Friday, December 30, 2011

The Assault on Teachers' Unions

The Assault on Teachers’ Unions
By Richard D. Kahlenberg
Teachers’ unions are under unprecedented bipartisan attack. The drumbeat is relentless, from governors in Wisconsin and Ohio to the film directors of Waiting for “Superman” and The Lottery; from new lobbying groups
like Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and Wall Street’s Democrats for Education Reform to political columnists such as Jonathan Alter and George Will; from new books like political scientist Terry Moe’s Special Interest and entrepreneurial writer Steven Brill’s Class Warfare to even, at times, members of the Obama administration. The consistent message is that teachers’ unions are the  central impediment to educational progress in the United States. Part of the assault is unsurprising given its partisan origins. Republicans have long been critical, going back to at least 1996, when presidential candidate Bob Dole scolded teachers’ unions: “If education were a war, you would be losing it. If it were a business, you would be driving it into bankruptcy. If it were a patient, it would be dying.” If you’re a Republican who wants to win elections, going after teachers’ unions makes parochial sense.

Romney touts dismantling of bilingual education

by Leslie Maxwell

Romney Touts Role in Dismantling Bilingual Education in Mass.

The Iowa caucuses are just a few days away and Mitt Romney, at least as of this morning, appears to be the frontrunner in the first contest of the 2012 presidential nomination sweepstakes.
For those of you trying to make a decision about the GOP candidates based on their education policies and philosophy, you can get a lot of insight on Romney over at Politics K-12, where Alyson Klein details the candidate's thinking about schooling by parsing a chapter from his book "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness."
Two pages in that chapter get into Romney's view on bilingual education vs. English immersion, which is interesting but not terribly surprising.
While he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney said he kept hearing that students were graduating from high schools in his state without being fluent in English. Those anecdotes were coming to him in the months after Massachusetts voters had passed a ballot initiative to curtail bilingual education in the state.
Astonished by this, the then-governor set about examining the state's bilingual education programs and asking questions about their effectiveness. He said the data were "scant" on whether bilingual programs produced better outcomes for students than English immersion programs. He picked up the phone and "called principals in California," where bilingual education had mostly been replaced with English immersion. The principals he talked to told him English immersion was better for students learning the language.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Against National Tests - Stephen Krashen

Against National Standards and National Tests
Stephen Krashen
to appear on:, Thoughts on Public Education in California
December, 2011

The movement for national standards and tests is based on these claims: (1)  Our educational system is broken, as revealed by US students' scores on international tests; (2) We must improve education to improve the economy; (3) The way to improve education is to have national standards and national tests that enforce the standards. 
Each of these claims is false. 

(1) Our schools are not broken. The problem is poverty. Test scores of students from middle-class homes who attend well-funded schools are among the best in world. Our mediocre overall scores are due to the fact that the US has the highest level of child poverty among all industrialized countries (now over 21%, compared to high-scoring Finland’s 5%). Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books, among other things. All of these negatively impact school performance. 

(2) Existing evidence strongly suggests that improving the economy improves children's educational outcomes. Yes, a better education can lead to a better job, but only if jobs exist. 

(3) There is no evidence that national standards and national tests have improved student learning in the past.
No educator is opposed to assessments that help students to improve their learning. The amount of testing proposed by the US Department of Education in connection to national standards, far more than the already excessive amount demanded by NCLB, however, is excessive and will not help learning. 

Additional budget cuts coming this week

Additional state budget cuts to higher education, k-12, and other services are predicted for this week.
They are called Trigger Cuts. They may well reach k-12. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Current tests, ludicrous, dysfunctional

Parents. Would you force your kids to take these tests?
Washington Post "The Answer Sheet" Blog -- December 5, 2011
By Marion Brady

A longtime friend on the school board of one of the largest school
systems in America did something that few public servants are willing to
do. He took versions of his state’s high-stakes standardized math and
reading tests for 10th graders, and said he’d make his scores public.

By any reasonable measure, my friend is a success. His now-grown kids
are well-educated. He has a big house in a good part of town. Paid-for
condo in the Caribbean. Influential friends. Lots of frequent flyer
miles. Enough time of his own to give serious attention to his school
board responsibilities. The margins of his electoral wins and his good
relationships with administrators and teachers testify to his openness
to dialogue and willingness to listen.

He called me the morning he took the test to say he was sure he hadn’t
done well, but had to wait for the results. A couple of days ago,
realizing that local school board members don’t seem to be playing much
of a role in the current “reform” brouhaha, I asked him what he now
thought about the tests he’d taken.

“I won’t beat around the bush,” he wrote. “The math section had 60
questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten
out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system,
that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block
of reading instruction.

He continued, “It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a
bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours
toward a doctorate.

“I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion
operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data
related to those responsibilities.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Why School Choice Fails

Natalie Hopkinson.

IF you want to see the direction that education reform is taking the country, pay a visit to my leafy, majority-black neighborhood in Washington. While we have lived in the same house since our 11-year-old son was born, he’s been assigned to three different elementary schools as one after the other has been shuttered. Now it’s time for middle school, and there’s been no neighborhood option available.
Meanwhile, across Rock Creek Park in a wealthy, majority-white community, there is a sparkling new neighborhood middle school, with rugby, fencing, an international baccalaureate curriculum and all the other amenities that make people pay top dollar to live there.
Such inequities are the perverse result of a “reform” process intended to bring choice and accountability to the school system. Instead, it has destroyed community-based education for working-class families, even as it has funneled resources toward a few better-off, exclusive, institutions.
My neighborhood’s last free-standing middle school was closed in 2008, part of a round of closures by then Mayor Adrian Fenty and his schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee. The pride and gusto with which they dismantled those institutions was shameful, but I don’t blame them. The closures were the inevitable outcome of policies hatched years before.