Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

October 9, 2010

Manifesto From a Number of Urban Superintendents on “How to Fix Our Schools”

How to fix our schools: A manifesto by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Joel Klein, chancellor, New York City Department of Education; Michelle Rhee, chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools; Peter C. Gorman, superintendent, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (N.C.); Ron Huberman, chief executive, Chicago Public Schools; Carol R. Johnson, superintendent, Boston Public Schools; Andrés A. Alonso, chief executive, Baltimore City Public Schools; Tom Boasberg, superintendent, Denver Public Schools; Arlene C. Ackerman, superintendent of schools, the School District of Philadelphia; William R. Hite Jr., superintendent, Prince George’s County Public Schools; Jean-Claude Brizard, superintendent of schools, Rochester City School District (N.Y.); José M. Torres, superintendent, Illinois School District U-46; J. Wm. Covington, superintendent, Kansas City, Missouri School District; Terry B. Grier, superintendent of schools, Houston Independent School District; Paul Vallas, superintendent, New Orleans Recovery School District; Eugene White, superintendent, Indianapolis Public Schools; LaVonne Sheffield, superintendent of Rockford Public Schools (Illinois)

As educators, superintendents, chief executives and chancellors responsible for educating nearly 2 1/2 million students in America, we know that the task of reforming the country’s public schools begins with us. It is our obligation to enhance the personal growth and academic achievement of our students, and we must be accountable for how our schools perform.

All of us have taken steps to move our students forward, and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program has been the catalyst for more reforms than we have seen in decades. But those reforms are still outpaced and outsized by the crisis in public education.

Fortunately, the public, and our leaders in government, are finally paying attention. The “Waiting for ‘Superman’ “ documentary, the defeat of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark’s public schools, and a tidal wave of media attention have helped spark a national debate and presented us with an extraordinary opportunity.

But the transformative changes needed to truly prepare our kids for the 21st-century global economy simply will not happen unless we first shed some of the entrenched practices that have held back our education system, practices that have long favored adults, not children. These practices are wrong, and they have to end now.

It’s time for all of the adults — superintendents, educators, elected officials, labor unions and parents alike — to start acting like we are responsible for the future of our children. Because right now, across the country, kids are stuck in failing schools, just waiting for us to do something.

So, where do we start? With the basics. As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents’ income — it is the quality of their teacher.

Yet, for too long, we have let teacher hiring and retention be determined by archaic rules involving seniority and academic credentials. The widespread policy of “last in, first out” (the teacher with the least seniority is the first to go when cuts have to be made) makes it harder to hold on to new, enthusiastic educators and ignores the one thing that should matter most: performance.

A 7-year-old girl won’t make it to college someday because her teacher has two decades of experience or a master’s degree — she will make it to college if her teacher is effective and engaging and compels her to reach for success. By contrast, a poorly performing teacher can hold back hundreds, maybe thousands, of students over the course of a career. Each day that we ignore this reality is precious time lost for children preparing for the challenges of adulthood.

The glacial process for removing an incompetent teacher — and our discomfort as a society with criticizing anyone who chooses this noble and difficult profession — has left our school districts impotent and, worse, has robbed millions of children of a real future.

There isn’t a business in America that would survive if it couldn’t make personnel decisions based on performance. That is why everything we use in assessing teachers must be linked to their effectiveness in the classroom and focused on increasing student achievement.

District leaders also need the authority to use financial incentives to attract and retain the best teachers. When teachers are highly effective — measured in significant part by how well students are doing academically — or are willing to take a job in a tough school or in a hard-to-staff subject area such as advanced math or science, we should be able to pay them more. Important initiatives, such as the federal Teacher Incentive Fund, are helping bring great educators to struggling communities, but we have to change the rules to professionalize teaching.

Let’s stop ignoring basic economic principles of supply and demand and focus on how we can establish a performance-driven culture in every American school — a culture that rewards excellence, elevates the status of teachers and is positioned to help as many students as possible beat the odds. We need the best teacher for every child, and the best principal for every school. Of course, we must also do a better job of providing meaningful training for teachers who seek to improve, but let’s stop pretending that everyone who goes into the classroom has the ability and temperament to lift our children to excellence.

Even the best teachers — those who possess such skills — face stiff challenges in meeting the diverse needs of their students. A single elementary- or middle-school classroom can contain, for instance, students who read on two or three different grade levels, and that range grows even wider as students move into high school. Is it reasonable to expect a teacher to address all the needs of 25 or 30 students when some are reading on a fourth-grade level and others are ready for Tolstoy? We must equip educators with the best technology available to make instruction more effective and efficient. By better using technology to collect data on student learning and shape individualized instruction, we can help transform our classrooms and lessen the burden on teachers’ time.

To make this transformation work, we must also eliminate arcane rules such as “seat time,” which requires a student to spend a specific amount of time in a classroom with a teacher rather than taking advantage of online lessons and other programs.

Just as we must give teachers and schools the capability and flexibility to meet the needs of students, we must give parents a better portfolio of school choices. That starts with having the courage to replace or substantially restructure persistently low-performing schools that continuously fail our students. Closing a neighborhood school — whether it’s in Southeast D.C., Harlem, Denver or Chicago — is a difficult decision that can be very emotional for a community. But no one ever said leadership is easy.

We also must make charter schools a truly viable option. If all of our neighborhood schools were great, we wouldn’t be facing this crisis. But our children need great schools now — whether district-run public schools or public charter schools serving all students — and we shouldn’t limit the numbers of one form at the expense of the other. Excellence must be our only criteria for evaluating our schools.

For the wealthiest among us, the crisis in public education may still seem like someone else’s problem, because those families can afford to choose something better for their kids. But it’s a problem for all of us — until we fix our schools, we will never fix the nation’s broader economic problems. Until we fix our schools, the gap between the haves and the have-nots will only grow wider and the United States will fall further behind the rest of the industrialized world in education, rendering the American dream a distant, elusive memory.

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September 10, 2010

Ravitch on School “Reform”

Filed under: Race to the Top,School Reform — millerlf @ 7:26 am

Washington Post- Sept 8, 2010

Ravitch: Welcome back to school “reform”

This was written by education historian Diane Ravitch on her Bridging Differences blog, which she co-authors with Deborah Meier on the Education Week website. The two took a break over the summer but this is Ravitch’s return post.

Ravitch and Meier exchange letters about what matters most in education. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, is the author of the bestselling “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” an important critique of the flaws in the modern school reform movement.

Dear Deborah,
And so the school year 2010-11 begins. As seen from Washington, D.C., it is another year in which the U.S. secretary of education will push and prod the American education system and make it more “competitive” in the global economy, imposing incentives and sanctions aligned to produce higher test scores. As seen from the schools, it is another year in which teachers and principals will be blamed and punished unless their scores go up and up.

Now that the nation is experiencing the eighth full year since No Child Left Behind became law, we can anticipate that more punishments will be visited upon those whose schools failed to meet their annual targets for test-score improvements. More principals will be fired, more schools will be closed.

Now that the Race to the Top has gone through two rounds of competition, its close affinity to NCLB has become evident. Indeed, NCLB, Race to the Top, and President Obama’s plan to reauthorize the federal law, which he calls the Blueprint, are all variations on the same themes: accountability and choice. Since NCLB produced such meager improvement, the Obama administration has decided to tighten the reins of accountability and choice and make plainer the consequences of failing to raise test scores.

In our absence this summer, there were many important developments, and I hope we will discuss them all in detail.

Among the most notable were these:

a. The nation’s leading civil-rights groups issued a statement in opposition to the Obama-Duncan vision of school reform, expressing profound opposition to the idea that schools should compete for federal funding that they desperately need. Secretary Duncan persuaded their representatives to cancel their press briefing, and the document was quietly released.

b. The Los Angeles Times began a series of articles based on the value-added test scores of 6,000 elementary school teachers, which its reporters obtained from the Los Angeles school district. In their introductory article, the reporters published the names and pictures of teachers whom they described as ineffective because their student scores had not gone up. The articles produced a firestorm of controversy. Secretary Duncan lauded the L.A. Times for being brave enough to publish the data about teacher effectiveness. Most educators who commented in the blogosphere castigated the newspaper for naming and shaming individual teachers, or for making a pretense of caring about “multiple measures” while giving credence only to test scores.

c. The Economic Policy Institute released a paper co-authored by many of the nation’s leading testing experts [and others, including Ravitch] explaining why value-added test scores should not be a major factor in evaluating teachers. It is not likely to cause the administration to reflect on their favored cause, but maybe members of Congress who are worried about the schools in their own communities will pay attention.

d. Secretary Duncan’s Race to the Top identified the second round of winners of the government’s billions intended to reform schools by promoting more private management of public schools and more reliance on student test scores to evaluate teachers. Losers complained bitterly that states west of the Mississippi (except Hawaii, the president’s home state) were shunned. Conservatives groused that Colorado and Louisiana, two shining examples of Duncan-style reform, lost out. Duncan promised to get more money from Congress to spread his vision.

e. Catalyst, the Chicago-based publication that regularly examines the Chicago schools, reviewed the results of that city’s program called Renaissance 2010, which was the strategic plan of Mayor Richard Daley and then-Superintendent Arne Duncan. Renaissance 2010 may well be the template for Race to the Top and the Obama Blueprint. Catalyst summarizes the results: 100 new schools featuring “shaky budgets,” “high teacher turnover,” and “mediocre
test scores.”

f. A recent Phi Delta Kappa-Gallup poll reported that public support for the Obama education agenda has dropped from 45 percent to 34 percent. The more the public sees, the less it likes what Obama and Duncan are doing.

In the weeks ahead, I will look at each of these developments more closely.

There are two observations that I draw from this brief sketch:

One, federal control and direction of education policy have largely replaced state and local control, a decisive and historic change that can be credited to (or blamed on) President George W. Bush and NCLB; two, the models for Race to the Top—Chicago and New York City—indicate that our schools will see a great deal of change in the years ahead, but not much improvement in the quality of education, if any.

To the contrary, the search for higher scores is likely to promote a significant narrowing of the curriculum, cheating, teaching to the test, and other negative outcomes. To the extent that our students learn less history, science, civics, geography, foreign languages, and the arts, their education will be far worse than it is today.

Diane

September 9, 2010

DOE School Reform Is Intellectual Dishonesty and Political Puffery

Filed under: Arne Duncan,Education Policy,NCLB,Race to the Top,School Reform — millerlf @ 5:45 pm

“…Duncan routinely urges “a great teacher” in every classroom. That would be about 3.7 million “great” teachers — a feat akin to having every college football team composed of all-Americans. With this sort of intellectual rigor, what school “reform” promises is more disillusion.”

School reform’s meager results

By Robert J. Samuelson
Monday, September 6, 2010; A15

As 56 million children return to the nation’s 133,000 elementary and secondary schools, the promise of “reform” is again in the air. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has announced $4 billion in “Race to the Top” grants to states whose proposals demonstrate, according to Duncan, “a bold commitment to education reform” and “creativity and innovation [that are] breathtaking.” What they really show is that few subjects inspire more intellectual dishonesty and political puffery than “school reform.”

(more…)

August 24, 2010

10 Race to the Top Winners in Round 2

Filed under: Race to the Top — millerlf @ 2:32 pm

EdWeek August 24, 2010 Sean Cavanagh

The results are in, and the list of Race to the Top winners in Round Two includes an eclectic mix of 10 states that had put together very different kinds of applications in their funding bids for the $3.4 billion in remaining federal funds.

The winners in this second and final round announced by the U.S. Department of Education today: the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island. They join first-round winners Delaware and Tennessee.

A few common threads among the 10 victorious Round Two applicants include their promises to take bold approaches to turning around low-performing schools, and in evaluating teachers.

(more…)

August 21, 2010

Doyle Abandons MPS

Filed under: Race to the Top,School Finance — millerlf @ 7:15 am

Doyle Decision Costs MPS $59 Million Dollars

$59 million more in U.S. funds would have been allotted to district under distribution favoring needy students

By Jason Stein, Amy Hetzner and Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel Aug. 20, 2010

Madison — Milwaukee Public Schools would have received $59 million more from a recent federal jobs bill for teachers under a distribution scheme passed over by Gov. Jim Doyle.

Doyle, a Democrat, chose to distribute $179 million in federal money to help save teacher jobs in Wisconsin by using the state’s general formula for divvying up aid to school districts, which will provide an estimated $14.4 million to MPS.

But an alternate formula not chosen by Doyle would have given priority to districts such as MPS with a big share of poor students and provided $73.4 million – or 41% of all the federal money – to the state’s largest school district, according to a report released Friday by the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office.

MPS Superintendent Greg Thornton, whose district laid off 482 teachers and has since recalled 224, said he was disappointed with the district’s final aid total.

“I had anticipated significantly more dollars,” Thornton said. “I was hopeful that not only would I return folks to teaching positions, but also jump-start some of our curriculum initiatives.”

The $14.4 million in federal aid accounts for about 100 of the 224 teacher recalls, Thornton said. Eighty-nine teachers were recalled in July, and another 35 were called back over the past few weeks.

Thornton said he didn’t intend to use all the jobs money right away because he wanted to be able to re-address staffing needs on the third Friday of September, when the district takes an official enrollment count in each school.

“I am confident I can get teachers back to work,” Thornton said. “I will go back and re-address staffing needs on the third Friday so we can mitigate any large class sizes.”

Two funding options

Congress approved the $10 billion Education Jobs Fund last week as part of a larger $26 billion bill to support state health programs and education jobs in the midst of the recession. Under the law, states have two options for distributing that money to school districts – the formulas that they normally use for general state aid or the so-called Title I formula normally used to distribute federal funds for low-income students to districts.

(more…)

August 18, 2010

Drive By Reform Seen in Boston Schools

Filed under: Race to the Top — millerlf @ 1:11 pm

Lesson Plan in Boston Schools: Don’t Go It Alone

Kelvin Ma for The New York Times

Earlier this year Massachusetts enacted a law that allowed districts to remove at least half the teachers and the principal at their lowest-performing schools. The school turnaround legislation aligned the state with the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program incentives and a chance to collect a piece of the $3.4 billion in federal grant money.

From Washington this makes abundant good sense, a way to galvanize rapid and substantial change in schools for children who need it most.

In practice, on the ground, it is messy for the people most necessary for turning a school around — the teachers — and not always fair.

Often the decisions about which teachers will stay and which will go are made by new principals who may be very good, but don’t know the old staff. “We had several good teachers asked to leave,” said Heather Gorman, a fourth-grade teacher who will be staying at Blackstone Elementary here, where 38 of 50 teachers were removed. “Including my sister who’s been a special-ed teacher 22 years.”

And while tenured teachers who were removed all eventually found positions at other Boston schools, it’s unsettling. “Very upsetting,” said Ms. Gorman. “A lot of nervousness for teachers.”

Blackstone’s new principal, Stephen Zrike, who made the decisions, agrees. “I’d say definitely good teachers were let go,” Mr. Zrike said, explaining that a lot of his decisions were driven by particular skills he wanted for teams he was assembling. “I wouldn’t doubt a lot will be excellent in other places.”

And how much to blame are teachers for the abysmal test scores at Orchard Gardens, a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade turnaround school here, that’s had six principals since opening seven years ago?

The goal of the turnaround legislation is to get the best teachers into the schools with the neediest children, but often, experienced teachers get worn down by waves and waves of change and are reluctant to try again.

“You fear being pulled by the latest whim,” said Ana Vaisenstein, who has taught in Boston for 12 years.

“Sometimes in education, there are so many changes being made at once, the important things get lost,” said Courtney Johnson, a five-year veteran.

(more…)

August 11, 2010

Inexperienced Companies Chase U.S. School Funds

Filed under: Charter Schools,Race to the Top,Uncategorized — millerlf @ 1:25 pm

Published: August 9, 2010 NY Times. SAM DILLON

With the Obama administration pouring billions into its nationwide campaign to overhaul failing schools, dozens of companies with little or no experience are portraying themselves as school turnaround experts as they compete for the money

A husband-and-wife team that has specialized in teaching communication skills but never led a single school overhaul is seeking contracts in Ohio and Virginia. A corporation that has run into trouble with parents or authorities in several states in its charter school management business has now opened a school turnaround subsidiary. Other companies seeking federal money include offshoots of textbook conglomerates and classroom technology vendors.

Many of the new companies seem unprepared for the challenge of making over a public school, yet neither federal nor many state governments are organized to offer effective oversight, said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a nonprofit group in Washington. “Many of these companies clearly just smell the money,” Mr. Jennings said.

Rudy Crew, a former New York City schools chancellor who has formed his own consulting company, said he was astonished to see so many untested groups peddling school improvement strategies.

“This is like the aftermath of the Civil War, with all the carpetbaggers and charlatans,” Dr. Crew said.

The Obama administration has dramatically increased federal financing for school turnarounds, to $3.5 billion this year, about 28 times as much as in 2007. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is pushing to overhaul 5,000 of the nation’s 100,000 public schools in the next few years.

New York is to receive more than $300 million and New Jersey about $67 million. Expenditures on each failing school are capped at $6 million over three years.

Under federal rules, school districts can hire companies or nonprofits to help, but do not require it, and Sandra Abrevaya, a spokeswoman, said the Department of Education did not know how many districts would do so.

“The department is in daily contact with states and districts to provide technical assistance so they can make smart decisions and select high-quality partners,” Ms. Abrevaya said.

Overhauling schools is challenging work, and experts say few attempts succeed. Breaking the cycle of failure in a school that has become a drop-out factory requires an “extreme reset,” said Tim Cawley, a managing director at the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a nonprofit group leading several turnaround efforts in Chicago. Usually that means installing a new principal and a newly committed teaching staff, invigorating the school’s culture with high expectations and a no-nonsense discipline, adopting a rigorous curriculum, and carrying out regular testing to determine what has been learned and what needs to be retaught,, Mr. Cawley said.

In contrast, many new groups seeking contracts are hoping merely to bring in a new curriculum or retrain some teachers, he said.

“We call that turnaround lite,” he Cawley said.

Bob and Megan Tschannen-Moran run one of the new groups. Their company, LifeTrek Inc., based in their home in Virginia, markets life and career coaching sessions to companies, churches and schools.

Ms. Tschannen-Moran is an education professor at the College of William & Mary, but the couple has never led a school overhaul, Mr. Tschannen-Moran said.

A few school districts have hired LifeTrek for strategic planning, he said.

The couple recently founded a Center for Evocative Coaching, and this spring, Ohio put the center on a list of approved school turnaround specialists. In July, the couple changed the name of the center’s Web site to schooltransformation.com. The center can help schools by “facilitating new conversations through story listening, expressing empathy, appreciative inquiry and design thinking,” its Web site says. Much of the training can be done via conference call, he said.

Mr. Duncan helped trigger the stampede in a June 2009 speech, saying that only a handful of groups, nationwide, had any experience in school overhauls.

“We need everyone who cares about public education,” he said, “to get into the business of turning around our lowest-performing schools.

“That includes states, districts, nonprofits, for-profits, universities, unions and charter organizations.”

One company that said it had answered Mr. Duncan’s call was Mosaica Education, which operates charter schools in several states and overseas. Five of its 10 charter schools in Ohio are in academic emergency, and the company has become embroiled in disputes over its management of charters elsewhere. Its chief executive, Michael J. Connelly, said Mosaica had built a solid record of raising achievement.

In March, the company hired John Q. Porter, a former schools superintendent in Oklahoma City, to lead a new subsidiary, Mosaica Turnaround Partners. Mr. Porter said he attended a vendor fair at Ohio State University in June that had been organized to introduce dozens of new companies and nonprofits to districts preparing school turnarounds.

“It was like a cattle call,” Mr. Porter said. “No, actually it was more like speed dating.”

Pearson, the giant British publisher, also had representatives at the fair. With 36,000 employees worldwide, Pearson is known in education for textbook brands like Scott Foresman and Prentice Hall.

Last year, it formed the K-12 Solutions Group, and it is seeking school-turnaround contracts in at least eight states. Scott Drossos, the group’s president, said that in recent years Pearson had bought smaller companies that built Pearson’s capacity to train teachers and could draw on its testing, technology and other products to carry out a coherent school improvement effort.

In interviews last year, Mr. Duncan said he wanted high-quality, nonprofit charter school management groups, like the KIPP network, which operates 99 schools nationwide, to join the school overhaul work.

But Justin Cohen, a turnaround strategist at MassInsight, a Massachusetts nonprofit organization, said that most successful nonprofit charter operators preferred starting new schools to overhauling failing ones, and that few had accepted Mr. Duncan’s invitation.

“The vast majority of people getting into the field are not ready to do the work,” Mr. Cohen said.

Recognizing the risks facing school districts that sign contracts with untested groups, the American Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit conservative policy group, issued a report last month urging that districts require performance guarantees, under which contractors failing to meet achievement targets would forfeit payments.

Dr. Crew’s new company, Global Partnership Schools, which he formed with Manny Rivera, a former Rochester schools superintendent, has signed a contract with the Pueblo, Colo., district that is backed by a performance guarantee. It stipulates that the partnership will be paid its full fee only if it significantly raises student achievement, Dr. Rivera said. The partnership has also been awarded contracts with districts in Baltimore and Bridgeport, Conn., he said.

Dr. Rivera represented Global Partnership at the June 30 vendor fair in Ohio, tending a booth along with 50 other groups.

“It was just like you were selling pencils,” he said. “A lot of these companies don’t have a clue about how to change schools.”

July 31, 2010

Merit Pay, Charter Schools, Teacher Firings and States Getting Race to the Top Money

Filed under: Charter Schools,Performance Pay,Race to the Top,School Reform — millerlf @ 4:00 pm

Let’s think about all the great stuff that’s coming so that we “put the kids first”:

– Merit pay. Hasn’t worked yet, but full speed ahead!

– Charter schools. Weak to no gains so far, but full speed ahead!

– Teacher evaluations and dismissals based on standardized tests. Error rates of 25%-35%, but full speed ahead!

– Institutionalizing the testing culture of schools. Big problems looming with cheating as the stakes in these tests get higherreally big problems – but full speed ahead!

– Rewarding states for their commitment to educational reform. So far, some of the worst states have been rewarded, but full speed ahead!

July 27, 2010

Civil Rights Groups’ Strong Criticism of Obama Ed Plan

Filed under: Arne Duncan,Education Policy,Race to the Top — millerlf @ 9:49 am

Civil rights groups skewer Obama education policy (updated)
It is most politely written, but a 17-page framework for education reform being released Monday by a coalition of civil rights groups amounts to a thrashing of President Obama’s education policies and it offers a prescription for how to set things right.
You won’t see these sentences in the piece: “Dear President Obama, you say you believe in an equal education for all students, but you are embarking on education policies that will never achieve that goal and that can do harm to America’s school children, especially its neediest. Stop before it is too late.”
But that, in other nicer words, is exactly what it says. The courteous gloss on this framework can’t cover up its angry, challenging substance.
The “Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn” is a collaboration of these groups: Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Schott Foundation for Public Education, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Coalition for Educating Black Children, National Urban League, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
Leaders of these groups were scheduled to hold a press conference Monday to release the framework but it was cancelled because, a spokesman said, there was a conflict in schedules. The delay was, presumably, not connected to public appearances this week by Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the convention marking the 100th anniversary of the Urban League in Washington D.C. Obama is making a speech on Thursday; Duncan on Wednesday.
The framework’s authors start the framework seeming conciliatory, applauding Obama’s goal for the United States to become a global leader in post-secondary education attainment by 2020.
But quickly their intent is clear. They take apart the thinking behind the administration’s education policies, and note a number of times the differences between what Obama and Duncan say about education and what they do.
To wit:

About Race to the Top, the competitive grant program for states that is the administration’s central education initiative thus far, it says:
“The Race to the Top Fund and similar strategies for awarding federal education funding will ultimately leave states competing with states, parents competing with parents, and students competing with other students….. By emphasizing competitive incentives in this economic climate, the majority of low-income and minority students will be left behind and, as a result, the United States will be left behind as a global leader.”
Ouch.
About an expansion of public charter schools, which the administration has advanced:
“There is no evidence that charter operators are systematically more effective in creating higher student outcomes nationwide….Thus, while some charter schools can and do work for some students, they are not a universal solution for systemic change for all students, especially those with the highest needs.”
And there’s this carefully worded reproach to the administration:
“To the extent that the federal government continues to encourage states to expand the number of charters and reconstitute existing schools as charters, it is even more critical to ensure that every state has a rigorous accountability system to ensure that all charters are operating at a high level.”
Double ouch.
But there’s more.
The framework says that the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, “should seek buy-in from community advocates.” But it notes that Obama’s Blueprint for Education reform makes “only cursory mention of parent and community engagement in local school development.”
It blasts the administration’s approach to dealing with persistently low-performing schools, saying that closing them in the way now being advanced is wrong, and it says that the administration is not doing enough to close gaps in resources, alleviate poverty and end racial segregation in schools.
And it says that the government should stop using low-income neighbors as laboratories for education experiments:
“For far too long, communities of color have been testing grounds for unproven methods of educational change while all levels of government have resisted the tough decisions required to expand access to effective educational methods. The federal government currently requires school districts to use evidence-based approaches to receive federal funds in DOE’s Investing in Innovation grant process. So, too, in all reforms impacting low-income and high-minority communities, federal and state governments should meet the same evidence-based requirement as they prescribe specific approaches to school reform and distribute billions of dollars to implement them.
“Rather than addressing inequitable access to research-proven methodologies like high-quality early childhood education and a stable supply of experienced, highly effective teachers, recent education reform proposals have favored “stop gap” quick fixes that may look new on the surface but offer no real long-term strategy for effective systemic change. The absence of these “stop gap” programs in affluent communities speaks to the marginal nature of this approach. We therefore urge an end to the federal push to encourage states to adopt federally prescribed methodologies that have little or no evidentiary support – for primary implementation only in low-income and high-minority communities.”
This is really tough talk, and it is about time that America’s civil rights leaders are speaking up.
The only question is whether anybody in the Obama administration is actually listening.
-0-
UPDATE:
Now we know why civil rights leaders suddenly cancelled today’s press conference at which they were going to talk about their new powerful framework for education reform, which includes a withering critique of the Obama administration’s education policies.
They met instead with Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., head of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said in an interview that he and other leaders felt that meeting with Duncan to discuss policy differences was “a better use of our time” than holding a public press conference.
Considering that most press conferences are a waste of time, Jackson makes a point.
But in this case, the postponement — or, perhaps, cancellation — left the impression among some that the civil rights leaders chose not to publicly criticize President Obama’s education policies any more than the framework already does.
The press conference was originally called for 10 a.m., which, it turned out, was exactly the time that the Duncan meeting started.
Jackson said Duncan listened as he and other civil rights leaders explained their concerns about ensuring equitable resources for each child and about how education reform should be part of a comprehensive urban renewal strategy that involves the Departments of Justice and Labor.
If quiet diplomacy can actually get Duncan to change some of his ill-conceived policies, then we can applaud this effort.
But if it doesn’t, it will be incumbent upon the civil rights leaders to shout to everyone who will listen that this administration is not doing what it must to ensure an equal education for every student.
They have to be as tough on a president that they like as they would be on a president that they don’t.

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By Valerie Strauss  |  July 26, 2010; 3:00 PM ET

July 6, 2010

Money Added to War Bill for Laid Off Teachers

Filed under: Race to the Top,School Finance — millerlf @ 10:55 am

House adds $23B to war funding bill
By: David Rogers
July 1, 2010

A Senate-passed war funding bill cleared the House Thursday night but only after Democrats added nearly $23 billion in new domestic spending that will require time-consuming negotiations with the Senate before the measure can go to the White House.

President Barack Obama escaped without any serious restrictions on his Afghan policy and the Pentagon’s $33 billion request for military operations was upheld on a lopsided 376-25 vote.

But a succession of anti-war amendments—pressing Obama to clarify his plans for withdrawal—testified to a growing split between the president and rank-and-file Democrats over the cost of the war at a time of economic trouble at home.

Ninety-three Democrats backed a failed attempt to limit the use of the military funding to withdrawal of the troops. As many as 153 –including Speaker Nancy Pelosi—voted for a second amendment which would have required Obama to complete a new intelligence review of Afghanistan next winter and by April 2011 be able to show a plan for redeploying U.S. troops with a timeline.

Pelosi said later that the amendment—which failed 260-162—was not inconsistent with Obama’s announced policy last December at West Point, but her demand for a clear timeline for completing a withdrawal goes further, “It is critical that Congress has the most up-to-date information as we debate policies that impact our soldiers, their families and national security,” Pelosi said.

Among her close friends in the caucus, the language was often blunter.

“Our country is on her knees in terms of needs,” Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Cal.) told POLITICO. “This is money, this is cash, going for what?”

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