Web of Influence Peddling

An Art of Science Teaching Inquiry

In this post I argue that politicians, lobbyists and corporate executives have worked together to peddle their influence in the name of educational reform. This triad of influence is dismantling public education one charter school, voucher, tax incentive, and law at a time.

In today’s culture, politicians and especially business leaders, have perpetuated the myth that academic achievement in a few subjects is the most important outcome of schooling, and that indeed, there is a huge gap between achievement of students in the United States and its counterparts in other industrialized nations. Furthermore, these same politicians and business leaders would have us believe that there is a serious decline in the supply of high-quality students from the beginning (the end of high school) to the end of the Science & Engineering “pipeline.” Both of these cases are myths—that U.S. students do not achieve at high levels, and that there is a serious shortage of high quality persons for science & engineering. They are perpetuated to fulfill the needs and desires of officials whose best interests are served by claiming such weaknesses in the American educational system (see Lowell & Salzman).

These myths are real, however.  They are fodder for those looking to game the system.

Influence peddling is wide-spread in American education.  Fear, money, and gaming dominate the system. I’ve organized this inquiry around four themes as shown in the tabs below.  You’ll find two or more articles related to the highlighted theme.

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[restab title=”Fear Factor” active=”active”]Since the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957, and a U.S. government report, A Nation at Risk was published in 1983, American education has been cast as a failing system, and if “reforms” were not put in place, the sky would fall.  Although the sky hasn’t fallen, teachers and schools are envisioned as the cause of the mythical failure of American education.

The underlying and foundational reason that influence peddling is flourishing in education is the move toward the privatization of education. And the privatization of education is born out of assumptions that American education is a failed system, and that the only way to prove that the system is improving is show that it returning a profit to the taxpayers. When we begin to think of schools as a business, then test scores are a measure of profitability. Indeed, students of teachers who get high achievement scores are rewarded in the same way that employees earn bonuses. But when scores are low, it is analogous to a unprrofitable business, which might mean layoffs, store closings, and fired staff.  Here are two articles that underscore this fear.

Why Education Must Be Public and Not Privatized

Using Achievement Scores to Support Myths and Build Fear[/restab]

[restab title=”Gaming the System”]The drive to privatize education is a web of connections worked out by politicians and corporate executives with the support of some very prominent and not so prominent foundations and “not-for-profit” organizations that have cropped up spreading their spray over the public education landscape. The relationships and the overall web of connectivity has brought a lot of people together who have influenced state legislatures to the extent that they collectively are gaming not only public schools, but the citizens who pay the taxes to support local and neighborhood schools.  This web shows very clearly how these organizations and people have figured out how to game the education system.  In these articles, we show how politicians have learned to game the system to not only use laws written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, but make use of the Tax Code to set up not-for-profit organizations that ask for money from around the country to support the bills that they support in their legislative bodies.

Using Students for Politics and Influence Peddling. In this article, we show how politicians have learned to game the system to not only use laws written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, but make use of the Tax Code to set up not-for-profit organizations that request money from around the country to support the bills that they support in their legislative bodies.

Why Don’t Our Elected Representatives Write Their Own Legislation?  In this article, we show that ALEC, a national “bill-mill” is an “amazon” marketplace for state legislators looking for legislative bills.[/restab]
[restab title=”Money”]More than $700 billion is spent annually on public education in America, making education an investment and consumer market comparable to banking, energy, transportation, and retail.  But just as important is the idea that education is being shaped by organizations and a few people with a lot of money.  Here are two articles to offer some evidence for this.

Billions and Billions, and I am not Talking About Stars!  I am talking about dollars, and how billionaires are influencing (science) education policy from the K-12 level to the U.S. Department of Education, and this is being done in an environment where the billionaires are demanding accountability from the recipients of its money, but do so without having to be held to any standards or accountability themselves.

Are the Deep Pockets of Gates, Walton and Broad Contrary to the Ideals of Education in a Democracy? In this article, I wonder if the deep pockets of just 10 people can be consistent with the ideals of public education.[/restab]
[restab title=”Case Studies”]In this inquiry, we look at the Gates Foundation and Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education as core examples of organizations that use power and money to influence educational change throughout the states, often in the interests of corporate affiliates.

How the Gates Foundation Used $3.38 Billion in College-Ready Education Grants to Change Education Policy.  Did you know that since 1999, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (technically founded in 2000) have made over 4,000 grants in the US Program, one of the major categories of funding for the Gates. The 4,000 grants were distributed among 16 categories such as College-Ready Education, Community Grants, Postsecondary Success, Global Policy & Advocacy, etc.

Bush’s Education Foundation and Influence Peddling: Any Truth to it? The connections between Bush’s Foundation, private companies, and state officials has set up the perfect storm for not just a privatization of schooling, but the expansion of a corrupt and secret, behind closed doors operation that changes laws to line the pockets of corporate officials

Graphics of The Bush Foundation’s Influence on State Education Laws  The Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) agenda has seven “reform” priorities, and its work centers on influencing state governments to pass laws that are directly related to these reform priorities. Follow the link to see some data.[/restab][/restabs]


 

The drive to privatize education is a web of connections worked out by politicians and corporate executives with the support of some very prominent and not so prominent foundations and “not-for-profit” organizations that have cropped up spreading their spray over the public education landscape. The relationships and the overall web of connectivity has brought a lot of people together who have influenced state legislatures to the extent that they collectively are gaming not only public schools, but the citizens who pay the taxes to support local and neighborhood schools.

What is your take on the nature of influence peddling in education?

Charter Schools: In Whose Interest?

An Art of Science Teaching Inquiry

Charter schools are seen as a cure-all to raise test scores of American students. It kind of like a philosopher’s stone, or a 19th century elixir, to serve as an antidote for the ills of traditional public schools. Many policymakers are motivated by the delusion that choice and competition is the answer to solving problems facing our schools.

Public schools are the only agent that can create a sense of community among diverse communities from which students come. Charter schools have not done this. In fact, charter schools have further segregated children from each other, and we know that this is not a good idea.

Some of the charter bills that have been passed will result in an increase in politics and influence peddling in the context of multimillion dollar opportunities by establishing charter schools in various counties in each state. Real estate investment firms will find a pot of gold in these states. Firms will come in a buy land and/or empty buildings (schools, factories) and then in turn lease them to for-profit charter school management companies, such as KIPP, Academica, or Charter Schools USA. Boston worked out a deal in the interests of corporate investors.

And in this election year, politicians use their place on charter schools to influence voters, and to partner with corporations who hope tp peddle their wares in the politician’s state or county.  Just go an ask Nathan Deal, Governor of Georgia.

Myths

In this inquiry, we’ll explore the underlying rationale for charter schools (the rationale has moved from one of true curriculum development by teachers, to a cash cow for charter management companies).  When you look carefully at charter schools, they do not offer the kind of choice they claim in press releases and other public statements.  For example, EmpowerED Georgia, an education advocate group, has identified  8 myths about charter schools. If you follow this link, you will find more details about the myths identified by Empowered Georgia. Here we’ve only identified the myth, and one fact that repudiates or questions charters.

Myths about Georgia’s Charter Amendment

Research on Charter Schools

One of the images that has always impressed is the graph showing the relationship between poverty concentration and SAT/ACT scores for charter schools in Texas (the red dots) and “regular” Texas public schools.  It is clear that nearly all the charter schools (except for just a few) fall at the bottom of the graph, irrespective of poverty concentration.

Charter schools, in general, have consistently underperformed when compared to similar public schools.  And when you see data as shown in Figure 1, you begin to realize that supporters of charter schools simply ignore such research, or have other purposes in mind for the establishment of charter schools.

Figure 1. This graph might be disappointing to advocates of charter schools. The graph shows the percentage of high school graduates meeting SAT/ACT College Readiness Criterion plotted against the concentration of poverty. Each disc is a high school; the red dots are charter schools, the grey are public schools. In general, charter schools simply to do not compare favorably to public schools, regardless of poverty concentration.  Graph by Dr. Michael Marder, University of Texas, used with permission.  For more data like this.

 

The Inquiry

What Should Parents Know About Charter Schools?

Following are some questions that might be considered in this inquiry.  Is there evidence that charter schools don’t do as well as most public schools, and if so, why are so many politicians working so hard to turn so-called “failing public schools” over to charter school management companies?

Here are some questions to consider in this inquiry:

  1. What should every Georgia parent know about charter schools?
  2. Charter Schools are unleashed with false claims and lots of money.  True? or False?
  3. Did some in the Georgia legislature shout, “Give us charter schools, or we’ll amend the Georgia Constitution?”
  4. Is there any credibility to the claim that charter schools are education’s 21st century philosopher’s stone?
  5. Are Charter Schools in Georgia the Corporate Reformer’s Magic Bullet?
  6. If Charter Schools are not the answer, then what’s the question? (by P.L Thomas)
  7. Do some charter and Title I schools use a pedagogy of indoctrination?
  8. What is the charter school formula for financial success by educational failure?
  9. Is the term charter school an euphemism for school choice?
  10. Why do states ignore the research on charter school performance?

 

An Inquiry into the National Council on Teacher Quality

The Devil is in the Detail

This inquiry is an investigation into the behavior of two organizations that claim to have the inside track on understanding how teachers should be educated: The National Council on Teacher Quality, and it’s partner and founding organization, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.  The findings are published and available as an eBook that is available free on the Art of Teaching Science blog.

In this eBook,  I argue that the reports issued by these organizations on teacher preparation and science standards are nothing short of conservative propaganda put out by organizations with ties to each other, and a common sources of funding from the leading donors of corporate-styled accountability.

I have included the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in this report because it founded the National Quality on Teacher Quality to push forward its agenda of dismantling teacher education to its own ends.

The eBook is divided into four parts as follows:

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[restab title=”Part 1″ active=”active”]The NCTQ.  Starting with an analysis by Anthony Cody, we delve into the type of reporting that the National Council on Teacher Quality carries out in the name of research. You’ll discover that the NCTQ is nothing but a well-funded assault agent on teacher education. It’s research is a sham, and in some cases they’ve had to resort to the courts to obtain course syllabi and other documents, although so far they’ve not been successful with the legal system. Maybe they should take a course in social-science research methods?[/restab]
[restab title=”Part 2″]It’s Junk Science. Rather than beating around the bush, I’ve analyzed the reporting done by the NCTQ based on peer-reviewed research about what makes up junk science. The NCTQ comes out a winner. [/restab]
[restab title=”Part 3″]NCTQ’S Review of Georgia’s Teacher Education. Since I was a teacher educator in Georgia for more than 30 years, I looked at the NCTQ’s reporting of teacher preparation in the state. I found, among other things, that the NCTQ reported on only a few of the many programs available throughout the state, and that the reports were without depth and quality. [/restab]
[restab title=”Part 4″]The Fordham Connection. As a science teacher educator, the Fordham Institute got my attention when they issued reports on the state of the state science standards, and when they reviewed the Next Generation Science Standards. The authors of the Fordham Institute reviews of science education seem to be biased against any research in the field of science education. This is unfortunate since the science education community is a world-wide community of scholars who’ve developed research methods to investigate science teaching in classrooms globally. The Fordham authors are stuck in a 19th Century conception of what should be taught in school science, and lack the credibility to report on the nation’s science education community in K-12 schools.[/restab][/restabs]

By way of introduction here are some things you might want to know about the NCTQ and the Fordham Institute.

National Council on Teacher Quality

The National Council on Teacher Quality issues reports on teacher preparation, in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. The NCTQ reports are more of an assault on teacher education and not an honest and ethical evaluation of teacher education programs.

Like the Fordham Foundation, they are research challenged, and cherry pick statements out of context from educational research.  Their research methods are not only challenged, but avoid the most important aspect of research in any field, and that is peer review.  The only peers that review their reports are in-house employees.

They claim that their reports on teacher preparation are an “exhaustive and unprecedented” overall rating of 608 institutions.  Don’t be fooled by the extensive graphs and tables.   The method used to generate these is essentially flawed.   Its standards are lumped into four buckets (their term): Selection, Content Preparation, Professional Skills and Outcomes. And their reports include a very small sample of teacher educations program in the United States.

But here’s a big problem.

Instead of working with its subjects of study, the universities that have teacher education programs, the NCTQ relied only on a paper trail discovered online or in catalogues.  It did not visit these campuses to find out about teacher education on the ground.  In fact, many of the schools simply did not want to coöperate with the NCTQ.  As a result, NCTQ used the open records law to get much of their information.  And as the report indicates, most institutions did not supply the “necessary syllabi” to do an adequate job assessing the institutions.  They also had trouble getting the institutions to give information on student teaching and student teaching policies. Indeed, an appeals court ruled against the NCTQ which demanded that professors at the University of Missouri should give up copies of their course syllabi. However, the court said that course syllabi are the intellectual property of their creators and not considered public records under Missouri’s Sunshine Law, a state appeals court ruled this week. NCTQ is appealing.

Can you imagine social science researchers taking legal action against students because they wouldn’t answer any of their interview questions?

The NCTQ has taken the liberty of evaluating the nation’s teacher preparation institutions without making site visitations, interviewing professors, students, and administrators.

Yet, the NCTQ claims to have done an independent review of teacher education in America.

Nonsense.

The reporting overwhelms in terms of charts and diagrams.  The problem is that the research method is limited in terms of making valid and honest evaluations of teacher education.

Fordham Foundation Reports on State & Next Generation Science Standards.

The Fordham Foundation’s gang of seven (hired consultants with little or no K-12 teaching experience) has released it “Final Evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards.”  The same group evaluated the Next Generation Science Standards when they were first published in June 2012.  The gang of seven does not seem to have 20/20 vision when it comes to research.  Instead they have an unchanging fealty to a conservative agenda and a canonical view of science education which restricts and confines them to an old school view of science teaching. Science education has rocketed past the views in two earlier reports issued by Fordham about science education standards, as well as the NGSS.

The Fordham reports are analogous to the NCTQ reports. They write reports to fulfill agendas worked out in advance that advance their own corporate think-tank goals.

For The Fordham Institute to have the audacity to continue its effort to promote an honest discussion of science education is a sham.  According to this last report, the gang of seven used the same criteria is used to check the science standards in the states.  They graded the states using an A – F rankings system, and according to their criteria, most states earned a D or F.

They, like many of the other conservative think-tanks, believe that American science education “needs a radical upgrade.”  The gang of seven has consistently kept to this mantra, and in this last report of the NGSS, they find that we are in the same state, and that the NGSS gets a grade of C+.

Fordham has their own set of science content standards (General expectations for learning).  Follow this link and then scroll down through the document to page 55, and you will find their standards listed on pages 55 – 61.  When I first reviewed Fordham’s evaluation of the state science standards and the NGSS, I was shocked by the criteria they used to analyze science education.

I found that the Fordham standards are low-level, to mediocre at best, and do not include affective or psychomotor goals. Each Fordham statement was analysed using Bloom’s categories in the Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor Domain (See Figure 1).

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 6.06.12 PM
Figure 1. The Pie Graph Shows that nearly 90% of the criteria the Fordham Institute used to evaluate everyone else was at the lowest two levels of Bloom!

In my analysis I gave the Fordham science standards a grade of D. For them to use these criteria to judge the NGSS is absurd.

Yet, they keep saying that science education is inferior, and after a while, people begin to believe them.  For me, the gang of seven is not qualified to evaluate science education.  Yes, they have credentials in science and engineering, but they are woefully inadequate in their understanding of science curriculum development, or the current research on science teaching.

Many of the creative ideas that emerged in science teaching in the past thirty years represent interdisciplinary thinking, the learning sciences, deep understanding of how students learn science, and yes, constructivism.

The Fordham Institute and National Council on Teacher Quality appears to have had their eyes closed while conducting their crack research.  Don’t believe their reports.

Next

If you found what you read here, then you might want to download a free copy of the eBook: Investigating the NCTQ.

E-valuating Teaching: It Doesn’t Add Up–An Art of Teaching Science Inquiry

Latest Story

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[restab title=”Research” active=”active”]You might want to visit this site to see the research on value-added modeling.[/restab]
[restab title=”A Teacher Speaks Out”]John Spencer, an Arizona middle school teacher wrote a post that described his experience with the value-added model. He reports that one of his students said to him, “You look stressed.” You might want to read his post in which he explains how his stress was derived from Arizona’s use of VAM scores to rate teachers.[/restab]
[restab title=”Key Studies”]Two studies were recently published which spell bad news for advocates of the current models to rate teachers.[/restab][/restabs]

Last week, I introduced four Inquiries on the Art of Teaching Science blog.  You can find the inquiries on the side bar on my blog’s home page, or follow these links:

You can navigate each inquiry from the landing pages for each inquiry.

This blog post introduces the fifth inquiry which focuses on the use of value-added measures to rate teachers.

E-valuating Teaching: It Doesn’t Add Up

Why the Use of Student Achievement Tests Is an Absurd System to Evaluate the Practice of Teaching

Teacher bashing has become a contact sport played out by many U.S. Governors. The rules of the game are staked against teachers by using measures that have not been substantiated scientifically. For many governors, and mayors it is fair play to release the names of every teacher in the city, and their Value-added score determined by analyzing student achievement test scores. None of the data that has been published has been scientifically validated, and in fact, the data that is provided is uneven, and unreliable from one year to the next.

A VAM score is a number that is derived using a covariate adjustment equation (Figure 1). The idea is to rate teachers using student test scores. For example, in the Florida VAM big data release, VAM scores are reported for teachers who taught math and reading, and for those that didn’t teach math or reading. They reported next to each teacher’s name, a score that indicates the learning gains students made above or below what they were expected to learn (based on earlier performance, with OTHER teachers).

Here is equation used to figure teachers’ “value added effect.”

 

Screen-Shot-2014-05-19-at-6.28.42-PM
Figure 1. The statistic value-added model used to check teachers.

Using student achievement scores to compute a number which claims to find what a teacher “adds” to student learning simply doesn’t add up.  This is what this inquiry is about.

For years now, I’ve written about the nonsense attributed to using student achievement scores to assess teachers.  But there are others who have written more powerfully about the nonsense attributed to the use of these scores.  I want to direct you to two websites where you can find important information why using student test scores to evaluate teachers doesn’t add-up.

  • Dr. Cathy O’Neil’s Blog (Mathbabe) Cathy O’Neil is the Program Director of The Lede Program. Prior to Columbia, she was a data scientist in the New York startup scene and co-authored the book Doing Data Science.  She blogs daily at mathbabe.org, appears weekly on Slate’s The Big Money podcast, and is active in Occupy Wall Street’s Alternative Banking group.  She has written considerably on education, and in particular her  views on the use of value-added modeling to evaluate teaching.  You can read her value-added posts here.
  • Audrey Amrein-Beardsey at Vamboozled!  This blog, founded by Dr. Amrein-Beardsley as the lead blogger, focuses on research-based analyses of teacher evaluation, teacher accountability, and value-added models used the nation’s public schools.  She is Associate Professor of Education at Arizona State University.  As a university professor, she has taken the lead in contributing to public debates about education, especially the use of value-added models to rate teachers. In addition to the Vamboozled blog, I recommend Dr. Amrein-Beardsley’s book, Rethinking Value-Added Models in Education: Critical Perspectives on Tests and Assessment-Based Accountability (Library Copy).

Inquiry

E-valuating Teaching: It Doesn’t Add Up

In this inquiry, we ask if it is a practical system to use student achievement test scores as a measure of teacher effectiveness.  Is the system viable, and will such a system have a detrimental affect on student learning.

The following are few articles that were posted on the Art of Teaching Science blog that focus on these questions.  You can find many more of these articles here and here.

 

What’s Common Here: Teacher Education, Authoritarian Reform, Poverty, & Charter Schools?

In this first blog post in nearly two months, I want to introduce you to four areas of inquiry that have been explored on this blog over the past 10 years.

Over the next month, I’ll be uploading links to landing pages, each of which is a kind of inquiry or an investigation of themes that appeared on the Art of Teaching Science Blog.

Inquiries

The first four areas of inquiry are up on the blog website, and they are:

  • Assault on Teacher Education:  The assault on teacher education is being led by neoliberal and conservative ideologues who want to de-professionalize teaching, and one of the places to do this is by attacking the nation’s colleges and universities that prepare teachers.
  • Authoritarian Reform: In this inquiry, I am going to explore another movement that has historically played a role to oppose corporate, authoritarian, un-democratic, and right-wing policies and beliefs, and that is the work and wish of progressives, who have played a role in American history, starting with the American revolution.
  • Effect of Poverty on Learning:  There are bloggers and researchers who understand the nature of poverty and its effects, and why journalists, bureaucrats, politicians, corporate executives, and the billionaire boys club reformers either whitewash or simply avoid the problem. In fact, we have entered a period of “no excuses education,” which is held up as the option of “choice,” especially for families living in poor communities.
  • Charter Schools: In Whose Interest?:  Charter schools are seen as a cure-all to raise test scores of American students. It kind of like a philosopher’s stone, or a 19th century elixir, to serve as an antidote for the ills of traditional public schools. Many policymakers are motivated by the delusion that choice and competition are the answers to solving problems facing our schools.  In this inquiry, we’ll explore the underlying rationale for charter schools (the rationale has moved from one of true curriculum development by teachers, to a cash cow for charter management companies). When you look carefully at charter schools, they do not offer the kind of choice they claim in press releases and other public statements.

Future inquiries include:

  • High Stakes Testing and Teacher Evaluation
  • The National Council on Teacher Quality & the Art fox Ineptness
  • Politics and Influence Peddling
  • Progressive Pedagogy
  • Questioning Standards-Based Education
  • Stealth Appearances of Intelligent Design

Welcome back to the Art of Teaching Science blog.