News and a Request

Dear Friends and readers,

First the news, then a request.

A lot of our attention these days is focused on the debut on Netflix of our film, “Rebirth,” which covers the reconstruction of public education in New Orleans since Katrina and the flooding in 2005.  We hope you will take a look at this compelling story, one that has lessons for the rest of the country. (But perhaps not the lessons you are expecting.)

Here’s the basic information:

Netflix: This is the easiest way to watch the film. You have your choice of NINE languages, by the way.

Learning Matters Shop: If, on the other hand, you want more than an hour, then the DVD is what you need. It includes quite a few scenes that almost made the film. Some of this material is also available on our website.  You may purchase it from us directly, or you may head for Amazon.

Livestream Video: Recently I sat down with John Tulenko, my colleague, to answer his questions about the film. I hadn’t expected to be grilled, but I discovered that JT doesn’t believe in softball questions.

Next week our report on the arts in public schools should air on the NewsHour.

Finally, the request:  I had a 90-minute conversation with the editors of US Catholic Magazine today about No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, charter schools, teacher training, pre-school and on and on.

At one point we played “If you were Arne Duncan, what would you do?”   It’s a popular parlor game for people like me–and perhaps you.  I’m curious to know what you would do–and hope you will post your thoughts.  Some of you will say “I’d resign,” but I hope most of you will take this more seriously. (The Secretary told me that he reads the blog, by the way).

My response was,”I would get the federal government out of the ‘teacher accountability’ business completely because that is simply not Washington’s business. Holding teachers accountable is the responsibility of principals, districts, state policymakers, other teachers and parents. It’s simply not in Washington’s power, interest or capability.”

Your thoughts?

32 Responses to “News and a Request”

  1. John Bennett 07. Nov, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    If I were Armie Duncan, I’d eliminate all prescribed aid programs. In their place, I’d institute programs funded with the same $$$. BUT to get the funds, proposers would have to document the need based upon assessment of previous outcomes, document the research supporting the efforts directed at the need, develop the assessment plan to understand how things are going / what refinements are suggested, and describe the efforts planned for both interim and final reporting.

    • Kelly Butler 10. Nov, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      Agree with John’s recommendation regarding aid programs and the need to document need and assessment of previous outcomes. It’s very troubling how many Title 1 dollars alone are poorly utilized and with little impact. Never is the question asked, “did it make a difference?”

  2. Susan Kelewaee 07. Nov, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    If I were Arne Duncan I would, like you, get the Federal Govt. out of the evaluation business. The whole CCSS as well as the evaluation and testing frenzy is a perfect example of Campbell’s Law (“The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”). I would turn teaching and the running of schools back over to the professionals in the field. TEACHERS!!! Personal accountability is usually more powerful than carrots and sticks from Washington. I would insist that we teach to students – not tests. I would engage a massive PR campaign promoting the great Public Schools, the great teachers, and how successful public schools have been. (Instead of the PR campaign to criticize and demean public schools and teachers.) I would insist that the pay for teachers would be much higher – they do the hardest and most important job there is.

  3. Claire Warnock 07. Nov, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    If Iwere Arne Duncan, I would be more thoughtful about the causes of low-performing schools. As an elementary school principal in New Jersey, I am offended by the attacks on our teachers, especially those who teach in cities where poverty and crime are overwhelming.

    Zip codes matter, poverty matters, intact families matter.Our teachers aren’t giving up….on the contrary, most of the teachers I know go beyond the scope of their jobs to help their students, and now with the Common Core and more testing than is necessary, their jobs are getting more difficult.

    The public school blame game continues to be “the flavor of the month or year”. We educate “everyone” in our public schools….not too many charters or private schools can say that.

  4. Not a Public School Teacher 08. Nov, 2013 at 1:56 am #

    Wow. Great question! There’s so much I would do, if I was Arne Duncan, that would actually be the opposite of what he’s done so far.

    I would go study education at one of those Ed Schools that he thinks so poorly of, without having ever taken a single education course at any of them. I would also obtain state certification as a teacher, principal and superintendent, get classroom experience teaching in an inner city school and become a school principal in a low income area. Then maybe I’d stop playing Monday morning quarterback and basing my decisions about our nation’s children on my personal perspective as an out-of-field dilletante.

    I agree with John Merrow, too, but I would broaden that. I would leave education policies to be determined by states, local communities and schools, including decisions regarding standards, testing and accountability, and I would encourage them all to give teachers a lot more autonomy in their classrooms.

    I would also encourage states and communities to provide more equitable resources to schools with our neediest students, as well as to their communities, and I would tell politicians and business leaders to invest in our public schools. I would also promote a halt to the privatization of public education and to the sharing of personal student data.

    Finally, I would stop treating professionals like unruly children who can’t be trusted and never again use manipulative carrot and stick tactics. Yeah, I would pretty much just reverse course on just about everything.

  5. Joanne Williams 08. Nov, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    If I were Arne Duncan I would do two things

    Number One: enlist the participation of the EXPERTS in persuading children and teenagers to do something… professional athletes, rappers, musicians, entertainers and video games designers.
    This means more than just handing out book bags at the beginning of the school year. This means convincing them that it is in their best interest to have educated consumers.

    Number Two: Turn 6th grade into a “year of learning/doing practical things”. Devote the entire school year to exposure to professions and jobs… internships… classes on how to balance a personal and family budget… how to write a resume… how to dress for/handle a job interview…
    how to fill out tax forms… how to fix things in your home (faucets, toasters, door hinges, pick something…)… how to care for a baby… how to sew…how to grocery shop and find healthy food… how to read and understand a contract…

    Just think of all the things you deal with in a month and you have the curriculum for the year.
    In that year, you will also be teaching all the regular subjects: reading, writing, math, history, science, etc. but you will be teaching it in a way that the students can put their knowledge to use every day.

    And, to assess what the students have learned, have them write short reports every week on what they learned and what they used. No grades. No passing or failing. Just learning the skills they will need long after algebra is forgotten.

  6. Jacman 08. Nov, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    If I were Arne Duncan I would partner with President Obama in waging a new War on Poverty. I would make sure all under resourced neighborhoods had health clinics and hospitals, modern transportation systems, awesome libraries, parenting centers, wholesale food coops, community gardens, and other green public spaces. Every school would have science labs, a Little Theater, TV production facilities, a state of the art library and technology center, art work rooms, and adult education resources. I would promote a rich curriculum with no high stakes tests to evaluate kids or teachers. I would foster a culture of respect. I would make sure Obama created good, union jobs with pensions and benefits. And THEN I would resign.

  7. Matthew Boulay 08. Nov, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    If I were Arne Duncan, I would get serious about dealing with summer learning loss. For all the talk about using research evidence to guide policy, the truth is that ed policy has almost totally ignored the mountain of evidence demonstrating that children from low-income families fall further and further behind each summer, particularly during the elementary school years – in other words, we ignore the fact that summer learning loss is a major cause of the achievement gap. There is not a single federal dollar that targets summer learning and there are very, very few state or local dollars spend during June, July, and August. Summer learning programs are not “summer school” and should not be punitive, remedial, or mandatory – in fact, the best programs engage kids around music, science, art, and a host of activities that have been cut from the school year. There are many examples of great summer programs – we need to support them and replicate them.

    One more point: every school in the country has a library program yet 99% of them are closed all summer long. It doesn’t make any sense – these are books already paid for in neighborhood schools? Why do we lock the doors and keep kids out of libraries during the summer months?

  8. Hugh 08. Nov, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    Here’s what Arne Duncan should do. First, recognize the problem: our teachers were never given the tools to teach 21st century kids successfully. The solution, astonishingly, is to give them the tools.

    Second, realize that that true deeper learning or 21st century schooling, in which the 3 R’s are built on the 4 C’s, contains all the tools teachers need. It has 3 simple and measureable goals – cognitive knowledge and skills, non-cognitive skills (“21st century skills”) and student passion – which, when met, clear all required benchmarks. And it includes online professional development to bring teachers up to speed, circumventing our broken education schools. There is at least one scalable model with data to prove it works (although this is not widely known).

    Third, realize that, as McKinsey as pointed out (is.gd/McKinsey), a 20% increase in school performance will lead to a 20% GDP increase, wiping out our perma-recession and the deficit, leading to huge tax revenue increases and providing a strong economic justification for improving schools.

    Finally, put this all together. Instead of NCLB and RTT, which assume that we just have to lean on teachers to get them to stop being lazy, reward schools for transforming to a 21st century, teacher-empowerment model with specific outcomes (it’s been done). Run 5-8 pilots with existing organizations that have credible models ($20 million, max). Then start a large and scalable pay-for-success program and encourage social impact investors to fill-finance and mitigate risk. Once a clear and workable model is developed (we’re basically there already), we will see a Wright Brothers effect and the field will take off. This can all be financed for $1000/student over 10 years or $5 billion/year, and has eventual payoff of about $3 trillion per year in GDP, according to McKinsey, or about $700 billion in annual tax revenues.

    There you have it – viral reform, the only thing that will work. And it’s completely doable.

  9. Ruth 08. Nov, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    If I were Arne Duncan I would forge a partnership with parents. Kids won’t invest in education unless their parents think education is important. Parents are far more influential to their children than parents. Armie, the President, governors, superintendents, principals and teachers need to partner with parents to make education the most important thing in a child’s life.

  10. Sherman Dorn 08. Nov, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

    If I were Arne Duncan, I’d require that all major policy proposals from inside USDOE or the White House go through a “pre-mortem” analysis before being floated as a trial balloon: five years down the line, Plan X has turned into a complete mess. Why?

    Yes, this is an exercise constructed by management folks (see a Harvard Business Review description at http://hbr.org/2007/09/performing-a-project-premortem ). It’s an exercise in structured humility: what could cause your Grand Designs to flop?

  11. Jere Hochman 08. Nov, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

    If I were Arne Duncan I would replace required annual standardized testing with standardized testing only in transition years to next levels of learning (3), 5, 8, 10.

    This would allow necessary benchmarking without narrowing curriculum so tightly that schools become void of innovation, imagination, and curiosity.

    If a state wants to continue the practice, let them, but take get it out of ESEA/NCLB/RTTT!

    This was not in the original concept of NCLB upon which guidelines were developed when no one was watching (three months after 9/11) and was designed based on the flawed Texas Miracle.

    For details see http://thinkingaboutschools-jhstlny.blogspot.com/

    Standardized testing is designed to benchmark progress and curriculum alignment. They help schools/districts/states answer questions such as “How do we compare with other districts or states?” “How well is our local curriculum aligned with the standards assessed on a standardized test?”

    Currently – standardized test serve as the single barometer of a school/district’s success and the single most powerful driver of what is taught. The more high stakes the test, the more narrow the curriculum. And, with the requirement that teacher and principal evaluations included a portion of student performance on standardized tests, the tests become even more high stakes and the curriculum becomes even more narrow.

    No problem with CCLS or assessing them with rigorous tests; but not every grade, every subject, every year.

    The pressure and stakes this high for the sole purpose of accountability still has NO leverage in getting rid of very bad teachers.

    High stakes testing does nothing to inform professional development.

    And, high stakes testing stifles teachers reaching high standards with innovation, creativity, project based learning, relevance, and teaching based upon student interest.

    The Federal Government has a responsibility to insure equity and access for every child and to protect federal law (and Supreme Court rulings) for civil rights, equity, and special education (Brown v. Board of Education, PL 94-142 / IDEA, Title IX, and Plyer vs. Doe).

    This one change could depoliticize public education, repress corporate profiteers, open the windows of innovation and minds of those children who need that the most, and shift the focus to ROOT CAUSES of students no ready for school and subsequent school failure.

  12. Educator 09. Nov, 2013 at 12:19 am #

    If I were Arne Duncan, I would make it a requirement that any Dept of Ed staff and state staff like Supts of Public Instruction who work on and formulate education policy, including Duncan himself, take time off every three years to teach in a low income school for three to six months. They would be subject to the same evaluation procedures as the district they teach in and get the same compensation and resources as anyone else. If the staff doesn’t have the necessary teaching credentials, they can instead be deemed highly qualified by undergoing five weeks of training at various emergency prep programs like TFA. Then, after completing this, they would have to think about whether they would want to continue teaching for the next few years or ten years or more. If not, why not?

    Although this may sound snarky, I really don’t intend it to be. It’s an “Undercover Boss” idea, except they wouldn’t have to be under cover as most students don’t know who the education policy leaders are. Many CEO’s in fact do this exercise. They go to the front lines of their organization and do what they usually ask of their employees.

    Many teachers like to tell policy leaders what it’s like to be in the classroom, but as many teachers already know, just because you tell students something doesn’t mean they learned or listened. The best learning comes from actually practicing. Policy makers would learn an invaluable lesson and be reminded how difficult the work is.

  13. Joe Beckmann 09. Nov, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    What’s lacking is the distinction between assessment and evaluation – one for feedback, the other for policy making. When one of the key models for Duncan’s “reforms” was passed, Massachusetts Ed Reform of 1994, they required state testing (MCAS) for feedback to local school committees as well as one of several measures of individual student achievement, including attendance, graduation rates and individual portfolios. About a decade later, in a study for a Regional Employment Board, I discovered a school district regularly held back the bottom 25% of its 9th grade for an extra year of drill-and-practice to maximize their “gain score” in the state’s 10th grade test round.

    That led to evacuating the Superintendent, Principal, Guidance Director and, eventually my Ward school committee member on the basis of their “cheating the system at the expense of their students, since grade retention has been known – for several decades – as the primary cause of later dropout behavior: “teach kids they’re stupid, and they learn just that.”

    And that led the local school council to re-visit those portfolios and, with Kellogg money through Learning Matters, to computerizing those portfolios using the Verified Resume standards developed by and for employers and unions in 1992′s SCANS Report. In other words, you, yourself recognized the strongest recommendation to Arnie Duncan: look at what you’ve already got before investing billions with Pearson & companies in a testing system that shows less than what you already know: kids learn in many ways, many things, and it is at least part of the mission of public education to help them give shape to that learning. That shape, in turn, is their tool to college, career, wealth, community and maturity.

    In other words, as Agassiz told his biology students in Harvard’s biology courses in the 1880′s, before you cut into the system, “watch your fish.” Looking at what they do before you judge what they know is a lot better than total reliance on a bubble test – which doesn’t invalidate that test … necessarily … but it does, most surely, make any assessment a lot more valuable.

    Those ePortfolios also provide longitudinal data – some of it even quantified (using Verified Resume metrics) – to provide assessments that both students, teachers, and parents can use in refining their goals and targeting their own learning objectives. That is the purpose of ALL ASSESSMENT – not hiring, firing, or promoting, which are issues of local, union, or public official responsibilities.

    Finally, I would – as several here already suggested – get the federal government out of the evaluation business regarding kids and teachers, based exclusively on a single metric. They do have two of many useful means to make school systems more transparent – the Common Core and PARCC Test Scores. That kind of transparency should help systems evaluate principals, and only indirectly teachers and kids, and should help states make better “consumer information” – like scores, attendance, graduation rates, and, eventually, rates of financial aid and ultimate employability – available to parents, voters, kids, and teachers. They are the ONLY ones who have the right, responsibility, and authority to EVALUATE, and, whether they throw out a School Committee member (like I did, for cheating the system) or promote a new Principal (as the system did, to create a better system), that evaluation should bring a community together rather than further fragment it.

    • john merrow 10. Nov, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      I always look forward to Joe Beckman’s thoughtful contributions. This one in particular is full of wisdom, in my humble opinion. But there are lots of good ideas in the other comments as well. In defense of the Secretary, he is pushing hard for early childhood programs.

      • Early Childhood Educator 11. Nov, 2013 at 5:06 am #

        As a long time ECE teacher and administrator, the Obama/Duncan push for ECE programs truly makes me shudder. I am familiar with the Race to the Top –Early Learning Challenge and the developmentally inappropriate Common Core standards representing a pushed down curriculum in primary education. Ugh. I see a lot more negatives to Duncan’s involvement in ECE than positives, including a further push of academics into preschool, a lot of drill for skill and testing –all of which undermine motivation and aren’t developmentally appropriate for young children.

        Duncan can distribute funds, but there should be no strings attached and he should leave all else for states, communities, schools and teachers to decide!

  14. Peter Schrag 09. Nov, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    If I were Duncan, I’d divert every dollar I could find — and any
    additional dollars I could get out of Congress — unlikely I know — to
    the support of outstanding preschools and the creation of additional
    “model” preschools schools (beginning at age two) and day care centers for
    young children in every community. And at this point nothing more for the
    K-12 system whose ability to take advantage of additional dollars is, at
    best, spotty and so riven with political fights and interest group
    influence as to be a dubious investment.
    I’ve watched the swings and fads come and go for 60 years — progressive
    ed, Bruner, PSSC, SMSG, back to basics, common core. Beat the Russians
    (1957), beat the Germans and the Japanese (1983), beat the Finns, the
    Koreans, the Chinese (some anyway); high stakes testing, NCLB, RTTT,
    vouchers, charters, Ravitch the conservative, Ravitch the liberal, social
    promotion, no excuses, homework, no homework… Our educational
    performance has become better, but how much can be attributed
    to all the tinkering we’ve done? How much to all manner of other things?

    • Ken Poppers 10. Nov, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

      I always enjoyed your columns in the Bee.

      You refer to all the fads you’ve witnessed over your 60 years and call it tinkering at the end of your post. As a teacher for 25 years, I assure you it isn’t just tinkering. These fads are taken quite seriously by administrators and are accepted as the cure for what ails schools.

      What is true about these fads is that their reason for existing isn’t to improve education, it is to sell books, programs and line the pockets of consultants.

      My favorites have been the AAUW study on the gender gap, how girls were being left behind. The folks that cooked up that study, I believe the last name was Sacker, created a nice little cottage industry of folks beating on teachers for not treating girls well. Turned out to be a work of fiction, just like the myth of the 90-90-90 schools. There really can be 90-90-90 schools, as long as the school has the ability to drop the 10% kids. Isn’t that also known as a charter school?

      I totally agree that ECE would increase success in school for ELL and kids living in poverty. Secretary Duncan knows his proposal will go nowhere, the political will isn’t there, particularly for this administration, which is done. But he gets points for blabbing about it, while he fiddles observing the public schools burning due to his and his ally’s actions.

      BTW, Merrow is becoming as irrelevant as Duncan.

  15. Carol 09. Nov, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Thank you, Peter! I was hoping someone would talk about early childhood education. The evidence that this is the best bang for the buck, despite Red Jahncke’s recent WSJ editorial, is overwhelming. Look at recent Stanford University research, summarized by Bjorn Carey in The Stanford Report, the Economist’s article on preschool in Texas, and the NYT editorial by one of my favorite ECE advocates, Nicholas Kristof. Or come to my Head Start site in East Palo Alto, California. After 30 years of teaching and developing ECE programs for upper middle-class, and high-income children and their families, I have spent the last 3 years, just across the freeway from my home in Silicon Valley, in low income communities. The biggest difference between the kids I taught for the last 30 years and those I teach now is communication. Whether it is Spanish or English, these children lack basic skills in speaking: thinking and expressing themselves, or expressing curiosity about the world. The adults in their lives are too overwhelmed to talk to them, and if there is talk, it is TO them, not WITH them. No one asks what they think about anything. That takes too long. How on earth are these children going to be able to ANALYZE “Frog and Toad” in 1at grade, not just remember what the plot line was? Critical thinking skills are the hallmark of the Common Core. Children are wired to be curious but we need to provide a supportive environment where they have the chance to express that curiosity. Low-income children, by accident of birth, no fault of their own, are extremely limited in their expression of that curiosity. ECE needs more money. That would change the trajectory of our children and our nation.

  16. Chris 10. Nov, 2013 at 7:52 am #

    Arne Duncan should recognize that sorting students by birth year isJUNK SCIENCE i.e. grade level.

    He should spend at least a few days a year as a substitute teacher in neighborhood public schools.

    He should also watch the 60 minutes piece on Gulen charter schools.

  17. Frank Gould 10. Nov, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    It is a sad state of affairs when the head of our Department of Education has little or no experience in the actual process of learning and teaching. This is especially sad when his prior leadership in education resulted in such questionable results. I doubt Arne Duncan will really hear what those writing here have to say, particularly those who are teachers. It is standard proceedure for the policy makers and administrators to move on their own agendas and not seek any input from the experienced work force. So, my first suggestion ot Arne is to start a campaign to draw public school teachers into the discussion, and into the decision making.

    Second, if his love of charter schools is so strong, and there are some which have been very successful, then he should advocate for the charter school model in our public schools. Many of the succussful charter schools succeed because community and faculty are involved in development of the school. Bring those factions into the process. Provide flexibility for public schools to act innovatively without pushing commercial enterprizes in the public domain.

    Third, he should work to assure that the finances are available to provide our teacher with the tools, materials and salaries they need to accomplish the goal of educating our children in the critical thinking skills necessary for the 21st century. “Fill-in-the-circles” testing does not do that.

    Fourth, and fundamentally, he should find words for his speeches which do not denigrate our teachers. He should be building morale within his domain, not destroying it and driving experienced teachers into depression and other professions.

  18. john merrow 10. Nov, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    In addition to my first suggestion (get the federal government out of the business of evaluating teachers), Secretary Duncan ought to be pushing and encouraging school districts to push dollars down to pre-school programs by supporting the evolution of 12th grade into either early college or early vocational training. That’s happening in lots of places, but he could use the bully pulpit and some discretionary dollars to speed things up.

    • Early Childhood Educator 11. Nov, 2013 at 5:28 am #

      OMG, John. Get a grip on who you’re talking to here. Telling Duncan to “use the bully pulpit” is unconscionable –like America hasn’t gotten enough of that already from this non-educator? And adding PreK should not mean that 12th grade can be eliminated. Schools can be encouraged to be creative with 12th grade, but that should have nothing to do with Preschool. PreK should remain optional, not compulsory, and it should NOT be focused on academics. I fear you just condemned millions of preschoolers to drill and kill…

      • john merrow 11. Nov, 2013 at 8:33 am #

        Pre-school should be play-based, and so should kindergarten, for that matter. “Child’s Garden” is what the term means. But 12th grade can (and should, in my view) continue to evolve into either college work or vocational preparation. One benefit would be to ease the transition out of HS, now very difficult for many. It would reduce the college freshman bingeing that we hear so much about because those HS seniors now freshman would have already earned a half a year of college credits and would be in the swing of things (and would be saving $$)

        But money is short, and money talks. Politicians won’t find new money for pre-K but will be moved by the idea of saving some in one place and spending it in another.

        • Early Childhood Educator 11. Nov, 2013 at 9:42 am #

          I taught Kindergarten for decades, as well as Preschool, and I work with a lot of teachers of children of those ages. Play has already been eliminated from many ECE classrooms. That is primarily because the Common Core expects 5 year olds to be reading “with purpose and understanding,” in their first year of formal schooling.

          Many Preschools are now operating on the premise that they should teach Preschoolers to read, too. They are bombarding kids with flash cards, special phonics classes and making kids write letters of the alphabet repeatedly. Some start drilling in toddler and infant classes. I have observed in a lot of Preschools and I have no doubt that transferring funding from 12th grade to PreK will result in academics and didactic learning being stressed with our youngest children.

          • john merrow 11. Nov, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

            We will look into this

          • Early Childhood Educator 11. Nov, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

            Most preschoolers are in private settings and public funds are going there, such as subsidized child care, so be sure to look into those programs, including the nation’s largest chain, which is KinderCare. Look at how they do “charting,” which involves whole group instruction, where kids are required to listen to lectures and observe teachers writing on chart paper, starting in classes for kids as young as toddlers. Also observe their phonics classes.

          • Early Childhood Educator 11. Nov, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

            Be sure to look into what is happening in our public Kindergartens now, too, due to the Common Core and related testing, such as in NY: http://dianeravitch.net/2013/11/11/parent-how-can-i-save-my-child-from-common-core-testing/

            BTW, if funds are transferred from 12th grade to PreK, don’t expect Preschool classes to suddenly open up in every public school. It is much more likely that they will remain situated in private settings, since privatization is highly valued by neoliberals in both parties today. Preschool will probably become the new cash cow for corporations and entrepreneurs competing for funds. And we have already learned that, when competition drives education, academics and test scores rule.

          • Early Childhood Educator 11. Nov, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

            One more thing: I would suggest not falling for Duncan’s claim that three year olds won’t be tested, because it is already a requirement that kids as young as 3 be tested in Head Start. Since Duncan collaborated with Sebelius, Head Start programs now have to compete for funds. I think it would be very naive to believe that those test scores will play no role in funding decisions.

      • William Gayhart 17. Nov, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

        This is exactly what is happening in Denver, a district that hasn’t met a reformy idea that they didn’t embrace fully before thinking. In my daughters ECE class, there is too much worksheet work on writing letters over and over.

        In my son’s kindergarten class, there are 35 students. The principal justifies it by saying the teacher is excellent. He is a new principal, so didn’t know the teacher’s talent before making the class size decision. This is especially wrong because the school is over 85% ELL and 90% FRL.

        All school ‘leaders’ should be forced to send their own students to the monstrosities that they are creating.

  19. Curtis Johnson 12. Nov, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    If I were Arne Duncan, I’d persuade the president to find a state where the governor and the legislature would welcome a presidential speech. Go to that Capitol and address a state legislature. Confess that centralization consistently fails, that the best hopes for getting better education results lie with the aspirations and initiatives among the states. Get him to say that while the nation has seen some improvement, just about everything being tried is not delivering on expectations. Then, get him to say, “I think it’s time to trust the teachers. They are the only people in the system with daily contact with students. Today, we tell them what to do, how to do, and when to do. I’d urge states to stop this. Allow radical decentralization; encourage intense personalization of the learning experience. Tap into the intrinsic motivation of students and teachers. Evaluate only results, not process.” I think this message would resonate politically; would create a challenge for teacher unions; would awaken long dampened morale among teachers in America; would go a long way toward attracting better talent into teaching by making it a real profession.

    • john merrow 14. Nov, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

      Wouldn’t this be wonderful. Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen because the Democrats did just what ‘States Rights” advocate George W. Bush did when they got to Washington: assumed they had lots of power and the wisdom to use it well. Wrong on both counts…
      So to ask anyone in DC to step away from power….
      I recall asking Patrick Dobard, the current superintendent of the Recovery School District in Louisiana (and thus in charge of much of New Orleans) to name the lessons of that city’s experience. He said (paraphrasing) ‘It’s a humbling experience, because you have to first admit that you don’t know everything and cannot control everything, so you have to give up power.’ Then he added, again paraphrasing, ‘We have lots of people coming to see what we have done here, but I have yet to meet anyone who is willing to take that first step and give up control.’

      plug here for “Rebirth” on Netflix! :-)

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