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Labor -Management Case Studies presented at the US Department of Education Conference in Denver, February, 2011

DS Dept.of EducationDS Dept.of EducationThis past February The US Department of Education brought together 150 local/district teams from 150 school districts to talk about what makes labor managment collaboration work. The focus was on exemplar districts and the Case Studies have now been written up in a US Department of Educaiton Publication released this month.

Could the Past Decade of Test-Based Accountability be a Fraud?

TestingTestingAccording to an article in Ed Week today, a new report by the National Accademy of Sciences looked at the real academic gains after a decade of NCLB and other test-based accountability requirements and found the gains to be slight or non-existant. The report, titled "Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education," co-published with NAS by the Board on Testing and Assessment(BOTA) and Behavioral Social Sciences and Education (BSSE) was authored by a committee of 17. The research and assessment luminaries who authored the report explain what standardized tests are useful for, what they should not be used for and why the strategies underlying the reform movement being promoted so assiduously by the federal government and large corportate philanthropies ReportReport

didn't work, and won't work. The book/report, is now available for pre-publication purchase from NAS. It's about time that the accountability movement be held accountable for its stunning lack of success over more than a decade.

NEA Seeking Reasonable Policy Shift on Use of Test Scores in Teacher Evaluation

Dennis Van RoekelDennis Van RoekelNEA's Board of Directors voted May 7th to bring a proposed policy shift on teacher evaluation to it's summer Representative Assembly. Delegates will be asked to consider responsible use of student test scores and other multiple measures to strengthen teacher evaluation systems. Ed Week reports this week that now both the NEA and AFT seem to be articulating leadership positions that are being viewed as both resonable and principled. Researcher Julie Koppich sees this as an important step forward, according to Ed Week. The NEA RA will also consider a report from a new independent Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching that will be making recommendations on teacher quality more broadly. 

Michelle Rhee's Record in DC Under Scrutiny

An investigative article in Michelle RheeMichelle RheeUSA Today March 28th revealed possible cheating in up to 103 DC Public schools with unusually high rates of erasures on standardized test answer sheets over the past two years. Michelle Rhee and her former deputy, now Chancellor, Kaya Henderson have taken a defensive posture, at first denying cheating took place and attacking the authors of the article, but later acknowledging that the calls for an investigation were appropriate. Once it became clear that it was likely that administrators and other adults may have erased student answers in order to raise student test scores, a local grass-roots organization, Teachers and Parents for Real Education Reform DC called for a federal investigation of "erasure-gate." They want to get to the bottom of a possible cover-up by district leadership. A real investigation is needed to uncover the consequences of the high-stakes, fear-based culture in DCPS that may have created the motivation to cheat. A serious investigation is particularly important given the national role Michelle Rhee plays promoting the strategies she applied in DC Public Schools.

President Obama Suggests New Principles on Testing and Accountability

President ObamaPresident ObamaIn response to a question from a high school student, president Obama this week articulated some new principles on testing and accountability that seem to conflict with the controversial approach the US Department of Educaiton has taken over the past couple of years. The publicly reported statement gives educators a sense of hope that perhaps at least the president gets it.

The Craft of Teaching is Becoming Degraded in the Name of Reform

Both the Daily Kos and Valarie Strauss posted on their blogs a letter from a teacher that exposes the contradiction between improved teaching and learning and what is being done in the name of corporate "reform." Among other things, the teacher points out that she has never been expected as a teacher to design units and lessons, and that the needs of students has become secondary to a hierarchical production mentality. The piece is worth a read.

Are Teachers' Unions Anachronistic?

Barnett BerryBarnett Berry

In the wake of the attack on collective bargaining in Wisconsin, one of the NY Times editors, A.G. Sulzberger, asks last week, whether teacher's unions, and unions in general are perhaps anachronistic. Barnett Berry on his blog gives a good answer that's worth a read. Unions are necessary, he argues, if the voice of teachers is needed in policy debates -- provided that's what unions offer.

Andy Stern Argues for Union Reform

Ezra KleinEzra KleinIn Today's Washington Post, columnist Ezra Klein interviews former SEIU president Andy Stern about why the Republican message seems to have been so successful and how unions need to change to counter the myths. Klein, who's Washington Post Column covers the economy, health care, labor, and education,  has become one of the more thoughtful commentators with another piece March 1st on what teacher unions need to do differently.

Constrict Collective Bargaining? Quite the Opposite, It Needs to Be Expanded

Richard KahlenbergRichard KahlenbergEducation Author Richard Kahlenberg argues in today's Wahington Post that Republican attacks on public sector collective bargaining were aided and abetted by democrats like Michelle Rhee and Barak Obama. Both unfairly and illogically painted teachers and their unions as the problem, eschewing collaborative approaches to school improvement. Although the recent US Department of Education convening on union/management collaboration might be perhaps a hopeful tilt in a better direction. 

Kahlenberg further argues that restricting collective bargaining to pay and benefits is a trap that will imply to the world that teachers and others are just self-serving.  When it comes to teachers, the opposite is the case. Unions need to capitalize on the truth that the real agenda of teachers is also what is in the best interest of students.

The Spirit of the Uprising in Wisconsin

All Week the numbers were building, 10,000, than 20,000, then 30,000 on Thursday, slightly down on Friday due to snow and ice, but then up to 100,000 by Saturday -- Students, teachers, fire-fighters, and public sector workers all there to say "kill the bill" that would destroy collective bargaining in the public sector in Wisconsin. But Where is the national News Media on this story??? Its hardly being covered says Truthout.org. The democratic uprising has finally come to the US. Watch:

How to Really Fix Our Schools

Broader, Bolder ApproachBroader, Bolder ApproachThe Economic Policy Institute has published two documents that make clear that the dominant reform narrative, while perhaps well meaning, is clearly on the wrong track in this country. The first is a response penned by Richard Rothstein to the Klein/Rhee "Manifesto." The second is a new report on Problems with Using Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers. These approaches will have counter-productive effects, say the researchers, and are the wrong agenda for education reform. The ten researchers who authored the Problems with Using Test Scores report are inviting researchers and educators to sign on to their statement here. 

The Myth of Charter Schools

Teachers and defenders of public education are reeling this month from the unprecedented attack on their profession, their unions and on the very existance of public schools. Diane Ravitch reviews the film Waiting for Diane RavitchDiane RavitchSuperman in The New York Review of Books. She details the blatant inaccuracies in the film but more importantly, places the film in its context as "the most important public relations coup that the critics of public education have made so far." Ravitch warns liberals who are being seduced by the film, "There is a clash of ideas occurring in education right now... Waiting for Superman is a powerful weapon on behalf of those championing the "free market" and privatization." Barbara Miner completes the backstory in her investigation of the sources of funding for the film with The Ultimate Superpower -- Supersized dollars drive Waiting for Superman agenda on the Not Waiting for Superman Web Site. These two thoughtful pieces help us understand the forces behind the film. 

Coalition of Civil Rights Groups Calls For Changes in Obama Education Agenda

CampaignCampaignAlthough the press conference announcing the report was postponed, a coalition of the leading civil rights organizations released today a 17 page critique of the Obama administration approach to education. The report is called "The Opportunity to Learn Campaign."  It critiques charter schools and school closures as strategies, competititve grants like the "Race to the Top," and the draft re-authorization of NCLB.  The report asks the Obama administration to move back from unproven remedies for which there is little supporting research, to a re-commitment to what we know works -- early childhood education, wrap-around services, etc.  According the Ed Week article today, the Civil Rights groups seem to echo many of the assumptions of the Broader Bolder Approach to Education, which may fuel a re-birth of the Broader Bolder Approach group this Fall.  Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist Valarie Strauss was more blunt in her column today, pointing out that the report, though polite, "skewers" the Obama approach and everything the Duncan Administration has been doing.

What's Wrong with Obama's Education Agenda? No Change We Can Believe In

Pedro NogueraPedro NogueraNYU's Pedro Noguera writes one of the most cogent critiques that has been written yet, summarizing our collective disappointment in the Obama administration's education program. The Obama/Duncan agenda, according to Noguera, is a hodge podge of programs without any understanding of what was fundamentally wrong with NCLB, and therefore, without any core vision. It relies on the same ill-conceived quick fixes that failed under the Bush administration. Noguera's essay is in this month's Nation magazine along with useful overivews by Linda Darling-Hammond, Diane Ravitch, and others. Its a must read and worth a subscription.

Stephen Brill Pens Another Hit Piece on Teacher Unions

NY Times CoverNY Times CoverThis Sunday's NY Times Magazine featured a cover story by Seven Brill titled The Teacher Unions’ Last Stand. Its a compelling narrative on behalf of the self-styled education reformer-entrepreneurs. It happens to be the same narrative that drives the strategies of Arne Duncan’s Ed Department and the Gates Foundation. It’s the new narrative of the education establishment. The problem with the narrative is that it is based on a foundation of faulty facts. Brill and company know the facts they assert are wrong, but their readers may not.

1. Brill claims that K-12 teachers have life-long tenure once they pass their probationary period, like college professors. This is just not true. The word "tenure" should not be used to describe what obtains for public school teachers. Simple due process rights bear no similarity to "tenure" for college professors. Brill creates a false impression by not clarifying what tenure really means.

2. The Harlem Children’s Zone charter school, which gets better results in the same neighborhood, hand-picks their students. The poverty rate is much lower. In the first two years they were not getting the results so they dismissed the students, recruited different ones and got better results. Brill neglects to provide this important piece of information when he compares the schools.

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"Priority Schools" Campaign Takes a Different Approach

Judy ChuJudy ChuDemocratic Cogresswoman Judy Chu, from California released a report criticizing the US Department of Education's four turnaround school models mandated in its School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. It argues that rather than forcing arbitrary and restrictive models, turnaround efforts need to support proven strategies and empower educators who want to step up and do the challenging work. Most important the report criticized the unrealistic expectations and punitive atmosphere that drives the current mandates. The Chu report analysis presents an alternative narrative about what strategies will work for the nation's lowest performing schools that is much more likely to resonate with admistrators, teachers, parents and students. But a column in Politics Daily points out that the dominant view in Congress, as represented in the posture of Rep. George Miller, is to tweak the current four models.

What the Research Says on Charters

The dominant narrative embeded in the US Department of Education's strategies rests on an assumption that charter schools are a better alternative than the neighborhood public school.  A well funded PR effort has emplanted that assumption in the public consciousness. A new Policy Brief from the Century Foundation summaraizes the research on charter school outcomes.  The research has been fairly consistent showing that charter schools actually do worse. The Century brief also summarizes a new study from Stanford's Sean Reordan that reviewed the Hoxby data about New York City that purported to show the opposite. Reordan documents that the Hoxby study suffers from serious methodological flaws. 

Central Falls RI Teachers to be Re-hired Under New Reform Agreement Between the Union and the Board.

Jane SessumsJane SessumsAccording to the Washington Post Sunday, all 87 teachers will return to their jobs next Fall under an agreement worked out over the weekend between the union and the School Board in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Jane Sessums had been due to address the Teacher Union Reform Network at their meeting in Newport on Friday but had to cancel becuse of the delicate negotiations still underway. Now we understand why. Under the agreement teachers would work a longer school day during the 2010-2011 school year; they would submit to rigorous evaluations during the year to help determine how many will return for the 2011-2012 school year; they would provide more after-school tutoring; and they would participate in more professional development, among other changes. Teachers voted to accept the agreement Monday. The net effect is that the school will use the "transformation" model that makes much more sense than the "turnaround" model that State Commissioner Gist had originally imposed.

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