Sharing information and reporting on all that reeks in American education, especially corporate reform in K12 education, the agenda to privatize the right to a free public education for every child, and general corruption in K12-higher education. Calling out and exposing rather than cowering.

AND eager for your help. Have a story of power, manipulation, self-interest or injustice which needs attention? Let me know and we'll let the world discover "what's that smell."

"If you're a profession of sheep, then you'll be run by wolves." -- David C. Berliner

"Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: Everything else is public relations." -- George Orwell

"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral." -- Paulo Freire

*A slideshow of Ed Reform-Critical Boxer's "Greatest Hits" memes runs at the bottom of this page.*



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Very VAM-py Christmas! A Gift For You 

Just for you, loyal readers and jolly newcomers: All of Edustank's major entries on dangerous VAM (Value-Added Models) of education assessment via one *hot, hot link.*

What can you get me in return? Be sure to add your voice against VAM in teacher prep by commenting through *here.*

At my last count, only 205 folks had published comments. As well, contact your local, state, and national leaders to let them know you know VAMps belong in the movies, not in education policy!

I'm sure Grace Jones agrees VAM-ps work best in movies, not education. 

And be sure to do so by January 2, 2015. That February deadline you might see at isn't quite accurate if you want your comment considered by folks on committee. 

In the meantime, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas. Ed Reform-Critical Boxer and I do Christmas, obviously, but we wish you well no matter what you'll celebrate. May you honor our gift and gift request, and may 2015 present us a banner year in moving away from capitalist philanthropies with profit margins and hedges at their center and toward the kinds of equity- and equality-, socially conscious-, and responsibility- and humanitarian-focused reforms actually needed in K12 public schools and beyond and which put children at the center of reform, not $$$$$$.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Department of Education: An Abomination Before Us (P.L. Thomas Weighs In on DOE, VAM, and -- Ronald Reagan????)

Rarely to do my interests in comics-and-literacy and putrid corporate/market education reform mix so well as they do when I consider a piece written by P. L. Thomas regarding the nature of the Department of Education.

While it seems many have seen the DOE as superfluous or egregious since President Carter (no relation) established it in 1979, Dr. Thomas -- a progressive voice mind you -- says it is finally time to kill this beast:
Speaking as a witness from within the bowels of the Ronald Reagan administration when President Reagan gave the committee responsible for A Nation at Risk their prime directives, Gerald Holton ended with Reagan’s emphatic “And please abolish that abomination, the Department of Education.”
About thirty years later, we must now admit it is time to invoke the Reagan directive because the USDOE cannot be any other kind of government than the very worst kind....While Reagan’s characterizing the USDOE as an “abomination” may have been premature in the early 1980s, we must admit now that Reagan was prescient."
Thomas decries the devolution of the DOE under No Child Left Behind and states that under President Obama and Arne Duncan, even the best of NCLB has been lost. Well, warped, really. A bastion of rhetorical double-speak, half-truths formulated on the least viable evidence and supported by those least capable and credible in vetting it (read "those with little-to-no teaching experience or expertise in education research), and Communistic government over-reach, the Department of Education serves no purpose which can accurately be described as serving the public interest (private interests? That's another story!) nor the greater good. So, it has to go.
Please read the entirely of Thomas' piece *here.* Note also that he has a great one-stop list of recent links regarding Value-Added Measures proposals designed to transform teacher education for the worse, which is a plan in step with pretty much every other destructive policy Arne Duncan has enacted or supported in his role as The Arne-bomination.
The DOE's evolution under the Anre-bomination is a devolution. Devil-ution? 
Long-time readers of Marvel comics know their character the Abomination is a formidable opponent. He's actually a nemesis of the Hulk -- The HULK, for goodness' sakes -- and is smarter, sneakier, stronger, and less bound by conscience and science than Ol' Jade Jaws. He is dead-set upon destroying the Hulk, but, thankfully, despite his vast resources, many government-funded, he fails more than he succeeds.
It strikes me that one could see the entirety of the anti-ed reform community as a slumbering Hulk, a juggernaut that can take down this sly abomination, if only it accepts the bravery it takes to engage the enemy and draws on the strength of its hundreds of thousands of would-be warriors. One reason why Hulk bests Abomination is while Abomination's strength begins as superior to Hulk's -- by some accounts twice that of Pugilistic Purple Pants -- but it is optimized. As the Hulk channels his anger into action, his strength increases exponentially, giving him more than enough raw power to banish the wrong-doer. His enemy may be an abomination, but Hulk is a confederation, a conglomerate, a coalition. Within one brave organizing body, there are multitudes enough to bring down the admittedly powerful but misguided Abomination. 
So too is there power to abolish the Arne-bomination that is the Department of Education. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Edward Cullen, Dracula, and Arne Duncan Walk into a Bar...

"In my 115 years on Earth, I've sucked the life out of hundreds of young people," says Edward.

"In my centuries of existence, I've robbed thousands of young people of their essences," Dracula replies as Edward stifles a chuckle."

Stave off VAM-pires by telling the government Value-Added Models are bad for teacher education and bad for K12 too!: 

The future of education is quite literally at "stake!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Discussing CEE’s Response to VAM Proposals To Affect Teacher Education

Spearheaded by Purdue University Professor of Education *Melanie Schoffner,* the Conference of English Education (CEE) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has drafted a statement of concern against currently-proposed regulations that would tie Value-Added Models (VAM/s) of evaluation to teacher education programs in the nation’s colleges and universities. If approved, these measures would pressure state governments to create apparatus for judging the effectiveness of teacher education professors and departments on how well their graduates’ (K12 teachers’) students perform on standardized tests.

Ed Reform-Critical Boxer (ERCB) and I (Doc Carter) had a chat about the document, which Dr. Schoffner has requested folks share with a wide audience. (We've hyperlinked to a copy of the response twice herein).

ERCB: It’s nice to see the Alice in Wonderland motif in the document as well as the “We’re all mad here” quote in the response's title. A literature-loving education organization ought to lead with a literary reference, I think. 

DC:*“We’re All Mad Here”: A Response to the US Department of Education’s Proposed Regulations forTeacher Preparation from the Chair of the Conference on English Education (CEE)* is a bit of a mouthful but certainly an accurate title. Yes, the double meaning of “mad” is fun and also good to see. So many educators are extremely upset with the way current education reforms are going, and it’s about time professionals embraced the fact that one can be angry and productive. As well, it’s clear many see current education reform as not quite the actions and results of sane, well-meaning individuals. 

ERCB: So the response can be read as a critique of the corporate education reform “mindset” as well.

DC: I’d like think it means to, yes, and that it suggests that mindset is not "well" or healthy for anyone except a small band of profiteers. 

ERCB:  The response urges timeliness, informing readers the actual cut-off date to offer feedback on the proposals via * * is actually January 2, 2015. While the comment periods goes into February, apparently the politicians who will move to act will, theoretically, base their decisions in part on what they see by 1.2.15.

DC: That’s an important date to remember. At last check, only 64 comments had been published. I hope others will add their voices, for whatever they’re worth, or however they'll be received, and I am appreciative CEE exposed the February deadline as a bit of legerdemain.  

ERCB: Given the tight deadline, Schoffner says, “Therefore, we must state clearly and forcefully – to the DOE, as well as to US senators, state representatives, university presidents, state superintendents, school principals, teachers, students, neighbors and the public at large –that the proposed regulations will do more harm than good.”

DC: Yes. I wish I could feel better about the urgency of that call to arms, though.

ERCB: What do you mean?

DC: Well, I’m inclined to see a move toward VAM in teacher education as part and parcel of the larger corporate/market education reform movement, which includes the Common Core State Standards. Schoffner and CEE seem to think likewise: 

“Teachers are constantly labeled as ineffective, uncaring, unprepared. Patently unqualified corporations, millionaires and for-profit businesses are invited to “solve” educational issues while patently qualified teachers, teacher educators and educational researchers are excluded from the discussion. And now, teacher education programs have moved into the line of fire.”

ERCB: Go on.

DC: But if I’m a K12 teacher reading this statement, maybe a Badass Teacher who has been fighting VAM at the K12 level for years and has seen how it is affecting children but who feels like CEE and NCTE haven’t really helped me fight corporate reforms like CCSS and the VAMs associate with them, I might be skeptical or cynical of the document. Even if I agree with it, I might have negative feelings at seeing it.

ERCB: What do you mean?

DC: Well, CEE/NCTE has known about the Common Core State Standards since 2010 and still has not taken a hard stance against them, not at the organizational level, anyway.

ERCB: Right. I remember getting an NCTE Inbox a few months ago stating NCTE’s “neutral” position on CCSS. I found it insulting that an education organization would accept a notion of schooling that was “neutral,” as if education is not political.

Hear those noises? Those are Paulo Freire's screams.
DC: Mm-hmm. And, to my knowledge, the most formal statement regarding CCSS from NCTE is still former NCTE President *Keith Gilyard’s* denouncement of well-informed education bloggers and CCSS opponents as “either/or” thinkers and his ludicrous claim that NCTE “never endorsed those standards; neither do we profit financially from them.” 

Anyone can visit and easily see the products NCTE sells which play off the CCSS directly and which are marketed by utilizing associated catch phrases and "hot topic" vocabulary. Further, as someone who has worked directly with the publishing wing of NCTE (I published one book with them in 2007 and was contracted for a second before their turn toward CCSS-centrality), I know damn well marketability comes into play when NCTE decides what books and products it will publish.

ERCB: OK, but how does all this connect to the just-released response to VAM proposals?

DC:  CEE and NCTE have not taken a firm stance against CCSS, which has been in the public sphere since 2010, and which they know encompasses VAM at the K12 level, and which they know is harmful to children. We're going on five years of...what? Complacency? Complicity? Ambivelence? 

Yet when VAM threatens the professoriate – their careers, their colleges, their colleagues, their prodigies and wunderkinds – they have a response ready in less than three weeks after the proposals became public?  Those facts incline me to view the response with less gusto and endearing support than I might had NCTE and CEE taken a more pro-active interest in my career and, more importantly, my students' healthy development in relations to VAMs and the CCSS to which they appear inextricably entangled. 

ERCB: Understood. If I’m a practicing teacher I might be like, “Where were you when we needed you?” Or if I’m an anti-ed reform activist or agitator, I guess the urgency of the document might reveal to me the population CEE/NCTE seeks to protect most.

DC: Yes, and there have been members of those organizations who’ve pushed for a hard-liner stance against CCSS from their beginnings, but to no avail. So, there are valid justifications for viewing the report dubiously.

ERCB: On the other hand, the report does mention the absurdity of using VAM at any level, and can’t one assume Schoffner and CEE are aware that VAM in teacher prep will do more damage to more people than just professors?: VAMS will affect grown professors and legally-adult pre-service teachers, sure, but that damage will also filter through to the millions of kids who will not be well-served by the changes either.

DC: Thanks for saying "trickle through" rather than "trickle down," which is a phrase laced with hierarchy and bias. Absolutely, though: What you say is true in that a tortuous “trickle-through” effect will emerge.

ERCB: But overall, are we happy with this document?

DC: I think we can be happy it exists and hope it portends more strong language and action from NCTE/CEE regarding the totality of corporate/market education reform.

ERCB: It’s a good start, then?

DC: Assuming I’m correct in asserting CEE and NCTE have not, as organizations, purported a united front against the totality of the ed reform agenda to date, yes. It’s a good start. NCTE was formed as a radical organization. It should act for radical change beneficial to all in American education, but to and for children first and foremost.

ERCB: And Schoffner has plenty of pro-teacher and even pro-pre-service teacher language in there as well. I love how she ends: 

“Like Alice, we need to push away from our seat at this table by clearly speaking against the misguided beliefs propelling these regulations. We need to publicly proclaim this party for the madness it is, opposing those who lead it and shaking those who slumber while it happens. We know better, as teacher educators. Every day, we do better, as teacher educators. It’s time we spoke up, as teacher educators, and established that we are better at assessing our students’ abilities as teachers than the measures proffered by these fundamentally flawed regulation.”

DC: The rallying cry! The “Hell Yes!” moment! If it weren't for knowledge of the recent history of the organizations, that is. One of the troubles NCTE has gotten itself into stems from seeking that “seat at the table” in Washington, D.C. Certain NCTE leaders were hired due to their lobbying ability and D.C. connections, which many members wanted at one time, apparently, and felt previous executive-types weren't good at procuring. I think many assumed having a seat at the table would better position the organizations as whole bodies to have more voice and power, even when the CCSS conversation was nascent.

ERCB: You know my thoughts on having a seat at the table:

DC: To be sure. I think what happened is the place at the table ended up being very beneficial and – I conjecture here – lucrative for a few members of the organizations, but many, the bulk of their memberships, I’d say – got the scraps. Shoffner may be hinting at that here, subversively setting up a turning of tides. I hope that’s the case.

ERCB: You say “them” and “their.” You’re not a member?

DC: Not anymore, due in large part to the organizations’ soft stance on CCSS and associated accouterments. But, if this document represents a move toward more active resistance, I may just have to renew. I’d even be willing to forego reminders that such resistance is long overdue and might have been more powerful if articulated in words and actions several years ago.

ERCB: Here’s hoping!

DC: No, Here’s to ACTING. And how can our readers act?

ERCB: By reading Dr. Shoffner's *full response* for themselves, of course, and sharing it. And by letting their voices be heard regarding these regulations, as we and Dr. Shoffner and others have requested, by commenting at *!documentDetail;D=ED-2014-OPE-0057-0001* and sharing their concerns with local, state, and national politicians as well.

DC: Good boy!
 CEE/NCTE finally putting in its Ed Reform-Fightin' Hat? Better late than never, right?

Monday, December 15, 2014

_Education, Inc_ Documentary Trailer Debuts on Vimeo

Education Inc. Trailer from brian malone on Vimeo.

Note one salient line from Diane Ravitch: "The Right wing and the Obama administration are working hand-in-glove, and that is bizarre." Maybe not if we come to see we have a one-party government when it comes to education reform, but, historically speaking based on Republican respect of local control and Democrats' progressive nature regarding equity and civil rights, yes, that sort of bi-partisanship (which we noted even in the 2012 elections) regarding corporate influence in American education is odd and cause for alarm indeed.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Do Not Like Gr$$n Eyes and VAM. Using My Voice Against Them I Am, I Am

Teaching and Teacher Education? The cat in *this* hat knows little about that.

I do not like this Vampy VAM.
I’m smart enough to see the SCAM.
I do not like the role it’ll play
In shuttering teacher’s edu-cay-

Shunned will be those who fight
Against VAM’s wrongs and for what’s right.
But I do not like ol’ Arnie’s plan
And when did Obama become “The Man?”

I do not like these corpora-crats
Controlling teaching’s this-and-that’s.
I do not like "gov" over-reach
So to you I must beseech:

If you do not like the Vampy VAM,

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Anthony Cody Weighs in on VAM in Teacher Education

Since we reviewed his latest book earlier in the week, have been influenced greatly by the bulk of his writing, and have been hammering home all the negative aspects of VAM in any educational setting, Edustank staff thinks it only fitting to link directly to his just-published thoughts on VAM in teacher education.

Here's his thesis: "When the history of modern education reform is written one of the most shameful chapters will be the continued embrace of various forms of “Value Added Models” for purposes of measuring the effectiveness of teachers in raising test scores."

Click *here* to read words of wisdom. Note also Cody asks as we've been asking here: That you take advantage of the comments period at to let officials know we do not want nor need this new set of bad ideas.

(Un-memed AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais snagged *here*)

Education Reform-Critical Boxer Weighs in on Value-Added Models in Teacher Prep

At last count, twenty-five comments were posted at regarding new proposals to incorporate punitive Value-Added Models of assessment to college- and university-based teacher education programs. This week the Edustank staff has weighed in against such proposals (see stories below), which we feel will work to undermine local and institutional control and have at their central reasons for existence the same motives as VAM in K12: To destroy the best of educational institutions such that competing, private-market alternatives sponsored by the same folks who push the virtues of VAM in the first place can be foisted upon a public.

Please contact your representatives to tell them to work against the approval of these regulations and leave your comment on the * site* as well. 

In the meantime, please allow my colleague Ed Reform Critical-Boxer to offer his opinions on VAMs:

Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: _The Educator and the Oligarch_ by Anthony Cody

While not as scholarly or historically-situated as Ravitch's Reign of Error or as edgy or pleasingly snarky as Schneider's Chronicle of Echoes, Anthony Cody's The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation (2014, Garn Press) is an important addition to the growing number of books calling into question current corporate-political actions regarding American public education.

Cody, an experienced former National Board certified science teacher and accomplished education journalist from Berkeley, CA, addresses the motives, rhetoric, and possible misguided understandings of the nation's most-powerful education reformer, Bill Gates. 

With a straightforward, fluid tone which requires little intellectual stretching for those who are not completely caught up in the domain of K12 education but will strike a pitch-perfect chord with practicing teachers (making it a great gift for anyone), Cody not only calls into question the reasons for Gates' interest in "fixing" public schools but offers common sense, research-supported, best-practice-informed options to truly, fully address issues like poverty, teacher quality and retention, and student achievement.

For example, he attacks Gates' faith in Value-Added Measures of teacher effectiveness, citing research which shows poverty is a much more pervasive factor than a classroom teacher when it comes to affecting students' academic outcomes on certain types of assessments. Cody suggests focusing on the root causes of poverty (along with racial  isolation) and eliminating them would be a more appropriate way for Gates to spend his time and money if he is serious about improving learning conditions.

He challenges Gates' and other reformers' penchant for focusing on college- and career-readiness as the goals of K12 systems and favors instead the goal of allowing "every child to develop his/her talent, and bring[ing] each one of the into full membership in our economic, cultural, and social community" (88). He advocates for teacher autonomy, creativity, and trust in a setting free from oppressive top-down mandates and high-stakes testing. 

Though Cody never accuses Gates of profiteering from his reform efforts, he does assert Gates' pro-market influence regarding public education is deeply flawed and undermines democracy, local control, and Gates' own spoken goals of making education more equitable. 

A lack of appendix makes note-taking in the margins of utmost import, though Cody does cite additional sources via numbered end notes. Despite the omission of an appendix for the erudite and those in need of quick references -- and readers will want to return to the text again and again to help inform their thinking, make their own points, and influence their constituencies --  if I were teaching a course on Contemporary Education Reform, Cody's The Educator and the Oligarch would make for splendid required reading alongside Reign of Error and Chronicle of Echoes. I recommend it for everyone teaching, interested in teaching, or concerned with American public education.

(Read more from Anthony Cody at his blog *Living in Dialogue * and review his archives for *Education Week.*)

Friday, December 5, 2014

How to Talk to Stakeholders About The Dangers of Value-Added Models (VAMs) When Applied to Teacher Education Programs

*Yesterday* I discussed the worrisome construct that is the Value-added Model of evaluation and accountability as it pertains to K12 public education and may soon pertain to teacher education programs across the country if the Department of Education yahoos have their way.

I'm no proponent of VAM as an aspect of a teacher's evaluation if it is weighted so heavily that the teacher can be fired for "failing" to prepare his or her students well enough to meet an arbitrary cut-off score on poorly-constructed standardized tests, which are among the least-useful metrics for detailing students' learning available but seem to be all many of the heavy-hitters in ed reform really care about when their double-speak and schadenfreude is revealed. (See the work of Anthony Cody, Valerie Strauss, Peter Greene, and Carol Burris for help peaking behind the not-so-veiled curtain of such politicians, philanthropists, and business people).

Certainly I'm no fan of applying that same flawed VAM system to teacher education programs at colleges and universities and/or, as I suspect will happen as Deans and department chairs and tenured faculty shirk punatives down the chain of the academic hierarchy, individual professors.

That's right, the Department of Education wants the power to praise or condemn, literally to even destroy, certain teacher prep programs if their professors and instructors do not yield teachers working in public schools whose K12 students do not measure up on a terrible metric (standardized tests).

VAM is a scam partly because of the poor utility of data garnered from standardized tests but also because research informs us that the teacher is not the most significant factor influencing a child's educational outcomes. Socioeconomics and parental involvement weigh heavily upon a child's chance to succeed based on most measures, including those standardized tests, and even those who promote VAM as part of a teacher's evaluation recognize that the teacher may account for, at best, 20% of the child's progress. Teachers and teacher educators are vitally important, but they can only account for so much, and their import likely is prevalent in aspects not so easily measured as Scantron sheets.

VAM applied to teacher education is like a demented version of an Aristotelian thought experiment where VAM for teacher education is the second step removed from the thing itself; VAM for K12 teachers is the first step removed; and VAM is the thing itself, except the thing itself is idealized but not at all ideal for anyone -- except those who seek to profit from its destructive fallout, like privatizers and corporate philanthropists eager to create new markets for aspiring teachers.

VAM?: This is not a quality education-making artiface

Currently,  DOE personnel have the proposed VAM changes posted online and are accepting comments from the public to, presumably, shape the final version of the changes. While * I encourage you to post your comments *, doing so could be an empty measure in that often these comment periods are rhetorically empty gestures, a way of making us think we had input when the decisions have been made already.

To that end, it is important to contact other stakeholders, local leaders, and political power brokers to let them know you oppose these regulations. But doing so is hard, I know. Luckily, you do not have to go it alone:

Associate Professor of Education at Pennsylvania State University *Anne Elrod Whitney* has prepared VAM talking points primer which can be accessed vie Google Drive: 

Dr. Whitney has urged all of us in the education community to share the document with university officials like Deans, Presidents, and Boards of Regents; to use it to help organize responses from teacher education professors in their own programs and professional organizations; and to pull from it when contacting state and national politicians as well.

Among Whitney's main points are:
1. VAM-connected testing is bad for students, and therefor represents bad practice pedagogy if professors are forced to coerce future teachers into seeing testing as their focus.
2. VAM represents government overreach, a point perhaps especially bothersome to Republicans.
3. The methods presented as based on sound research are flawed.

As well, and so you don't have to just take our words for it, she links to scholarly articles detailing the faulty logic in emphasizing VAM scores.

Please use this excellent, clear primer to help you contact those in power who might be able to look at what the DOE sees as a "done deed' and not let them get away with being so "dirt cheap" when it comes to their obvious and continued attempts to ruin -- not transform, but ruin -- the entirety of American education.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Former Badass Teacher Discusses Two Means Through Which the BATs Have Lost Their Way

Brian Crowell is a former  member of the Research Team of  the national Badass Teachers (BATs). He identifies as an organizing member of the Badass Teachers of Color Organization, co-founded with 13 peers and BAT founder Mark Naison.

Sometimes Bats can be unreasonable. 
Via Naison's blog With a Brooklyn Accent, Crowell details areas in which he feels the BATs have lost their way. As a former member who was kicked out of their groups and who was asked to remove a certain post on this EduStank regarding * Common Core as child abuse,* -- effectively asked to self-censor -- in order to garner even the consideration of re-admittance,  I am certain there are other aspects where the organization has failed to live up to its once high standards and continues to fail. 

My most-recent disappointment with them came today, in fact, when I noticed I'd been completely blocked from seeing their twitter feeds despite not having direct contact or issues with them for some time. I'd still tweet to them from time to time with info I thought they'd want to know about, and I'd read their feed for info I thought needed retweeting or attention. Now, though, I can't even do that. It's a shame too, because if BATs are good for one thing, it's being a one-stop repository for great articles  regarding education reform nationwide. 

Control the information flow and access, and you control voice. Guess the BATs have learned a thing or two from the ed reformers after all. 

Dr. Naison left the BATs a while ago, and unconfirmed reports suggest he found the group too hung up on "playing nice" while not engaging in tough critical discourse with those whose opinions might have been aligned (ahem) with some BAT stances but not others. 

Crowell suggests, "The National BATS Organization has no interest in restoring the true left and progressive roots of Labor" and sees this as one evolution of the group that deviates from its initial intent. Furthermore, he feel the BATs' union-friendly stance has become extreme in the face of reason. As a BAT who was pro-union "mostly" but wasn't and still isn't afraid to critique unions or even suggest some things they allow support bad practice and fiscal waste (rubber rooms, anyone?), I feel Crowell's pain.

And my guess it is true pain, too. I don't agree with everything Naison writes and I probably wouldn't agree with all of Crowell's opinions either. But to see an organization take on traits of the things it wanted to fight and  turn to extremism must be devastating if you were among the founding members. I know not renewing my NCTE and CEE memberships based on principles (I'd like to see a more hard-lined anti-Common Core stance from the groups and don't want to support duplicitous, wishy-washy stances the main NCTE leadership has supported) was hard enough for me, and NCTE has been around since 1911, long before I walked the Earth. 

Read more about Crowell's critiques *here*.

As well, it should be noted that critiquing the BATs publicly or even on their private pages  -- and especially critiquing the moderators -- is an offense for which one can be banned that group. Maybe the BAT motto should be "Align, Resign, or Pine" given their tactics and how they are indubitably  driving away their former leaders and potential future allies. 

Time to Talk About VAM in Teacher Education Programs

You may know about the Value-added Models (VAM or VAMs) of accountability for K12 teachers and schools which are supported by those who seek to tie school districts' reputations -- and individuals' salaries or job security --  to how well students do on standardized tests. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) required a sort of VAM accountability in that K12 schools could be closed and principals and faculties fired if multiple student populations didn't make significant growth (defined by scores on standardized tests) from year to year. Race to the Top (RttT) funds seem tied to similar accountability measures as well, connecting them to the slate of new tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Prominent pro-corporate education reformers like Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and *Arne Duncan* support VAM as a means to evaluate public school teachers.

NCLB has been credited with forcing schools to focus on under-represented populations more than they had previously, and that is a claim hard to refute. However, NCLB also required all students everywhere in the United States to meet basic literacy proficiency by 2014, a completely unrealistic goal which illustrates the "failure by design" measures inherent in VAM systems. Teachers in accountability-hot states might have found their "efficacy" ratings printed in local newspapers, another VAM-like aspect of the increased pressure on public schools to show often-arbitrary and meaningless "growth."

Now folks at the federal Department of Education seek to establish VAM as a means of evaluating teacher preparation programs, which suggest to me it is only a matter of time before individual college professors are held accountable for how well their students' students perform on Common Core State Standards assessment and/or other state-mandated standardized tests.

The American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) reports:

On December 3, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education released its long-anticipated proposed regulations for teacher preparation programs for public comment through the Federal Register. Right now, AACTE staff members are reading and analyzing the regulations. 

See AACTE's concerns regarding these proposals *here,* and see information about the actual proposal from the U.S. Department of Education * here and here.*

You may note when clicking that last link that there is a "comments period" underway. Both AACTE and I encourage you to share your concerns about VAM applied to teacher education by the February 2, 2015 deadline.

My response is listed as the second comment received as of now and begins "The Value Added Model (VAM) is one of the greatest scams perpetrated in the name of education reform in the 21st century." Only seven responses have been gathered as of this blog post's live status.

Essentially, the proposed VAM system adds another layer of accountability Hell for those involved in teaching.

Just as K12 teachers might be retained or fired based partly on their students' progress on standardized tests, this next step would allow the government to reward, deny funds to, or even contribute to the elimination of teacher preparation programs with graduates (teachers) in the field (public schools) whose K12 students do no perform what is considered "well" on standardized tests. And who determines "well?" The feds, of course.

Again, programs -- and I believe individual professors too, given the trickle-down hierarchies  inherent in higher education and academics' reputation for accountability-shirking (Yes, we brought much of this on ourselves) -- will be awarded or perhaps fired (especially if they're untenured) or see their programs or departments shuttered if K12 students taught by their graduates do not do well on measures the government deems important.

Just as current K12 reforms are supported by the same interests who invest in alternatives to the public schools their policies bastardize, I suspect privateers are investing in and eager to market more private/corporate alternatives to university-based teacher education programs or will fund competing programs alongside traditional routes to teacher licensure (See recent news about changes in teacher education at the University of Memphis and Eastern Michigan University, for example). Teach for America  has a template for investors to follow already.

As well, the reformers and politicians continue to define the terms of success, the same terms which suggest many teachers and now maybe professors are failing in their missions.

Essentially, the government wants to answer "Why can't Johnny read [such that he can pass standardized tests]?" with the answer "Because Dr. Jones and/or peers at Any State University's Teacher Ed program didn't do a good enough job teaching Sally Santos, Johnny's teacher, how to turn Johnny into a standardized test-taking automaton. Perhaps others should avoid Mrs. Santos' fate be enrolling in a new program financed by a philanthropist who has found a way to profit from her involvement." 

Central to VAM proponents' claim is that the teacher is the most important part of any classroom, even though research suggests socioeconomic status (especially poverty) affects students more than a teacher can. Indeed, no study suggests a more than 20% impact rating regarding the teacher's role in assisting students' learning or achievement on standardized tests, themselves poor metrics of student growth, and from what I've read, 20% is generous.

While making a comment doesn't equate to making change,*I do encourage all to comment *  such that the DOE can see many of us have important, fact-based worries regarding these proposals, proposal which are not based in realities or research and clearly are part of the larger plan to destroy and privatize public education and use the most narrow and meaningless metrics to define "success" for American students, teachers, and teacher educators to do so.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Common Core-Connected Lawsuits Gaining Traction: See McQueen v. Huppenthal

Brad McQueen has posted information related to his and the Goldwater Institute's lawsuit against an Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction.

 McQueen is an outspoken critic of Common Core State Standards and penned the book The Cult of the Common Core: Obama's Final Solution for Your Child'es Mind nd Our Country's Exceptionalism. Goldwater attorneys claim Arizona officials mistreated McQueen when he was employed as a teacher within that state and that the poor treatment stemmed from his views:

  In February 2014, Brad McQueen, a Tucson elementary public school teacher, courageously spoke out against the new Common Core standards that are being implemented in Arizona. McQueen, an insider to the new Common Core standards, had participated in numerous Common Core committees. Over time, McQueen grew skeptical about Common Core and began expressing his concerns publicly.

Unhappy members of the Arizona Department of Education swiftly retaliated against McQueen by removing him from all teacher committees, even those not related to the new Common Core standards. They disparaged McQueen inside the Department along the way.
As a result, McQueen lost a source of supplemental income and other teachers have witnessed the consequences of speaking out against the Common Core. This Goldwater Institute lawsuit seeks to end the retaliation against McQueen and to ensure that teachers’ free-speech rights are protected.
Courtney Van Cott and Kurt Altman, McQueen's primary legal representatives in the suit, also claim "an increasingly militant ideology has developed around Common Core. The retaliation against McQueen illustrates efforts to silence dissent,"

Or at least an effort to define the term "f*cktard." Seriously. Read * here * to get more details on the case, how and why McQueen might have met oppressive opposition, and just how deeply-rooted a corporate-political entity Common Core is in American public education.

Good luck to the plaintiffs, and why do I get the feeling this is among the first of many lawsuits to be filed somehow connected to the Common Core State Standards?