Monday, December 21, 2015

ESSA/COTH - Chop Off Teacher Heads

Installed in every public school under ESSA
One can only love the term “Every Student Succeeds Act” and its supplemental act –COTH - if every student doesn’t succeed: Chop Off Teacher Heads – unless the teacher happens to be a charter school teacher.

Forgot to post my Dec. 11 Wave column.

School Scope:
ESSA/ESEA - UFT Support of Revised Fed Ed Bill is Misguided
By Norm Scott

The ESEA Act (Elementary/ Secondary Educational Act) was initially part of a civil rights package passed in the 60s under Lyndon Johnson to counter southern racist schools systems that shortchanged schools with black kids.

Fordham College Professor Mark Naison writes in a blog post titled, “Why ESEA Must Be Fought by People on the Left as Well as on the Right”:

“There was a time when you needed the power of the federal government to counteract local tyrannies shaped by racist electoral practices and corporate control of local governments No more. Today, it is the federal government which is controlled lock stock and barrel by large corporations, insuring that any federal policy will contribute to their enrichment and an expansion of their power. A defense of federal power is no longer a "progressive" position. In education, it has led to disastrous consequences ranging from the mindless impositions of test driven curricula and assessments, to the destruction and privatization of public education in many of the nation's cities.”

While I oppose the new version, now called ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), I also am wary of turning things over to “local” control which really means the states, which are mostly right-wing anti-union, anti-government and pro-privatization. Even our own so-called progressive state has a governor who supports all of the above and a corrupt state legislature where even our own local Rockaway reps will jump at any chance to funnel money out of our public schools into private schools, where they often send their own children.

Bloggers opposing ESSA were out in force with titles like: ESSA--Now Less Crappy than Before, ECAA Would set the country back more than a half century, The Good News: ESEA Will Bring an Era of Open Rebellion, ESEA Will Mean 50 Fronts in the War Against Corporate Education Reform. And one blogger renamed it: Say NO to ECAA (Escalating Charter Assistance Act). And make no mistake about it – privately managed charters will flourish under ESSA.

Mandating federal money for services into poverty schools, often termed Title 1, was an attempt to level the playing field. I always taught in a Title 1 school and we received certain support services for push-in and pull-out programs, many of which had little impact because school administrators often had so little imagination or will to attack the real problems. They often misused the Title 1 people as school and even personal servants. (I once saw our ESL teacher on her knees dusting shelves in the principal’s office.)

Well, anyway, ESEA had a lot of flaws. But things only get worse in the world of education deform. First came the No Child Left Behind under President Bush in 2004, a bi-partisan bill that Ted Kennedy was behind, as were out national and state teacher unions, who were given a little stool at the table to have “input”. So they went out and sold it. I am proud that my self-published newsletter joined others around the nation and took a stand against NCLB as being a horror story, which Education Week called “universally despised.”

Then came Obama and his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan who doubled down on NCLB with Race To The Top (RTTT) which tied student test scores to rating teachers using formulas called Value Added Method (VAM), which an April 2014 Washington Post article titled “Statisticians slam popular teacher evaluation method” exposed the sham of VAM. RTTT was a fundamental assault on public schools and favored charters and a general privatization movement and also included massive amount of testing and enormous amounts of money going to consultants and testing companies.

While teacher union leadership kept their heads in the sand, opting for any money from RTTT no matter how tainted the public reacted – or at least parents reacted with a growing opt-out of the tests movement with the epicenter being in NY State where 220,000 students opted out, 20% of the total. Long Island is the epicenter of the epicenter. In New Jersey, 120,000 student opted out.

Suddenly even slime ball politicians like Gov. Cuomo, who has been pushing so hard to attack teachers and tie student test scores to their jobs, noticed and is now backing off, a temporary retreat aimed at killing the opt-out movement because so many parents listed the tying in of scores to teacher ratings as the number one reason for opting out. Make no mistake about it. With the teacher union leadership sucking up to the alter of ed deform, the major friend teachers have are the parents leading the opt-out movement. No wonder the ed deformers and our own union leaders are so opposed to opt-out.

One can only love the term “Every Student Succeeds Act” and its supplemental act –COTH - if every student doesn’t succeed: Chop Off Teacher Heads – unless the teacher happens to be a charter school teacher.

Norm blogs at

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