Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding [CCJEF], Wendy Lecker CCJEF v. Rell, Common Core, Wendy Lecker
Wendy Lecker, fellow pro-public education advocate and commentator, has a stunningly profound piece in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and in other Hearst Media newspapers about the new Common Core standards and their inappropriateness for Connecticut.
Andrea Conway, a fellow pro-public education warrior here in Connecticut read the piece and observed “This is the absolute BEST explanation of what is wrong with Common Core and the money making reasoning of its creators.”
Andrea is absolutely right. Read Wendy’s piece and you’ll understand just how badly our elected officials have done when it comes to Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and school.
Common Core fails to meet constitutional standards
The Common Core State Standards, national standards adopted by Connecticut in 2010, promise to reflect “the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.”
This promise alone raises questions: Which colleges: Community? Non-selective? Selective? And which careers: Plumber? Beautician? Hedge fund manager? Physicist? Can one set of standards really encompass this wide spectrum of education and work?
There is an even more fundamental and pressing question, though: Is “college-and-career-ready” an adequate standard, as measured by Connecticut’s constitution? The answer is a resounding “no.” In the pending school funding case, CCJEF v. Rell, Connecticut’s Supreme Court ruled that our constitution “guarantees Connecticut’s public school students educational standards and resources suitable to participate in democratic institutions, and to prepare them to attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state’s economy, or to progress on to higher education.”
The drafters of the Common Core ignored Connecticut’s primary goal for public education: capable participation in democratic institutions. Sources involved in the Common Core’s development process confirm that citizenship was never the focus. In fact, the Common Core’s foundational document mentions “economy” more than 100 times, while the word “citizen” appears only once — in a footnote.
Ironically, although the sole focus of the Common Core was the ability to compete in the global marketplace, the most serious threat to our national and global economy is our government’s current dysfunction. The recent government shutdown cost the nation $24 billion and 120,000 jobs. The International Monetary Fund warns that if Congress cannot agree to raise the debt ceiling, the world might plunge into another recession.
Given the failure of our democratic institutions, our most urgent goal should be to ensure that our children learn the lessons of democracy. Yet the architects of the Common Core disregarded this fundamental purpose of public education.
Perhaps if the Common Core standards were developed in a democratic fashion in our state, Connecticut’s goals would have been considered.
From their inception, the drafting and adoption of Connecticut academic standards was an inclusive, public process. The State Department of Education invited teachers from across the state to collectively draft standards in their areas of expertise. SDE would then solicit public comment from all sectors, including parents, teachers, school administrators, superintendents and school boards. There could be as many as 50 iterations, and the process could take as long as three years.
Since this process was directed by a state agency, it was subject to open meeting and Freedom of Information laws. The product was an educational framework that was created by Connecticut educators with input from everyone connected to our public schools.
The Common Core State Standards, by contrast, were developed behind closed doors by two private, non-governmental organizations: the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. There was no public comment. The organizations even refused to release the drafters’ names until there was public outcry. The entire development process remains shrouded in secrecy. NGA and CCSSO are not subject to any sunshine laws that governmental bodies must obey.
The members of Common Core validation committee were required to sign confidentiality agreements. This committee was ostensibly charged with ensuring that these standards that were about to be used in schools across America were valid. It is shocking that the public would be prevented from knowing what this committee discussed.
When the standards finally reached Connecticut in 2010, they were presented as a fait accompli to state officials, who were given two months to adopt them — under threat of being disqualified from federal Race to the Top money if they failed to do so. Rather than question the inadequacy of these standards as measured against Connecticut’s constitutional requirements, the State Board of Education, here in “the Constitution State,” acquiesced to federal pressure and adopted these substandard standards; just months after the Connecticut Supreme Court decision in CCJEF v. Rell.
The Common Core State Standards were developed in a rushed and undemocratic process, far from Connecticut’s students, parents, educators, and officials. It is no wonder, then, that the standards themselves do not reflect Connecticut’s values or constitutional mandates.
At a time when the biggest threat to our economy and society is the glaring lack of governing skills by our leaders, our duty is to ensure that our children are able to function in a democratic society. Sadly, we cannot count on the Common Core State Standards, which fail to fulfill Connecticut’s basic constitutional requirements, to help us meet this challenge.
Wendy Lecker is a columnist for Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity project at the Education Law Center.
You can read Wendy’s commentary piece here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Common-Core-fails-to-meet-constitutional-4947484.php#
Arne Duncan, Barak Obama, Common Core, Education Reform, Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee, Wendy Lecker Arne Duncan, Barak Obama, Common Core, Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee, Wendy Lecker
Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee, Barak Obama, Arne Duncan and the entire Corporate Education Reform Industry is busy selling the American people on the notion that without the full and complete adoption of the Common Core Standards, Common Core Curriculum and Common Core Testing Scheme, America’s best days are behind us.
Jeb Bush Defends Common Core At ALEC Meeting and Jeb Bush defends Common Core and Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush warn Michigan legislators against abandoning Common Core standards and JEB BUSH AND JOEL KLEIN: The Case for Common Educational Standards and Arne Duncan tells newspaper editors how to report on Common Core and Arne Duncan: Beating Up on Common Core Is ‘Political Silliness’ and Arne Duncan Defends Common Core, Ridicules Critics and Obama quietly implements Common Core.
Their message seems to come down to the false rhetoric and hyperbole that the choice facing American education is the adoption of “The Common Core Standards” or nothing.
They’d have us believe that one path would lead our nation and its children to success, the other to ruin and failure.
It is almost as if they take great pride in the fact that the simplistic arguments have no academic basis in fact.
The truth is that these corporate education reformers have become the living, breathing example of those who live by the creed, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”
Well the facts are exactly what pro-public education advocate and fellow blogger, Wendy Lecker, has been bringing to the discussion over and over again.
In here latest column, entitled “Common Core using children as guinea pigs” uses the truth to condemn the incredible lies the corporate reformers are trying to force upon public education in America.
As usual, Wendy Lecker’s latest piece published in the Stamford Advocate and other Hearst Media Group newspapers is a “Must Read.”
Common Core using children as guinea pigs (By Wendy Lecker)
The nationwide rollout of the Common Core standards is an experiment on our children that violates all standards of human subject research.
The Common Core was rushed into schools before the curricula were developed and aligned to the standards, and before the tests were finalized and aligned to the curricula. Alignment is independent verification that a curriculum addresses standards, and that tests assess what the curriculum teaches; and is particularly necessary when high stakes are attached to tests. Those who insist that test scores should determine teacher effectiveness, school quality and whether a student is ready to graduate have a responsibility to guarantee that the tests actually measure what teachers teach and students learn.
The Common Core is being implemented not only before the curricula and tests are independently deemed valid. The curriculum in many cases is not even written. New York’s Education Commissioner admitted that the Common Core curriculum modules are being written as the school year unfolds. A curriculum not yet written cannot be aligned. Likewise, the Common Core tests are not finalized. The tests are being developed independently of the states and school districts; by contractors hired by two multi-state consortia. It is impossible that these unfinished tests are aligned to curricula now being taught.
This type of experimentation would never be allowed in research. Human subject research must adhere to three basic principles: (1) respect for individuals; respecting their autonomy; (2) beneficence; doing no harm and maximizing possible benefits while minimizing risks; and (3) justice; taking special care not to exploit vulnerable groups.
Ethics requires that subjects participate in an experiment knowingly and voluntarily. A recent poll revealed that the majority of Americans know nothing about the Common Core. Moreover, parents, children and teachers had no choice but to comply with the standards and tests.
The most glaring ethical violation concerns the prohibition against doing harm. The focal point of the Common Core is high-stakes standardized testing. We now know that education based on high-stakes tests not only fails to raise achievement but also harms learning, by narrowing the curriculum, increasing anxiety and diverting resources from methods that actually improve achievement. Officials imposing the Common Core knowingly embarked on a course that hurts students. At public hearings, parent after parent told New York’s Education Commissioner King that their children now hate school, and children testified about their anxiety and despair. A Greenwich, Connecticut official acknowledged that Common Core testing in 11th grade, when students take AP tests, SATs, SAT subject tests and ACTs, will cause undue stress. Parents and teachers report that the Common Core makes no adjustments for children learning English or students with disabilities.
In rolling out this untested program, officials jeopardize valuable learning time. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that even 10 days of lost learning is a significant deprivation. The Common Core tests are much longer than previous tests. The high stakes attached pressure school districts to spend inordinate amounts of time on test prep. If it turns out that these standards were not a success, our children will be unable to recapture the years lost to an ineffective testing regime.
The Common Core requires massive investments in textbooks, tests, training, and technology. Money is spent on the Common Core experiment at the expense of strategies with a long track record of success, such as high-quality preschool, small class size, wraparound services and extra help for at-risk children.
The benefits of the Common Core are speculative at best. A New York comparison of the 2013 Common Core tests, the previous standards and college completion rates, revealed that the previous standards were better predictors of college readiness. Moreover, the evidence is clear that neither tests nor standards raise achievement. Countries with national standards fare no better than those without, and states with higher standards do no better than states with lower ones. In states with consistent standards, achievement varies widely. The difference in achievement lies in those resources that states are now foregoing to pay for the Common Core.
As for justice, schools serving our most vulnerable students suffer most from a narrow test-based curriculum. A new report in New York reveals that poor children and children of color are least likely to be in schools with libraries, art and music rooms, science, and AP classes. Expanded Common Core testing will disproportionately harm our neediest children.
It is time to ask policy-makers why they made our children guinea pigs in the rush to impose the not-ready-for-prime-time Common Core.
You can read Wendy Lecker’s full column at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Common-Core-using-children-as-guinea-pigs-4907921.php
Arne Duncan, Education Reform, Malloy, Wendy Lecker Arne Duncan, Education Reform, Malloy, Wendy Lecker
Fellow blogger and public education advocate, Wendy Lecker, has another “must read” commentary piece in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate.
Wendy Lecker lays out the case against Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, observing, “Secretary Duncan is the one in an alternate universe, and our students, teachers and taxpayers are paying the price.”
The commentary piece begins with;
“Education reformers claim that standardized test scores are an objective measure of student performance, and school and teacher quality; thus it is reasonable to attach severe consequences to them. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan demands that states administer standardized tests yearly so that we can “hold everyone accountable.” In fact, Duncan recently accused anyone who criticizes America’s overemphasis on tests as “living in an alternate universe.”
But the evidence is clear that test scores are not objective. Officials play with standardized test scores to further their political goals.
Proficiency levels, or “cut scores,” are politically determined. New York implemented new Common Core tests in 2013, setting such high cut scores that statewide proficiency rates dropped 20 to 30 percent from 2012. In Illinois and D.C., officials did the opposite. Facing the prospect of widespread school failure this year, Illinois quietly recalculated what “failure” meant. D.C. officials reverted to an earlier grading scale to make their scores look better.
The manipulation extends beyond cut scores. State officials move test scores and targets whenever it fits their agenda.
In New York, children who fail state tests must receive academic intervention services (AIS). The majority of children statewide failed the 2013 tests, resulting in a sharp increase in children that must receive AIS. Providing AIS to more children costs more money. To save money, the New York State Regents changed the threshold so that fewer children would qualify for AIS.
In doing so, the Regents essentially lined up the old tests against the new Common Core tests and developed a scale they claimed could equate the old and new scores. However, this type of equating is only valid if the new tests assess the same skills as the old tests.
Proponents sold the Common Core standards promising that they will teach entirely new “sophisticated reasoning skills” not found in previous state standards. Apparently, for the Regents, when it means that the state would have to spend money on additional services for children, the Common Core does not teach new skills.
Connecticut is requiring that teachers engage in similar statistical acrobatics. Districts across Connecticut are implementing the new, ill-conceived teacher evaluation plan. Teachers must set “student learning objectives” (SLOs) for each child. In subjects covered by state standardized tests, the SLO baseline must include a student’s score on the CMTs the previous year. Then, the teacher must set a goal for the student on the upcoming state tests. This year, districts can choose to administer either CMTs or the new Common Core pilot tests. For those districts using existing CMTs, teachers must somehow predict how each student will score on 2014′s CMTs.
In districts using the Common Core tests, teachers have it even worse. They must use the CMTs as a baseline, and predict a score for each child on the new Common Core tests. Thus, like the New York Regents, teachers must assume that the new tests assess the same skills as the CMTs.
Officials cannot have it both ways. Either the Common Core teaches different skills, in which case we cannot equate the old tests with the new tests. Or, the Common Core tests can be aligned with the old tests, in which case they assess the same skills the CMTs did and in which case we are wasting billions of dollars nationwide on a boondoggle.”
You can read Wendy Lecker’s the full commentary piece here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Arne-Duncan-s-alternate-universe-4870140.php
Stefan Pryor, STEM, Wendy Lecker Education Reform, Stefan Pryor, STEM, Wendy Lecker
In another “must read” commentary piece, fellow public education advocate, Wendy Lecker, confronts the propaganda machine that is spinning out the rhetoric that we need more and more STEM Academies and that a “STEM Education” is the salvation for America’s education system.
STEM is the political concept of the day that says rather than receiving a comprehensive education American children need to learn four key things to “succeed” and those four things are Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
If you listen to President Obama, Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Pryor or a host of other elected officials and policy makers you might actually think STEM is the silver bullet that will “turn-around” America’s economy and education system.”
There is even a STEM Education Coalition in Washington D.C. that “represents the broadest and most unified voice in advocating for policies to improve STEM education at all levels. As an alliance of more than 500 business, professional, and education organizations, our Coalition works aggressively to raise awareness in Congress, the Administration, and other organizations about the critical role that STEM education plays in enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace of the 21st century.”
The message is loud and clear… If you want your kid to succeed, make sure your school is a STEM academy or based around a STEM curriculum.
In this important piece, Wendy Lecker reveals that, once again, the emperor has no clothes
The “Myth of the STEM crisis” first appeared in the Stamford Advocate, Connecticut Post and other Hearst media group papers.
Wendy Lecker writes;
We have heard the claims all over the media. U.S. schools are not producing enough STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates, and we are losing some unspecified race with the rest of the world. In describing Connecticut’s “STEM” crisis, education commissioner Stefan Pryor complained that “we’re getting passed by, and our country is getting passed by.”
It turns out that the purported “STEM crisis” is a myth. Researchers at Georgetown, Rutgers, Harvard and elsewhere have proven that the United States produces three times as many STEM graduates as our job market can absorb.
Why, then, do our leaders and the media perpetuate the STEM crisis myth? A Columbia Journalism Review article recently posited that it is the business world’s and academia’s appetite for cheap skilled labor. Create a glut of workers, and wages go down. The article notes that Alan Greenspan, former chair of the Federal Reserve, advocated increased immigration of skilled workers with the express goal of depressing domestic wages. Indeed, researchers found that top STEM graduates often leave these fields for higher salaries elsewhere.
Engineering a STEM crisis also allows our leaders to engage in a time-honored American tradition: blaming public education for societal problems schools neither created nor can solve. Here, the problem, the STEM shortage, does not even exist. Yet is has been used to vilify American public education and spark a frenzy of spending on “STEM” academies that often make available superior resources and equipment only to the chosen few who are accepted.
The STEM myth plays into America’s fears that we are no longer the leader in innovation. However, if our leaders were truly interested in innovation, they would pay attention to how creative thinking actually happens. A recent study of creativity in the workplace demonstrated that disorder — for example, a messy office — leads to more creative thinking, while order and structure result in conventional choices.
In learning, too, messiness breeds creativity. Innovation results from the unorthodox connections people make when exposed to a variety of subjects and stimuli. Thus, children need “clutter,” in the form of experience with a diverse set of seemingly unrelated subjects. They also need exposure to children who have different life experiences and perspectives than their own. Children need science and math, but scientists must understand the world around them, so a foundation in history, literature and the arts is equally vital. Children also need clutter in the form of spontaneity. Classrooms must be living laboratories for new ideas and unplanned discoveries.
American education used to be this way. High-scoring countries on international tests, like Singapore, once envied our creative educational system. Singapore’s Minister of Education observed that while his country trained people to succeed on tests, “America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority.”
Yet our policies in recent years are moving us away from that creative culture of learning toward a system that produces compliant, conventional thinkers seeking the one right answer. Our leaders are singularly focused on increasing test scores as a measure of student, teacher and school success. This obsession has forced schools across the country to eliminate arts, music and physical education and drastically reduce subjects like social studies. It has forced teachers to teach from a pacing guide or script and use rubrics. And it has ignored the importance of diversity, so that more and more children are attending highly segregated schools.
Experienced teachers see the change in our children. My son’s fifth-grade teacher once said that by the time they got to her, after several years of CMTs and an increasing barrage of district-wide assessments, students were following her around, asking if they had the right answer. She saw that as a habit of which she needed to gently break them. In her class, free-flowing ideas led to creative connections. One morning the class was studying equilateral triangles. In the afternoon, their social studies textbook showed a diagram of a triangle with the three branches of government on each side. All she had to do was ask the class what an equilateral triangle meant and the children embarked on a robust discussion of the balance of powers.
Epiphanies do not exist inside rubrics and scripts. It is in the spaces in between subjects that innovation occurs. Therefore, if our leaders are truly trying to create the next generation of creative thinkers who will restore vitality to our stagnant democracy and economy, they must allow the “messiness” of learning back into our schools.
Wendy Lecker is a columnist for Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity project at the Education Law Center. You can read her column at http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Myth-of-the-STEM-crisis-4830623.php
Diane Ravitch, Wendy Lecker Diane Ravitch, Wendy Lecker
Public education advocate Wendy Lecker reviews Diane Ravitch’s new book, Reign of Error
An expert speaks…Diane Ravitch’s new book, Reign of Error
The Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr defined an expert as someone who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a narrow field. Implicit in that definition is the assumption that, in order to become an expert, this person will acknowledge her mistakes.
In 2010, Diane Ravitch, a renowned education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education joined the ranks of true educational experts by publishing a book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, in which she openly admitted she was wrong about key educational policies she once championed, namely standardized testing and school choice. Dr. Ravitch’s honesty and carefully researched observations made this former detractor an admirer.
Dr. Ravitch has since been an outspoken critic of current American education policy. For those of us frustrated with what we see as one-sided and ill-informed coverage of education issues in the mainstream media, Ravitch’s voice is not only refreshing, but critically important.
She has not only spoken out herself, but Ravitch maintains a blog in which she gives voice to the education stories and points of view from across the nation that are ignored by the media.
True to her academic sensibilities, Ravitch also posts comments and blogs by people who disagree with her point of view. For anyone interested in American public education or education policy, Ravitch’s blog is a daily (often several times a day) must-read.
Another Nobel Prize winner, Albert Einstein, defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This definition characterizes the past decade or more of educational “reform” efforts. Despite the failure of test-based accountability, charter schools, Teach for America, school closures and other schemes, policy-makers keep expanding these reforms, to the detriment of public schools and America’s neediest children.
Dr. Ravitch has just published, “Reign of Error,” a readable and well-researched book that examines this (my term) insanity. The strengths of this book are its simultaneous breadth and accessibility. Ravitch covers quite a bit of terrain: the recent history of school reform, the major players in the reform movement, the claims used to criticize American public education, the “fixes” championed by reformers and Ravitch’s suggestions for a more sane and productive education policy. The book is meticulously researched. Yet, it is also easy-to-read and engaging. For those who are unfamiliar with the current landscape of education policy and its historical context, this volume is a useful primer. For those steeped in all things education, the book brings new insights. Her overarching message, that American public education is the bedrock of a healthy society and democracy, is a theme that cannot be repeated enough.
Dr. Ravitch first presents the historical context of education reform. She reminds readers (and teaches those of us who did not know) that criticizing public education has been a national pastime since the 1800’s. The author then introduces readers to the players in the current education reform world; those who are making American educational policy and those who are funding educational policy. Notable in their absence are any experts (see above) in the field of education. She also familiarizes readers with the language of education reform, and what their words really mean. Once readers learn their language, it is hard not to picture the cartoon thought bubbles above Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee or any other reformer every time they open their mouths.
Among the most powerful sections of the book are the chapters Ravitch devotes to the litany of claims alleged and perpetuated that have given the global impression that American public education is a failure, such as:
- US test scores are falling, therefore, our educational system is broken;
- US achievement gaps are large and getting worse;
- We are falling behind other nations in test scores and this will ruin our economy;
- The nation has a dropout crisis and high school graduation rates are falling;
- Our economy will fail if we do not have the highest college graduation rate in the world; and
- Poverty is an excuse for ineffective teaching and failing schools.
Ravitch provides solid proof that each claim is untrue. In presenting the research, she also reveals some interesting insights.
For example, in discussing the supposed relationship between the scores of American students on international tests and our national economic health, Ravitch cites the work of former US Department of Education analyst Keith Baker. Baker compared forty years’ worth of nations’ per capita gross domestic product and international test scores and found that test scores actually dropped as the rate of economic growth improved.
Ravitch also uses credible research to debunk the “fixes” in vogue for our public schools: such as Teach for America, charter schools, test-based accountability, eliminating tenure, test-based teacher evaluation, parent trigger, school closures and the Common Core State standards. She either shows how these reforms have no evidence of success or, more often, provides solid evidence demonstrating their failure to improve schools.
Ravitch not only provides the evidence of the falsity of these claims and reforms, she also discusses how current education rhetoric and policy are damaging our public schools, our communities, our democracy and most importantly, our children; how these policies go against everything our founders intended public education to be and everything science knows about child development.
After reading these chapters, one has to wonder why people keep parroting these claims and pushing these reforms. This is where Ravitch’s book is also powerful. By bringing the reformers, their supporters, their failures and their funders together in one book, readers begin to see that those who impose or push these policies have a financial stake in them or have received a contribution from those with a financial stake. The connections among the reformers and their interlocking interests become clear.
Ravitch does not pretend that all is well with American public education. She openly acknowledges that many children do not have access to a quality education. Thus, she does not content herself with critique of education reforms. In the final section of the book, she presents her prescriptions for strengthening American schools. Her recipe is nothing new. That’s not a knock because her suggestions are based on decades of solid evidence of what works for children. Ravitch does not shy away from the fact that her solutions are expensive. In acknowledging the expense of true reform, she makes some important points. America has been spending and is continuing to spend billions of dollars on failed reforms. The cost of these reforms are compounded by the cost to society of their failure, in increased health care, criminal justice, public assistance, loss of community, loss of local control and other damage. As she points out, it is much more worthwhile and less expensive to fund future success, proven programs, than to remediate failure. As John Adams declared, “laws for the liberal education of youth are so extremely wise and useful that to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose should be thought extravagant.”
Ravitch concludes her book reminding us why America has public schools and how vital public education is not only to our children, especially our most vulnerable, but to our survival as a democratic nation. Ravitch drives home the message that real education reform, the kind that serves all children and strengthens our public schools, is the civil rights issue of our time.
“Reign of Error” should be mandatory reading for anyone and everyone committed to actually improving America’s schools.
Racial Isolation, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker Racial Isolation, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker
In a recent commentary piece written for the Stamford Advocate and other Connecticut newspapers owned by Hearst Media, Wendy Lecker, the outspoken school advocate wrote about our nation and state’s failure to truly deal with racial isolation in our public schools.
Wendy Lecker’s observations come almost 50 years to the day that Martin Luther King delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
The piece is a stunning reminder of how far we are from King’s vision of a better world.
Wendy Lecker’s piece can be found at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Wendy-Lecker-Opportunities-of-school-integration-4721158.php or you can read it below.
“Fifty years ago, Alabama Gov. George Wallace infamously declared, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever,” while Martin Luther King Jr. challenged us to imagine the day when our country’s children would “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
And here we are, in 2013, witnessing the racist rant of an NFL player, racist jokes by a cooking host and, more tragically, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teenager, who aroused the suspicion of his killer by being an African-American teenage male with a hoodie in an unfamiliar neighborhood.
All are recent and vivid reminders that racial stereotypes and racism have a strong and enduring grip on our nation. No one can seriously argue that we are living in a “post-racial” society.
In Connecticut, issues of race are ever-present. We have not achieved the goal of providing Connecticut’s children with racially integrated schools. And some of our elected and appointed officials are actually moving us in the wrong direction.
On the front page of The New York Times, Greenwich’s superintendent criticized the state’s racial balancing law as an outdated “civil rights era” discussion. Even though the district’s elementary schools are now segregated, he dismissed the issue, citing the town’s overall high test scores.
Equally if not more appalling, at the state level, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education are on an unrestrained campaign to expand the number of charter schools, leading to even greater racial isolation. In the name of “education reform,” they revive the words of George Wallace and trample upon the dream of Martin Luther King.
Why should school segregation be a concern? Decades of research, based on real-life experiences, prove that integrated education has a profound and direct impact on reducing racial stereotypes and prejudice, lasting into adulthood, for children of all races. Products of school integration are more at ease with people of different backgrounds and seek out integrated environments for their children. In many cases, the impact of integrated school experiences was most evident after the students finished school. Adult graduates of integrated schools have a superior ability to navigate diverse, cross-cultural work and societal settings, as compared to those who were not educated in integrated schools. Moreover, the studies controlled for other factors, making it clear that being in an integrated environment on a daily basis in school was the cause of more tolerant attitudes. Indeed, a substantial number of graduates grew up in segregated neighborhoods and would not have interacted with children of different races otherwise.
Many of the graduates had more positive racial attitudes than their parents. One white woman noted her comfort in any neighborhood in her city, as compared to her mother’s panic when even driving through predominately non-white areas. Graduates overwhelmingly felt that despite any difficulties of integration, such as longer bus rides or occasional tensions, the experience was valuable. Furthermore, the research confirmed that the earlier children are exposed to integrated settings the better.
These graduates understand that some of the most important lessons in public schools extend beyond books. As one remarked: “I think that I learned something there that you can’t teach anybody. … I just learned a lot by being around so many different kinds of people.” Another observed that “I know a lot of people who … test really well, but you put them out in the real world and … they can’t make it.”
The kind of education these students received, that broadened their emotional as well as intellectual horizons, is exactly what our nation’s founders envisioned. As Thomas Jefferson declared, an education that safeguards democracy is one that erases “the tyranny and oppressions of body and mind.”
This comprehensive vision of education has been replaced by a narrow-minded focus on measured results — test scores. So it is no wonder that integrated schools are not a priority for educational policy makers. Consequently, American school segregation is on the rise. Rather than work to reverse this trend, our leaders push programs, such as school choice, that increase segregation.
As our nation becomes increasingly diverse, persistent racism tears at our social fabric. By abandoning school integration, we miss the opportunity not only to ensure a stronger democracy, but to equip all our children with the tools to thrive in our multicultural society and global economy.”
Bridgeport, Carmen Lopez, Malloy, Paul Vallas, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker Malloy, Paul Vallas, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
Claiming that they could have gone into executive session if they had wanted to, the Connecticut State Board of Education decided to forgo a secret discussion on the Lopez v. Vallas case in favor of voting for a resolution asking the Attorney General to do something — anything — to look into how to keep Paul Vallas in office despite the fact that he lacks the legal credentials necessary to serve as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools.
From the CT Mirror we get: State board decides not to meet privately to discuss Bridgeport leadership drama and from the CT Post comes: State BOE watching Vallas situation from the sidelines
The CT Mirror is reporting, “Taylor, the chair of the state board, said that he believes the board has the legal authority to meet in private over the matter but since there is no action the board was planning to discuss, he pulled the item from the agenda.”
The CT Mirror adds; “The State Board of Education on Monday decided they would not be meeting in private to discuss the Bridgeport leadership drama.
A judge last month ruled that Paul Vallas — the district’s superintendent — does not have the proper qualifications to run the district. In April, the state board approved an independent study created for Vallas to complete at the University of Connecticut. But the judge said that the short, independent study he completed at UConn was merely a simulation.
The state board is not a party in the lawsuit but the education department’s commissioner did testify in the case surrounding his involvement in recruiting Vallas to lead the state’s largest school district. The board had originally slated to meet behind closed doors for “consideration of action regarding” the case.
The move follows attorney Wendy Lecker and education blogger Jonathan Pelto writing state officials – including the state’s Freedom of Information Commission and State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor — on Friday questioning the legality of meeting in private on this matter.”
Reporting from the meeting, the CT Mirror’s Jacqueline Rabe Thomas explained, “Instead the board unanimously voted approving a resolution that calls for the state’s attorney general to “take such steps as he deems appropriate and necessary to present the board Board’s and Commissioner’s concerns with the court’s determinations.”
Meanwhile, the CT Post is reporting,
“Watching the continuing legal battle over Paul Vallas ‘s tenure as Bridgeport’s school superintendent from the sidelines at the moment, the State Board of Education on Monday indicated it will take up a resolution directing the attorney general to present its concerns to the court.
Those concerns were not discussed and the board stepped back from a plan to take up the matter in executive session.”
The CT Post added that the State Board “…will consider a wordy resolution that directs Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor to ask Attorney General George Jepson to take steps he deems appropriate and necessary to present the board and commissioner’s concerns regarding the court’s decisions about the board’s authority and prior decisions.
The resolution goes on to say that the court decision raises significant issues of public interest regarding the future of the Bridgeport School district and the authority of the state board and commissioner…It is a decision that ‘merits an expeditious review,’ the resolution states.”
You can read the two media reports at: http://www.ctmirror.org/political-mirror/2013/07/15/state-board-decides-not-meet-privately-discuss-bridgeport-leadership and http://blog.ctnews.com/education/2013/07/15/state-boe-watching-vallas-situation-from-the-sidelines/
Education Reform, Wendy Lecker Education Reform, Wendy Lecker
Fellow public school advocate and education columnist, Wendy Lecker, had a piece in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate that should be on the “must read” list for this week.
In “Education fails on an assembly line” Wendy Lecker writes,
As any parent knows, every child is different, with different strengths and challenges. The goal of education is to develop each child’s strengths and help her overcome her challenges. Because every child is unique, a one-size-fits-all education will never work. To paraphrase Einstein, standardization is good for cars, but not for people.
Sadly, our leaders are taking public education down a different, damaging and more costly path. Current education policy removes the focus from the needs of children toward methods that have nothing to do with improving learning or well-being. The prime example of this misdirection is the obsession with high-stakes standardized testing.
Americans spend billions of tax dollars and thousands of hours on test prep, administration, scoring and reporting. With the advent of the Common Core, we will spend billions more to develop, administer and score new tests. The Common Core tests, taken and scored entirely on computers, will also require massive investments to upgrade technology.
Policy makers demand that the fate of students, teachers and schools rest on standardized test scores. How do standardized tests help improve learning or life outcomes?
The National Research Council determined that 10 years of No Child Left Behind test-based accountability has had zero to little effect on student achievement. In fact, experts have found that student learning grew at a faster rate prior to NCLB. Evidence also shows that the skills necessary to succeed in life are not captured in standardized tests. Faced with these facts, the logical path would be to reduce the over-emphasis on standardized testing.
Instead, our government, egged on by the education reform industry, claims that the new Common Core tests will assess those “higher order” skills that universities and employers demand. This false assertion flies in the face of the research proving that computer-scoring can only measure rudimentary text-production skills; essentially basic grammar. Computer-scoring cannot assess any higher order skills such as critical thinking, audience awareness, argumentation or creativity.
Thus, we already know that Common Core high-stakes testing will be an expensive failure, as was NCLB.
The cost of high-stakes testing extends beyond the tests themselves. We must count the weeks of lost learning time diverted to tests and test prep each year. Anecdotal evidence from physicians, psychologists and school nurses also reveals a spike in headaches, phobias, and other anxiety-related ailments, along with an increase in the use of anxiety medication during state testing periods.
Now two studies support the claim that standardized tests do more damage than good.
You can find the rest of the commentary piece here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Education-fails-on-an-assembly-line-4662372.php
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Wendy Lecker Achievement First, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Wendy Lecker
Listening to the charter school advocates, you’d think the data clearly indicate that children attending charter schools do better than children attending public schools.
As Wait, What? readers know the truth is far from that.
Most importantly, here in Connecticut and around the nation, charter schools refuse to provide equal educational opportunities. Charter schools, such as those associated with Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and the FUSE/Jumoke Academy charter school management company, consistently fail to provide educational programing to their fair share of non-English speaking students and those who students who need special education services.
Even in the African –American community, charter schools take students that are less poor, speak only English, have little to no special education needs and meet the strict dogmatic discipline measures that many reasonable people would consider abuse.
Last Friday, as the Vallas court case was being announced, Wendy Lecker, the Connecticut public education advocate and columnist published a new, “must read” commentary piece at Stamford Advocates, Connecticut Post and other Hearst media outlets.
Wendy Lecker’s piece has been getting national attention for its direct and honest assessment of what is really going on with charter schools in the country.
Lecker’s complete piece can be found via the following link and is re-posted, in part, below.
Wendy Lecker wrote, “The verdict is in, and it is the same as four years ago. In updating its 2009 national study on charter schools, Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) reaches the same conclusion it did in its previous study: The vast majority of charter schools in the United States are no better than public schools.
In 2009, 83 percent of charters were the same or worse than public schools, and now about 71-75 percent are. Even more telling, CREDO concludes that “the charter sector is getting better on average, but not because existing schools are getting dramatically better; it is largely driven by the closure of bad schools.” In addition, students at new charter schools have lower reading and math gains than at public schools.
In the study, learning refers only to test scores in elementary and middle schools. Researchers often measure learning improvement in terms of grade levels or years. Because the gains in charters are so small, the authors here attempt to translate test scores into months of learning. Converting test scores into uniform monthly intervals of learning relies on faulty assumptions and is viewed as unreliable.
Nonetheless, the study finds that the average charter school student gains eight days of reading learning over a public school student and nothing in math. Experts agree that math learning depends more on instruction in school, whereas reading advancement often hinges on skills and vocabulary gained outside the classroom.
Even for groups where the claimed learning is the greatest, the most those students gain is about one month of additional learning. Many charters boast longer school days, Saturday school and an extended school year. Therefore, it appears that public schools are more efficient at squeezing learning into a shortened time period.
What do these eight additional days on average of reading learning cost? It is difficult to compare charter school and public school spending. Charter school spending and revenue vary widely and are not transparent. Charters’ grade levels, programs and demographics are often different than public schools’. One study that controlled for these factors found that the charters touted as successful — KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools – spend between 20-30 percent more than comparable public schools in their host districts.
The human cost of this charter sector improvement is also not addressed in the study. Officials who authorize charters gamble with students’ fates. When the experiment fails, i.e. the charter school is bad, it closes. The study did not count the educational loss these displaced charter students suffer.”
For the rest of the piece go to: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-hidden-costs-of-charter-schools-4635437.php
Wendy Lecker Wendy Lecker
Public school advocate and fellow columnist Wendy Lecker published another “must read” piece over the weekend. This one entitled “Courts repeatedly uphold the right to a quality education,” explains the underlying problem facing public education in our nation and the sad reality that children, parent and our society have had to rely on the courts rather than elected governors and legislators to truly put children first.
Wendy Lecker’s column successfully lays out the historical context and the real issues surrounding our nation’s failure to close the academic achievement gap, and by doing so, she lays bare the lies and deceit being perpetrated by the education reform industry.
The must read piece concludes that, “Ironically, the most progress in closing achievement gaps was made in the late 1970s to 1980s, while the nation still funded programs to fight poverty and segregation.”
Wendy Lecker goes on to note that, “Since the 1980s, income inequality, segregation and school poverty have increased dramatically. Today, one in five American schools is designated as high poverty, meaning more than 75 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch; this is a 60 percent increase from 2000. High- poverty schools in America are notoriously underfunded.”
And the piece summarizes the entire situation in the last paragraph by observing, “Sixty years since Brown, 40 years since Rodriguez. The roots of the problems facing American public schools are well-known, and will not be solved through standardized testing or privatization. They will be solved when we have the national will and leadership to act on the lessons learned from those two cases and the many other that have followed.”
If our elected officials took the time to read this piece and then dig deep and find the courage to act, we’d be well on the way of confronting one of the greatest threats to our nation’s future.
Wendy Lecker’s full piece can be found at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Courts-repeatedly-uphold-the-right-4601396.php