Please read and re-read, pass on the ones you think deserve more attention
Working to educate, persuade and mobilize through "perceptive and acerbic" observations about Connecticut Government and Politics
Please read and re-read, pass on the ones you think deserve more attention
With the massive Common Core SBAC Testing scam about to swallow up Connecticut’s children and public schools, a disastrous proposed state budget having been put forward by Governor Dannel “REqad My Lips” Malloy and a special state senate election in Bridgeport featuring the darling of the charter school industry, the disgraced Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr, the Wait, What? blog has been blaze with activity and extra posts and comments.
If you haven’t had time to review some of the recent blog posts, please take a moment to read up about the developments that are taking place around us.
Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Test
***** Sample opt out letter for Connecticut parents *****
Malloy’s State Budget Plan:
Malloy budget targets most vulnerable among us (By Sarah Darer Littman)
The real story surrounding the Special State Senate Election in Bridgeport
Other key issues including the Achievement First Inc Charter School Money Grab in New Haven
Without A Net – The challenge of learning in chaos (By Wendy Lecker)
The Wait, What? Winter 2015 fundraising drive is coming to a close.
Please consider making a donation via – The Wait, What? 2015 Winter Request Donation Page
Or consider sending a check to Wait, What? c/o PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268
As in years past, although thousands visit the Wait, What? blog every day, only a handful or readers actually provide the financial support to make the blog possible.
But those donors make a big difference!
This time, thanks to the generous support of more than 45 donors, we’ve raised $3,150 toward the goal of $5,000
If you could add a donation, no matter how small (or large), it will help keep the Wait, What? blog going.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out this past week’s Wait, What? posts;
With no operating funds from big corporations, foundations, unions or advocacy groups, Wait, What? has been a four year journey funded by personal saving and contributions from some generous readers.
But truth be told, I need your help to keep Wait, What? active and continuing its mission of educating, persuading and mobilizing people on a series of vital issues that impact our nation, state and communities.
Maybe you could dedicate your donation in honor of our surviving #Blizzard2015 or #StormJuno
Or maybe you could donate as part of your on-going commitment to supporting citizen journalism and the role we play in providing The People with the truth about what is happening in their government.
Or maybe you could donate based on your belief that we must continue to push back against the Corporate Education Reform Industry and ensure that the word “public” is truly part of “Public Education.”
Whatever reason you choose, the fact is your financial support is needed.
The time and money to keep Wait What? doing what it does best —– is extensive.
I recognize that that most people don’t have a lot of disposable income these days to donate to vital causes, but your help and support is critically important and truly appreciated.
Please consider making a donation to support the Wait, What? Blog
You can donate on–line by going to: https://fundly.com/wait-what-2015-winter-request
Or you can donate via check; Made out to Wait, What? and sent to Wait, What? c/o Jonathan Pelto, PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268
Contributions are not tax-deductible, but they go a very long way toward helping with the maintenance of Wait, What?
Thank you so much,
Please take a moment today and click on the following link to make a donation: https://fundly.com/wait-what-2015-winter-request?
Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of those who have provided financial support for Wait, What? – Along with all the people who have read and participated in the dialogue – The Wait, What? blog has become a leading news and commentary site.
The 1,820 blog posts since January 3, 2011 have attracted over 1.6 million visits and an incredible 23,000 comments.
Thanks to all of you, the blog has become a prime example of the importance of investigative blogging, advocacy journalism and the role social media can play in helping to educate, persuade and mobilize people to stand up and speak out about the important issues of our time.
While the primary focus of the blog has been the on-going effort to push back against the corporate education reform industry and re-take public control of public education, we’ve collectively dealt with an impressive array of issues.
The first blog on Wait, What? was entitled “MIND THE GAAP – Confronting the Cost of Fiscal Honesty 1/3/11).” Less than a week later, the blog of the day was, “Grappling with Connecticut’s Budget Crisis – Part I: What about Education Funding? (1/7/11).”
The article ended with the observation;
“After pledging during the campaign that he would maintain state funding for local education, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy backed off a bit Thursday, saying that is “a goal” that he will “try and accommodate.”
“That’s a goal that I have when preparing the budget,” he said during his first press conference after taking office. “There are many goals that I have. We are going to try and accommodate all of them,”
While some things haven’t changed, other things have. That post failed to generate a single comment and only a handful of visitors stopped by to read it.
Now, with tens of thousands of visitors a month, an individual blog post can generate dozens and dozens of comments.
With 2015 underway, I hope to ensure that Wait, What? becomes an even more vital and important part of the public debate.
And so, I turn to all of you, again.
Over the four years, many of you have made a contribution to help support Wait, What?
And many provided financial support to my campaign as well.
I truly appreciate each and every one of those contributions for they have provided me with a truly unique opportunity to be heard on many of the issues we care so deeply about.
I know that these are difficult financial times for many of us and that the notion of financial security remains out of reach for many, but whatever financial support you could provide would be extremely helpful as I strive to use Wait, What? as a platform to provide news and commentary about the issues of our time.
A donation will help strengthen Wait, What? and the role of advocacy and investigative journalism in Connecticut.
You can donate on-line here:
Or, if you would prefer, donations can also be made by check. Checks should be made out to Wait, What? and sent to Wait, What? c/o Jonathan Pelto, PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268
Contributions are not tax-deductible, but they go a very long way toward help with the maintenance of Wait, What?
Thanks so much,
Your help would be greatly appreciated https://fundly.com/wait-what-2015-winter-request?
For nearly four years I have written and maintained the Wait, What? Blog as a vehicle to challenge the status quo and try, as best I could, to inform, educate and persuade my fellow citizens to question authority and demand better from those who hold positions of power in and outside of government.
In January of 2011, one of my first posts outlined the primary purpose behind Wait, What? – which was and remains – a belief that we must hold our own (in this case Democrats) to the same standards that we would hold our opponents.
Over the course of 1,761 posts, 26,778 comments and more than 1.5 million visits to this blog, I have tried to remain true to that purpose.
Many people have used their comments to add vitally important information to the discussion, others have simply added their support or observations, and some have vehemently criticized and condemned the content of some articles or the value and intent of the blog itself.
A common refrain has been that by criticizing Malloy and Democrats, among others, I have been siding with the enemy and promoting the success of the Republicans and those who are even more out of step with the needs of our citizens and our society.
As a true believer in our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, I fundamentally respect everyone’s right to articulate their beliefs. That said, skimming back over the many blog posts, I will stand my ground and say that I have not wavered from my belief that we must hold our own to the same standards we hold our opponents and that the transgressions and errors that I have consistently sought to challenge deserved the attention and light of day that I have tried to provide.
We know that real change is not easy. By its very design our government is slow and often cumbersome. While there are sometimes benefits to the notion that a steady pace wins the race, the problems facing our state, country and citizens are growing exponentially and our window of opportunity to change course is closing.
As regular readers of this blog know, a common practice has been to seek out and use a quote that helps to clarify and amplify the points I am working to highlight. With that in mind, I turn once again to one of the greatest Americans in history, Martin Luther King, Jr. who said,
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.”
King opened that speech by reminding his audience and the world that, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”
I believe that we have reached that time and then some.
There are many battles ahead.
I am not sure to the extent that the Wait, What? blog will be part of the dialogue. As of today I am putting the blog on “pause” as I tackle some other anti-corporate education reform industry projects and consider various options for restructuring Wait, What?
But I have learned much from this process and assure my readers, both supporters and opponents, that I will continue to do all I can to raise awareness of the problems we face and force the changes we need in order to beat back those who seek to destroy the middle class, create a permanent underclass and continue their efforts to undermine the most basic values that are should be guiding our government and society.
I am but a foot soldier in this larger battle, nothing more. But like all good foot soldiers, I will not be dissuaded for doing all I can to do my part in the effort to create the change we need.
While I recognize that my posts have generated insults, condemnation and even blacklisting from groups and individuals who claim to be the “true” representatives of the people, I honestly believe that I am doing what I can to stand up and speak out about the important issues and challenges we face.
It cannot be compared in any way to what I’ve personally witnessed, for this battle here is minor compared to the truly greater battles that have taken place in our nation’s history, but I can’t help but be reminded by what occurred to Martin Luther King Jr. when he spoke out against the Vietnam War in his famous speech at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967.
In an editorial in the Washington Post two days later, the newspaper wrote that by opposing the Vietnam War and speaking out against our nation’s constant use of war, violence and destruction, King “has done a grave injury to those who are his natural allies … and … an even graver injury to himself.”
The Washington Post added “Many who have listened to him with respect will never again accord him the same confidence. He has diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country and to his people. And that is a great tragedy.”
Thus has been the message to those who seek to speak the truth and seek to force a true accounting of the problems we face and the solutions our citizens need and deserve.
It has always been that way and it will undoubtedly continue to be that way, but no matter how small our contribution may be to the greater effort, we must never shy away from standing up and speaking out.
I close this chapter by thanking all of you who have been part of Wait, What? and my associated activities these past few years.
I look forward to continuing to work with you in the months and years to come.
For as I am especially fond of saying to those who criticize our work, upset now?
Just wait for “We have not yet begun to fight!”
Your thoughts, advice, guidance and suggestions are always welcome,
And thank you for all that you have done, all you are doing and all you have yet to do in the future,Jonathan Pelto [email protected]
That is the question…
In these difficult times, many of us are grappling with the question – How can one be useful and relevant in what increasingly appears to be a new dystopian age. (Look up the word dystopian if you don’t know what it means).
Coming off my recent “campaign” for governor, I find this question to be particularly vexing.
In particular, do I continue to use my blog to raise what I perceive to be legitimate issues about the state of our state or do I throw in the towel and move on to something new?
For guidance I sought the advice of the “Common Core Guru.” You can find it under a local bridge, hanging out with three Billy Goats Gruff. He suggested that I utilize a writing prompt to explore my deepest feelings and emotions about how to proceed.
To explore that path, the Common Core Guru suggested I use the writing prompt, “What I learned on my summer vacation?”
But, truth be told, I remain troubled by this advice because I recognize that, thanks to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, Stefan Pryor (Malloy’s Commissioner of Education) and their merry band of corporate education reform industry groupies, that anything I write will be judged – not by humans – but by the Automated Essay Scoring (AES) System that accompanies the unfair, ill-conceived, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Testing Scheme.
As the SBAC Common Core industry has explained,
In 2010, when it was starting to develop the new Common Core exams for its 24 member states (Connecticut being one of them), the group wanted to use machines to grade 100 percent of the writing.
“Our initial estimates were assuming we could do everything by machine, but we’ve changed that,” said Jacqueline King, a director at Smarter Balanced.
Now, 40 percent of the writing section, 40 percent of the written responses in the reading section and 25 percent of the written responses in the math section will be scored by humans.
“The technology hasn’t moved ahead as fast as we thought,” King said.
But still, let’s face it, despite the failure of the technology as we “move forward,” 60% of the tests will still be scored by computers.
And as one expert recently noted,
AES algorithms can be gamed. That is, a critic of AES can write a nonsensical piece that the AES engine will score with a high score point. Critics cite this fact as a fatal flaw in AES. However, to write the “hot mess” that receives a high score, the critic must be fully versed in many of the aspects that make writing strong: a wide vocabulary, a variety of sentence lengths, a variety of sentence types, use of transitions, grammatical correctness, etc. In other words, an AES can only be tricked by a good writer.
So to trick the computer you have to be a good writer…
Which returns me to the fundamental question, how best should I proceed?
In a blog post about the issue, fellow public education blogger Alice Mercer wrote;
Basically, the programs can judge grammar and usage errors (although I suspect it will lead to a very stilted form of writing that only a computer could love), but it’s not in the position to judge the facts and assertions, or content in an essay. The only way to do that is to limit students to what “facts” they are using by giving them a list.
And friend and fellow blogger Anthony Cody added,
If this is the “Smarter” test, it seems far less intelligent than a qualified teacher, capable of challenging students with an open-ended question. And if we are sacrificing intelligence, creativity and critical thinking for the sake of the efficiency and standardization provided by a computer, this seems a very poor trade.
All of which leaves one very confused!
Because, if truth be told, as I contemplate continuing my Wait, What? blog or calling it a day, I’m left wondering how relevant a blog could even be in Governor Malloy’s Common Core world?
God knows, along with my readers, that my understanding of grammar and spelling is, at best, limited.
And if the computer is looking for “a wide vocabulary, a variety of sentence lengths, a variety of sentence types, use of transitions [and] grammatical correctness” then maybe the time has come to accept that fact that I should throw in the towel and admit that my notion of right and wrong simply can’t compete against the computer’s understanding of the Common Core and its associated testing scheme.
Finally, in conclusion, let me say that advice from the peanut gallery, let alone my readers, would be welcome.
Oh and by the way, you get an extra point if you know where the term “peanut gallery” comes from.
By the way, if I don’t continue with my blog, Wait, What?, I have to admit that I do have a second blog set up and ready to go.
It will be called, “Failure is an Option.”
Meanwhile, I hope you all have had a restful, rejuvenating and safe Labor Day weekend and I wish you well as we head into the remainder of 2014.
In what may be the single most bizarre development yet in the Malloy administration’s war on teachers and public education and their ongoing commitment to secrecy, a recent Freedom of Information request has produced an email between Governor Malloy’s Director of Communications and a senior official from ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, in which they discuss what appears to be the Malloy’s administration’s effort to get a restraining order to prevent FOI requests about Malloy’s education reform efforts.
In the email to Governor Malloy’s Director of Communications, ConnCAN’s Jordan Fenster wrote,
Just following up on our conversation today. Any info you may have on a restraining order of any kind against Jon Pelto, (requested by the administration) would be great. It may have something to do with SDE, considering all the FOI requests and negative press he’s been throwing in that direction.
My cell number, if you lost it, is XXX-XXX-XXXX.
The email is dated April 23, 2013, which coincides with a series of Wait, What? posts about the $35,500 public opinion poll that ConnCAN conducted to help make Malloy’s education reform initiative appear more popular.
It was also the time-period in which Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, was engaged in his extended effort to help Paul Vallas circumvent Connecticut law so that Vallas could remain as head of Bridgeport’s School System.
While getting “negative press” may be annoying to politicians, the notion that Governor Malloy’s administration would consider pursuing a “restraining order” to prevent Freedom of Information requests is extremely disturbing considering the fundamental right that citizens have to get access to public information.
Even the notion that government officials would consider corrupting the legal system to quell political opposition is chilling.
Interestingly, the disk of emails that was released by Malloy’s office as a result of the recent FOI request does not contain any other communication that mentions a possible “restraining order” against me or the Wait, What? blog.
However, an FOI request that was submitted to Commission Pryor and the State Department of Education on the same subject remains unanswered.
ConnCAN is the charter school lobbying group that led the record-breaking $6 million lobbying and public relations effort in support of Malloy’s education reform initiative.
Jordan Fenster is the senior writer and editor for ConnCAN. Before he worked for ConnCAN, Fenster worked as the political reporter for the New Haven Register.
Here is a link to Diane Ravitch’s inspiring speech at last weekend’s Network of Public Education Conference in Austin Texas.
I was particularly honored and appreciative that Diane would recognize my efforts and my blog in her speech.
The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society. Our mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students. We will accomplish this by networking groups and organizations focused on similar goals in states and districts throughout the nation, share information about what works and what doesn’t work in public education, and endorse and rate candidates for office based on our principles and goals. More specifically, we will support candidates who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, the privatization of our public schools and the outsourcing of its core functions to for-profit corporations, and we will support candidates who work for evidence-based reforms that will improve our schools and the education of our nation’s children.
The Network for Public Education Conference ended with a press conference calling for Congressional hearings to investigate the over-emphasis, misapplication, costs, and poor implementation of high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s K-12 public schools.
The press release stated,
In a Closing Keynote address to some 500 attendees, education historian and NYU professor Diane Ravitch, an NPE founder and Board President, accused current education policies mandated by the federal government, such as President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top, of making high-stakes standardized testing “the purpose of education, rather than a measure of education.”
The call for Congressional hearings – addressed to Senators Lamar Alexander and Tom Harkin of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, and Representatives John Kline and George Miller of the House Education and Workforce Committee – states that high-stakes testing in public schools has led to multiple unintended consequences that warrant federal scrutiny. NPE asks Congressional leaders to pursue eleven potential inquiries, including, “Do the tests promote skills our children and our economy need?” and “Are tests being given to children who are too young?”
“We have learned some valuable lessons about the unintended costs of test-driven reform over the past decade. Unfortunately, many of our nation’s policies do not reflect this,” stated NPE Executive Director Robin Hiller. “We need Congress to investigate and take steps to correct the systematic overuse of testing in our schools.”
“Our system is being rendered less intelligent by the belief that ‘rigor’ equates to ever more difficult tests,” warned NPE Treasurer Anthony Cody. “True intelligence in the 21st century depends on creativity and problem-solving, and this cannot be packaged into a test. We need to invest in classrooms, in making sure teachers have the small class sizes, resources, and support they need to succeed. We need to stop wasting time and money in the pursuit of test scores.”
You can read more about NPE and join the organization at: http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/
You can also read about the call for hearings at: http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/2014/03/npe-calls-for-congressional-hearings-full-text/
America’s leading public education advocate has written a series of blog posts as we leave 2013 and move into the New Year.
Her wisdom, perception, courage and conviction continue to inspire tens of thousands of teachers, parents, public education advocates and citizens across the country … and with each passing day, thousands more join the battle to take back our public school system from the corporate education reform industry.
As she took a look back on 2013, I am particularly proud that she listed the pro-public education uprising and victory in Bridgeport among the major national highlights of the year.
I am also deeply honored that she saw fit to make note of my work and the work of dozens of other bloggers around the nation.
As Diane wrote;
Farewell to 2013. It was a year of beginnings, a year that launched a fundamental change in the debate about what constitutes true education “reform.”
More and more parents and teachers are awakening to the realization that the word “reform” has been hijacked by people who want to dismantle public education and the teaching profession. Those who have boldly named themselves the “reformers” are all too often working on behalf of turning public dollars over to private interests and to strip teachers of any due process, any collective-bargaining rights, any salary increment linked to their experience or their education. These so-called “reformers” reify test scores, making them the be-all and end-all of education and are eager to fire teachers and principals whose students don’t get the test scores that the computer says they should, and equally eager to close public schools with low scores and replace them with privately managed schools that all too often escape the same scrutiny as the public schools they replaced. The “reformers” care not at all about class size, indeed, they say they would prefer larger classes with “better teachers,” even though teachers say they can be better teachers with smaller classes, especially given the diversity of students in most public schools today, some of whom have disabilities, some of whom are learning English.
Our educators and schools now live under a Sword of Damocles fashioned by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Those who cannot produce higher scores are doomed. This is madness. This is a game rigged to harm public schools, which is a fundamental institution of our democracy.
The good news in 2013 was that parents, educators, and citizens began organizing and rising up in opposition to the status quo controlled by the fake “reformers.”
Here are some of the high points of 2013 in the battle against the status quo:
1. High school students began organizing to fight high-stakes testing and school closings. The leading edge of student opposition has been the Providence Student Union, which has deployed intelligence and wit to lead the battle against the state’s use of a standardized test (with the appropriate acronym of NECAP) as a graduation requirement. The students are fighting because they know that the weakest among them will fall on the low end of the bell curve and be denied a diploma, which will knee-cap them for the rest of their life.
2. Ethan Young, a high school student in Tennessee, appeared before the Knox County School Board, to express his opposition to Common Core, and the video of his five-minute appearance went viral, having been viewed some 2 million times on YouTube.
3. In Tennessee, parents organized a group called the Momma Bears. They blog, post on Facebook, and organize protests against the efforts of Governor Haslam and Commissioner Kevin Huffman to take over their public schools and demoralize their children’s teachers. Why do they call themselves “Momma Bears?” They say on their website:
“Momma Bears defend and support children and public schools. Momma Bears realize that quality public education is a right for every child. There are greedy corporations and politicians eager to destroy and profit from our American public school system and vulnerable children. Momma Bears are united in defending and protecting our young and their future from these threats.
“It is our hope that this group will connect lots and lots of Momma Bears, because we are stronger together than as individuals. Together, we must protect our children and public schools and we must also support the teachers who nurture, inspire, and protect our children.”
4. Forty percent of district superintendents in Tennessee signed a letter to Governor Haslam calling on him to rein in Commissioner Huffman, who is intent on shoving his “reforms” down the throat of every educator, without ever listening to experienced educators (when the letter went public, a handful of the superintendents removed their names, fearful of reprisals). After all, he did have two years as a Teach for America recruit, then served as communications director for TFA, before being selected to redesign the education system of the state of Tennessee. Huffman is pushing charter schools and doing his best to demoralize the teachers of Tennessee by tying their evaluations to test scores, not to experience or education or any other factor that matters more than test scores.
5. Thanks to the energetic parents of Texas who joined TAMSA (Texans Advocating for Meaningful Assessment), the legislature passed SB5, which rolled back a requirement that seniors needed to pass 15 tests to graduate from high school. In the future, they will need to pass five tests, not 15.
6. The implementation of Common Core testing in New York state created a firestorm of opposition to Common Core, to testing, and to the educator evaluation system cobbled together by the State Education Department. Neither teachers nor students were prepared for the new Common Core tests, which had an absurdly high passing mark. 70% of the students in the state “failed,” including 97% of English learners, 95% of students with disabilities, and more than 80% of black and Hispanic students. Parents were outraged by the state’s imposition of standards and tests for which their students were not prepared, based on material they had not studied. State Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents dismissed parent complaints, and Secretary Arne Duncan brushed them off as the whining of “white suburban moms” who were disappointed to learn that their child was not as brilliant as they thought and their public school was not as good as they thought. This angered parents even more, and Long Island may well be the epicenter of a massive opt-out from state testing in spring 2014.
7. The teachers of Garfield High School in Seattle voted unanimously not to give the MAP test, which they agreed was useless. They said the test was a waste of time and resources, and they would not do it. Faced with threats of suspension and pay cuts, they stood firm. They won. There were no punishments, and they won the admiration of teachers and parents across the nation.
8. The Badass Teachers Association, organized in 2013, now counts 35,000 members across the nation. These are the fearless activists who will not tolerate the punishments meted out by the guardians of the status quo. Their motto: “This is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning.”
9. Some of the candidates opposed by the “reformers” managed to win their elections, despite being overwhelmingly outspent by corporate funders (in many cases, the corporate funders lived thousands of miles away). Among the winners who fought off the “reform” money machine were Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff in Los Angeles, Sue Peters in Seattle, and the winning candidates who took control of the school board in Bridgeport, Connecticut, signaling the end of the Paul Vallas era in that small city.
10. It is impossible to overestimate the power of social media in establishing communication among pro-public education bloggers. The bloggers have done an amazing job of informing people across the nation about what is happening in their district and in their state, and building awareness that the attacks on public education are not sporadic and are not local. They are heavily funded by a handful of millionaires and billionaires and passed through groups like Stand for Children, ALEC, Democrats for Education Reform, and 50CAN, who use their funding to advocate for privatization, for high-stakes testing, for evaluating teachers by test scores, and for stripping teachers of any due process so that experienced teachers may easily be replaced by newcomers who will work at entry-level wages and leave without ever collecting a pension. All of us are far better informed because of the remarkable and persistent bloggers in Ohio, Indiana, Connecticut (a special shout-out to Jonathan Pelto!), Florida, Texas, Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico, Louisiana, and every other state. They have blown the whistle again and again to call attention to financial misdeeds and frauds against students and teachers. Thank you, bloggers!
11. In North Carolina, a reactionary governor and legislature were elected in 2012, and they passed bill after bill to destroy public education and to turn teachers into temporary workers. In response, concerned citizens organized a weekly protest before the Legislature called Moral Mondays, where they gathered to show their opposition to the attacks on the public sector and on valued institutions.
12. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 12-year reign in office (extended by a controversial overturn of a term-limits law passed by voters twice) finally came to an end. Polls showed that his most unpopular issue was education, where only 22-26% of voters approved his harsh and punitive reform policies of closing public schools, grading schools, rating teachers based on student test scores, opening hundreds of small schools, and favoring charter schools with free public space. Among the many contenders for the office, Bill de Blasio was elected. De Blasio was the candidate who most sharply disagreed with Bloomberg’s education “reforms” and promised change. De Blasio pledged a moratorium on school closings and co-location of charters in public schools; he pledged to abolish the A-F grading system. And he promised to listen to parents and communities, unlike Bloomberg, who viewed parents and communities as a nuisance and obstacles that could be easily ignored.
13. Grassroots groups opposing the assault on public education and attacks on teachers formed in many states and continue to form. In spring 2013, Anthony Cody and I, along with a group of other concerned educators formed the Network for Public Education in spring 2013, specifically to identify and encourage the many grassroots groups across the nation and to help them find one another. In addition, part of our mission is to endorse candidates who support public education in local and state races for school board.
As parents, educators, and other citizens were mobilizing to support their schools, the faux reformers sustained a number of notable setbacks. I can’t list them all here. This is only a sampling. Suffice it to note that none of the “reforms” mandated by No Child Left Behind, required by Race to the Top and by Arne Duncan’s waivers, and advocated by corporate reformers has any evidence to support it. Lots of bad news for “reformers” in 2013, including the following:
1. One of the nation’s pre-eminent scholars of testing, Edward Haertel, explained in an important lecture to the Education Testing Service why value-added-modeling (VAM) was being misused by policymakers. Its value in evaluating teachers, he said, was seriously overstated. This policy happens to be the linchpin of Race to the Top, and its use is now commonplace in most states, despite the fact that the research base for it is not only weak but indicates that the current use of VAM is junk science.
2. The Louisiana State Supreme Court struck down funding for vouchers and course choice (from non-public school providers) by a vote of 6-1. Governor Bobby Jindal had planned to fund his privatization program by taking money away from the minimum foundation funding for public schools. However, the state constitution restricts public funding to public elementary and secondary schools. This forced Governor Bobby Jindal and the legislature to find another source for funding vouchers and course choice.
3. The first year report on the Louisiana voucher schools showed that nearly half the students were enrolled in schools rated D or F by the state, showing that (contrary to the voucher boosters), students were not “escaping from failing public schools,” but transferring from public schools with low ratings (based on test scores) to private schools with equally low ratings (based on test scores). Voucher schools, however, are not held to the same standards of accountability as public schools.
4. John Merrow, who had featured Michelle Rhee on a dozen occasions on PBS and helped to make her a media star, turned his tough investigative eye to allegations of cheating in D.C. during her tenure and was not upset to find that the allegations were swept under the rug. He asked a series of tough questions, which Rhee ignored and deflected.
5. G.F. Brandenburg and John Merrow deconstructed the NAEP gains made by D.C., pointing out that the trend lines were continuous with those that preceded Rhee and that D.C. continues to be one of the lowest performing districts in the nation. Arne Duncan and Rhee brandished the D.C. scores as “proof” that get-tough policies aimed at teachers work;
6. We learned how easily the A-F school grading system can be distorted when Tom LoBianco of the AP revealed emails showing that Tony Bennett, state superintendent of Indiana, had manipulated the A-F grading system to raise the score of a charter school founded by a prominent campaign contributor. Bennett, defeated in 2012, had moved on to Florida, where he was Commissioner of Education when the story broke. He resigned his position.
7. “Reformers” and major corporations have turned Common Core into a battle cry, but the more they push, the greater the resistance from parents and teachers who fear that the purpose of Common Core is to make public schools look bad and advance the privatization movement. Mercedes Schneider has tracked the money trail that created Common Core, attributing nearly $200 million in spending to the Gates Foundation, spread liberally among the creators of CCSS, as well as groups paid to evaluate and promote them. At last count, there was growing controversy over the CCSS and high-stakes testing connected to it in at least 23 of the 45 states that adopted them in response to federal lures.
8. Common Core will require districts and states to spent millions on technology and materials to implement it at a time of budget cuts. As teachers, librarians, social workers, and nurses are laid off, huge amounts of money will pay for technology and bandwidth for Common Core testing, all of which will be online. Los Angeles presented the perfect model of the costs that accompany Common Core when Superintendent John Deasy pledged to spend $1 billion to buy iPads for all students and staff, money taken from a school construction bond issue passed by voters. This means that the funds will not be available for school construction or repairs because they are being used to buy iPads loaded with Pearson curriculum; both the iPads and the Pearson content will be obsolete within 3-4 years (when the Pearson contract expires and the iPads must be replaced). Where will the money come from next time? Will voters pass another bond issue, without knowing how it will be spent?
You can read this full blog at: The Best of 2013: The Great Awakening about the Status Quo
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