It’s begun. The School Board of Cobb County, Georgia, where I live, just voted (5-1-1) to purchase math books (print and digital) aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). McGraw-Hill books will be purchased for K-8, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for high school. The cost for these CCSS math books: $7 million. This translates into about $64 per student for the 109,760 students in the district. The estimated cost of supplying all students in Georgia with new math books would be about $102 million.
American education is poised to embody a one-size fits all model of curriculum. We know that Arne Duncan claims that the Common Core Standards is not a curriculum. The curriculum is what is taught in classrooms, and because most states have agreed to a single set of math and English/Language Arts standards, the curriculum in classrooms will be immensely affected by the CCSS. Coupled with standardized tests that are being rolled out this year by two U.S. Department of Education funded groups, teachers will have little say in what the real curriculum will be because the same standardized test scores will be used to check their teaching effectiveness, and decide their employment.
In this post, I am going to report on those organizations that were funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to make the Common Core State Standards a reality.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made at least 164 grants to at least 125 organizations to support CCSS development and implementation. I should also point out that the U.S. Department of Education is just as responsible for these standards, as Gates and the groups mentioned in this post. You see when the Duncan department of education rolled out the Race to the Top, it insisted that states would stand a better chance of being funded is they signed on to the Common Core State Standards, and mandated the use of student test scores as a measure of teacher performance.
Then, to put the last nail on the coffin, the Gates Foundation provided consulting and writing help to states submitting proposals to the Race to the Top fund, especially during the second round of funding. Georgia was a winner. It got about $400 million, and it received help from the Gates Foundation.
These events made it possible for Achieve Inc., the developer of the CCSS to manage the development of the standards, and to work with many organizations, especially with the financial support of the Gates Foundation, to get the ball rolling.
The Top 20
The top 20 recipients give a window into the way the Gates Foundation is influencing K-12 education in American schools. The movement to set up one set of learning objectives for all students is the essence of the Common Core. These organizations are a Who’s Who of the corporate reform effort in which “big money” is being used to change the public landscape of education, into a market-place.
In America’s “race to common standards,” Figure 1 shows the top 20 organizations that have collaborated with the Gates Foundation to make sure that every child in the U.S. learns the same stuff in math, reading, and language arts. The Common Core State Standards provide a common set of performances from which tests, texts, and online programming will be developed by private firms to be sold to public schools.
Top 20 Winners of Gates Common Core Grants
Here is the listing of the top 20 award winners in the Gates Foundation common core competition. The links take you inside the Gates Foundation directly to one of the funded grants of these organizations. You will find a link to the organization at that webpage. As you read through and explore the top 20, note the emphasis on charter schools and teacher assessment in the context of the common core.
Council of Chief State School Officers $83,556,782. Co-developers of the Common Core at a meeting in Chicago in 2009. They and the NGS charged Achieve with the task of writing common standards in math and English/language arts.
New Visions for Public Schools, Inc $70,454,721 New Visions received funds to support the Common Core/Career and College initiative effort designed to improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness through key strategies. New Visions is a major charter school developer in New York, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Seattle.
New Venture Fund $67,579,460. Their recent grant (more than $10 million) was to support successful implementation of the common core
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc. $52,686,431. One of their grants from the Gates Foundation was to partner with other foundations to support a project fund supporting state-led efforts aligning higher education placement requirements with college readiness assessments developed through the Common Core assessment consortia.
Achieve Inc $36,708,822. An organization founded by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State Officers in 1996. In 2008 it begins work on “college- and career ready standards in partnership with NGA, and CCSS, and with funding from the Gates Foundation.
Charter Fund Inc dba Charter School Growth Fund $33,012,000. Gates’ funding is used to support high-performing charter school management organizations that are implementing effecting teaching systems and the Common Core State Standards in collaboration with districts.
Colorado Legacy Foundation $22,803,487. Much of the funding to this group is used to carry out and sustain teacher evaluation systems.
Kentucky Department of Education $12,954,380 Grants offer support to the Kentucky Department of Education related to implementation of the Common Core State Standards & teacher development and evaluation systems.
Council Of The Great City Schools $11,962,004. This urban school organization has received Gates Foundation grants to help member school districts to align implementation of the Common Core State Standards with their reform efforts in teacher effectiveness and prepare for new PARCC and SBAC online assessments
Khan Academy Inc. $10,544,028. The Gates Foundation grew the company into a massive supplier of videos to develop the remaining K-12 math exercises to make sure full coverage of the Common Core math standards and form a small team to carry out a blended learning model.
Louisiana Department of Education $9,562,308. Grant funds are used to give organizational support to the Louisiana Department of Education related to implementation of the Common Core State Standards & teacher development and evaluation systems.
Scholastic Inc. 6,738,498. Funds are used to support teachers’ implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics.
Thomas Fordham Foundation. $6,711,462. Grants are used for general operating support, to track state progress towards implementation of standards.
The Aspen Institute Inc $5,189,948. The Aspen Institute has received more than $50 million from the Gates Foundation with about 10% being devoted to k-12 education.
The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education $4,584,177. Grants support the attendance of Master Teachers at the NEA’s Empowered Educators conference and give an opportunity for these educators to share their learnings and leadership experiences related to the Common Core.
BetterLesson, Inc. $3,527,240. Funding to support the development of courses, aligned to the Common Core State Standards, for the purposes of helping teacher’s transition to common core and increasing their students’ ability to master the content.
MetaMetrics, Inc. 3,468,005. Grants fund the further development an interactive, online tools that focus on literacy in the Common Core State Standards
In this report, 126 organizations received funding from the Gates Foundation to support various aspects of the common core. However, a good deal of the funding went directly to charter management companies, and organizations that support the development of charter schools. There is also funding to use student assessments (of the common core) to evaluate teacher performance. Organizations received on average more than $4.4 million.
Figure 2 is a Pie Chart summary of the funding noting emphasizing the top five Common Core organizations.
According to the Foundation Center, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation are ranked 1, 13, and 38 respectively on the top 100 U.S. foundations by total giving. The total assets of these three foundations as of April 2014 was $37 billion for the Gates Foundation, $1.9 billion for the Walton Foundation, and $1.6 billion for the Broad Foundation.
The total grant making in 2012 for these organizations was:
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation $3.18 billion
The Walton Family Foundation $423 million
The Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation $153 million
If you count up the number of people who call the shots in these three foundations, here’s the math:
(Gates x 2) + (Walton x 6) + (Broad x 2) = 10 people
Diane Ravitch assigns the “big three” to the Billionaire Boys Club. No matter how you look at it, these organizations’ money and political influence rudder American education reform toward the privatization of public education, and Common Core State Standards-High-Stakes Assessments accountability.
To be sure, there are many other Foundations that give grants to a variety of organizations whose goals merge with the Big Three, but it is the Big Three that dominate the agenda of education reform today.
Education for the People, by the People
In this blog post, I wonder if the deep pockets of just 10 people can be consistent with the ideals of public education. Most of you know that Diane Ravitch published her recent book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (Public Library). On one of the end pages of her book she included a 1785 quote by President John Adams that I believe exposes the crux of the problem caused by the influx of money and influence from people such as the Gates, Waltons and Broads. Adams is quoted as saying this:
The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expense 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.
Adams would be shocked by the “charitable” behavior these 10 people.
The funded organizations that are identified on the Big Three websites are pawn’s or infantry sent into schools with lots of money, political influence, and carefully laid plans to carry out the aims of the Big Three. Although there are differences and some overlap among those who receive their marching orders from the Big Three, it becomes obvious what the end game is when you learn who is funded. Let’s take a look at the Big Three.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
In an earlier post (Why Bill Gates Defends the Common Core), I reported that more than 1800 “college-ready” projects have been funded by the Gates Foundation over the past five years. Some organizations have been awarded multiple grants, and in some cases, these amounts exceeded $60 million. In the world of Charter Schools, Gates has awarded more than $279 million. In teacher education, Gates has given millions to Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, yet very little in funding to improve teacher education in American universities. In the research I’ve done analyzing the Gates Awarded Grants, it can be estimated that more than $2.3 billion has been allocated to the “college-ready” category.
If you look at the names of organizations that receive Gates awards, you soon discover how education is being shaped: charter schools, temp teacher training, common standards, venture capitalism, and market-based reforms. Figure 1 identifies some of the organizations that have received grants, as well as the amount they garnered over the past five years.
Here the grant focal points for the Gates Foundation.
When I searched the Awarded Grants site at the Gates Foundation for “charter schools” it returned 134 hits. For example in 2014, the Pacific Charter School Development, Inc. received an award totaling $3,998,633. They joined a long list of recipients whose total amount came to $279,428,324 (see Figure 1). Gates gives more to support charters than does Walton and Broad combined.
Without question, the Gates Foundation leads all organizations in the U.S. to develop and implant a common set of standards in public schools. Achieve, Inc., the organization that wrote the Common Core State Standards in Math and Language Arts, and the Next Generation Science Standards received more than $36 million from Gates. But this is only a tip of the common core iceberg. To find out the extent of the funding for the common core is not as straightforward as you might think.
Achieve is part of a network of organizations that have spearheaded the drive to set up a common core of subjects in American schools that share the same set of performances for all students. As you can see in Table 1, the Gates Foundation funds projects in five program areas. You will find common core projects in the US Program, Global Policy & Advocacy and other program areas. For example, the New Schools Venture Fund has received more than $60 million from the Gates Foundation. As a venture capitalist organization, “their investors are betting hundreds of millions on the digital revolution in the classroom. (NewSchools Venture Fund website, extracted, May 29, 2014).”
One of the grants NewSchools received from Gates was for more than $10 million “to support the successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards and related assessments through comprehensive and targeted communications and advocacy in key states and the District of Columbia” (Gates Foundation Website, extracted May 29, 2014).
Implementing common core standards is a cornerstone of the Gates Foundation efforts to change American education.
Teacher training is supported by the Gates Foundation through its grants to Teach for America (TFA) and The New Teacher Project (TNTP). Based on my experience and research with alternative certification programs, these programs are at simply alternative ways to get people into classrooms, even while lacking profession teaching qualifications.
Is there is a similar plan to train élite college students in six weeks in medicine for the Doctor for America (DFA) program who will be hired for two years as paid doctors in local hospitals and clinics where they will practice medicine, even though they are uncertified? Medical and teaching projects, like these, set up a pipeline of inexperienced and uncertified college graduates to teach in American school, and bolster the over stretched medical profession. Students in these programs need to commit two years, and then move up or out of the system.
TNTP is a step-child of TFA having been founded by Michelle Rhee, who was a TFA “graduate.” TFA has net assets of $419,098,314 for fiscal year 2012. It receives 76% of its money from grants and gifts, and 22.3% from government grants.
In a separate investigation of TFA’s and TNTP’s role in the Race to the Top (RT3), I looked at Georgia’s RT3 Program and discovered that these organizations were receiving $15.6 million and $9.1 million to supply uncertified teachers in the greater Atlanta area, where there is no shortage of certified teachers.
The language used to describe this effort is tied up in the notion of increasing the pipeline of effective educators.
Increase the pipeline of effective teachers through partnership with Teach for America in Atlanta Public Schools, Clayton County, DeKalb County and Gwinnett with the first class of new TFA recruits beginning in the school year 2011-2012. Funding included in section E project 24: $15,6000,000).
A separate line in the budget points to the same kind of arrangement with The New Teacher Project, which will provide new teachers in Savannah, Augusta, and Southwest Georgia, for $7,568,395 million.
Although these two organization provide a small share of teachers to American public schools, that the Gates Foundation and the Race to Top programs support them is troubling. There is already legislation that supports redefining a certified teacher that includes teachers that have received minimal education, and no classroom experience. In areas where experienced teachers are clearly more successful, Gates and even the U.S. Department of Education (ED) ignores the research on teacher effectiveness.
What about the Medical program? DFA doesn’t exist, does it? But I wonder if such a program would be accepted by the medical profession and the local community?
The Gates Foundation in its funded Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) theorized that it was going to be easy to identify effective teaching, especially with the use of video tapes and student test scores. As John Thompson pointed out on Anthony Cody’s Living in Dialogue website over on Education Week,
The MET is a $45 million component of the “teacher quality” movement which studies test scores, teacher observations, and student survey data to isolate the elements of effective teaching. That’s great. But the MET’s assumptions about the outcomes they anticipated have been the basis for Arne Duncan’s test-driven policies — which require test scores to be a “significant part” of teacher evaluations in order for states to receive waivers for NCLB. Then, as evidence was gathered, preliminary reports noted problems with using test score growth for evaluations. The MET has continued to affirm the need for value-added (VAM) as a necessary component of their unified system of using improved instruction to drive reform, even as it reported disappointing findings.
Even though researchers have shown (using Gates Foundation data from the MET Study) that there are very low correlations between teachers instruction with state standards and state and alternative assessments, policy makers ignore such data and believe that teachers should be evaluated using student test scores. This study reported there is no evidence of relationships curriculum alignment and composite measures of teacher effectiveness. And they reported that lack of relationship between Danielson’s Framework of Teaching (used to measure teacher classroom behavior), Tripod (student surveys) to VAM scores.
One of the groups that Gates funds is the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Since 2009, NCTQ has received more than $11 million in grants. The name of this organization is an oxymoron, yet with millions in funding from Gates, NCTQ publishes biased reports on teacher effectiveness and teacher education. In an earlier post I showed that NCTQ reporting is nothing short of junk science, yet here we have the billionaire funding such nonsense.
And then the Colorado Legacy Foundation has received more than $20 million to carry out the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) & pursue teacher evaluation systems using student test score growth.
The Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation made grants totaling $423 million in 2013. According to the Walton Family Foundation website, its purpose in funding is to “infuse competitive pressure into America’s K-12 education system by increasing the quantity and quality of school choices available to parents, especially in low-income communities.”
The Walton Family Foundation funds school projects that shape public policy, lead to the creation of “quality schools,” and improve existing schools. The California Charter Schools Association and the Alliance for School Choice were the top two recipients of grants from Walton in 2013. Coming in third and fourth was The New Teacher Project and Teach for America.
The focus of funding of the Walton Foundation is school choice and parental choice (parent trigger) as policies supporting charter schools.
The Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation
The Broad funding was $153 million in 2013. The Broad Foundation, just like Gates and Walton accuses public schools of being in distress. They all use the same statistics to claim that American students are not able to compete for jobs in a global market, and that corporations can’t find the “workers” who possess the skills needed to fill their positions. The Broad Foundation highlights the value of competition by the giving of various “Broad Prizes.” The Broad Prize, and Broad Prize for Public Charters is an annual competitions among applicants.
The Broad Foundation also supports its Broad Residency in Urban Education and the Broad Superintendents Academy.
Each of these strategies is very much like the model used by Teach for America and The New Teacher Project. These are part-time training programs that train college graduates in five weeks to be full-time teachers.
The Broad programs trains people to be principals and superintendents, who according to many writers, tend to be confrontative with teachers and their unions, and have no problem in closing schools, and then turning around and opening schools managed by charter companies.
The Broad Foundation funds in more than fifty organizations in four larger categories as listed below. I’ve also included two funded projects or organizations representative of each grouping.
Leadership: Broad Center for the Management of School Systems, Kipp Foundation
Institutions: Charter School Growth Fund, New Schools Venture Fund
The corporate reform funded by Gates, Walton and Broad is a cobweb of organizations that has snared public schools by means of an accountability system that uses student achievement scores as the bottom line. The web also includes organizations whose goal is to shape policy by writing and rewriting state laws that benefit vouchers, choice, charters, and teacher evaluation.
I started this blog in 2005 to augment my book The Art of Teaching Science (Public Library), and to write about progressive & humanistic science teaching. Over the years it morphed into a blog that not only explores science education, but its more of a discussion of the unnerving intrusion of corporate education-wannabes with lots of money who want to change education for their own ends.
In the research and reading that I do to write this blog, I’ve come to know a vanguard of voices who have created a movement to oppose a cabal of corporate pirates whose goal is to privatize public education, and mutate the teaching profession into nonprofessionals who have little experience and even shorter life expectancy as teachers.
In the title of chapter one of my 1992 book, Minds on Science (Public Library) I used the word “reconnaissance” as a way to introduce readers to the field of science teaching.
In this blog post, I am using the word “vanguard” to introduce you to people who are on the forefront of a movement to oppose and take action against groups and people who seek to privatize public education, and inflict harm into the nation’s schools by advocating standardization and high-stakes accountability. These persons are for the most part people or small groups who have taken risks to speak out and act on the positions they hold, often in opposition to forces more powerful and financially more resourceful.
Dr Mercedes Schneider’s book arrived the other day and I was thrilled to see the names and chapters devoted to many of those who I have written about on my blog. But you won’t find the kind of writing in Mercedes’s book about these people and organization anywhere else. In my view, Mercedes Schneider is at the vanguard of voices who are uncovering the harm that the people featured in her book are inflicting on public education. In amazing detail and wonderfully written you’ll be taken on journeys into the minds of corporate and education thieves, many of whom have become wealthy on the backs of American school students and teachers.
This vanguard is composed of educators who offer different accounts of what teaching and learning should be, and who should lead the effort to improve eduction. Here are a few that have influenced and inspired me.
A Vanguard of Voices
One of these educators is Dr. Mercedes Schneider, who writes a blog at deutsch29 on education reform. Dr. Schneider has a Ph.D. in Applied Statistics and Research Methods from the University of Northern Colorado, and was a professor at Ball State University. With teaching experiences in Louisiana and Georgia, she returned to Louisiana to teach high school English. From there she launched her blog, and just last week, published her first book.
Her book identifies people and groups that are very different from the “Vanguard” of voices that I’ve included in this post. Here is a little more of what I said about her book:
In this book we have at our fingertips answers to important questions about how such a limited number of individual’s faces crop-up in various media outlets as the experts on public schools. If you want to find how to get wealthy and have a really big office, read about Joel Klein in chapter 1. Find out how Teach for America is transforming teacher education into a temp business by reading the Wendy Kopp story in chapter 3. You’ll find important episodes about characters including Eva Moskovitz, Michelle Rhee, Erik Hanushek, Arne Duncan, David Coleman, Chester Finn, and others. You’ll also find out about organizations that fund each other in the name of reform, but in the end seek to dismantle public education. Welcome to TFA, the New Teacher Project, the National Council on Teacher Quality (not), the Aspen Institute, the Gates Foundation, and cousins Walton and Broad. And the best is yet to come as she saves the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the nation’s bill mill for the last chapter. The content of the book is thoroughly researched and authenticated. If you read her blog, you’ll certainly enjoy this book.
This is a must read book.
I met Anthony Cody several years ago online through his blog Living in Dialog which is published on Education Week Teacher. He was gracious enough to re-blog some of my blog posts, and introduce me to NEPC’s Best of the Ed Blogs. Anthony Cody worked for 24 years as a science teacher at a high-needs middle school in the Oakland Public Schools.
Anthony is a National Board-certified teacher, and leads workshops on Project Based Teaching. Recently he co-founded the Network for Public Education, which had its first annual meeting in Austin last month. He has worked endlessly to bring dialog to the issues surrounding educational reform. He was brave enough to engage the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation in a series of exchanges, and has written more than 100 blog posts about the billionaires intrusion into public education.
His blog articles are some of the best on the net.
Chris Thinnes is one of those educators you wished you had for a teacher. If you are a teacher, he is the kind of administrator that you would want to work with. His blog consists of his reflections and thoughts about education, and his reflections are deep and powerful. He blogs at Chris.Thinnes.me.
I’ve been a lifelong advocate for inquiry and progressive & humanistic education, and shared on this blog some of the work that Chris Thinnes was doing with his colleagues at school. I wrote this about his work:
Working together from the ground up, rather the top down, Chris Thinnes says on his blog how he and his colleagues work together to “formulate, analyze, prioritize, and activate driving questions that democratically find the intersections of personal interest and shared priorities.” You can go to Chris Thinnes blog, and read the kinds of questions he and his colleagues asked at their first meeting which focused on how a teacher creates an environment and climate conducive to learning. It is this kind of democratically organized work that leads to teachers growing into cultural workers, inquiry teachers, and artists in their own right.
As way of introduction, here is what Chris said about the in-school meeting among all the staff to explore ways to improve teaching:
For a variety of reasons, I have been inspired for several years by the idea that our teachers’ professional learning and collaboration should be governed by the same principles and aims as our students‘ learning and collaboration. To that end, each of six domains from the framework of our Goals for Learning (Create – Understand – Reflect – Transmit – Include – Strive) will be invoked as we establish language to articulate our core commitments to effective teaching practice; design driving questions that will facilitate further inquiry among our teams; identify teaching practices that should be visible to teachers, learners, and observers; explore resources drawing on a wide range of expertise outside our community; and create our own rubrics for self-assessment, reflection, goal-setting, peer observation, instructional coaching, and administrative evaluation.
But I want to reflect on the conference from a more personal, perhaps more emotional, and potentially more self-indulgent perspective. I want to explore some patterns that I noticed, and some dynamics I found inspiring, in the community of #NPEconference participants. These had a profound impact on me that I’m likely to explore in the weeks and months to come: they helped restore, and to create anew, a faith that we can ensure – precisely by recognizing the nature and the impact of these dynamics in our community, and in our solidarity — the fulfillment of a vision framed most eloquently by my dear friend Peter Gow: “We want to see democracy, not capitalism, survive as the root, stem, leaves, and fruit of American education.”
Like many of you, I became aware of Dr. Ravitch through her writings, not only through her most recent book, The Reign of Error (Public Library) but also when she published The Death and Life of the Great American School System (Public Library), and the blog she co-hosted with Deborah Meir called Bridging Differences. Dr. Ravitch’s blog, perhaps one of the most visited education sites on the net, uncovers and reveals the actions of a very large population of educators who are pushing back the efforts of the “billionaire boys club. (a Ravitch term).
For the people in this article whose ideas have inspired me, they would probably name Diane Ravitch as a person they look to as a beacon of strength and wisdom about the current state of education in America. I would, too.
Dr. Ravitch is an historian and a research professor at New York University. She is co-founder of Network for Public Education, and was the keynote speaker at the first conference of the NPE.
Dr. Thomas, a professor at Furman University is a voice that I go to learn the truth about poverty in the United States and how it affects the education of about 30% of the nations children and youth. His writing on “the becoming radical” (blog), is must read for education reform. Paul taught high school English in rural South Carolina before moving to teacher education. He is a column editor for English Journal (National Council of Teachers of English) and series editor for Critical Literacy Teaching Series: Challenging Authors and Genres (Sense Publishers), where he authored the first volume—Challenging Genres: Comics and Graphic Novels (2010).
He has served on major committees with NCTE, and has been named Council Historian (2013-2015), and formerly served as co-editor for The South Carolina English Teacher for SCCTE. Recent books include Ignoring Poverty in the U.S.: The Corporate Takeover of Public Education (Information Age Publishing, 2012) and Parental Choice?: A Critical Reconsideration of Choice and the Debate about Choice (Information Age Publishing, 2010).
Dr. Heilig is professor of Educational Policy and Planning, and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas. I’ve come to know him through his blog, Cloaking Inequity, which brings a level of research, mixed with anecdotal experiences, that is very difficult to beat. It’s one of my favorite stops on the Internet, and I recommend it highly. Dr. Heilig writes about important issues and topics.
One of the organizations that I think has connived its way into American schools is Teach for America. Julian Vasquez Heilig has done extensive research to refute claims that TFA is a practical way to produce teachers for public schools. You can find his report here at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado: Teach for America: A Return to the Evidence. You will find that Dr. Heilig’s blog is a real experience, and one that will bring you in touch with crucial issues on educational reform.
My intention in this article was to make the claim that there is a grass-roots movement of people and organizations that are unearthing new realities to prevent public schools from falling into the hands of corporate and philanthropic America.
I can’t even make a dent in the number of people who are calling out the billionaires such as Gates, and Broad, and saying “enough is enough.” The struggle to prevent the continuation of test obsession and standardization is one that is fought on the ground every day.
To complete this article, I want to include the following people and organizations that are representative of a large number of courageous people who are willing to take risks to oppose actions of corporations and government that are not in the public interest.
Dr. Jean Sanders is an educational researcher and consultant who I met through this blog. She says on her LinkedIn site that “my main concern now is the travesty of “takeover” of public education by mandarins, neophytes and corporate types who never spent a day teaching anything in a classroom.” She has been gracious to read my blog, and take the time to write comments that extend my own learning.
Hanna Hurley is a fellow Georgian, and activist who questions and writes about education. She is a child advocate and special education consultant. Follow her on Twitter.
Ed is a fellow Atlantan, and is an advocate for public education, and a Deming scholar. He has written several posts on this blog, and he has shared Deming-based research on systems education, and in particular has analyzed NAEP Trial Urban District Assessments using control chart processes. He was a candidate for the Atlanta School Board. He has inspired me by his activism, and relentless service to improve education in the Atlanta Public Schools.
Matt Jones, a public school educator, founded EmpowerED Georgia, and working with citizens in the state has created an advocacy group supporting public education. EmpowerED Georgia has used its resources to oppose legislation that would privatize public education, or cut the funding for Georgia schools. Matt Jones has been the leader of this group, and has inspired many of us. Visit the EmpowerEd website for a collection of papers and positions on important education topics.
The Chicago Teacher’s Union, representing more than 30,000 teachers, has set the tone for the way teachers can work together to protect public schools from corporate intrusion and government give aways (to charter management), and to pavé the way to improve education in public schools. The union blogs at this site.
The Garfield High School Faculty
Teachers at Garfield High School boycotted the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). It was one of the first efforts by a school faculty to say no to administrators who insisted on using a test that the teachers felt was a waste of time and money. MAP represents (in my view) the extreme in our obsession with testing. Students are administered the test four times during the year to offer “measures” to tell if students reached certain benchmarks. The use of benchmarks is a clever device, but the problem is there is no research or scientific basis for benchmarks. They are pure opinion, and as the Garfield teachers rightly said, the tests don’t measure what they teach. You can go to their Facebook page at Solidarity with Garfield high School testing Boycott.
Joyce Murdock Feilke came to my attention when we learned that Atlanta’s new superintendent was before superintendent of the Austin Unified School District. Joyce, a school counselor with 30 years of experience, described what she called toxic environments in many schools because of our testing obsession. She and I communicated, and I wrote several posts (Psychological Abuse: A Springtime School Ritual?) about her struggles, and later resignation when the superintendent simply denied that any of this was going on in these schools. You can read her article in the Austin American-Statesman.
Ed Chamness, a former teacher, and parent in Austin, Texas, and professor Julie Westerlund founded the Texas chapter of the Opt Out Movement. I came in contact with Chamness and Westerlund when I reached out to Joyce Murdock Feilke to find out about what she called “psychological abuse” created by the state-wide obsession with high-stakes testing in an Austin elementary school where she was a school counselor.
Edy Chamness and Julie Westerlund were professional colleagues of Joyce’s and provided more and compelling evidence that children are being used in an experiment, rooted in punitive classic conditioning to meet the goals of the school district, which is increase student test scores and eventually graduation rates.
YONG ZHAO is currently Presidential Chair and Associate Dean for Global Education, College of Education at the University of Oregon, where is a full professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy and Leadership(EMPL). His recent series, “How Does PISA Put the World at Risk” (http://ow.ly/x0g48) is only one example of his evidence-based deconstruction of prevailing myths in education policy and politics, both on his blog and in a series of must-read book-length works.
JOSE LUIS VILSON is a math educator for a middle school in the Inwood / Washington Heights neighborhood of New York, NY. He’s also a committed writer, activist, web designer, and father. He co-authored the book Teaching 2030: What We Must Do For Our Students and Public Schools … Now and In The Future with Dr. Barnett Berry and 11 other accomplished teachers. He writes for Edutopia, GOOD, and TransformED / Future of Teaching, and has written for CNN.com, Education Week, Huffington Post, and El Diario / La Prensa NY. His first (and must-read) solo project, This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and the Future of Education, has just been released by Haymarket Books.
DEBORAH MEIER encourages new approaches that enhance democracy and equity in public education. She is on the editorial board of Dissent magazine, The Nation and the Harvard Education Letter. She was a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1987. Her books, The Power of Their Ideas, Lessons to America from a Small School in Harlem (1995), Will Standards Save Public Education(2000), In Schools We Trust (2002), Keeping School, with Ted and Nancy Sizer (2004) and Many Children Left Behind (2004) are foundational texts for those interested in the intersections and dependencies of education and democracy: so, too, her EdWeek blog on “Bridging Differences.”
THOMAS HOBSON is a preschool teacher, writer, speaker, artist, and the author of “A Parent’s Guide to Seattle.” For the past 11 years, he has been the only employee of the Woodland Park Cooperative preschools, allowing him to work very closely with families in a true community setting. His blog, by turns, demonstrates an exceptional acuity of insight about learning, teaching, children, and community — and lights a fire for us all to ask deeper questions about education in a democracy.
Dr. Carstarphen is bringing five administrators who worked for her in Austin. These people will form the nucleus of her cabinet or central staff. With outside private funding, she and her staff have set up shop and begun the transition to take over the APS in July.
What kind of administration will emerge from the Austin group? There are many who are very optimistic about the new superintendent. Over the past few days, Dr. Carstarphen has made a number of public appearances talking to various constituencies in Atlanta about her vision for the APS.
Dr. Beverly Hall and her administration worked in Atlanta from 1999 – 2010. How did test scores for the city during her administration vary compared to the test scores before and after her tenure? Well, surprise, surprise. There was very little variation.
Atlanta Math Scores
Figure 1 shows National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 8th Grade math scores for Atlanta from 2003 – 2013. The Atlanta cheating scandal happened from 2008 – 2010, and as you can see there is a slight gain for math achievement during these years. But notice that the NAEP scores actually were higher after the scandal. But here’s the thing. These variations, at any point along this time line, are meager and insignificant. They fall within limits that we would expect.
Math Scores in Atlanta, Austin and other Urban Cities
Figure 2 is an even more informative graph, and one that the new APS administration should take seriously. This is a control chart that shows statistical upper and lower limits of achievement scores that would be within statistical control. The graph was produced from NAEP data from its Trial Urban District Assessments (TUDA) study. The graph was created by Mr. Ed Johnson, a Deming scholar and advocate for quality education in Atlanta. These are the same math scores that are shown in Figure 1, but the TUDA study included 20 other urban districts, including the Austin Independent School District. APS is highlighted in green; AISD in red. You can see that over time Atlanta’s scores were converging with Austin math scores. Follow this link to see more graphs and charts produced by Ed Johnson.
What kind of variation in math test scores do we see here? Is this variation exceptional? Is the variation do to innovations, or new curricula, or putting pressure on teachers to teach better? Is it due to a new superintendent? Or is it due to pressure on students and their parents?
Well, the variation is not due to any of these things. The variation is normal. The variation is within statistical limits. The variation is what we expect from math instruction in these urban schools. There is no specific cause related to any variation along graph The performance is steady. The performance is predictable. The performance is the result of the teaching and learning in these urban districts.
Ed Johnson explains that each of these 21 districts is sailing on the same boat, with movement from one side to another, but still on the same boat.
Now here’s the thing. This historical period is the age of Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama & Duncan’s Race to the Top. Neither of these programs has had any effect on math scores in some of the nation’s largest school districts! Reformers seem to think that this continuous testing will in some way “cause” student achievement to improve.
In fact, in Georgia, state officials announced that instead of using the state CRCTs, a new slew of standardized tests will be developed and used starting next year. A headline in the AJC read, Students face harder high-stakes testing, and when you read the details, the bar (passing score) will pushed higher. Somehow, these state officials think that by making more difficult for students to pass a standardized test it will make them smarter. What a dumb idea.
If they would look at the chart in Figure 2 and others like it, none of these testing reforms have had any effect. If they want to improve student performance, they need to look some place else. And it’s not by focusing on the darn test scores, or the graduation-rates.
So, for a new administration to come into Atlanta and start claiming that they raise graduation rates and student achievement score, raises many questions.
Is Carstarphen claiming that her legacy will be that Atlanta’s schools were turned around by raising rates and scores?
How does she plan to this? Will she import the strategies she used in Austin? Will she use an authoritarian style of leadership (which some teachers and professor claim she used in Austin), or will she engage the key players in the system, principals and teachers? Will teachers in collaboration with principals engage their communities without interference from orders from the top? Will the administration create a culture of learning and collaboration or one based on competition, test scores, fear?
It won’t be long to find out how the Austin administrators work with educators in Atlanta.
What do you think will happen? With this be an authoritarian or receptive administration?
Dear Candidates for Georgia School Superintendent,
Today, I want to challenge you to not only oppose Georgia’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), but also the use of high-stakes tests such as the CRCT. In this post, I’ll offer some facts you can use to discuss why to oppose the CCSS. In the next post, we’ll give reasons why high-stakes tests need to abolished.
For nearly two decades, Standards and high-stakes testing have dominated teaching and learning in every Georgia public school. I’ve shown in earlier posts, that standards are barriers to student learning, and if teachers are not given autonomy over the use of standards, then they tend to impede innovation, creativity, and teaching that focuses on the needs of children and youth. Communication skills, problem solving, team work, and innovation are the kinds of experiences that are important to students now, and will be in the future. The standards in the context of high-stakes tests impedes these goals.
Common Core State Standards
It’s time, however, to break these connections, at least for standards and high-stakes, and look for different ways to help students learn.
Making a one-size fits all curriculum for every student in Georgia makes little sense. We know that the “real” curriculum for our students is what happens in their classrooms with their peers and teachers. The curriculum should not be determined by non-educators from a highly financed organization (as was the Common Core State Standards), but should be an effort carried out by teachers and educators–Georgia has a top-notch teaching force, and some of the countries major universities.
Figure 1 shows the mathematics achievement level of Georgia students compared to students across the nation using National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) tests. Note that we have an upward trend in mathematics achievement in Georgia as well as the nation. Figure 2 is a table showing the percentage of 8th grade students meeting or exceeding state standards on CRCT tests in math. From the data presented in Figures 1 and 2, the trend in 8th grade mathematics achievement, as measured by the NAEP tests, and the state of Georgia CRCT, is positive, showing steady improvement. If we look at results in math at other grade levels, as well as reading and science scores, the trends are similar.
Georgia’s state standards did not result in a tailspin of student achievement. The Common Core State Standards, which were implemented a year ago, have not resulted in any major variation in testing. In fact, the variation in test scores that we see not only in Georgia, but nearly all states (Massachusetts is an exception) is within the limits of what we would expect. Figure 3 compares the average scores in 8th grade math achievement based on NAEP tests between seven states, including Georgia.
Using the control chart approach of W. Edwards Deming and Donald Wheeler and David Chambers (which I learned from Ed Johnson), we see in Figure 3 that for over a decade the achievement scores in most of these states and District of Columbia fall within expected limits. In fact for most of these Any variation for these states, except for Massachusetts, is NOT due to any special cause (new curriculum, new standards, using high-stakes tests), but are simply what we expect in a system that is operating as it should. In general we can conclude that education in these states is not a failure, but schools are doing what we expect them to do. The continuous improvement that we see in the scores is not due to any innovation or special cause, but is simply the result of the way the education system works. And it doesn’t matter whether we look at scores from suburban communities, and compare them to urban environments.
As a candidate, you will hear the oft mentioned phrase, that “America’s schools are failing and they need to be reformed.” In fact, this phrase has been repeated so often, that in a recent survey over 70% of parents agree that schools were failing. But over 80% said that the school their children attended was doing very well.
You need to use facts to show that our schools are not failing, and help your potential constituents realize that they’ve been sold down the river that America’s schools are failing. They are not.
Schools, They Aren’t Failing
You might ask, what about urban schools. Are our urban schools failing? The fact is, there are lots of people who will tell you that schools in urban environments are failing, and what they need is help from charter management companies, and temp teacher preparation organizations such as Teach for America and the New Teacher Project.
They need none of this.
Take a look at Figure 4. It’s an analysis done by Ed Johnson using data over the past decade comparing 21 city school districts, with the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and the Austin Independent School District (AISD) highlighted in green and red, respectively. As you can see in the graph, there is variation in math NAEP test scores over the ten-year period. The variation we see is consistent. There are not wide swings in the data. Indeed, all the points of measurement fall within statistical control limits.
If there is any truth to this kind of data, there is no need to radically change the system. But, as Deming and others have found, there is always the need for continuous improvement of the system. If we want to improve schooling, say in Atlanta, we need to improve the system, not “turn it around.”
But the mantra you will hear is that we need to close schools, or turn the school around by firing the school principal and most of the staff, and then replace them with a new principal, and new teachers who are inexperienced, uncertified, and will only stay there for 2 years. If you are elected State School Superintendent, you will find that there are questionable relationships among the Georgia Department of Education, Teach for America, the New Teacher Project, and charter management companies.
Don’t fall into the “our schools are failing” trap.
As a candidate for the top job in education, you surely want to figure ways to help Georgia school districts improve their schools. Adopting the Common Core State Standards will not improve our schools.
We want, what Ed Johnson explains, continuation improvement.
How do we do this? First, we need to act on the idea that education is a human system. It’s about people. It’s about parents sending their students to schools enjoy learning, and not to be there to serve the state by simply being a number, and someone who is required to take tests throughout their school days. If you ask parents what they like about their children’s school, they always talk about how their children are treated and accepted, and helped to learn. They talk about the kind of communication among their children’s peers and teachers.
Improving schools means we need to think differently and bring to the front what we know about successful organizations. In a recent post, I discussed some steps that we should take that have a greater likelihood of establishing an environment that will result in continuous improvement.
Put high confidence in teachers and principals and learning. The focus on meaningful learning must be at the school level. Superintendents need to get out-of-the-way, stop micro-managing, and entrust education to well prepared teaching staff.
Create a systemic environment which encourages teachers and students to try new ideas and approaches. Encourage principals to work with teachers to push for curiosity, imagination and creativity in the classroom, and make that the focus of learning.
Fill classrooms with well experienced and well-educated teachers who are not only knowledgeable in the content, but more importantly understand how to teach and how to experiment with different pedagogies.
Empower principals to be the leaders of change, not superintendents. Superintendents are too far away from the day-to-day life of students to encourage the kind of creative teaching that can be supported by principals.
Teachers should have masters degrees in education and be knowledgeable in their field of teaching. Reliance on uncertified and inexperienced teachers will in the long run lead to failure.
In the next post, I will provide evidence to support the second thing that I would like you to oppose, and that is the use of high-stakes tests. High-stakes tests are the biggest impediment to real improvement of schooling for students. I hope you’ll check out the next post.