Thursday, May 2, 2013

As Ed Deform Failures Mount, Mid-Course Correction for Former Cheerleaders Merrow, Goldstein, Weingarten

Cheating is not the problem that must be addressed. It is the most visible and disturbing symptom of the disease, but the disease itself is our excessive reliance on high stakes testing... John Merrow
Dana Goldstein has done a lot of credulous and awful reporting on so-called ed reform, accepting many of its premises and lies. She's also a fellow at the neoliberal New America Foundation. I gave up my subscription to The Nation after many years because she and Noguera were the main voices on the topic... Michael Fiorillo
Merrow was a winner of the 2012 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education. Learning Matters reveals its funders. I would add that these funders have clear goals.

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
    UPDATE2 from Sharron Higgins: 
    Steve Zeltzer, a labor activist in the Bay Area, filmed the anti-Duncan protest on 4/30 outside the Hilton in SF where the AERA convention was taking place. He's the one doing the interviewing in the video.

    Michael was commenting on my last post covering Dana Goldstein's piece (Dana Goldstein on L.A. Teacher Alex Caputo-Pearl and the Real Deal Behind Closing Schools). Alex Caputo-Pearl, a 22-year TFA vet still teaching, has been a major freedom fighter opposing ed deform.

    I woke up this morning to find this excellent post from John Merrow:
    Arne Duncan’s Moment of Truth
    As two powerful forces collide at this moment in educational history, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has an opportunity to make a mid-course correction that could save public education.
    Merrow had a mid-course correction of his own after helping push Michelle Rhee to star status. Maybe remembering the massive egg on face outcome the media faced after the Bush Weapons of mass destruction/Iraq War cheerleading, it looks like people like Goldstein and Merrow are: choose one a) finally getting it or b) covering their asses. They really should watch our film which was the first in depth exposure of the entire package of ed deform. I know Goldstein aired it at The Nation but I guess she just thought our pointing out the truth was just propaganda.

    Merrow has been doing a mea culpa of sorts with his relentless coverage of the Rhee Cheating scandals which he continues in this post.
    The first powerful force is the Common Core and the accompanying tests that are being ‘rolled out’ in classrooms around the country.  The epidemic of cheating on standardized tests is the other threat that must be understood and addressed. Think of these two forces as mighty rivers, separate until now–but converging.

    Dealing with the Common Core is going to require restraint on the Secretary’s part, it seems to me. Adopted by all but five states, the Common Core raises standards and expectations, surely a good thing.  However, it is also scaring a lot of politicians and educators.  Some are upset at the idea of change because fear of the unknown is par for the course, others suspect a federal takeover of education, and some think it’s a good idea being done badly.
    Duncan has been a creation of the ed deformers since he started running the Chicago schools over a decade ago and if he did a mid-course correction he would be sent into oblivion. That is like calling for Obama to fire Duncan which other than the publicity value is a useless exercise.

    But there is hope for Merrow who every day shows he's getting what ed deform is all about.
    Mr. Duncan’s official position is that the Common Core is not Washington’s doing, but everyone knows that federal dollars have supported its development and growth–it wouldn’t have happened without Washington.  As protests[1] grow, Mr. Duncan might be wise to keep relatively quiet and let others defend it, lest his support be taken as evidence that the Common Core really is that ‘federal takeover’ the critics fear.
    And don't think our own little opt-out movement here in NYC with Change the Stakes taking the lead is not having an impact. I knew when 30 people showed up to the last CTS meeting (next one is May 10) on a rainy, nasty Friday late afternoon, that we were on to something. The 500 people at Tweed last Friday was further proof.

    Merrow should go through the list of all the supporters of common core and he will see that reluctance on the part of so many starts with the people who are pushing it.

    But the arrival of the Common Core has created an opportunity for Mr. Duncan to speak out about the epidemic of cheating.  FairTest, an organization that is strongly opposed to over-reliance on standardized testing, has compiled a list of states and districts where cheating (most often by adults) has come to light.

    It identifies 37 states and the District of Columbia (I have written about the latter.)
    When major media start using the work of FairTest we are cookin'. Now Merrow gets to the meat.
    Secretary Duncan has previously said that the solution to this problem is tighter security, a position he took with me in a conversation after the Atlanta scandal became public. That might have been an appropriate response back then, but it is woefully inadequate today.  Calling for increased security to solve today’s situation reminds me of that old fable, ‘The Boy at the Dike.’ You may remember the boy trying vain to plug holes and running out of fingers.  Something more is going on here, and I think we should expect our Secretary of Education to help us grapple with this.
    The challenge for the Secretary is that his own federal policy is at least partially responsible for what’s going on now. By insisting that student performance on standardized tests be an important part of teacher evaluation, Mr. Duncan and his “Race to the Top” have helped change the game.  But it’s a game without clear rules besides “Produce or Else.”  Surely he, as an athlete, must know that competition without rules leads to chaos.
    Secretary Duncan has, wittingly and unwittingly, allied himself with the “Produce or Else” approach favored by Michelle Rhee [2], Beverly Hall [3] and other school leaders, apparently without clearly thinking through what “Produce” means.  As a consequence, standardized tests have become a wedge (or a weapon) for administrators in their relations with teachers, a ‘them against us’ approach that is souring public education.
    Merrow must know not to expect anything from Duncan. If Duncan could get a hold of a giant eraser and use it to cheat so he could show that his policies were working he would do it in a heartbeat.
    The ball, Mr. Secretary, is in your court.
    No, John. The ball is still in your court and the rest of the media to keep up the kind of reporting you are doing and with no rose colored glasses so he can see that the "produce or else" strategy is intentional and that it is all about politics and economics, not education. Try examining the difference between the kinds of schools the elite deformers send their kids to and the ones they advocate for the other 99% with class size being the major difference. Why not call on Duncan to take a sliver of the billions they pour down the drain for merit pay and teacher monitoring and charters and try reducing class sizes and pouring in resources in some test schools before closing them. My simplistic solution is to add 30-40% more personnel to the most troubled schools you can find with massive social work and guidance and health support, not with the intention to scale up, but just to prove if it works. Then we would have some sort of baseline
    We need the media to start pointing to the big money to be made out of ed deform, as Michael Fiorillo in referencing the vulture capitalists, points out. "The vultures are fueling up to feed on the carcass of public education. For-profit, "non-profit:" two sides of the same debased coin..."

    I give Dana Goldstein credit for at least raising serious questions about the school closing policies but won't be happy until she and Merrow really tell it like it as they do @ the chalk face
    Someone said it again, school closures are racist
    I will follow up with Randi Weingarten's own mid-course correction the other day on common core. Not really a mid-course correction, but political positioning. And boy do I have lots of comments on that to report.


    Dear all,
    This is an exciting time. Today, we, a group of scholars, parents, and teachers came together to protest US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan’s speech at AERA’s annual conference in San Francisco. We picketed, distributed flyers, held up signs, and questioned him. Our representative, Arnold Dodge of Long Island University-Post, criticized Mr. Duncan’s policies such as Race to the Top and his stance to try to improve assessment by more testing. Instead, Arnold Dodge called for a moratorium of high stakes testing and was received with big applause by other scholars who filled the room.

    Our story was also covered by Education Week. For more detailed story, visit Rethinking Schools blog for Ann Berlak’s article. Also, you can find more pictures and stories on reclaim AERA Facebook page.

    But, tomorrow (Wed, May 1), we must begin again.
    If you are in the Bay Area, please visit Edu4’s symposium as we dedicate it to the cause of reclaimAERA to address the ideological cleansing by the corporate forces in educational research. Please see below details, and we sincerely hope that you will join us!

    Daiyu Suzuki
    Edu4 Project Team


    1. The course corrections are interesting in light of my view that nobody believes this **** except people who are paid/funded to believe it (or, perhaps, are angling to be paid). I think critics of ed "reform" waste a lot of effort trying to figure out why people espouse what they claim to espouse: "Assume no sincerity. Follow the money" has become my motto in relation to supporters of ed "reform."

      I have no idea how that figure into Merrow's and Goldstein's views, but just thought I'd put it out there.

    2. There's a quote attributed to Churchill, where he supposedly said of the Germans, that they're either "at your feet or at your throat."

      In fact, this perfectly describes the cravenness of the media and most journalists: they sycophantically build people up, then join the lynch mob to bring them down.

      While I'm pleased that John Merrow - whose recent reporting on Michelle Rhee is superb - and Dana Goldstein finally seem to be half-awake about what so-called education reform really means, that does not excuse the fact that they have helped enable the ongoing destruction of public education and teaching with their earlier credulous, hero-worshipping, accept-the-premises-of-the-powerful coverage.

      It's a good thing that they are finally exposing some of the racist, class war elements embedded in so-called education reform, but they're also one of the reasons we face the dilemmas we do.

      As for Weingarten, she's hopeless, and is not correcting anything. She is merely throwing out some sound bites she can refer to later, so she can (falsely) claim that she opposes high stakes testing. In fact, she bears as much responsibility as anyone for the life-or-death situation the public schools and their teachers face. She could have strangled this bad seed in its crib, yet she chose to collaborate with those who would destroy the public schools and teacher unions.

      Her speech this week was a favor granted for past services rendered, giving her a stage for her membership, since there's no chance whatsoever that Tisch, King, Cuomo and the rest will listen to her, and she's knows that full well.

      1. Michael: I wonder whether you agree with Merrow that cheating is a consequence of "excessive reliance on high stakes tests." While instantly intuitive, it is not necessarily so. Regents tampering was routine in the city before the stakes were raised and Regents tampering will likely die with distributed grading, in theory. If administrators and teachers are prevented from fiddling with their students' exams in the private grading rooms of their own schools, the temptation or incentive to cheat on Regents all but disappears. After the crackdown on credit recovery and the new security rules for all state tests, the next big thing in cheating detection will be the 65 bulge in course grades that teachers are trusted to grant for work of which they are the sole judge. Teachers I talk to in high poverty, hyper-segregated schools along the ATR trail say that they pass 10 to 20 percent of their students undeservedly to meet the principal's quota, or else. I can't believe some of the stuff I've seen in classrooms around Brooklyn: open-book tests, tests handed back for correction, take-home final exams, etc. I even heard a teacher tell his class that everybody would pass because he didn't want to screw up their graduation. Some high stakes testing, of course. Such is life. But excessive high stakes testing, especially as related to our evaluations, I'd rather spend a weekend with Joel Klein.

    3. Yes, Arnie's so-called turnaround is also up on Support Public Schools. This statement comes a few days after both AFT or NEA leaders mad a similar statement. But where is the media on all this??? This is Duncan talking, yet the WH has not made it a statement. This IMO has nothing to do with either AFT or NEA leadership's role. In fact it has more to do with the parents who have successfully been fight high-stakes testing and winning. The opt-out movement also has an impact. Even though not widely used, some districts like Rockville Center reported 20% opted out. That's huge!!!! And now their school board is calling on the state to decrease testing. And let's not forget the parents in Florida including the great Rita Solnet who helped defeat the Parent Trigger 2 years in a row!!! Jeb and Michelle are losing their grip, hence Broad just gave her another $8 million to increase the lines of more legislatures. Duncan used RTTT funding for teacher evals, now he is backtracking...but what will he replace it with. I don't trust him, Obama the union leadership one bit. They still support CC and testing. So how will they backtrack on their mistakes?

    4. Tha latest edition of the AFT paper prominently displays a photo of Karen Lewis CTU President at a rally protesting school closings. Weingarten and her comments are to be taken with two grains of salt as she now speaks out against the common core. She is as phony as a two dollar blomberg Bill. Looks like the AFT wants to take credit for the CTU stand against the reformers. Too little Too late.

    5. Hi Norm,

      Steve Zeltzer, a labor activist in the Bay Area, filmed the anti-Duncan protest on 4/30 outside the Hilton in SF where the AERA convention was taking place. He's the one doing the interviewing in the video.


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