Friday, November 20, 2015

NY State's Bogus Common Core Survey Legitimizes Deliberate MisEducation

New York State's Bogus Common Core Survey
  Social studies educator, Hofstra University, my opinions, of course, are my own

According to the Council of Chief State School Officers, at least 18 states are in the process of revising the Common Core Standards adopted in 2010. That includes New York where Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is involved in a mandated review of math and reading curriculum. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who supported Common Core as "state of the art" from the start, has called its implementation in New York State "flawed." He blamed blunders in the rollout for causing "frustration, anxiety, and confusion for children and parents." But Cuomo has never questioned the validity of Common Core, which suggests the mandated review will largely be for show.

Commissioner Elia claims the review procedure will allow "everyone to have a voice, particularly the practitioners who are implementing standards in our schools." However, the first public meeting of the Common Core Task Force held in New Rochelle on October 29 did not include time for public comments. My friend Henry Dircks, a high school social studies teacher on Long Island and the parent of two public school children, does not agree with Elia that the review will allow for all "voices" to be heard. He calls Commissioner Elia's online Common Core Survey incomprehensible and a pretense of public involvement.

Elia has already leaked that more than 70% of responses to the online survey are "positive," although it is not clear what she is counting as a positive response. She claims that this shows surprising strong support for Common Core, however only 1.5% of New York State teachers have responded so far. Submissions continue until November 30.
On the survey, respondents vote on each individual Common Core Standard. The choices are:
I agree with the Standard as written.
The Standard should be discarded.
The Standard should be in a different grade level. Grade selection is required
The Standard should be broken up into several, more specific Standards. Suggested rewrite is required

The Standard should be rewritten. Suggested rewrite is required
Comments about your feedback. Optional
But the problem with this bogus survey is not each individual standard. No one is going to vote that we should not teach children to read, write, and think. However, nowhere can you vote that Common Core Standards aligned with high-stakes testing have undermined education in New York State, stressed out students and teachers, turned curriculum development over to test design companies, and transformed schools into test prep academies. These are the real reasons parents and teachers oppose the Common Core.

As Henry tried to complete the survey, it confirmed his belief that NYSED "cannot see the forest for the trees." He eventually gave up and wrote a letter to Commissioner Elia with his Common Core complaints. Henry sent it to me and we agreed it is worth sharing with a broader audience.
Dear Commissioner Elia,
Now that the first quarter's grades are in, and I've guided my high school students through submitting final work and making up for absences, I finally had a chance to breathe and catch up on my own work. So today, I attempted to take the AIM High NY survey on the Common Core Standards. I use the word attempted purposefully; the survey limits the opportunity for personal and professional feedback by leading participants into a mire of boxes to check and comment about for individual standards.
Although I have devoted nearly four years to fighting the Common Core, I will not waste my time navigating this incomprehensible survey, just so that NYSED can say that it's listening to the public.
My concerns about and activism against the Common Core are not centered on the over-testing that students of NY are being subjected to, on the over-reach of the USDOE in forcing the standards upon New York with the promise of Race-To-The-Top funding, or on the massive amount of money being gained by corporate entities such as Pearson Publishing (though I share all of these concerns). Instead, I just think the standards lack any sort of recognition of the students that my colleagues and I teach.
On the elementary level, I believe that the ELA and Math Standards inappropriately introduce topics that are developmentally beyond the capabilities of students. I believe that the math standards confuse students with an over-reliance on word problems, and by focusing their attention on explaining how they arrived at an answer. In these early grades, students need to build confidence in mathematics by getting the "right" answer, not being forced to explain in tedious detail their "work". In ELA, the Common Core's insistence on non-fiction works against children's curiosity and appreciation for reading.
The focus on lexile scores in my daughter's 7th grade ELA class underscores my point.
My daughter has always been an avid reader and has a high lexile score. In line with the standards that call for an ever-growing lexile score, she was restricted from reading books that she was interested in for class reports because the books were below her score. The only books her teachers would allow were obviously meant for adult readers in content and difficulty. Just today, my fifth-grade son told me a story about learning rhyme scheme in his ELA class. He said that the state's method of teaching rhyme scheme was overly complicated, and that his teacher accomplished the same goal in a matter of minutes.
I have been a high school social studies teacher for 23 years. Although the standards have yet to have such a negative impact on my teaching, I have had negative experiences with my own classes in adopting teaching methods advocated by the standards. For instance, there is nothing duller and curiosity-reducing to my eleventh-graders than a "close-read" of whatever 200 year old document I introduce in class. It seems obvious to me that the advocates who want to build literacy and research techniques among my students never considered whether my students would want to learn in this manner. Also, as a social studies veteran, I find the new focus on literacy devalues the purpose of history and civics education. Under the standards, I will be charged with preparing my students to read text rather that learn and apply concepts as a citizen of the U.S.
I find it hard to write all of my objections to the Common Core Standards because there are so many. Added to this is that fact that your predecessor and our governor have ignored these concerns for so long that my list of concerns just keeps growing and growing. My only recommendation is to scrap the Common Core in its entirety, and either return to the completely satisfactory standards that NY State had before this debacle or ask teachers of the "loyal opposition" to sit down and create new NYS standards. Until NYSED gives up this hopeless charade of the standards having value to NY students and teachers, I will keep fighting.
Henry J. Dircks
Bethpage, New York

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Common Core: Working for Big Business- Not For Public Education and Its Students

The Real Rationale for Common Core, and Why It is Failing

When Arne Duncan was made Secretary of Education, he brought in a group of advisors, largely from the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation, to help him design what eventually became the Race to the Top, which was funded by Congress with $5 billion in discretionary money, to reform American education. Duncan asked Joanne Weiss to take charge of Race to the Top.
At the time, Joanne Weiss was CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, a California-based organization dedicated to spurring for-profit entrepreneurs and investing in charter schools, both start-ups and chains. Her previous experience was in educational technology. I can't find any evidence that she ever worked in a school. She was an entrepreneur. She and her advisers came to the conclusion that the biggest problem in American education was its extreme decentralization (local control). They decided that if there were a national system of standards and assessments, then the businesses making textbooks, technology, and everything else would have a national market and the quality of their products would be far better. It was a rational decision for someone from the business world. She wrote on the blog of the Harvard Business Review, a brief essay that should be required reading for anyone trying to understand the philosophy behind the education policies of the Obama administration:
Technological innovation in education need not stay forever young. And one important change in the market for education technology is likely to accelerate its maturation markedly within the next several years. For the first time, 42 states and the District of Columbia have adopted rigorous common standards, and 44 states are working together in two consortia to create a new generation of assessments that will genuinely assess college and career-readiness.
The development of common standards and shared assessments radically alters the market for innovation in curriculum development, professional development, and formative assessments. Previously, these markets operated on a state-by-state basis, and often on a district-by-district basis. But the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale.
In this new market, it will make sense for teachers in different regions to share curriculum materials and formative assessments. It will make sense for researchers to mine data to learn which materials and teaching strategies are effective for which students – and then feed that information back to students, teachers, and parents.
If we can match highly-effective educators with great entrepreneurs and if we can direct smart capital toward these projects, the market for technological innovation might just spurt from infancy into adolescence. That maturation would finally bring millions of America’s students the much-touted yet much-delayed benefits of the technology revolution in education.
The reason to standardize education across the nation is to create an attractive business climate for entrepreneurs. National standards and tests will encourage them to develop products for this new national market.
This is certainly the first time in American education that the U.S. Department of Education took on the role of creating a national market for entrepreneurs. This was the Obama administration's idea of "reform."
It was a risky bet. No effort was made to pilot the Common Core standards, to find out how they would really work in real classrooms with real students and real teachers. The rush to implementation created a backlash. Weiss was correct in assuming that every textbook publisher would revised their texts and online programs to align with the Common Core or claim to have done so. But, some states have dropped the Common Core. Some are reviewing them with the intention of tailoring them to the needs of their states. About half the states that agreed to join one of the two testing consortia have withdrawn, either because of political controversy or because of online testing.
The effort to establish a unified national system, for the benefit of entrepreneurs, was illegal, in my view. The federal law says very clearly that no officer of the federal government may seek to influence, direct, or control curriculum or instruction. Arne Duncan likes to say that he stayed far away from curriculum and instruction. That may explain why he insists that the Common Core is "only" standards, not a curriculum. Of course, he has been a vocal advocate for Common Core, and of course, states were not eligible for any of the Race to the Top funding unless they adopted "college-and-career standards" (aka Common Core). But, please, it is "only standards," not curriculum. Note that the U.S. Department of Education, as part of its grand plan to re-arrange American education into a standardized national system, funded two testing consortia with $360 million. Is it possible to say with a straight face that the U.S. Department of Education is making no effort to "influence, direct or control" curriculum and instruction when it funds the tests and advocates for a common set of standards? Does anyone believe that tests have no immediate impact on curriculum and instruction?
What lessons are to be drawn from the rocky experience of the Common Core? First, those in charge of the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration did not understand the meaning of federalism and the limits of the federal role; second, programs speedily devised and imposed by bribery tend not to last; third, haste makes waste; fourth, if new programs are devised without the engagement of experienced educators, they are unlikely to meet the needs of practitioners or the classroom. Last, the federal government should not substitute its best ideas for those who know more than they do at the state and local level. Coercion just doesn't work very well in a democratic society.
dianeravitch | November 17, 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2015

New Charter School Black Hole Report Exposes National Fraud & Waste

Charter School Fraud & Waste Are a National Problem

Landmark Look at US Charter System Reveals Waste, Fraud, 'Ghost Schools'

'The bottom-line is taxpayers know far too little about how much their federal tax dollars are being used to fund charters,' says Center for Media and Democracy

Here is the Report:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Charter Schools Are Unconstitutional In One State- Can We Make It True In New York State?

Washington State Supreme Court: Charter schools are unconstitutional

After nearly a year of deliberation, the state Supreme Court ruled late Friday afternoon that charter schools are not constitutional.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Disastrous State of Black & Latino Teachers In Public Education

A Diminishing Number of Black & Latino Educators in US Public Schools
This past school year was the first time in history that racial and ethnic minority students outnumbered their white counterparts. The U.S. Department of Education has projected that by 2022, non-white students will make up 54.7 percent of the public-school student population, largely due to the national increases in U.S.-born Hispanic and Asian populations.
Despite the fact that more students of color will be filling classrooms at increasing increments every school year, it’s a well reported fact that almost 80 percent of their teachers are white—and it doesn’t appear that that will change any time soon.

According to a recent study from the Albert Shanker Institute, a think tank funded by the American Federation of Teachers, the number of black teachers dropped from 2002 to 2012.

The Disastrous State of Teacher Diversity

Friday, September 18, 2015

Black Chicago Parents Go On a Hunger Strike for Progressive Education & Power

Dyett Hunger Strike for a Progressive School Vision

Dyett GlobalAndGreen Tech HSProposal


Parents’ Hunger Strike Reveals Flaws in Chicago’s Education Reforms

Parents’ Hunger Strike Reveals Flaws in Chicago’s Education Reforms
Parents’ Hunger Strike Reveals Flaws in Chicago’s Education Reforms
It’s a drastic, painful, potentially fatal tactic associated with third-world political movements calling attention to brutal regimes, or history lessons about legendary protest leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Cesar Chavez.

Yet activists on Chicago’s hardscrabble South Side are entering their second month of a hunger strike, launched to draw attention to the plight of a storied but downtrodden neighborhood school scheduled to close next year.

The activists say they launched the strike because city leaders, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, have repeatedly turned a deaf ear to their complaints about the fate of Walter H. Dyett High School in the historic majority-black Bronzeville neighborhood. Emanuel’s administration, they say, has also ignored their demand for a say in what happens to their community’s school—including their suggestions to junk plans to turn Dyett into a music and arts school and instead create an academy for kids who want careers in the future-facing high-tech, green-energy field.

“The community said they wanted Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School,” Jitu Brown, one of the hunger strikers, told Chicago’s WTTW-TV on Wednesday, the 31st day of the protest. “It’s really frustrating that taxpayers have to go to this length when you realize that you’ve been rendered voiceless.”

Hunger-strikers Irene Robinson and Jitu Brown at Dyett High School on Wednesday.
While the “Fight for Dyett” movement has adopted desperate measures for what it sees as a desperate time, the standoff between the protesters and the powers that be is a microcosm of similar conflicts playing out nationwide.

Across the U.S. a combination of shrinking education budgets, gentrification of poor neighborhoods, and the meteoric rise of charter schools has put underperforming majority-minority schools like Dyett on the chopping block—and spurred charges of educational racism.

Several studies have shown that when urban school districts from Washington, D.C., to Oakland, California, have had to balance the books by closing low-enrollment, poorly-performing schools, black communities are hit the hardest. But city and school officials say the enrollment numbers don’t lie; In Chicago, Dyett High’s class of 2015 had just 15 students.

But analysts say families displaced by gentrification, as well as the appeal of charter schools, is artificially driving down enrollment, undermining schools like Dyett, named for an esteemed African American music teacher whose pupils included jazz legends Nat King Cole and Dinah Washington.

“People have gotten to a level of desperation,” said Richard Gray, director of community organizing and engagement at Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform. The decision to close Dyett without their input, said Gray, felt to Bronzeville community leaders “like an attack on their schools and their teachers” and proof that Rahm Emanuel “disdains their community.”

Gentrification is “definitely” a factor in the standoff in Chicago, according to Gray. For several decades, “massive real-estate speculation” has forced the displacement of a substantial portion of residents, he said. To make affordable communities more attractive, city education administrators bypassed plans to revive traditional public schools and joined the parade toward publicly funded charter schools.

Officials “are building these charter schools and boutique [magnet] schools for affluent whites,” Gray said. “These things accumulate.”
Hunger strikers at Dyett High School at the start of a press conference.
Gary Orfield, an education and city planning professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and codirector of the school’s Civil Rights Project, agreed with Gray’s assessment of the situation at Dyett. A former Chicago resident, Orfield said the breakdown in communication reflects “negative racial change” in the city, and he wouldn’t be surprised if protesters in other cities mirrored the hunger-strike strategy.

“I hope that reason takes hold, and they negotiate a settlement, and these people don’t die,” Orfield said. “None of these things have been handled well.”

Ultimately, however, he said, the hunger strike could prove to be an opportunity for Emanuel, who as a congressman and chief of staff for President Barack Obama purportedly advised his staff to never let a crisis go to waste.

“This is the kind of crisis that could change things,” Orfield said.

Saturday, September 5, 2015


VIDEO: Philly Parents Rally to Opt Out!
Are we New Yorkers Doing the Same?

Philly is speaking out about the damage that high stakes testing is doing to
our children. Please share this courageous video widely.
Thank you.
Eileen Duffey-