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Posts Tagged ‘NCLB’

We like sharing interesting news, insightful opinions, activist victories, and actionable curriculum via Facebook, Twitter, and of course through our magazine and books.

We thought why not collect some of our favorites ideas, opinions, and stories in one place each week. It gives you a peek at what piques our interest, and gives us the opportunity to revisit the news that’s shaping our profession and the public debate about education.

Let us know what you think of this idea in the comments, and feel free to add to our list there as well.

abolition-earthday-posters4An Earth Day Message: Take Heart from the Abolition Movement, by Bill Bigelow. April 22 was Earth Day, and Rethinking Schools curriculum editor (and resident environmental justice expert), penned this column for our Zinn Education Project’s “If We Knew Our History” series.

DeColores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children, maintained by Rethinking Schools contributor Beverly Slapin. A blog filled with astute reviews and essays. Teachers and parents — and anyone who reads — will find the blog to be a valuable resource.

Protecting Classrooms from Corporate Takeover: What Families Can Learn from Teachers’ Unions, by Amy B. Dean, via Yes! Magazine. The Milwaukee Teachers’ Union, led by its president and one of the founding editors of Rethinking Schools Bob Peterson, is prominently featured in this well done article.

Teachers Are Losing Their Jobs, But Teach for America’s Expanding: What’s Wrong With That?, by Alexandra Hootnick, via The Nation. The Nation has reliably good coverage on big education issues. Don’t miss the special focus on Teach for America in the spring issue of Rethinking Schools, too.

Jim Crow in the Classroom: New Report Finds Segregation Lives on in U.S. Schools, via Democracy Now! This segment features an interview with journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose multi-part investigation “Segregation Now: Investigating America’s Racial Divide” can be found at ProPublica.

Americans Who Tell the Truth: Dave Zirin portrait, by Robert Shetterly. Our favorite sports journalist Dave Zirin was deservedly honored by Americans Who Tell the Truth with one of Robert Shetterly’s incredible portraits. Read about his accomplishments and view the portrait at this link.

Duncan Withdraws NCLB Waiver from Washington State, via the inimitable Diane Ravitch. This news caused quite a stir when we posted it on our Facebook page on Thursday, and rightly so. Ravitch provides a good explanation of what this means and its implications for public schools nationwide. The corporate-led school privatization movement marches on…

Pearson Pays $7.7 Million in Common Core Settlement, by Lindsey Layton via The Washington Post. The entire Common Core enterprise reeks of corruption. Here’s another piece of evidence.

Scholastic and Big Coal Team Up to Bamboozle 4th Graders, by Joan Brunwasser, via OpEdNews.com. An interview with our curriculum editor Bill Bigelow about the successful campaign Rethinking Schools initiated to get Scholastic, Inc. to stop pushing pro-coal propaganda to 4th graders.

Minneapolis Replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day, by the staff of the Indian Country Today Media Network. Minneapolis is starting a movement. Let’s join them! (Also join the, um. . . . spirited conversation at our Facebook page about this bit of news.)

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by David Morris

Editor’s note:  This news has been making the rounds in education activist circles, and we wanted to further amplify this important message. Turns out corporate style reform isn’t just bad for schools, it’s bad for corporations.

Schools have a lot to learn from business about how to improve performance, declared Bill Gates in an Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal in 2011. He pointed to his own company as a worthy model for public schools.

BillGatesBill Gates foisted a big business model of employee evaluation onto public schools, which his own company has since abandoned. “At Microsoft, we believed in giving our employees the best chance to succeed, and then we insisted on success. We measured excellence, rewarded those who achieved it and were candid with those who did not.”

Adopting the Microsoft model means public schools grading teachers, rewarding the best and being “candid,” that is, firing those who are deemed ineffective. “If you do that,” Gates promised Oprah Winfrey, “then we go from being basically at the bottom of the rich countries [in education performance] to being back at the top.”

The Microsoft model, called “stack ranking” forced every work unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, certain groups as good performers, then average, then below average, then poor.

Using hundreds of millions of dollars in philanthropic largesse Bill Gates persuaded state and federal policymakers that what was good for Microsoft would be good for public schools (to be sure, he was pushing against an open door). To be eligible for large grants from President Obama’s Race to the Top program, for example, states had to adopt Gates’ Darwinian approach to improving public education. Today more than 36 states have altered their teacher evaluations systems with the aim of weeding out the worst and rewarding the best.

Some states grade on a curve. Others do not. But all embrace the principle that continuing employment for teachers will depend on improvement in student test scores, and teachers who are graded “ineffective” two or three years in a row face termination.

Needless to say, the whole process of what has come to be called “high stakes testing” of both students and teachers has proven devastatingly dispiriting. According to the 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, over half of public school teachers say they experience great stress several days a week and are so demoralized that their level of satisfaction has plummeted from 62 percent in 2008 to 39 percent last year.

And now, just as public school systems have widely adopted the Microsoft model in order to win the Race to the Top, it turns out that Microsoft now realizes that this model has pushed Microsoft itself into a Race to the Bottom.

In a widely circulated 2012 article in Vanity, award-winning reporter Fair Kurt Eichenwald concluded that stack ranking “effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stacked ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

This month Microsoft abandoned the hated system.

On November 12 all Microsoft employees received a memo from Lisa Brummel, Executive Vice President for Human Resources announcing the company will be adopting “a fundamentally new approach to performance and development designed to promote new levels of teamwork and agility for breakthrough business impact.”

Ms. Brummel listed four key elements in the company’s new policy.

  • More emphasis on teamwork and collaboration.
  • More emphasis on employee growth and development.
  • No more use of a Bell curve for evaluating employees.
  • No more ratings of employees.

Sue Altman at EduShyster vividly sums up the frustration of a nation of educators at this new development. “So let me get this straight. The big business method of evaluation that now rules our schools is no longer the big business method of evaluation? And collaboration and teamwork, which have been abandoned by our schools in favor of the big business method of evaluation, is in?”

Big business can turn on a dime when the CEO orders it to do so. But changing policies embraced and internalized by dozens of states and thousands of public school districts will take far, far longer. Which means the legacy of Bill Gates will continue to handicap millions of students and hundreds of thousands of teachers even as the company Gates founded along with many other businesses, have thrown his pernicious performance model in the dustbin of history.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Related Resources

Taking Teacher Quality Seriously: A Collaborative Approach to Teacher Evaluation, by Stan Karp

Neither Fair, Nor Accurate:  Research-based reasons why high-stakes tests should not be used to evaluate teachers, by Wayne Au

Professional Development: New terrain for big business? by Rachael Gabriel and Jessica N. Lester

Special collection from Rethinking Schools: Keeping Quality Teachers Teaching

CovrPencilsDown120229.3_42Pencils Down:  Rethinking High-Stakes Testing and Accountability in Public Schoolsedited by Wayne Au and Melissa Bollow Tempel

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As you are no doubt aware, increasingly powerful corporate interests are attempting to reduce teaching and learning to what’s on a standardized test.  We have all seen these tests be used to punish students, discipline teachers, withhold funds from our schools, and even close schools down. However, a movement of parents, students, and teachers has been growing around the country that has been pushing back against these tests and calling for education and assessment that is relevant to students and empowers our youth.

In Seattle, teachers at the school where I teach, Garfield High School, announced in January, 2013 that they would refuse to give the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, calling it a waste of time and resources. The boycott soon spread to other schools around the city.  Our boycott was very successful during the winter testing period.

However, now the Seattle School District is asking us to give the MAP test again for the spring testing session. In response, we are calling for an international day of action in the struggle against flawed tests and in support of the MPA test boycotting teachers on May Day, Wednesday, May 1.   We encourage you to participate in the day of action in any way you and your fellow educators feel is appropriate. Please read the call to action below and send us your statements of solidarity.

In struggle for educational justice,

Jesse Hagopian
Teacher, Garfield High School
Editorial Associate, Rethinking Schools

Educational Justice Has No Borders

Join the May Day International Day of Solidarity with the Seattle MAP Test Boycott

Seattle’s boycotting teachers need your support for their “educators’ spring” uprising against the MAP test.

ScraptheMap

Seattle Education Association in solidarity with Garfield High School.

Dear educators, parents, and students around the world:

On January 9, 2013, teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle announced a unanimous vote to boycott the district mandated Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, which they said was not aligned to their curriculum, was a waste of their students’ time and resources, and unfairly targeted the most vulnerable populations. Specifically, Garfield’s teachers expressed their opposition to the fact that English Language Learner students are required to take the MAP test most often, causing them to miss out on vital instructional time in the classroom. In this way, the boycott of the MAP test should be viewed as part of the movement for the rights of immigrants and people from all cultures, nationalities, and linguistic backgrounds to have access to a high quality public education. Garfield High School’s Parent Teacher Student Association and the Associated Student Body Government both voted unanimously to support the teachers’ boycott of the MAP test.

Soon afterwards, several other Seattle schools joined the boycott—Orca, Chief Sealth, Ballard, and Center School.  Teachers at those schools were originally threatened with a 10 day suspension without pay, but because of the overwhelming solidarity from parents, teachers, and students from across the country, the Seattle School District backed down and declined to discipline any of the boycotting educators. Since then, several other schools have joined the boycott, a survey of Seattle teachers was conducted that shows overwhelming opposition to the MAP test at every grade level, and the movement for quality assessment has spread throughout the nation.

Now the Seattle teachers need your support again.

The spring offering of the MAP test produces the scores that are supposed to be used in Seattle’s teacher evaluations.  For this reason the Seattle School District could take a harsher stance against boycotting teachers this time around.

May Day is traditionally a day of international workers solidarity. What better time to show your support for the teachers who have risked their livelihoods to advocate for quality assessment and for our resources to be used to support learning rather than endless testing?

We, the Seattle MAP test boycotting teachers, pledge our solidarity to teachers around the world who are struggling for an education system that supports and empowers our students with curriculum and assessments that are relevant to their lives. In turn, we ask for your support as we struggle for these very goals.

Possible solidarity actions include:

Furthermore, we, the MAP test boycotting teachers, would very much appreciate being informed about struggles teachers are engaged in around the world.  Please let us know if there are any ways we can support your efforts for educational justice.

In Solidarity,

Seattle MAP Test Boycott Committee

Learn more:

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By Ann Berlak

For the first time since I can remember some members of the American Educational Research Association (AERA)—the largest association of educators and educational researchers in the world—are taking a public stand at AERA’s annual meeting in San Francisco against the corporatization, standardization and privatization of education.

reclaimaera-thumbnailSadly, the leadership of AERA has invited Arne Duncan, who represents and supports the technocratic, dehumanizing forces of privatization to speak on Tuesday, April 30, 3:45 p.m. at the Hilton Hotel. This and other actions by the AERA serve to support the dismantling of education as a public good, narrow the possibilities of what it means to research, know, learn and share our understandings, and marginalize and silence voices of dissent.

We are inviting teachers, administrators, students, parents and concerned community members to join those of us at AERA as we make visible our support for public education and democratic empowerment

Here’s how you can get involved:

In person. 

Contact your friends and colleagues in the Bay area and join our protest.  We especially are looking for Oakland and San Francisco parents and teachers to join us in the on-the-ground protest.

Virtually. 

Read the statement from AERA members:

As members of the American Educational Research Association we are committed to:

  • free and equal public education for all as a cornerstone of democracy.
  • research, scholarship and policy making that grows from and with communities  that are impacted by these.
  • knowledge production as varied, multiple and contextual.
  • research, scholarship and policy free from the interests of corporations and venture philanthropists.
  • public education-at every level-as a space for social imagination and the practice of freedom.

AERA has failed to take a public stance in support of these commitments and has not provided space for meaningful dialogue about how we can enact these commitments. Instead, AERA supports: 

  • narrowing of ‘acceptable’ research to demands of quantification and standardization.
  • affiliation with corporate sponsors like Pearson, Inc.
  • denial of the impact of corporate influences when it accepts for publication articles authored by writers from corporate sponsored think tanks.
  • complacency in the face of the ongoing assault on education and incursions of corporations into research and practice led by such actors as: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation

Case in point: invited “education researcher’ Secretary Duncan whose policies have led to:

  • school closings; increased testing; narrowing of curriculum; undermining of collective bargaining; increasing of for profit charter schools; increased corporate influence in education.
  • students, teachers, parents, and scholars threatened, silenced, and abandoned.

We invite our colleagues, students, and parents to refuse the corporatization of education, build alliances to resist its policies, and join the conversation as we imagine education as the practice of freedom.

Ann Berlak is a regular contributor to Rethinking Schools and most recently wrote  “Coming Soon to Your Favorite Credential Program: National Exit Exams” on the early California version of edTPA in our summer 2010 issue.

Related Resources:

V23-3Spring 2009:  The Duncan Myth

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bobpeterson_classroomBob Peterson, a Rethinking Schools founding editor and president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, reflects on the Atlanta testing scandal and the lessons we might learn from it.  This post was previously published at Bob’s own blog “Public Education: This is what democracy looks like.” 

Friday’s indictment of 35 Atlanta educators for a massive testing scandal should give pause to all people who care about the future of education and our children.

The indictment by a Fulton County grand jury charged the former superintendent Beverly Hall with racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements. She could face up to 45 years in prison.

The underlying story behind this scandal is that when school “success” is reduced to data-driven standardized test scores, the consequences are devastating. Cheating is only the tip of the iceberg.  An even more troublesome consequence is that the very definition of education is hijacked. Learning is narrowed, dulled, and reduced to measurable data bits. Teaching as a craft and profession is redefined as script-following and data collecting.

During Superintendent Hall’s decade of being superintendent in Atlanta test scores rose and she became the darling of Arne Duncan who hosted her at the White House. Duncan’s policies have coerced state legislatures to increase standardized testing and to tie educator evaluation to test scores.

According to Friday’s indictment, “Principals and teachers were frequently told by Beverly Hall and her subordinates that excuses for not meeting targets would not be tolerated.”

One teacher, who turned a state’s witness, told officials that teachers were under constant pressure from principals who feared they would be fired if they did not meet the testing targets.

The New York Times reported that Hall “held yearly rallies at the Georgia Dome, rewarding principals and teachers from schools with high test scores by seating them up front, close to her, while low scorers were shunted aside to the bleachers.”

The New York Times also noted “Cheating has grown at school districts around the country as standardized testing has become a primary means of evaluating teachers, principals, and schools.”

Time to Ask Questions

While some policy makers and test-obsessed school “reformers” may dismiss such cheating scandals as exceptions, these scandals should serve as a wake up call to anyone concerned about the future of our schools.

We need to ask some basic questions.

  • Should our children be subjected to endless test prep and hours of narrow skill-driven curriculum? Or instead should they get a well rounded education like what President Obama’s daughters receive at the Sidwell Friends School or what Arne Duncan received as a child at the Chicago Lab School?
  • Should students of color and those from economically disenfranchised families be subjected to narrow, test-driven schooling while children in the most affluent communities receive well-resourced, well-rounded education with much less testing?
  • Why should transnational textbook/testing companies and corporate-backed philanthropic organizations determine the curriculum for our schools?

Time to Act

Increasingly parents, teachers, principals, and even school superintendents are speaking out on the over use and negative impact of mass standardized testing.

The courageous teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School not only started a boycott of the MAP tests, but also allied parents and community groups to their cause.

Principals in New York spoke out against the use of test scores to evaluate staff and schools. Parent organizations across the nation have stepped up, recognizing that using tests to declare public schools as “failing” is part of a larger plan to close public schools and replace them with privately-run charter schools.

Let’s use scandals like that in Atlanta to continue to push to change the national narrative on school accountability. Let’s unite with progressive school board members to hold community reviews on the impact of testing in our schools and to examine reasonable alternatives.

Let’s do what’s right for our students.

Some good resources on standardized testing

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It’s time to refocus public policy on providing excellent public schools for all.

by Stan Karp

Previously published in the NJEA Review, March 2013.

Somewhere along the way, nearly every teacher dreams of starting a school. I know I did.

More than once during the 30 years I taught English and journalism to high school students in Paterson, I imagined that creating my own school would open the door to everything I wanted as a teacher:

  • Colleagues with a shared vision of teaching and learning
  • Freedom from central office bureaucracy
  • A welcoming school culture that reflected the lives of our students and families
  • Professional autonomy that nourished innovation and individual and collective growth
  • School-based decision-making that pushed choices about resources, priorities, time and staffing closer to the classrooms where it matters the most.

But reality can be hard on daydreams, and I got a glimpse of how complicated these issues are when my large comprehensive high school embraced the reform-trend-of-the-day and moved to create small theme academies inside the larger school. As the lead teacher of a new Communications Academy, I soon faced a host of thorny questions: Who would our new academy serve? What would the selection process be? How would the academy share space and resources with the rest of the school? How would our academy team be formed, and what impact would overlapping circles of authority have on teachers’ contractual and evaluation processes? What would be the effect of the new academies on the larger school around us, which still opened its doors to everyone?

I think of this experience often as I follow the polarized debate over charter schools. I know there are many committed charter school teachers who share the dream of teaching in a progressive, student-centered school. But I also know the charter school movement has changed dramatically in recent years in ways that have undermined its original intentions.

While small schools and theme academies have faded as a focus of reform initiatives, charters have expanded rapidly. They raise similar issues and many more. In fact, given the growing promotion of charters by federal and state policymakers as a strategy to ”reform” public education, the stakes are much higher.

According to Education Week, there are now more than 6,000 publicly funded charter schools in the United States enrolling about 4 percent of all students. Since 2008, the number of charter schools has grown by almost 50 percent, while over that same period nearly 4,000 traditional public schools have closed.[i] This represents a huge transfer of resources and students from our public education system to the publicly funded, but privately managed charter sector. These trends raise concerns about the future of public education and its promise of quality education for all.

The origin of charter schools

KTPcoverCharter schools have an interesting history with origins that are often overlooked. The concept of charter schools was promoted by Albert Shanker and the American Federation of Teachers in New York City in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They were originally conceived as teacher-run schools that would serve students struggling inside the traditional system and would operate outside the reach of the administrative bureaucracy and the highly politicized big city school board. Charters also drew on early rounds of small school experiments initiated by teachers or community activists, often as alternatives to the city’s large comprehensive high schools. [ii]

But within a few years, Shanker grew concerned that the charters and small specialty schools were fragmenting the district, creating tiers of schools serving decidedly different populations with unequal access. He also feared they were weakening the collective power of the teachers union to negotiate over district-wide concerns and policies. So he pulled back his support for charters, at a time when there were still very few, and focused on the standards movement, which became the primary reform framework for many teacher union leaders.

But charters continued to grow slowly, and beginning with Minnesota in 1991, states began to pass laws to promote the formation of charters, partly as a model of reform and partly to build a parallel system outside the reach of both teacher unions and, in some cases, the federal and state requirements to serve and accept all students as the public system must do. Gradually this charter movement attracted the  attention of political and financial interests who saw the public school system as a “government monopoly” ripe for market reform.

In the past decade, the character of the charter school movement has changed dramatically. It’s been transformed from community-based, educator-initiated local efforts designed to provide alternative approaches for a small number of students into nationally-funded efforts by foundations, investors and educational management companies to create a parallel, more privatized school system.

Charter laws are different in each  state, but in general charter schools are publicly funded but privately run schools. Few justify the hype they have received in films like “Waiting for “Superman,” and those that do are mostly highly-selective, privately-subsidized schools that have very limited relevance for the public system. It’s like looking for models of public housing by studying luxury condo developments.

How do charter schools measure up?

The most complete national study of charter school performance by CREDO, a research unit at Stanford University that supports charter reform, found that only about one in five charter schools had better test scores than comparable public schools and more than twice as many had lower ones. [iii] Unlike most charter schools, traditional public schools accept all children, including much larger numbers of high needs students. In most states charters also do not face the same public accountability and transparency requirements as public schools, which has led to serious problems of mismanagement, corruption and profiteering.

Invariably beneath accounts of spectacular charter success lie demographics that reveal fewer special needs children, fewer English language learners and fewer numbers of children from the poorest families. This hasn’t stopped the cheerleading for charters coming from some quarters, but it does undermine their credibility as a strategy for improving public schools overall.

Take, for example, the most recent report on New Jersey’s charters that CREDO produced in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). The press release announcing this long-delayed study claimed it showed that “New Jersey charter public schools significantly outperform their district school peers.” [iv]  Education Commissioner Chris Cerf echoed these claims, saying “the results are clear – on the whole, New Jersey charter school students make larger learning gains in both reading and math than their traditional public school peers.”[v]

RSRcoverBut a closer look at the report raises familiar issues (even putting aside the dubious premise that equates school success with test scores). The report showed that 70 percent of the New Jersey charters studied had the same or lower math scores as the traditional public schools they were compared to; 60 percent scored the same or lower on language arts.

The charters with the best results were clustered in Newark, which includes more selective “No Excuses” charters. These schools serve lower numbers of the highest needs students and have relatively high rates of attrition compared to traditional district schools. Typically, the CREDO report failed to distinguish between levels of student need, lumping students who receive speech therapy with those facing more severe disabilities like autism as “special education” students. “Reduced lunch” students are similarly equated with “free lunch” students facing much deeper levels of poverty. [vi]

More importantly, the report fails to identify a single school characteristic aside from the different demographics of the student population that accounts for the “success” in the limited number of charters where it appears at all. The study also fails to account for the “peer effects” of mixing limited numbers of high needs students with the more selective charter population, while the highest need students are increasingly left behind in growing concentrations in district schools.

A return to segregated schools?

This is where the flaws of charters as a reform strategy start to come into focus. A plan that relies heavily on serving more selective student populations is not only not “scalable,” it has a decidedly negative effect on the district schools left in its wake. Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker has found that the selectivity of Newark charters is having a predictable effect on non-charter district enrollment. Newark charters now enroll about 19 percent of all students, but serve much lower levels of the highest need students. As a result, the percentage of ELL, very poor, and severely handicapped children in Newark Public Schools (NPS) is growing, and Baker notes, “we can expect that those left behind in district schools are becoming a higher and higher need group as charter enrollments expand.” [vii]

Another Newark study commissioned by the district focused on 14,000 students being educated in the 30 highest need elementary schools in the city, both charter and district. Ninety three percent of these students were in district-run schools and only 7 percent were in charter schools. This is segregation, not reform.[viii]

A strong case can be made that the rapid expansion of charters in large urban districts like Newark is undermining their ability to equitably serve all children. This year fund transfers from NPS to charter schools will top $125 million. Even State District Superintendent Cami Anderson, a strong supporter of charters, admitted to the State Board of Education last year this was an unsustainable budget trend for the district. [ix]

In too many places, charters function more like deregulated “enterprise zones” than models of reform, providing subsidized spaces for a few at the expense of the many. They drain resources, staff, and energy for innovation away from other district schools, often while creaming better prepared students and more committed parents. This is especially a problem in big city public systems that urgently need renewal and resources but are increasingly being left behind with the biggest challenges.

None of this is meant to deny the reform impulse that is a real part of the charter movement, and no one questions the desire of parents to find the best options they can for their children. But the original idea behind charter schools was to create “laboratories for innovation” that would nurture reform strategies to improve the public system as a whole. That hasn’t happened. While there are some excellent individual charter schools, nowhere have charters produced a template for effective district-wide reform or equity.

This doesn’t mean charter school teachers and parents are our enemies. On the contrary, we should be allies in fighting some of the counter-productive assessment, curriculum and instructional practices raining down on all of us from above. Where practices like greater autonomy over curriculum or freedom from bureaucratic regulations are valid, they should be extended to all schools, without sacrificing the oversight we need to preserve equity and accountability.

The need to focus on poverty and proven reforms

But the current push for deregulated charters and privatization is doing nothing to reduce the concentrations of 70, 80, and 90 percent poverty that remain the central problem in our urban schools. It’s instructive to contrast charter-driven reform with more equitable approaches. In North Carolina, reform efforts were based on integrating struggling schools in Raleigh with the schools in surrounding Wake County. Efforts were made to improve theme-based and magnet programs at all schools, and the concentration of free/reduced lunch students at any one school was limited to 40 percent or less. The plan led to some of the nation’s best progress on closing gaps in achievement and opportunity. [x]

There are many other factors that make charters unsustainable as a general strategy for improving public education. Significant evidence suggests that charters are part of a market-driven plan to create a less stable, less secure and less expensive teaching staff. Other trends reflect the efforts of well-funded groups working to privatize everything from curriculum to professional development to the making of education policy.

Rethinking Schools (Winter 2010 cover) SuperheroesNationally, charter school teachers are, on average, less experienced, less unionized and less likely to hold state certification than teachers in traditional public schools.[xi] (In a word, cheaper.) Here in New Jersey, the Christie administration has proposed lowering certification standards for charter school teachers and insisted that charter schools be exempt from the much-heralded tenure and evaluation reforms in the TEACHNJ Act passed last year. [xii]

As many as one in four charter school teachers leave every year, about double the turnover rate in traditional public schools. The odds of a teacher leaving the profession altogether are 130 percent higher at charters than traditional public schools, and much of this teacher attrition is related to dissatisfaction with working conditions.[xiii]

Charter schools typically pay less for longer hours. But charter school administrators often earn more than their school-district counterparts. Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Eva Moskowitz of the Success Academy Schools, two widely heralded charter school leaders, are each paid close to half a million dollars a year.[xiv] In New Jersey, charter school administrators are exempt from the salary caps imposed on district superintendents.[xv]

Charters raise similar issues in suburban districts. Last year, an application to open a Quest Academy charter school in my hometown of Montclair was a finalist after being previously rejected four times. If approved, the charter would have drawn over $2 million from the district budget. Quest promised to serve a small group of students with “small classes,” “individualized instruction,” and “cutting edge technology.” But it would have left students at Montclair High School with larger classes, less individualized instruction, and less cutting edge technology. It would have eroded programs and staff at a high school that sends over 90 percent of its students to post-secondary education, including over 90 percent of its African-American students.[xvi]

Parents weigh in

This is why grassroots parents groups like Save Our Schools NJ have been pushing back against unwanted charter expansion that undermines the quality and budgets of district schools. Because current New Jersey charter policies do not give a voice to local districts and voters in deciding where to open charters and how to integrate them equitably into the public system, they promote polarization among parents and pockets of privilege instead of district-wide improvement.

I’ve attended too many meetings where polarized groups of charter and public school parents are pitted against each other in contentious, at times ugly debates over resources, facilities and priorities. This polarization has its roots, not just in clashing short-term interests and an inadequate pool of resources, but in conflicting conceptions of the role parents should play in public education. For the charter movement, parents are mainly customers seeking services with no major role in school governance or advocacy for all children. But in a system of universal public education, parents are citizens seeking rights and, collectively, the owner-managers of a fundamental public institution in a democratic society.

To be sure, many of the issues that public school advocates like me criticize in charters–like the tracking, creaming, and unequal resources–exist within the public system too. But public schools have federal, state and district obligations that can be brought to bear. School boards, public budgets, public policies and public officials can be subjected to pressure and held accountable in ways that privatized charters don’t allow. In post-Katrina New Orleans, where next year virtually all students will attend unequal tiers of charter schools, there are now students and families who cannot find any schools to take them.[xvii] We cannot let that happen here.

Still, the march continues

Commissioner Cerf has declared intentions to dramatically expand New Jersey’s charter sector. An NJDOE grant application to the California-based Broad foundation, a major funder of charter school networks, promised, “The percent of high quality public charter schools in New Jersey, as measured by NJDOE’s definition of high quality, will increase by 50 percent by 2014-15.” The Christie Administration has proposed allowing for-profit charters to operate in the state, permitting existing charters to open “satellite campuses” in multiple districts, and opening the door to fly-by-night cyber charters. In recent years, New Jersey’s charter approval process has been marked by inconsistency, secrecy, and scandal.[xviii]

It has become impossible to separate the rapid expansion of charter networks from efforts to privatize public education. Commissioner Cerf has spoken of replacing the current “school system” with “a system of schools.” Former deputy commissioner Andy Smarick campaigned to “replace the district-based system in America’s large cities with fluid, self- improving systems of charter schools.” Governor Christie, a longtime supporter of private school vouchers, was once a registered lobbyist for Cerf’s former company, Edison, Inc., then the largest private education management firm in the nation. [xix]

Inevitably, charter schools have become part of this polarized debate about education policy. Those who believe that business models and market reforms hold the key to solving educational problems have made great strides in attaching their agenda to the urgent need of communities who have too often been poorly served by the current system. But left to its own bottom line logic, the market will do for education what it is has done for housing, health care and employment: create fabulous profits and opportunities for a few and unequal access and outcomes for the many.

Our country has already had more than enough experience with separate and unequal school systems. The counterfeit claim that charter privatization is part of a new “civil rights movement” addressing the deep and historic inequality that surrounds our schools is belied by the real impact of rapid charter growth in cities across the country. At the level of state and federal education policy, charters are providing a reform cover for eroding the public school system and an investment opportunity for those who see education as a business rather than a fundamental institution of democratic civic life.

It’s time to slow down charter expansion and refocus public policy on providing excellent public schools for all. Using charters as a reform strategy has become too much like planting weeds in the garden. Better to tend the soil and help all public schools flower to their full potential.

Stan Karp is director of the Secondary Reform Project for New Jersey’s Education Law Center. He is an editor of Rethinking Schools magazine and was a high school teacher in Paterson for 30 years.

[viii] School Performance in Newark, December, 2012, p. 10

[xi] 10 Things Charter Schools Won’t Tell You, Sarah Morgan, SmartMoney, 12/6/10

[xiii] 10 Things Charter Schools Won’t Tell You, Sarah Morgan, SmartMoney, 12/6/10

[xvi] Letter to NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf from Montclair Supt. Frank Alverez, 12/15/11

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In a public statement released today, more than sixty educators and researchers [UPDATE: now 130+], including some of the most well-respected figures in the field of education, pledged support for the boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test initiated by the teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, calling the action a “blow against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.” Among the signers of the statement are former US Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, author Jonathan Kozol and professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige. While the MAP test is used exclusively for rating teachers, “the test’s developers (the Northwest Evaluation Association) have noted the inappropriateness of using tests for such evaluations” the educators wrote.

“We’ve had more than a decade of standardized testing,” Ravitch said, “and now we need to admit that it’s not helping.” She added: “By signing this statement, I hope to amplify the voices of teachers who are saying ‘enough is enough’.”

“On Martin Luther King Day, we celebrate people who are willing to take personal risks to act according to their conscience,” Lewis said. “The teachers at Garfield High School are taking a stand for all of us.”

New York City public school teacher and doctoral student Brian Jones drafted the statement last week and received help with revisions and outreach from University of Washington professor Wayne Au. “I’m overwhelmed by the response to this statement,” Jones said, “I feel like this is the beginning of a real movement to challenge high stakes standardized testing.”

“We contacted leading scholars in the field of education,” Au said, “and nearly every single one said ‘Yes, I’ll sign.’ The emerging consensus among researchers is clear: high stakes standardized tests are highly problematic, to say the least.”

“When I look at this list of names, I see the people whose work helped to make me the teacher I am today,” Jesse Hagopian, a teacher at Garfield High School said. “Their support really means a lot to me, and I know that many teachers at Garfield High School feel the same way.”

The Statement: 

We Support the Teachers of Garfield High School

High-Stakes Standardized Tests are Overused and Overrated

The Use of Standardized Tests is Spreading

To fulfill the requirements of the No Child Left Behind legislation, schools in all 50 states administer standardized tests to students, often beginning in third grade, in reading and math. Now, in response to the demands of Race to the Top and the trend toward greater “accountability” in education, states are developing even more tests for more subjects. Standardized tests, once used primarily to assess student learning, have now become the main instrument for the high-stakes evaluation of teachers, administrators, and even entire schools and school systems.

Tests Consume a Great Deal of Time and Money

Standardized testing is consuming an-ever growing proportion of education budgets nationwide. The total price tag may be nearly two billion dollars (1). Texas alone spent, last year, $90 million (2) on standardized testing. These tests are not a one hour or one day affair, but now can swallow up whole weeks of classroom time (3). In Chicago, some students must complete 13 standardized tests each year (4).

Testing Hurts Students

In the name of “raising standards” the growth of high stakes standardized testing has effectively lowered them. As the stakes for standardized tests are raised higher and higher, administrators and teachers have been forced to spend less time on arts, sciences, social studies, and physical education, and more time on tested subjects. The pressure to prepare students for standardized exams forces teachers to narrow instruction to only that material which will be tested (5). With the fate of whole schools and school systems at stake, cheating scandals have flourished, exposing many reform “miracles” in the process (6). Worse, focusing so much energy on testing undermines the intrinsic value of teaching and learning, and makes it more difficult for teachers and students to pursue authentic teaching and learning experiences.

Research does not Support Using Tests to Evaluate Teachers

As a means of assessing student learning, standardized tests are limited. No student’s intellectual process can be reduced to a single number. As a means of assessing teachers, these results are even more problematic. Research suggests that much of the variability in standardized test results are attributable to factors OTHER than the teacher (7). So-called “value-added” models for teacher evaluation have a large margin of error, and are not reliable measures of teacher performance (8).

Educators Are Taking a Stand for Authentic Teaching and Learning

In a nearly unanimous vote, the staff at Garfield High school in Seattle decided to refuse to administer the district’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. Research has shown that this test has no significant impact on reading scores (9). While serving other low-stakes district purposes in the Seattle Public Schools, it is only used as a high-stakes measure for teachers, even though the test’s developers (the Northwest Evaluation Association) have noted the inappropriateness of using tests for such evaluations. In taking this action, the educators at Garfield High School have struck a blow against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests, and deserve support. We, the undersigned (10), stand with these brave teachers and against the growing standardized testing industrial complex.
Signed*,

Curtis Acosta
Chican@/Latin@ Literature Teacher, Tucson

Lauren Anderson
University of Southern California

Sam Anderson
National Black Education Agenda

Taiwanna Anthony
Prairie View A&M University

Jean Anyon
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Michael W. Apple
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Fadhilika Atiba-Weza
Retired Superintendent

Wayne Au, University of Washington, Bothell
Rethinking Schools

Ann Aviles de Bradley
Northeastern Illinois University

Bill Ayers
University of Illinois, Chicago

Rick Ayers
University of San Francisco

Jeff Bale
Michigan State University

Johanna Barnhart
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Ann Berlak
San Francisco State University

Kenneth Bernstein
Maya Angelou Public Charter Middle School

Bill Bigelow
Rethinking Schools

Elizabeth Bissell
Putney Central School

Steve Brier
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Maureen T. Boler
PS17K, New York

Steve Brier
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Jacqueline Grennon Brooks
Hofstra University

Anthony Brown
University of Texas, Austin

Jim Burns
South Dakota State University

Kristen Lynn Buras
Urban South Grassroots Research Collective

Carol Burris
Keith Middle School, New Bedford

Keith Campbell
Saint Mary’s College of California

Kenneth Carano
Western Oregon University

Nancy Carlsson-Paige
Lesley University

Elizabeth Carroll
Appalachian State University

Cynthia Carvalho
Keith Middle School, New Bedford

Noam Chomsky
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Linda Christensen
Rethinking Schools

Anthony Cody
Education Week Teacher Magazine

Ross Collin
Manhattanville College

Kevin Cordeiro
Social Studies educator

Kim Cosier
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Keith Danner
University of California, Irvine

Antonia Darder
Loyola Marymount University

Noah DeLissovoy
University of Texas, Austin

Susan DuFresne
Teacher, Washington State

Susan Huddleston Edgerton
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Jeff Edmundson
University of Oregon

Shanti Elliott
Francis Parker School, Chicago

Christopher Erickson
Great Neck South High School

Pete Farruggio
University of Texas Pan American

Joseph Featherstone
Michigan State University

Anita Fernandez
Prescott College

Donna Fielding
Plainview–Old Bethpage  John F. Kennedy High School

Michelle Fine
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

B L Buddy Fish
Jackson State University

Nancy Flanagan
Education Week Teacher Magazine

Esther Fusco
Hoftstra University

Ofelia Garcia
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Ruth Wilson Gilmore
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Alice Ginsburg
Author

Gene Glass
University of Colorado, Boulder

Noah Asher Golden
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Joanna Goode
University of Oregon

Avery F. Gordon
University of California, Santa Barbara

Julie Gorlewski
State University of New York, New Paltz

Paul Gorski
George Mason University

Tim Goulet
Pipefitters Local Union 274

Karen Gourd
University of Washington, Bothell

Judith Gouwens
Roosevelt University

Sandy Grande
Connecticut College

Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs
Seattle University

Rico Gutstein
University of Illinois, Chicago

Helen Gym
Asian American United
Rethinking Schools

Leonie Haimson
Class Size Matters

Zoe Hammer
Prescott College

Nicholas D. Hartlep
Illinois State University

Barbara Hawkins
Teachers College,  Columbia University

Nick Henning
California State University, Fullerton

Jane Hirschmann
Time Out From Testing

Brian R. Horn
Illinois State University

James Horn
Cambridge College

Diane Horwitz
DePaul University

Nora Hyland
Rutgers

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality Public Education, Atlanta

Shaun Johnson
At the Chalk Face

Brian Jones
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Denisha Jones
Howard University

Marc Kagan
New York City School

Richard Kahn
Antioch University Los Angeles

Stan Karp
Rethinking Schools

Judith S. Kaufman
Hofstra University

Kenneth Kaufman
NYC High School Teacher

Bill Kennedy
University of Chicago

Joyce E. King
Georgia State University

Jonie Kipling
Hofstra University

Sid Kivanoski
Brooklyn Technical High School

Rachel Knoll
Mother, Educator
Madison, WI

Pamela J. Konkol
Concordia University Chicago

Jodi (Sacks) Kostbar
Professional Performing Arts School

Jonathan Kozol
Author

Steven Krashen
University of Southern California

Kevin Kumashiro
University of Illinois, Chicago
National Association for Multicultural Education

Raina J. Leon
St Mary’s College of California

Zeus Leonardo
California State University, Long Beach

Karen Lewis
Chicago Teachers Union

Pauline Lipman
University of Illinois, Chicago

Barbara Madeloni
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Tim Mahoney
Millersville University

Sallie A. Marston
University of Arizona

Victoria J. Maslow
New  York City Department of Education

Kavita Kapadia Matsko
University of Chicago

Morna McDermott
United Opt Out National

Kathleen McInerney
Saint Xavier University

Elizabeth Meadows
Roosevelt University

Erica R. Meiners
Northeastern Illinois University

Deborah  Meier
Coalition of Essential Schools

Nicholas Michelli
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Gregory Michie
Chicago Public School teacher
Concordia University Chicago

Alexandra Miletta
Mercy College

Alex Molnar
University of Colorado, Boulder
National Education Policy Center

Steevenson Mondelus
HOFSTRA graduate, Social Studies

Terry Moore
Save Our Schools

Mark Naison
Fordham University

National Association for Multicultural Education

Monty Neill
FairTest

Donna Nevel
New York University

Sonia Nieto
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Pedro Noguera
New York University

Isabel Nuñez
Concordia University Chicago

Dr. Tema Okun
National L0uis University

Edward Olivos
University of Oregon

Celia Oyler
Teachers College, Columbia University

Lisa (Leigh) Patel
Boston College

Thomas Pedroni
Wayne State University

Emery Petchauer
Oakland University

Bob Peterson
Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association
Rethinking Schools

Anthony Picciano
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Bree Picower
Montclair State University

Irene Plonczak
Hofstra University

Theresa Plue
Easton Secondary School

Thomas S. Poetter
Miami University

Anthony Pravin

Courtney Prusmack
Adams 14 Schools, Denver

Therese Quinn
Teacher

Annette Quintero
United Teachers of Dade

Rachel Radina
Miami University

Jessie Ramey
University of Pittsburgh

Diane Ravitch
New York University

Kristen A. Renn
Michigan State University

Rethinking Schools

Yolette Rios
Hesperia Teachers Association
California Association of Bilingual Educators

Peggy Roberston
United Opt Out National

Georgiena C. Robinson
John F. Kennedy High School
Plainview, NY

John Rogers
University of California, Los Angeles

Jerry Rosiek
University of Oregon

Leilani Sabzalian
University of Oregon

Kenneth J. Saltman
DePaul University, Chicago

Lily Sanabria-Hernandez
Hofstra University

Karyn Sandlos
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Mara Sapon-Shevin
Syracuse University

Karen Saunders
Spark Teacher Education Institute
Brattleboro, Vermont

Al Schademan
California State University, Chico

Eric Schmitt
Teacher, New York

Nancy Schniedewind
State University of New York, New Paltz

William Schubert
University of Illinois, Chicago

Ann Schulte
California State University, Chico

Tim Scott
Education Radio

Brad Seidman
John F. Kennedy High School
Bellmore, NY

Doug Selwyn
Plattsburgh State University

Susan Semel
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Carla Shalaby
Wellesley College

Jessica T. Shiller
Towson University

Ira Shor
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Alan Singer
Hofstra University

Elizabeth A. Skinner
Illinois State University

Timothy D. Slekar
Penn State University, Altoona

Christine Sleeter
California State University, Monterey Bay

Ceresta Smith
United Teachers of Dade Phoenix Rising MORE Caucus

Jody Sokolower
Rethinking Schools

Jim Sommerville
Cudahy Middle School

The Southeast Massachusetts & Rhode Island Coalition to Save Our Schools

Mariana Souto-Manning
Teachers College, Columbia University

Joi Spencer
University of San Diego

Joel Spring
Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Sandra L. Stacki
Hofstra University

Lester Stasey
Alvarez High School, Providence

David W. Stinson
Georgia State University

David Stovall
University of Illinois, Chicago

Simeon Stumme
Concordia University Chicago

Katy Swalwell
George Mason University

Cathryn Teasley
Universidade da Coruña

Melissa Bollow Tempel
Milwaukee Public Schools
Rethinking Schools

Chris Thinnes
Curtis School, Los Angeles

Paul Thomas
Furman University

Maris Thompson
California State University, Chico

Carol L. Tieso
College of William and Mary

Joe Tonan
Claremont Faculty Association

Victoria F. Trinder
University of Illinois, Chicago

Eve Tuck
State University of New York, New Paltz

Jesse Turner
Children Are More Than Test Scores

Wayne Urban
University of Alabama

Angela Valenzuela
University of Texas, Austin

Bob Valiant
Dump Duncan

Jane Van Galen
University of Washington, Bothell

Manka Varghese
University of Washington

Michael Vavrus
The Evergreen State College

Sofia Villenas
Cornell University

Shirin Vossoughi
Stanford University School of Education

Federico R. Waitoller
University of Illinois at Chicago

John Walcott
Calvin College

Stephanie Walters
Rethinking Schools

William Watkins
University of Illinois, Chicago

Kathleen Weiler
Tufts University

Lois Weiner
New Jersey City University

Matthew Weinstein
Teacher Educator
Tacoma, WA

Kevin Welner
University of Colorado, Boulder
National Education Policy Center

Angela Wheat
Freeport High School

Barbara Winslow
Brooklyn College

Kathy Xiong
Milwaukee Public Schools
Rethinking Schools

Diana Zavala
Change the Stakes

Yong Zhao
Author and Scholar

Al Zucker
New Day Academy, Bronx

NOTES
  1. Chingos, M. M. (2012). Strength in Numbers: State Spending on K-12 Assessment Systems. Brookings Institution.
  2. Cargile, E. (May 3, 2012). “Tests’ price tag $90 million this year”. Kxan Investigates, Kxan.com (NBC).
  3. Dawer, D. (December 29, 2012) “Standardized Testing is Completely Out of Control”. PolicyMic.com.
  4. Vevea, B. (November 26, 2012) “More standardized tests, more Chicago parents looking for ways out”. WBEZ.org.
  5. Au, W. (2007). High-stakes testing and curricular control: A qualitative metasynthesis. Educational Researcher, 36(5), 258-267.
  6. Pell, M.B. (September 30, 2012). “More cheating scandals inevitable, as states can’t ensure test integrity”. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  7. Baker, E. L., Barton, P. E., Darling-Hammond, L., Haertel, E., Ladd, H. F., Linn, R. L., … & Shepard, L. A. (2010). Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute. See also: DiCarlo, M. (July 14, 2010). “Teachers Matter, But So Do Words”. Shanker Blog, The Voice of the Albert Shanker Institute.
  8. Schafer, W. D., Lissitz, R. W., Zhu, X., Zhang, Y., Hou, X., & Li, Y. Evaluating Teachers and Schools Using Student Growth Models. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 17(17), 2.
  9. Cordray, D., Pion, G., Brandt, C., Molefe, A., & Toby, M. (2012). The Impact of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Program on Student Reading Achievement. Final Report. NCEE 2013-4000. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.
  10. All signatures represent individual opinions, not institutional endorsements, unless specified. To add your signature to this statement, send an email with your name and affiliation(s) to: GHSstatement@gmail.com.
*  The last update was Jan. 23, 2013, 5:32 p.m. CST.

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