"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Test Scores: Punishing Teachers

Teaching Credentials

There's one simple reason that "reformers" don't respect teacher training and experience, education degrees and teachers' credentials in general -- most "reformers" don't have any. Take a look at this short list of some of the loudest voices in "reform."
  • Michael Bloomberg (Mayor of NYC, Billionaire) - Johns Hopkins, Electrical Engineering - Harvard, MBA
  • Eli Broad (Billionaire) - Michigan State, Accounting
  • George W. Bush (President when NCLB was passed) - Yale, History
  • Jeb Bush (Former Governor of Florida, Presidential Hopeful) - University of Texas (Austin), Latin American Studies
  • Arne Duncan (US Secretary of Education) - Harvard, Sociology (See information on previous US Secretaries of Education here)
  • Rahm Emanuel (Mayor of Chicago) - Sara Lawrence, Liberal Arts - Northwestern University, Speech and Communications
  • Bill Gates (Billionaire) - Harvard, did not graduate
  • Joel Klein (Former Chancellor, NYC Public Schools) - Harvard, JD Law
  • Barack Obama (Current President, RttT Era) - Occidental College/Columbia, Political Science - Harvard, JD Law  
  • Michelle Rhee (Students First, former TFA teacher) - Cornell, Government - Harvard, Masters Public Policy
  • Alice Walton (Billionaire) - Trinity University (San Antonio), Economics and Finance
This is by no means a complete list, and there are some "reformers" -- notably (at least for us in Indiana) Tony Bennett, the former state superintendent of education in Indiana and Florida -- who were, at one time, actual teachers.

If you don't have any education credentials and want to challenge or affect national education policy it's important that you give yourself the appearance of competence. The people in the above list have chosen to do that, at least in part, by attempting to reduce the value of education licenses, degrees and experience.

In order to promote the lie that "the problem with America's public education is bad teachers" the credibility of teachers, their training, degrees and experience must be denied and destroyed. The value, then, of advanced degrees is denied, requirements for teaching in public schools, for becoming a principal or superintendent are lowered, and teachers unions are blamed for "protecting bad teachers." The common refrain from "reformers" is that anyone who knows a particular subject area can teach better than someone who goes through a four year teacher training program. Politicians give lip service to how difficult teaching is and how important it is to have excellent teachers in the classroom, but the actions of politicians, pundits and policy makers contradicts those statements.

The myth of the bad teacher resonates with the general public in part because nearly everyone has been to school and has seen teachers teach. Everyone remembers a "bad" teacher -- often defined as "a teacher my parents or I didn't like" (This is not to deny that "bad" teachers exist, but many, if not most, are weeded out in the first 5 years of their career where nearly 50% quit or are "counseled" out). The memories of their childhood and/or young adulthood in school leads people to believe that teaching is simply providing information and being nice to children. The problem with this is that the memories are distorted by the fact that they are childhood memories complete with the lack of judgment and experience that comes with childhood.

Those of us who have spent any substantial length of time in public school classrooms know how hard it is...we know the obstacles that exist to learning -- lack of administrative and/or parental support, lack of materials, childhood poverty, poor facilities, and a myriad of other daily troubles that interfere with teaching and learning. Our opinion, however, like our credentials, is ignored or marginalized.

All over the country teachers are being evaluated with student test scores. The practice is invalid and unreliable, but "reformers" can use low test scores in high poverty areas as "proof" that
  • schools are failing
  • failing schools are fill with bad teachers
  • bad teachers and schools must be replaced with charter schools or voucher supported private schools.
It comes as no surprise then that the next step in the defamation of professional educators is the denial of teachers' ability to teach by using student test scores as a weapon...and here it is.

Draconian Policy for Weak Teachers
It had to happen eventually. Tennessee will revoke the licenses of teachers whose students fail to post progress on standardized tests ("Teachers Face License Loss," The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 17). Evidently it isn't enough to fire these teachers. They have to be punished, and what better way to do so than preventing them from ever teaching again.

Although Rhode Island, Louisiana and Delaware are also considering pulling the licenses of teachers whose students consistently fail to improve test scores, Tennessee is the predictable center of the strategy. It was at the University of Tennessee in 1992 that William Sanders constructed the controversial value-added model being used to evaluate teachers. The state has already abolished collective bargaining for teachers and made it harder for them to earn tenure.

I expect to see other states joining this Draconian movement. I don't know of any other way to describe it. If the ostensible goal is to improve instruction for students, then why not provide underperforming teachers with help? If they don't improve after a reasonable period of time, then more drastic action is warranted.
Student test scores now linked to teachers’ licenses
...in a handful of states — Tennessee being the newest, joining Louisiana, Delaware and Rhode Island — some teachers seeking to renew their teaching licenses have to meet certain test-score standards.

Never mind that the standardized tests weren’t designed to evaluate teachers, and that testing experts have warned against using these scores for high-stakes decisions.

The test score madness grows.
"Reformers" are understandably excited about this. Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education with no qualifications, is effusive in his praise for this insane policy. Now we can get rid of trained, licensed teachers if they can't single-handedly overcome the effects of poverty or cure learning disabilities in their classrooms.

Duncan Hails Tennessee for Tying Teacher Licenses to Test scores
“I want to praise Tennessee’s continuing effort to improve support and evaluation for teachers. For too long, in too many places, schools systems have hurt students by treating every teacher the same – failing to identify those who need support and those whose work deserves particular recognition. Tennessee has been a leader in developing systems that do better—and that have earned the support of a growing number of teachers. Tennessee’s new teacher licensure rules continue that effort, by ensuring that decisions on licensure are informed by multiple measures of their effectiveness in the classroom, including measures of student learning. The new system also adds reasonable safeguards to make sure any judgment about teacher performance is fair.”
This is a death sentence for the teaching profession.

The Beat Goes On

In order to continue the destruction of public education and the profession of teaching, new "reformers," who also have little or no education qualifications, must be appointed to run school systems.

Christie Appoints Very Young Former Wall St. Analyst as Camden Superintendent
Rouhanifard has, at best, six years of experience in the education sector. We'll find out soon where he did his TFA stint, but I'd lay even odds it was at a charter school*. And it looks like his administrative experience was solely in the front office: he hasn't run a school, written curriculum, overseen district-level finance, worked in student services...

Look, a LinkedIn resume sometimes masks important work experience. I'll wait until we know more, but for now: no degrees in education, no experience running a district or even being second- or even third-in-command, no principal experince, very limited teaching experience... and, I'm sorry to say this but it's true, limited life experience.
Connecticut Commissioner Puts Uncertified Charter Leader in Charge of Turnarounds
Stefan Pryor was named state commissioner of education in Connecticut two years ago.

He was a co-founder of the Achievement First charter chain, which has achieved a certain notoriety for its sky-high suspension rates (even in kindergarten), inflated graduation rates, and its very low numbers of English language learners (or none at all).

...Many “reformers” see certification as an unnecessary hoop or hurdle through which talented people must jump. But every profession has some form of qualifying process, by examination or course-taking or something.

Hairdressers need to be licensed by the state. So do morticians.

Should education function without any qualifications for those who would teach or administer schools?
Career teachers have been systematically left out of the nation's public education policy making. Their qualifications have been called into question. They are being blamed for all the ills affecting public schools and if any dare to raise a hand in objection they are silenced.

The movement to privatize public education and reduce America's teaching force to untrained temps is continuing without pause.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


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