘walkthroughs’. Thoughtful classroom visitations that respect the context of the lesson with pre and post discussion is vital to proper evaluation. Otherwise, walkthroughs become nothing more than “big brother” in a formal setting, keeping a critical eye rather than a supportive stance.

9. Teachers should have the freedom without fear of recrimination to express their professional opinions inside and outside of school sites regarding school practices and policies. Fellow teachers, parents and the larger community need to hear from the classroom professionals regarding the educational programs at their schools. This will provide open forums for discussion and the enhancement of the school environment.

10. Develop an enhanced parent-teacher communication protocol complete with translators for second language learner parents who are not fluent in English. Ongoing and frequent parent-teacher communication will both improve understanding and appreciation of the role each plays in the education of their students and also foster a greater mutual respect.

It will take a coalition of educators, parents and community members to take this agenda forward. Seeking changes in existing local, state and national educational mandates from school boards, legislatures and congress should be the focus of our actions. This should be of the highest priority. If we want the best for our students, then we need to have the best for their teachers. When they again have the highest community respect and when classroom autonomy is returned to them, students will then be able to experience the creativity of revived and energized instructors.

Stopping the culture of high-stakes testing will be the key step in initiating this process. How long will it take? That is up to us.


The consolidation question: How many school districts is enough? DFM News | Delaware First Media

The consolidation question: How many school districts is enough?  DFM News | Delaware First Media

the Cucking Stool: Race To The Top fraud #RTTT

the Cucking Stool: Race To The Top fraud


Race To The Top fraud

While Arne Duncan, Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich tour the talk shows and the country pushing president Obama’s education initiative Race To The Top – which focuses on creating more failed charter schools and inferior teacher training – the liberal Economic Policy Institute did an in-depth analysis of the applications to the US Department of Education and the awarding of $600 million in the first round of funding  (which went to Delaware and Tennessee).

Some states are so traumatized by their non-selection that they are desperately trying to find out what went wrong – and going so far – as Tim Pawlenty is doing in Minnesota – of seeking to change state law to have a better chance of winning funding in the second round of grants, due in June. But what would that change look like?

According to EPI the change that would be needed is unknown, because the US Department of Education didn’t really follow ANY criteria in the awarding of the first round grants – and that, in effect, the winning states were chosen arbitrarily:


The 500-point system has six major categories, seven general categories, and various subcategories. By assigning numbers to each one, “the Department implies it has a testable theory or empirical data to back up its quantitative method.”

But it doesn’t have either, and, therefore, assigned the numbers subjectively.

“Further examination suggests that the selection of Delaware and Tennessee was subjective and arbitrary, more a matter of bias or chance than a result of these states’ superior compliance with reform policies,” it said.

And, it said: “The necessary subjective judgments required both for category selection and weight assignment makes a fair competition practically impossible, even if the competition is undertaken with great care.”

We might have guessed that, given the people pushing the policy – but now we know for sure. How many ways does Barack Obama have to prove that he wants to destroy the movement he rode in on?


Markell will keep us divided and focused on his DOE attacks, one district kils that….

Editorial Cartoon | The News Journal | delawareonline.com

Slide! #googoodolls

Denn and Jenner get it……

Reach School Board Meeting: What a mess!

Looks like a full blown crisis at a charter school for girls here in Delaware. I wonder if any of the state portion of  RTTT money can be used to help them out. If the Governor and Secretary do a quick statewide poll, I bet there are a few districts that would offer a “matching” donation to help out Reach in exchange for not having to deploy the RTTT plans that won’t work anyway. Shouldn’t that money help kids? Send it to Reach!

Why comparing NAEP poverty achievement gaps across states doesn’t work (via School Finance 101)

Why comparing NAEP poverty achievement gaps across states doesn't work Pundits love to make cross-state comparisons and rank states on a variety of indicators (I'm guilty too). A favorite activity is comparing NAEP test scores across subjects, including comparing which states have the biggest test score gaps between children who qualify for subsidized lunch and children who don't. The simple conclusion – States with big gaps are bad – inequitable – and states with smaller gaps must being doing something right! It is … Read More

via School Finance 101

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

Here’s Why They Don’t Listen – Bridging Differences – Education Week #AnswerToWhyDon’tReformersListen #DebMeier

Here’s Why They Don’t Listen – Bridging Differences – Education Week


Dear Diane,

You ask: “Why don’t they listen?

They, the “billionaire boys club,” have a different agenda, and the issues we raise are truly not important to them. Or at least to most of those in the public eye these days.

Some see the chance to destroy another public stronghold—our schools—as a lifelong dream come true. They are 100 percent convinced that market competition is always the best. Period. Probably the only institution they believe should remain public is the military, and they are already nibbling away at some of what we used to consider a soldier’s job.

Second are those that see the great advantage of using the moment to destroy the one and only organized body contesting over the “proper” distribution of wages and profits—the American trade unions. This includes many non-billionaires. Having destroyed most of the formerly powerful unions in the private sector, they are coming after the Johnny-come-latelies, the public-sector workers.

Third are those who, perhaps unconsciously, need to divert attention from the faults of Wall Street et al and insist that schools are the source of all that goes wrong. It’s a view that many a pro-education advocate easily falls for because it goes along with being the cause of all that’s right, too—and puts our work at the center of the stage. If we had more people with a good education, the line goes, we’d have more jobs. It’s a myth (based on a nugget of truth) that my well-educated children and grandchildren are hanging onto. It at least increases the odds in their favor.

Plus those who have a financial stake in this project, and to whom money is a form of popularity. These people can pay public relations experts to sell their goods. The group includes, of course, some who will directly benefit like employees and stockholders of Pearson.

And then there are those who are so accustomed to “seeing like a state” that they use their fine educations to make grand plans for refashioning the lives of others.

But there’s something else, too. It came to me in an odd way on my latest trip to Chicago.

National-Louis University put on an event in the glorious Shakespeare Theater on the Navy Pier. There were nine panelists! They had apparently tried to get people of different ages and with different backgrounds in terms of reform experience. The moderator greeted us during the hour-long “rehearsal”—as representatives of the new “consensus for reform” and hoped we’d each provide our particular take on it. There were four young school people: a charter school founder from KIPP and several others preparing for careers “reforming” public schooling; plus, Sonia Nieto, Bill Ayers, and Harold Levy. (Levy was the New York City schools chancellor before Joel Klein.) It turned into a love fest—mostly—of critiques of the current so-called reform “consensus.” The audience was clearly friendly to the critique, and it was a lively session despite the considerable agreement. In short, it was fun for my side. (By the way, I’m going to D.C. on June 8th to disagree with Rick Hess, at the invitation of the American Enterprise Institute; that event will clearly not be such an unqualified joy.)

After the panel last Monday, with drinks and tasty tidbits in hand, a wealthy supporter of the current wave of reforms and I got into a tiff of the sort we probably both try to avoid. It began by his telling me that he funds and directs school turn-arounds. A turn-around school was one in which you first fire everyone who works there, he explained, with zest and enthusiasm. He was surprised that I recoiled from his words with an expression of horror. How can you enjoy what you’ve done to the people who work in that place, I asked? He said he got his pleasure in doing right by children. Why are you so sure the children will do better with different adults, I probed? He essentially told me he considered the former teachers worthless human beings, products of low-status state schools, the dregs. No wonder children didn’t learn much from them. When they are replaced with higher-caliber humans—products of our top universities—scores naturally will go up.

What stood between us was probably not resolvable and “listening to each other” was not going to help. His cheery distancing from a “kind” of people scares me. First, you turn them into lesser humans and then you can do your worst to them with moral impunity. (And their unions; If they were really any good they wouldn’t need unions, I was told by people like him when I first started teaching.) If he has disdain for my colleagues, what must he think of the children and families of our students? Still he and I have mutual friends who tell me he’s a great guy.

I was struck by his passionate certainty. Maybe he just had a hard time sitting still and listening to all the panelists. Maybe I’d have burst out similarly had I spent the past two hours unrelentingly listening to “the other side.” Maybe I will be in just his position on June 8. I’ll let you know. (Any advice, Diane?)



Diann Woodard: The Missing Link in School Reform #ThePrincipalStirsTheDrink

Diann Woodard: The Missing Link in School Reform


If the stakes for creating workable plans to improve the quality education for our school children weren’t so high, the experiments being proposed by business-model reformers,who are inexperienced in either education or school management, would be laughable. They routinely exclude — or ignore — input from the leaders essential for effectively running schools, namely principals and administrators.

As a former Detroit public school principal and current president of the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), it is clear to me that this omission reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how schools are run. If those recommending reforms lack this understanding, as they clearly do, the odds that their proposals will succeed are unfortunately as slim as their knowledge of school operations.

By ignoring input from the principals and administrators who are the school leaders, and often leaders in their communities, everyone, from the business model reformers to the Secretary of Education, is effectively silencing the voices of those best equipped to identify the problems at hand and assess the solutions being proposed. Such ignorance promises anything but bliss.

Turning around a school requires, first and foremost, an awareness of the complex set of skills required to run one in today’s economic and cultural environment. While understanding teaching methods is essential, today’s principals require skills as business managers, facilities managers, food service and nutritional mavens, teaching coaches, quality control managers, safety, security and community relations experts, and, as often as not, baby sitters, both before and after school.

All of these skills are required of school leaders on top of an ever-growing need to file reports on performance progress. The growth of the charter school movement has further complicated the calling. Many charters enroll children for a month, but then cut those who they deem “unacceptable” for their programs, whereupon they return to public schools, if they return to school at all.

Whether turnaround plans being advocated are the data-driven sort favored by the business-model reformers or the more thoughtful and informed recommendations of the teachers union, they both put the onus for school performance on principals and administrators. They are, in essence, perform-or-be-fired edicts for principals.

The problem is not that these proposals impute responsibility and accountability to principals; we understand that the buck stops with us as school leaders. The problem is that school leaders have not been consulted on the practical implications of implementing reform proposals, nor are either the resources or training necessary for executing them being offered as part of proposed solutions.

An approach that effectively silences us in the policy debate and then imposes upon us do-or-die circumstances, is neither practical nor equitable. Worse yet, such an approach is likely to create contentious environments between principals and teachers that are antithetical to the cooperative spirit and collaboration necessary for achieving the challenging goal of turning a school around.

Schools are not factories or businesses and principals cannot perform successfully as axe-wielding, performance-at-the-cost-of-your job managers, like academic Chainsaw Dunlaps. No matter the reform being implemented, it will require a nurturing environment in which the goal of achievement is reached through a collaborative work and study.

It’s time to open up the debate about school reform to the people who will be responsible for the delivery of the promised results. To continue along the current, ill-informed path promises nothing but another failed experiment in giving our children the education they deserve and our society the independent thinking citizenry that it needs.


Delaware’s “innovative” Partnership Zone concept gets dissed in national article…. #tooFunny


By accepting a job as superintendent of a new Tennessee school district, Chris Barbic has positioned himself as the face of an up-and-coming governance model for reforming failing schools.

The state of Tennessee tapped Barbic, a successful charter school organizer, to run a new special “Achievement School District” that encompasses five of the state’s worst-performing schools, officials announced this week. The arrangement puts the state in control of these schools and allows the state to contract the schools out to charter school networks or form partnerships with non-profit organizations.

“The daunting part of it is what’s exciting,” Barbic said in a phone interview with The Huffington Post.

As the Obama administration stresses increased accountability and autonomy of public schools nationwide and prepares to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the emergence of the district in Tennessee will be a test case for one of its key reform measures: an increased focus on bottom-of-the-barrel schools. The district will be created by funding from Race to the Top, a school-reform competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) last week as she announced the School Turnaround And Rewards Act, legislation formally introduced on Thursday that would effectively spur the creation of special districts similar to Tennessee’s. The measure encourages states to target five percent of their lowest-performing schools for intervention from the state government.

State control of schools is hardly a new idea. New Jersey began running Newark’s schools in 1995, and on Wednesday evening, the East St. Louis Board of Education voted to allow the state of Illinois to control its schools.

But Tennessee’s situation is different, since it involves state handling not of entire districts, but of schools handpicked for their failure. “This is a relatively new model of school reform,” said Kenneth Wong, director of Brown University’s Urban Education Policy Program. “It’s neither entirely local control nor state control. We’re going to see more alternative ways of running a school like this.”

The inspiration for Tennessee’s new venture comes in part from Louisiana, which established a state-run Recovery School District in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. While the jury is still out on the method’s effectiveness, Wong said, the Louisiana schools contracted out to charter school networks within the district outperform others.

Similarly, Hawaii has two geographic areas called “Zones of School Innovation” that encompass under-performing schools. They receive extra state attention but are contained within a single statewide district.

Some critics say they are wary of the new model because, as a structural fix, it doesn’t address instruction or outside factors. “It’s on the cheap, and I think we’re seeing people trying to put the blame on teachers when it’s really a systemic issue,“ said Charles Russo, Panzer Chair in Education and adjunct professor of law at the University of Dayton. “My guess would be if they get lucky and it works in one place, they can trumpet it as a great success story.”

Depending on whether the state removes the scores of ASD schools from the evaluations of their local districts, — which, a spokesperson for Tennessee’s education commissioner said, are still in the making — isolating failing schools could give local districts an artificial bump in their performance averages.

Whether the model succeeds will in part depend on Barbic, who founded and runs YES Prep Public Schools, a network of Houston charter schools lauded for sending 100 percent of its high school graduates to college. He will run the Tennessee’s district in the 2011-2012 school year, moving to Nashville with two children and his wife, Natasha Kamrani, a former Houston school board member.

“A lot of [school] networks are trying to prove that the success we were having five or ten years ago can happen at a larger scale,” said Barbic, who added that he will broaden the scope of his management style. “The scale for the special district is significantly larger. That’s the challenge that has gotten me excited: to prove we can do this.”

Hiring a charter school leader as superintendent of a public school district signals confidence in a model that has led some to accuse its backers of trying to privatize education. Charter schools are publicly funded and can be privately run, and have figured prominently into the nation’s debate over the future of education.

Despite his background, Barbic says he doesn’t have a philosophical investment in any specific institutional structure. He cares about results. “What I try to tell people is that this is less about charter vs. not charter,” he said. “I’m pretty agnostic about charter schools. … If it [a school] is lousy, we’ll close it down and try to reconstitute it after we give it the support it needs.”

In his new job, which begins on August 1, he will have the mandate to hire and fire teachers as he pleases, he said. Otherwise, he would not have accepted it. “I won’t start firing teachers willy nilly, but I do believe that having the ability to control who you can bring in is an important part of how we turn things around,” he said.

Barbic’s appointment comes at a time of major turnover for superintendents of highly visible school systems. In recent weeks, Chicago, New York City, Montgomery County, Md. and New Orleans’ Recovery School District have hired new superintendents. Detroit, Atlanta and Broward County, Florida, are still on the hunt. And last week, Newark hired Cami Anderson to lead its troubled schools.

Unlike Newark, Tennesse’s new district is not contiguous. Four of the ASD’s schools are in Memphis, with a fifth in Hamilton County. The state plans to grow the program beyond the first five, and deemed eight additional schools in Madison County, Knox County and Metro Nashville eligible for inclusion.

Since the ASD does not encompass a single geographical area, Barbic will probably not grapple with the evergreen municipal problems that hobble education systems, such as poverty, security and gang violence. But these issues may factor into achievement in each ASD school. “That could generate some tension between the special district and the local school system,” Wong said.

The new model has its potential pitfalls, Barbic acknowledged. “No one will be busting out the confetti and pom poms when we show up,” Barbic said. “If we can build a partnership with the local districts, we can avoid being seen as an evil bureaucracy coming in.”

For now, Barbic said he plans to wait to receive the schools’ scores for the year before deciding on his next steps. “You don’t want to start writing prescriptions until you figure out what the problem is.”

Might make it by July…..appears prescient now…. LOL

Blog Hit Goal 2011: 65000 hits! « Transparent Christina


Blog Hit Goal 2011: 65000 hits!


Last year TC set an ambitious goal of 35,000 hits and the loyal readers rose to the occasion and helped break that goal with a final total of 38,095 hits by year end. Who knows what is in store for 2011, but with the Partnership Zone, insane Federal intrusion, and the ever reliable editors at the News Journal, it should be quite a year! Lets go get to the new finish line: 65,000 hits by 12/31/2011!!!!!


A new Ed Reform term: Rapid Retry! Sounds cost effective too!

School Turnarounds: Time to Try, Try Again? : Education Next

School Turnarounds: Time to Try, Try Again?

By Bryan Hassel


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With unprecedented federal investment in failing schools through the multi-billion-dollar School Improvement Grant program, it’s been a big year for school turnaround efforts.

But let’s be honest: while turnaround efforts in some schools show promise, other attempts are falling short. That’s normal – as in other sectors, where turnarounds and start-ups are successful only 25-30% of the time, we would expect low success rates the first time. How should leaders of state or district turnaround efforts respond? In Try Try Again, Public Impact makes the case for “rapid retry” – attempting new major change now rather than letting failing turnaround efforts drag on for years. Even if most individual turnaround attempts fail, you can achieve a cumulative success rate of 70 or 80% by retrying rapidly: bringing a new, more capable leader; closing the school and starting fresh with a new operator; or closing the school altogether and dispersing the students to other, better schools.

In partnership with the University of Virginia’s Turnaround Leadership Specialist Program, Public Impact recently released two new reports to help with rapid retry and increasing the success rates of turnarounds.

The first, Leading Indicators of School Turnarounds: How to Know When Dramatic Change Is On Track, explains how leaders can use data to see the need for retry in the first one or two years – and then take action. It contains a set of research-based indicators organizations can use now to start making these tough but vital decisions.

When turnaround efforts are not on track, they either need new or dramatically improved leadership. Either way, our second report can help: Using Competencies to Improve School Turnaround Principal Success. This report discusses how the well-honed science of assessing individuals’ “competencies” – their underlying patterns of thought and action – can help organizations make much better decisions when selecting turnaround leaders, and become much smarter about developing the competencies of leaders on the job. It’s part of a series that includes tools to choose and develop these leaders.

Experience in other sectors, not to mention education, makes clear that most attempts to fix failing schools by any method won’t be successful. We can throw up our hands and accept the nearly 100% chance that these schools will continue to miss the mark. Our, we can commit to rapid retry of dramatic change efforts and get much higher marks over time.

–Bryan Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel

WFS Town Hall with Gov. Christie and Rep. Miller

The Colossus of Rhodey: Desegregation consternation FROM 2007

Worth a read for background on NCC schools.


The Colossus of Rhodey: Desegregation consternation


April 15, 2007

Desegregation consternation

UPDATE: Perfect timing. The News Journal has a lengthy article today about how busing hasn’t worked, and about calls for a renewed Wilmington-based school district.


The issue of desegregation has once again reared its head in New Castle County, Delaware, this time in regards to the Christina School District’s decision to close three schools in the city of Wilmington proper. Many of the same issues about desegregation have once again come to the fore: Should children go to schools close to their homes, how will the ratios of race/ethnicity be affected in schools, is the decision in violation of law?

To analyze the situation in Christina, it helps to take a look back at how desegregation came about in Delaware in the first place, and the effects of the [quite radical] busing plan that affected New Castle County in the late 1970s. To do this, I got the permission of University of Delaware Thomas Muncy Keith Professor of History Raymond Wolters (now currently on sabbatical) to publish a report he issued at the request of several state legislators regarding a possible [busing] consent decree back in 1993. This consent decree was seriously considered by the state legislature (and then-Governor Carper) as a means to avoid further litigation as the late-70s federal busing mandate was being reconsidered. Wolters offers a brief history of Delaware (and New Castle County) desegregation before analyzing the consent decree. As most Delawareans know, the consent decree was never agreed to, and Judge Sue Robinson in 1996 overturned the federal busing mandate that began in 1978.

The landmark Brown v. Board of Ed. in 1954 affected Delaware as it did schools across the country. As Prof. Wolters notes, Delaware’s smaller districts desegregated immmediately, and the Wilmington District “proceeded in stages” with grammar schools in 1954, junior highs in 1955, and finally high schools in 1956. Of course, the racial composition of neighborhoods was pretty much homogenous at this time (mostly all-white or mostly all-black). As Judge Caleb M. Wright stated in 1962, “Discrimination is forbidden, but integration is not compelled.” He continued,

Brown held only that a State may not deny any person on account of race the right to attend a public school. Chief Justice Warren, speaking for the court, said, “To separate them (Negroes) from others … soley because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in a community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.” The clear implication of this statement is that if races are separated because of geographic or transportation considerations or other similar criteria, it is of no concern of the Federal Constitution.

“What happened to turn things around?” Wolters asks. The political — and judicial — climate shifted, mainly. Judges began to go beyond the stipulations of Brown of maintain that “desegregation” meant actual [mandatory] “integration.” Judges, who relied in part on the testimony of sociologists (including, mainly, James Coleman), believed that mandatory busing plans “offered the best solution to the problems of urban education.”

In interviews, depositions, and courtroom testimony throughout the country, Coleman and other liberal sociologists and educators touted the benefits that black children would receive if they were dispersed and educated in predominantly white classrooms. It was partly on the basis of Coleman’s testimony that Judge J. Skelly Wright in Washington DC, in 1967, concluded that “Negro students’ educational achievement improves when they transfer into white or integrated educational institutions.”

Nevertheless, this belief was not actually a determining factor in deciding the New Castle County busing case. (That sociologist Coleman had actually changed his position on the effects of “white institutions” on black achievement, notwithstanding.) Instead, Judges Gibbons, Wright and Schwartz based their busing plan on the need to provide a remedy to past “official racial discrimination.” They held that “the public schools of New Castle County had never been properly desegregated after Brown.

1971 saw the reopening of the Evans v. Buchanan case, Delaware’s “consolidated” desegregation lawsuit. The basis for the reopening was the 1968 Educational Advancement Act which served to consolidate many school districts across the entire state. This Act reduced the number of statewide school districts from 49 to 26, and was specifically designed for districts whose population was between 1,900-12,000 students. Most of this district consolidation occurred in the southern part of the state. The News Journal noted that the Wilmington School District (primarily black) was “specifically excluded” from the Act. Then-Editor John Taylor repeated this claim in a disingenuous editorial. The contention is true. But the News Journal wasn’t giving its readers the entire story. (It probably didn’t fit their agenda.) The Philly Inquirer outright lied at the time writing that the EAA “excluded only one district from the mergers: Wilmington, home to most of Delaware’s black students.” Professor Wolters, however, sets the record straight:

Because the Wilmington public schools already enrolled more than 12,000 pupils, they were prevented from joining with other districts during the year of grace (meaning, they had to wait one year — Ed.) — as were two large suburban districts, Newark and Alfred I. DuPont. The pro-busing plaintiffs complained that the Educational Advancement Act “was designed to perpetuate and has in fact perpetuated [a] racially discriminatory dual school system.”

My emphasis. Wolters goes on to note that the pro-busing camp’s claims were “far from incontrovertible” (again, my emphasis):

The sponsors of the EAA had maintained that it was intended to facilitate the consolidation of small, rural districts that had too few students to afford expensive scientific equipment.

Hearings on the EAA were held throughout Delaware, and “at no time was integration or racial composition discussed or any figures having to do with race called to our attention … It was taken for granted that integration of the schools had been completed.”

The EAA did not change the boundaries of the Wilmington public schools … not did it prevent Wilmington from coalescing with other schools districts. It simply exempted Wilmington (and [the] two other school districts) from the temporary interval when this could be done without a referendum. The 12,000 student limit (which also applied for only one year) was included in the education act because Wilmington had traditionally been the largest school district in a small state, and because in the 1960s there was much talk about the importance of community involvement in the public schools. (Link.)

Wolters goes on to note that “no one of prominence” wanted a merger of the large school districts — not the Wilmington School District Board of Education, “nor any black organization in Delaware.” The four African-Americans in the state legislature voted for the EAA. Most of the Act’s opposition came from downstate because many there “feared a loss of local control.”

In 1974, the US District Court ordered the state to submit desegregation plans. Then-News Journal Editor John Taylor again misinformed his readers when he wrote

The remedy phase of the court suit was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Murray Schwartz, who sincerely believed the Delaware General Assembly would approve a desegregation plan. But the Legislature refused to even consider one.

My emphasis. But Taylor obviously didn’t get together with others at his paper, for a month and a half prior, the News Journal printed a “desegregation timeline” which clearly notes “U.S. District Court rejects state desegregation plans and says plan must include Wilmington and its surrounding districts.” (This was in 1976.) Then, in 1977, the timeline says “State devises plan for busing black students out of Wilmington.” If memory serves (from past reading, and I was a middle school student in northern DE schools at the time), this was a voluntary busing plan that the state legislature devised. Nevertheless, Judge Schwartz rejected the 1977 plan. Did Taylor outright lie or was he merely woefully ignorant?

Schwartz ordered a “9-3″ plan to begin in 1978. Suburban students would attend city schools for three of their twelve years, while city students would attend suburban schools for nine of their twelve years. The first year witnessed substantial upheaval — “white flight,” bureaucratic confusion, and a two month-long teachers’ strike. The strike was not due to the deseg. order itself; it was due to the fact that, although all New Castle County schools were now consolidated into one large single district, the state wanted to continue paying teachers at their old, now-defunct district salaries! Old Wilmington District teachers collectively had the highest salaries at that time; now-county district teachers wanted to utilize that pay scale for the new New Castle County School District.

And so it went for almost 20 years. The only substantive change since the original 1978 order was that the single county-wide district was permitted to truncate into four smaller districts (in 1981) which exist to this day: Brandywine, Colonial, Red Clay and Christina. In the early 1990s, the judicial atmosphere had changed and the US Supreme Court had made it “easier” for districts to get out from under court-ordered desegregation. Delaware took advantage of this in 1993 when the Delaware State Board of Education petitioned the District Court to declare that New Castle County schools had achieved “unitary” status — that is, they were successfully desegregated. A group called the Coalition to Save Our Children had taken up the mantle, so to speak, on behalf of city children and opposed the State Board’s request. The Coalition threatened further litigation if the Board went ahead.

The Coalition (and others) pointed out the “disproportionately large number of black students who have been subjected to disciplinary actions, and to the continued lagging of black scores on standard tests, as evidence that, despite busing, the public schools of northern New Castle County have not eradicated some important vestiges of discrimination.” (Link.) Judge Schwartz ordered the State Board of Education and the Coalition to attempt ot reach a settlement. They crafted a Consent Decree in November of that year.

The state legislature was wise to reject the Consent Decree. I happen to have a copy of the Decree from back then, as well as then-Governor Tom Carper’s (favorable) statement regarding it. (He called it “fair and equitable.”) Prof. Wolters notes, the Decree was

… an amalgam of legalese, educatorese, and social science. There is talk about “minority enrollment ratios,” “school paramaters,” [sic] and “culturally-sensitive performance based assessment systems.”

Wolters dissects the Consent Decree (also here) to a degree that the News Journal would be (was) loathe to do. Included in the Decree were:

  • The requirement of teachers to “fill out numerous forms” and “attend several conferences” before any suspension of a disruptive student could take place.
  • Suspensions in the primary grades are to be used “only as a last resort and only after and in consultation with the District Supervisor.”
  • Teachers are urged to “develop greater sensitivity” to the “supposedly different cultural styles of troublesome students.” Sounds an awful lot like what’s going on in Seattle public schools right now.
  • Special — “culturally sensitive” — exams for minority students.
  • An “integrated assessment system” that provides “culturally sensitive assessments,” “alternative assessments,” and “performance-based assessments” that “allow students to demonstrate proficiency in different ways.”
  • All teachers should develop “nonconfrontational” methods for resolving conflicts with students.
  • As an incentive for teachers to “revise their tests and approaches to teaching and discipline,” a provision for a “Parent/Student Advocate” (at $175,000 per year) whose office is to be in Wilmington city limits.
  • $220,000 for “intervention specialists” whose purpose is to “support youths who come into conflict with authorities at their schools.”
  • Establishment of a benchmark of “reducing by 10% the number of minority students who drop out of school.”
  • Recommendation of $58,000 be spent each year for a Future Educators of America club in each middle and high school with “at least one minority teacher” as an advisor.

Further, on page 14 of Prof. Wolters’ report,

  • A call for “twenty renewable State scholarships of $1,000 per student to oustanding high students.” However, at least half “must be black or Hispanic students who agree to teach after graduation in DE public schools for a minimum of four years.”
  • The State Board promises that “at each school where there is more than one administrator, at least one must be either an African-American or an Hispanic and another must be either Caucasian or Asian. (I never could understand why Asian. It’s probably because in the eyes of the multi-cultis they’re not “true” minorities. Asians represent only approx. 1-2% of the student pop. in New Castle County DE. — Ed.)
  • Calls for the State Board to “establish a lower passing score on the teachers’ certification examination for prospective black and Hispanic teachers than for others.”

My emphasis. The Consent Decree was to be in effect for only four years; however, the Coalition to Save Our Children “demanded that the governance of the school districts be changed so that the policies [noted above] would be perpetuated.” A compromise was reached over Thanksgiving weekend of 1993 that would have changed how school boards are elected, thereby virtually guaranteeing minority representation on school boards.

Wolters’ recommendations to the legislature are on pages 15, 16 and 17 of his report. Nevertheless, the Consent Decree was not agreed to by the state legislature. They were quite confident that they would prevail in court, and indeed, the Coalition had threatened further litigation anyway after the four-year limit on the Decree if New Castle County’s districts went too far astray from what they deemed as “racially balanced.”

Their confidence paid off for in 1996 Judge Sue Robinson declared the New Castle County school districts had achieved “unitary” status. Judge Robinson did not buy the Coalition’s contentions that, although there was racial balance in the schools, discrimination was nonetheless pervasive due to imbalances within the schools. She wrote in part (my emphasis):

First, although the district court’s findings of classroom racial balance exclude special education classes, there is no clear error. In our 1978 desegregation order we expressly excepted “students presently attending and who in the future may attend . . . special education school facilities and such other similar special school facilities as presently exist or may be hereafter established . . . .” JA 128 (Evans v. Buchanan, Civil Action Nos. 1816-1822, Order at 11 (D. Del. Jan. 9, 1978)). The rationale for this exception is obvious and compelling: students — black or white — should not be mainstreamed (i.e., denied special education meant to address special learning needs and problems) merely to effect a racial balance.

Appellant is also unpersuasive in asserting that students are placed in special education programs (such as “intensive learning centers”) simply because they are black. Although in each of the four districts the percentage of black students in special education programs exceeds the percentage of blacks in the overall student population, the record demonstrates that the school districts classify students based on neutral, non-discriminatory state and federal criteria. Additionally, the districts make periodic re-evaluations of special education students to determine when they can return to regular classes. Id. Placement is not mandatory, because at several junctures, parents are empowered to reject the school’s recommendation to place their child in special education classes.

Perhaps most telling, at least from my perspective, is Judge Robinson’s noting of the following (again, my emphasis):

Although the Constitution requires that all of its citizens have equal access to the pursuit of education, and that they be given equal breaks while attending school, it does not insist that they all finish even. The proper test under the Constitution is equality of opportunity, not of results. On this point we would do well to recall Edmund Burke’s pithy formulation: “[A]ll men have equal rights, but not to equal things.” And indeed, Appellant articulated its commitment to this principle at oral argument: “[w]e have never suggested that the measure here is ultimate equal outcomes.”

It is well worth reading all of Judge Robinson’s opinion since she carefully and meticulously dissects, and then dismantles, the Coalition’s contentions. It was my belief then, as it is now, that too much of the Coalition’s arguments were based in emotion rather than fact, law and logic. As anyone who happened to watch former State Rep. Al Plant’s Sunday night discussion show on local cable channel 28 back then, Coalition member (and present-day New Castle County Councilman) Jea Street would regularly appear and consistently utter the most caustic and derogatory comments at those with whom he disagreed. Yet, actual facts always seemed to elude his protestations.

In 1997, a federal appeals court upheld Judge Robinson’s decision, and that was pretty much that regarding the desegregation order that had once held New Castle County in its grip. That is, until 2000 when the state legislature passed the Neighborhood Schools Law which mandated that school districts send children to schools closest to their homes. Former House Majority Leader Wayne A. Smith was the bill’s primary sponsor. As could be predicted, the News Journal was critical of the bill claiming it would lead to “resegregation” in the county’s schools.

Attorney George Evans at the time said, “Probably, what’s going to result … is we’re going to, no doubt, end up resegregating schools … and you’re going to have litigation.” He was right, but not exactly in the way he expected. More on that in a moment. Now-former Coalition to Save Our Children member Jea Street called the Neighborhood Schools Law an example of “new millenium racism.” In the 2006 State House campaign, a hastily-organized group dubbed “Delaware Clean Sweep” (which numbered approximately three people!) listed as one of Smith’s “negatives” his sponsorship of the bill because it “would guarantee heavily segregated public schools.”

In the News Journal article Wayne Smith retorted, correctly in my view, that racial identifiability is neither good nor bad, and the law he wrote is not unconstitutional. “What matters is quality education, parental satisfaction and the ease with which parents get to participate in a school,” he said. Indeed, Brown, as originally decided, was not argued as an effort to forcibly integrate children in schools via specific mathematical ratio. It was intended to — and did — break down the walls of legal segregation that prevented black children from attending schools with white children, especially ones closest to their homes. This is why Smith’s bill is clearly consistent with the concepts laid down in Brown. In addition, with school choice law in the state of Delaware, and the incredible growth of charter schools, “forced resegregation” was (and is) not much of a legitimate argument. More on that later, too.

Even with the implementation of the Neighborhood Schools Law, the “Big Four” districts in New Castle County as a whole changed their existing feeder patterns only marginally. Colonial District complied with the law most stringently, changing feeder patterns to reflect attendance zones. Red Clay District mostly reconfigured elementary grade feeders, whereas Christina modified feeders to a moderate degree, and the Brandywine District claimed “hardship” status and didn’t change feeder patterns at all.

Now, still in the news today, is the largest (population-wise) school district in the state, Christina, and its decision to close three schools within the boundaries of the city of Wilmington. Ironically, after many apparent spokespeople (like Jea Street) and outlets like the News Journal scoured the Wayne Smith-sponsored Neighborhood Schools Law, the very city of Wilmington itself, in conjunction with two parents of children attending one of the affected schools, is suing to keep their school (and the others) open because to allow their closure … would violate the Neighborhood Schools Law!

The city and Southbridge parents Annette Harden and Rose Thomas contend that the district’s plan to close the school during the next school year is “in willful violation” of the Delaware Neighborhood Schools Act, which the suit says aims to provide fair and equitable education to all northern New Castle County children. The state law requires that certain districts, including Christina, assign children to the school closest to their homes, the court filing says.

How about that? I wonder what the spokespeople like Street, Evans and others, to whom the News Journal devoted so much space to criticize the bill when it was first being debated, would think of this? Wilmington city government itself — saying that the law “aims to provide fair and equitable education to all northern New Castle County children”! The irony has come full circle, it seems.

And back to charter schools — the News Journal, still as race-conscious as ever, recently lamented how Delaware charter schools are “resegregating” the state’s schools (again). But Newark Charter School head Gregory Meece hits the implication of the term “segregation” where it hurts (my emphasis):

Delaware Charter Schools Network leaders challenge the assertion that their schools are causing “resegregation.” They called the term misleading and inflammatory because of its association with segregation and desegregation, saying those are forced conditions.

“We’re talking about voluntary choice here,” said Board President Gregory Meece, who is principal of Newark Charter School.

“It is significant that there are six charter schools out of 17 that serve mainly African-American populations,” he said. “This report never really asks any parent why they choose those schools.”

“Forced conditions” is the heart of the matter. There is no compulsion for “resegregation” with regards to charters. People — black and white — are free to choose the school they wish, which, by the way, is the case with virtually any Delaware public school due to the state’s school choice law. This, once again, is quite different from the mandate of Brown. Brown overturned compulsory segregation in schools. Recall Judge Caleb M. Wright’s statement: “Discrimination is forbidden, but integration is not compelled.” But over the decades, “desegregation” has transformed into “diversity” which has come to be synonymous with “good (or at least “better”) education.” This is an erroneous assumption.

So, where do we now stand? Those representing [black] students’ interests have had their contentions [legally] defeated by Judge Robinson which effectively dismantled forced busing in New Castle County. A decade later, these same interests are back in court — utilizing a law they once damned to make their case for what would be primarily African-American schools. Many of the former Coalition’s arguments before Judge Robinson appear to have actually made some headway in the state of Florida. There, the “achievement gap” between majority and minority students is the subject of a class-action lawsuit:

… in a class-action lawsuit that has Pinellas County’s top educators on the defensive, the plaintiffs say the policy of equal access has failed the school district’s 20,000 black students.

Black kids, they contend, will need uniquely tailored programs if the district ever hopes to erase an education gap that has them lagging behind every other ethnic group in school performance.

The case of William Crowley vs. the Pinellas County School Board – seven years old and finally headed for trial – may be the only one of its kind in the nation.

It is my opinion that if this suit is decided favorably for the plaintiffs, it will be a disaster for minority (black) children. First, it relies on pseudo-science that blacks, collectively, “learn differently.” Second, its belief is that the achievement gap is essentially based on past de jure discrimination. But in that regard, I’d be most curious as to what the “gap” was when segregation was legally sanctioned. It’s almost a double-edged sword for the plaintiffs, regardless of what these statistics mights show. If the gap was greater in the days of official segregation, then the subsequent shrinking of the gap shows that the broken segregation barriers have worked — and are working. Still, the argument for special programs tailored specifically for black children might still be persuasive (aside from their specific racial components, that is, which unfortunately seem to be part of the plaintiffs’ contention). On the other hand, if the gap was less in the days of the legal segregation, then the legal argument becomes much more problematic: How do you explain how [black] children are doing worse academically with no racial barriers to impede their academic progress? The obvious thing that comes to mind is that maybe the problem is not the schools, nor the law.

Why Won’t ‘Reformers’ Listen? #RTTT #theyhavenodefense #tonedeaf

Why Won’t ‘Reformers’ Listen? – Bridging Differences – Education Week


Why Won’t ‘Reformers’ Listen?

By Diane Ravitch on May 10, 2011 9:03 AM


Dear Deborah,

We have had fun as a traveling team, debating the issues and engaging in free-flowing conversation about the current state of school reform. People call it “live blogging” and seem to enjoy our discussions. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t. That’s a healthy thing in a democracy.

These days, there seems to be little tolerance for debate and discussion.

Last week, I went to Providence, R.I., to give a lecture. Before my arrival, I was invited by Gov. Lincoln Chafee to meet privately with him. Thirty minutes before my hour with Gov. Chafee, I learned that state Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Gist would join our meeting. As it turned out, I had 10 minutes of private time with the governor, then 50 minutes with Gist and leaders of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers.

I mention all this because of what happened during the 50 minutes. Gist is clearly a very smart, articulate woman. But she dominated the conversation, interrupted me whenever I spoke, and filibustered to use up the limited time. Whenever I raised an issue, she would interrupt to say, “That isn’t happening here.” She came to talk, not to listen. It became so difficult for me to complete a sentence that at one point, I said, “Hey, guys, you live here all the time, I’m only here for a few hours. Please let me speak.” But Gist continued to cut me off. In many years of meeting with public officials, I have never encountered such rudeness and incivility. I am waiting for an apology.

That afternoon, I spoke to some 500 teachers, parents, and community activists from many of the state’s districts. Teachers in Rhode Island are angry and disheartened in the aftermath of the pink slips that went out to every teacher in the Providence schools. But no one other than teachers seems to know or care. My view: indiscriminate, mass layoffs—with no individual evaluations—demoralize everyone and sunder the bonds of trust that are so necessary for school improvement.

I worry about the one-sided treatment of education issues, not only in Rhode Island, but in the national media. The corporate reformers seem shocked when anyone questions their narrative. They see no downside to their dogmatic belief in closing schools and firing principals and teachers, nor to their dogmatic faith that higher test scores are the goal of education. They accuse critics of “defending the status quo,” even though it is they who are the status quo, the champions of get-tough accountability. They don’t understand that they might be wrong, that their critics deserve a hearing, and that disagreement is healthy.

I remember that you went to the University of Chicago, where Robert Maynard Hutchins was president and a great defender of academic freedom and freedom of thought. For many years, I kept a clipping in my wallet, something that Hutchins said. It was the last line of his obituary in The New York Times (May 16, 1977). He said: “The only political dogma in America is that discussion leads to progress, that every man is entitled to his own opinions, and that we have to learn to live with those whose opinions differ from our own. After all, they may turn out to be right.”

I don’t know how we will convince the policymakers, the foundation leaders, and the media that education issues are complex and that all sides should be heard. Of course, there is a need for action, but not all actions make sense. And driving a train as fast as you can to the edge of a precipice is never a good idea. It pays to listen.

This Week In Education: Cartoon: Holding Teachers Accountable, CEO-Style


This Week In Education: Cartoon: Holding Teachers Accountable, CEO-Style


Cartoon: Holding Teachers Accountable, CEO-Style

image from content.cartoonbox.slate.com