Archives for posts with tag: Educational policy

If the national movement to “reform” public education through vouchers, charters and privatization has a laboratory, it is Florida. It was one of the first states to undertake a program of “virtual schools” — charters operated online, with teachers instructing students over the Internet — as well as one of the first to use vouchers to channel taxpayer money to charter schools run by for-profits.

But as recently as last year, the radical change envisioned by school reformers still seemed far off, even there. With some of the movement’s cherished ideas on the table, Florida Republicans, once known for championing extreme education laws, seemed to recoil from the fight. SB 2262, a bill to allow the creation of private virtual charters, vastly expanding the Florida Virtual School program, languished and died in committee. Charlie Crist, then the Republican governor, vetoed a bill to eliminate teacher tenure. The move, seen as a political offering to the teachers unions, disheartened privatization reform advocates. At one point, the GOP’s budget proposal even suggested a cut for state aid going to virtual school programs

Lamenting this series of defeats, Patricia Levesque, a top adviser to former Governor Jeb Bush, spoke to fellow reformers at a retreat in October 2010. Levesque noted that reform efforts had failed because the opposition had time to organize. Next year, Levesque advised, reformers should “spread” the unions thin “by playing offense” with decoy legislation. Levesque said she planned to sponsor a series of statewide reforms, like allowing taxpayer dollars to go to religious schools by overturning the so-called Blaine Amendment, “even if it doesn’t pass…to keep them busy on that front.” She also advised paycheck protection, a unionbusting scheme, as well as a state-provided insurance program to encourage teachers to leave the union and a transparency law to force teachers unions to show additional information to the public. Needling the labor unions with all these bills, Levesque said, allows certain charter bills to fly “under the radar.”

If Levesque’s blunt advice sounds like that of a veteran lobbyist, that’s because she is one. Levesque runs a Tallahassee-based firm called Meridian Strategies LLC, which lobbies on behalf of a number of education-technology companies. She is a leader of a coalition of government officials, academics and virtual school sector companies pushing new education laws that could benefit them.

But Levesque wasn’t delivering her hardball advice to her lobbying clients. She was giving it to a group of education philanthropists at a conference sponsored by notable charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. Indeed, Levesque serves at the helm of two education charities, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a national organization, and the Foundation for Florida’s Future, a state-specific nonprofit, both of which are chaired by Jeb Bush. A press release from her national group says that it fights to “advance policies that will create a high quality digital learning environment.”

Despite the clear conflict of interest between her lobbying clients and her philanthropic goals, Levesque and her team have led a quiet but astonishing national transformation. Lobbyists like Levesque have made 2011 the year of virtual education reform, at last achieving sweeping legislative success by combining the financial firepower of their corporate clients with the seeming legitimacy of privatization-minded school-reform think tanks and foundations. Thanks to this synergistic pairing, policies designed to boost the bottom lines of education-technology companies are cast as mere attempts to improve education through technological enhancements, prompting little public debate or opposition. In addition to Florida, twelve states have expanded virtual school programs or online course requirements this year. This legislative juggernaut has coincided with a gold rush of investors clamoring to get a piece of the K-12 education market. It’s big business, and getting bigger: One study estimated that revenues from the K-12 online learning industry will grow by 43 percent between 2010 and 2015, with revenues reaching $24.4 billion.

and it goes on. Read!

Are American schools the best in the world? The answer is a resounding maybe — which is good news indeed for this back-to-school season.

Beating up on public education is practically our national sport. I often do it myself. But overlooked in the ongoing assault is strong evidence that U.S. schools actually are worldbeaters — except for the problem of poverty.

When it comes to reading, in fact, our schools may well be the best in the world. As Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond points out, U.S. 15-year olds in schools with fewer than 10 percent of kids eligible for free or cut-rate lunch “score first in the world in reading, outperforming even the famously excellent Finns.”

Polarization has come to public education, big time. If it persists, at the end of the day we all are going to lose.

While the fact that quite a few countries outscore our children on international tests is reason for genuine concern, I think we ought to be even more disturbed about some other numbers, such as:

  • Half our kids get no early education;
  • 22% of our children live in poverty, and
  • 25% have a chronic health condition like asthma oobesity.r 

These numbers and more are from The Center for American Progress report, “The Competition that Really Matters,” about American, Chinese and Indian investments in education.

A second report, this one from Share our Strength, documents the extent of, and damage done by, childhood hunger. It found that 60% of K-8th grade teachers say that their students “regularly come to school hungry because they aren’t getting enough to eat at home.” If you’ve ever taught, you know that is impossible to get through to children whose stomachs are growling or who are energy-deprived.

How are we polarized about education? Let me count the ways, seven in all.

1. We are polarized about accountability. We have gone from an excess of trust of teachers to an obsessive concern with verification. Right now the verifiers are in the saddle, and test scores rule. One consequence of the mania over test results has been widespread cheating by adults, who are breaking the rules (and no doubt their own moral code) to try to save their jobs. How did we get to such a position, where our leaders mistrust teachers? We need balance when it comes to holding teachers accountable: “Trust but Verify.”

Lost in all this is student accountability. We ought to be concerned about assessing student learning, and not just by simple bubble tests. That’s the discussion we are not having, perhaps because we are so polarized.

2. We are polarized about achievement. The achievement gap is real. In some places a gap of three years in achievement between whites and (wait for it) Asian-American students. We must do something about this. Why don’t we eliminate recess for white kids and replace it with drill and practice and test-prep? That’s what we do for (to) black and brown kids, isn’t it?

3. We are polarized about how schools should be run. The argument is between freedom (charter schools) versus what is called “command and control,” top down management. As I have learned from spending a lot of time in New Orleans since Katrina and the flooding, even an all-charter district has to have a serious system of oversight in place to make sure that charter schools don’t play fast and loose with the system (turning away special needs children or suspending tough-to-educate kids just before the state tests are given). Washington, DC, has embraced charter schools but has also expanded its central office by adding people whose job it is to watch and evaluate teachers. Is that working? That argument is raging.

4. We are polarized about the power of school/the limits of school. Some regularly attack schools for overreaching and for failure, while others expect schools to feed, clothe and attend to health issues (such as eye exams). Is it a school’s job to solve social problems, problems that the larger society doesn’t seem willing to tackle?

And when teachers step up to the plate, why do we reward them with vicious attacks?

5. We seem to be polarized about the role of technology. In my experience, educators generally use technology to manage data and people. That is, for control. A much smaller number uses it to invite kids to create, to let kids soar (or move at a slower pace, if that’s appropriate). Some use it for control; some for learning.

Kids may be digital natives, but that does not mean they are digital citizens. Helping them become citizens is an adult function, and we ought to be able to come to agreement on that point.

6. We are polarized about the job of teaching. In “The Influence of Teachers,” I write about how some are saying we can solve education’s problems by recruiting better people into our classrooms, while others say we must make teaching a better job. On the ‘better people’ side are Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and some big foundations, and their attacks on tenure and seniority have been successful in changing policies in more than a handful of cities and states.

Like a bad debt left unpaid, Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White returned to Amite on Tuesday night.

Fortunately, Don Ellzey reported on the event on “Action News 17” with a caustic eye reminiscent of the late writer H.L. Mencken. Ellzey not only covered the facts of White’s babbling rant at the Tangipahoa School Board meeting, but he also gave a searing analysis of what White really meant.

Here is one of Ellzey’s choice paragraphs describing the speech: “White arrived late, like he did for the previous speech, dressed like he was attending a corn husking party in an open shirt with the sleeves rolled up and wrinkled, too-tight pants about half way unzipped.”
This is about par for the course for Jindal hack John White. The people in Louisiana and Tangipahoa Parish deserve better from the state’s top education official.
Why can’t a guy making $275,000 a year go to J.C. Penny’s and buy a modest suit of clothes? A school board meeting is not a corn husking party. Perhaps he likes the “hot pants” look. Maybe it’s part of his “brand” as a hip patron saint of Teach For America. TFA is the teacher corps program taking over the state.

But I’m still scratching my head.

Ellzey mentions that White brought his entourage. I suspect this was his TFA Junior Goon Squad members. From what I hear, the Louisiana Department of Education is being overrun by TFA alumni. Though surely well meaning, TFAs are typically Ivy Leaguers and rich college grads who teach for a couple of years after a little summer training. They spent a year or two with the commoners prior to taking up more lucrative careers.


Instead of being quiet, professors should be organizing, speaking up and speaking out on the radio, TV, newspapers, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and sponsoring old-fashioned teach-ins. Rather than acquiescing to White’s hackwork, they should be engaged in research and publishing papers about why TFA is nothing more than snake oil and why school teachers need real professional training. Show how the children will suffer when the likes of self-proclaimed “apostles” and untrained educators run state-funded schools.

The White-Roemer-Jindal-TFA Gang is an existential threat to the teaching profession and to Louisiana school children. And if tenured education professors don’t fight the stupidity, who will?

Its rewarding read this:

Contrary to what you’ll hear from Mitt Romney, President Obama has laid down a series of profound challenges to the teachers’ unions and their interests. He’s promotedperformance-based pay for teachersandbonusesfor high-caliber math and science teachers. He’schampioned charter schools. He’s pushed for high, common core standards across the 50 states. Nor is this idle talk; via the Race to the Top program, he’s dangled billions of dollars in awards to states and localities that hew to this aggressive reform vision.In fact, this strong pro-testing, pro-accountability agenda — all the more important coming from a Democrat — has led the likes of Diane Ravitch to call Secretary of Education Arne Duncan “Margaret Spellings [Bush’s secretary of education] in drag.”So count me disappointed that Obama is campaigning for reelection with education rhetoric that is ripped right out of a dusty old Democratic Party playbook. He’s assailing Romney for budget choices that would supposedly force local governments to cut back on the number of teachers in the classroom. He’s suggesting that money, not ideas, will cure to what ails the country’s underperforming schools.It all fits in the overarching Obama campaign narrative: that Romney wants to give millionaires and billionaires big new tax breaks even as he slashes the social safety net and government services that help the middle class and poor, from medical research to college fianancial aid to public schooling.

When we all went to school together  In New York, the most vibrantly diverse place I’ve ever lived, public schools rank among the most segregated in the country. Mayor Bloomberg hasn’t helped. By closing about 140 schools, opening hundreds of smaller academies and encouraging choice and charter schools, kids have had more chances to cluster with others who look like them.

And the stunning academic success of a few charter schools has started a mad race to the lifeboats. By the count of the New York City Charter School Center, more than 64,000 kids applied for 13,000 seats last year. Enrollments are 93% black or Latino.The trend has spread. Nationally, charter school waiting lists exceed 600,000 students.

Maybe these charter groups, famous for choosing students by lottery, can expand fast enough to become the foundation for a new kind of American Dream. But is the best we can aspire to really a separate but equal system?

At Reagan High School in Austin, which is located in a quickly gentrifying neighborhood, the student body is now 70% Hispanic. Hardworking teachers have staved off a closure order.

Coach Derrick Davis inspires the basketball team to unlikely successes. A chemistry teacher, Candice Partin, brings the periodic table alive, while sometimes driving students to doctor’s appointments. The music director, Ormide Armstrong, reinvented the marching band as a funk outfit that has appeared onstage with Kanye West.

One by one and together, they’re trying to rebuild a school where all the neighborhood children can come together to learn.

Maybe truly public schools are doomed. But New York, the most gorgeously diverse city on the planet, can surely do better than to abandon our country’s highest ambitions.

Brick, a former New York Times reporter, is author of “Saving the School: The True Story of a Teacher, a Coach, a Bunch of Kids and a Year in the Crosshairs of Education Reform.



assault on public schools in Portugal. An exemple from Caldas da Rainha:

Um exemplo claro de ataque à Escola Pública com simultâneo favorecimento dos interesses privados na Educação é-nos dado nas Caldas da Rainha e está a motivar a indignação e angústia dos professores daquele concelho do Oeste: o Estado está a pagar a escolas privadas, deixando nas escolas públicas os professores com horários zero.

Segundo testemunho chegado ao conhecimento do Grupo Parlamentar do PCP, os docentes das escolas públicas estão a assistir ao encaminhamento dos seus alunos para estabelecimentos de ensino particular e cooperativo existentes naquele concelho e que são financiados pelo Estado.

Por outras palavras, o Ministério da Educação está a privilegiar a atribuição de turmas a estes estabelecimentos, pagando cerca de 85 mil euros por turma, em prejuízo das escolas públicas do concelho das Caldas da Rainha e colocando os seus professores em situação de ausência de componente lectiva. O que está a ser feito por via do diploma (D.L. n.º 139/2012) que regulamenta a reorganização curricular do ensino básico e secundário, num quadro como o actual em que o Governo invoca a crise para proceder a cortes na Educação, enquanto, ao mesmo tempo, canaliza verbas para os privados.

«Como se explica o encaminhamento obrigatório de alunos para os estabelecimentos do ensino particular e cooperativo do concelho, na transição do primeiro para o segundo ciclo do Ensino Básico, se já não se verificam as condições de sobrelotação das escolas públicas que estiveram na origem da celebração de contratos entre o Estado e o grupo privado?», interrogam os deputados comunistas Miguel Tiago e Bruno Dias na pergunta que dirigiram ao Governo e na qual exigem saber simultaneamente que conhecimento tem este acerca das condições de abertura e de funcionamento dos estabelecimentos de ensino particular e cooperativo daquele concelho, nomeadamente no que diz respeito às condições de trabalho dos agentes educativos.

Os parlamentares do PCP instam ainda o Ministério da Educação a esclarecer como foi possível ter antecipado às escolas a data para indicação de professores sem componente lectiva para uma fase em que nenhuma delas podia estabelecer, com o rigor necessário, quantos horários estariam disponíveis, o que, lembram, criou «desnecessária e gratuitamente situações de angústia em dezenas de milhares de professores e respectivas famílias».

here and here are a very informative articles on educational reform policies

But you won’t hear much about the Finnish reform movement. It is so un-American in both concept and execution. Moreover, even the author of Finnish Lessons, who himself played a prominent role in the revamping, realizes that educational reform of the Finnish kind cannot occur in a vacuum. He quotes from an external audit conducted by the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development:

…it is hard to imagine how Finland’s educational success could be achieved or maintained without reference to the nation’s broader and commonly accepted system of distinctive social values that more individualistic and inequitable societies may find difficult to accept.*

The United States, as these pages have documented on numerous occasions, is an intensely “individualistic and inequitable” society. We have given new meaning to unfairness and inequality. So, it does not surprise me in the least that we cannot comprehend, let alone even acknowledge, that there is a different and far better way to reform our public schools.

In America, we do things insanely backwards, always focusing on after-the-fact approaches while expecting different outcomes with each wave of educational reform. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are two egregious examples, both of which attempt to change an entrenched system via “accountability.” It works in broad outlines like this:

Mary wants to be a teacher. She attends college, with an emphasis on education, of course. She graduates, receiving her teaching certificate. A school district hires her. Go forth and teach, she’s told, probably ill-equipped to do so without months if not years of constant struggle with disturbing child behavior and frustrating institutional pressures. Many of her colleagues will give up the grueling process. And no matter how well Mary believes she’s doing in the classroom, increasingly she will be judged by how well her students perform on standardized tests.

All teachers in America are under threat by those who presume to know best how to improve academic learning, though they may be furthest removed from the educational enterprise, what I call the crucial interface between teacher and pupil. New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg offers us the latest initiative, one designed to weed out under-performing teachers. (…)

The accompanying article begins:

Nearly half of New York City teachers reaching the end of their probations were denied tenure this year, the Education Department said on Friday, marking the culmination of years of efforts toward Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s goal to end “tenure as we know it.”

To many of us, such measures, however draconian, seem reasonable. After all, very few of us are guaranteed employment security. We may think ourselves fortunate to land a job and even more so if we retain it over time. Why should teachers enjoy the same privilege as Supreme Court judges?

Yet, this is certainly not the Finnish way. Nor will Bloomberg’s harsh strategy improve academic performance. And the reason is as simple as it may appear impossible: successful reform is all about preparing teachers before they enter the classroom and not afterwards. But that’s not all.

What is the purpose of education? That should be first and foremost in any effort to change the system. Here is Sahlberg’s suggested answer:

Create a community of learners that provides the conditions that allow all young people to discover their talent.

Huh? No accountability? No high stakes testing? No rewards and punishment? No consequences for underperformance? Nope. Finland has none of the above.

here we read an assessment made by teachers union on the current status of unemployment and related matters

Que dirá agora Nuno Crato sobre o número de professores com horário-zero? Como a FENPROF havia previsto, o MEC, com as medidas impostas para 2012/2013 (aumento do número de alunos por turma, mega-agrupamentos, revisão da estrutura curricular, entre outras) pretendia eliminar cerca de 25.000 postos de trabalho, cuja consequência seria o desemprego para mais 18.000 professores contratados e cerca de 7.000 horários-zero nos quadros.

Quanto ao desemprego, só em 31 de agosto, depois das colocações para contratação, se conhecerá a dimensão. No entanto, é já percetível que, apesar de a taxa registada de desemprego docente, em apenas um ano (de julho a julho), ter duplicado, em setembro ela será absolutamente pulverizada.

Já em relação aos “horários-zero”, a FENPROF afinal falhou, mas por defeito. Na verdade, segundo números do MEC, mantiveram-se 5.733 docentes em concurso para Destacamento por Ausência de Componente Letiva (DACL), o que corresponde, diretamente, a igual número de professores com horário-zero (acréscimo de 65% em relação ao ano passado). A estes, junta-se a esmagadora maioria dos 1.678 docentes destacados por condições específicas (DCE) que, devido à data tardia do seu destacamento, as escolas não conseguiram atribuir-lhes serviço letivo. Por fim, acrescem alguns milhares de docentes que, tendo sido retirados da plataforma do concurso para DACL, contudo, nas escolas ou agrupamentos, não lhes foi atribuída componente letiva num mínimo de 6 horas.

A FENPROF calcula que, em setembro, quando o ano letivo se iniciar, o número de docentes com horário-zero se aproxime dos 10.000, ou seja, bem acima dos estimados 7.000. Só o MEC sabe, ao certo, este número, pelo que a FENPROF convida o Ministério a divulgar publicamente o número de docentes com horário-zero nas escolas e agrupamentos e não, apenas, quantos se mantêm em concurso para DACL.

Eight problems with Common Core Standards.

 As I write, my wife is in the kitchen. She calls me for lunch. The small television suspended under the kitchen cabinets is tuned to CNN, and Time cover girl Michelle Rhee is being interviewed. “On international tests,” she says, “the U.S. ranks 27th from the top.”Michelle Rhee, three-year teacher, education reactionary, mainstream media star, fired authoritarian head of a school system being investigated for cheating on standardized tests, is given a national platform to misinform. She doesn’t explain that, at the insistence of policymakers, and unlike other countries, America tests every kid — the mentally disabled, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the transient, the troubled, those for whom English is a second language. That done, the scores are lumped together. She doesn’t even hint that when the scores of the disadvantaged aren’t counted, American students are at the top.