—David Walter Banks for Education Week
—David Walter Banks for Education Week
Score another big ouch for the common core in New York state: The sprinkling of brand names into this spring's assessments has outraged some parents.
In a story that's rippled widely through cyberspace, the Associated Press reports that brands such as Nike, and products including Barbie, iPod, Mug Root Beer, and Life Savers have been named in the English/language arts tests that students in grades 3 through 8 have been taking this spring. This has raised eyebrows and led to accusations that Pearson and New York are participating in a product-placement scheme at the expense of schoolchildren.
"It just seems so unnecessary," Josh Golin, the associate director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which monitors marketing directed at children, told the Associated Press.
"It would be horrible if they were getting paid for it," he said. "But even if they're not, it's taking something that should not be a commercial experience and commercializing it."
According to the AP, New York state education officials and Pearson, its test publisher, say the brand references were not paid product placement, but just happened to be contained in previously published passages selected for the tests.
UPDATE: The use of previously published, or "authentic," passages—as opposed to texts commissioned specifically for an assessment—is an important part of the shift to the common core, according to state education officials. "One of the main shifts of the Common Core State Standards is to help students analyze authentic passages," spokesman Tom Dunn wrote in an email to EdWeek.
"Brand names are occasionally referenced in many published, authentic fiction and non-fiction and informational texts," he wrote. "When passages from authentic texts are selected for use on the Common Core English/language arts tests include brand names, the department must include the trademark symbol. Brand names are not purposely selected for inclusion on the test; rather, they exist as part of the previously published authentic texts due to choices made by authors."
The concern about the mentions of brand names on the tests adds to New York state's common-core headaches. The way the standards have been implemented there has caused the state teachers' union to declare its opposition to the standards, and led parents to pull their children out of common-core testing by the thousands. Something similar happened on last year's Pearson-designed tests as well.
In Wake County, N.C., school leaders held a press conference Thursday warning of a high number of teacher resignations this year, led in part, they said, by low salaries, according to the News & Observer. Elsewhere, a Cambridge, Mass., teacher, Susan Sluyter, made headlines in March for very publicly quitting over what she saw as too much emphasis on testing. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education has been investing effort in programs like Teach to Lead, and the even more vaguely named TEACH, that try to increase the appeal of teaching.
You don't have to be a master of divination to see what's happening: Many within the teaching profession don't like it, and want out.
On occasion, I've seen op-eds that suggest one way to increase the professionalism within teaching—and thereby (a) draw more people into it, and (b) keep them there—is to borrow ideas from other professions—medicine being a prominent example. There has been no shortage of comparison there, in fact. Here's Education Week blogger Walt Gardner on the subject:
Doctors have long known that the status of patients with factors beyond their control largely determines outcomes regardless of their professional expertise. Why are teachers treated differently?
In April 2013, education experts Jal Mehta and Joe Doctor argued in the Phi Delta Kappan for creating a board exam for teaching, not unlike the one in place for medicine:
If such an exam was sufficiently rigorous, it could change who is drawn into teaching, develop a more consistent, higher level of skill among all teachers, improve student outcomes, and greatly increase public regard for teachers and teaching.
As surgeon Atul Gawande has pointed out, teaching and medicine are not so different already.
So if the education field were treated more like the medical profession, with its rigor and such (unless you think the two callings are not actually alike at all) would that leave teachers better off?
Well, this piece from Daniela Drake published in The Daily Beast on Monday doesn't make medicine sound much happier than teaching. Drake writes that while some elements of the medical field have prestige and wealth—like plastic surgeons—physicians have the short end of the stick:
Given that primary care doctors do the work that no one else is willing to do, being a primary care physician is more like being a janitor—but without the social status or union protections.
Wait, there's more:
Calls to plead with insurance companies are peppered throughout the day. Every decision carries with it an implied threat of malpractice litigation. Failing to attend to these things brings prompt disciplining or patient complaint. And mercilessly, all of these tasks have to be done on the exhausted doctor's personal time.
If we can extrapolate from Drake's experience, then it seems doctors don't feel much more respected than teachers do. Many of the latter do have union protections, and there usually aren't lawsuits for low achievement. (The Vergara trial in California being an exception, but it seems to be high-profile because of that.)
Maybe education could be more like another profession with board exams and an air of respectability: Law. Well, Gawker's Hamilton Nolan has done exceptional work criticizing the legal profession and its many failings. As CNN reports, too, "Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers."
Here's a young lawyer in his own words:
Much of law is cleaning up (or trying to prevent) the messes of others, and some of the time, especially at a junior level, you're just doing menial tasks that the client (i.e. in-house counsel) can't be bothered to do themselves.
Maybe ideas from the medical or legal professions could indeed help education seem more "professional," but the grass doesn't seem that much greener.
And hey, it's not like journalism is apparently any better: According to a new set of rankings by CareerCast measuring jobs by overall reward, journalism is the 199th best job, out of a list of 200. (Take that lumberjacks!) Physicians ranked 75th, teachers' aides ranked 85th, school principal hit #99, and elementary school teachers got #117. Are all our jobs terrible?
Well, no. As Vox's Ezra Klein points out, rankings, no matter how mathematical they might portray themselves to be, ultimately involve subjective values unable to capture the spirit of a job. Rankings don't ultimately tell anyone what job is best. The teacher at one of the best high schools in the country probably would be happier than a mathematician (the top-ranked job) stuck in a terrible environment.
And as Klein writes, "What's the practical application of this knowledge? Should the middle school teacher go be a social worker? Or just take it as a given that the man who does her nails has a better job?"
Teaching might not be like "Dead Poets Society" anymore than medicine might not be like "Patch Adams" or law might not be like, uh, whatever movie about law that Robin Williams might have made. Maybe they—and other professions—just involve a lot more drudgery than they seem to from the outside. This doesn't mean one profession can't learn from the other and make improvements, but rather suggests that "professionalism" doesn't actually have a causal relationship with happiness or satisfaction.
Though, I should add, the biggest problems any given profession faces don't necessarily outweigh the good aspects. And teaching has many good aspects.
The role of causality in educational research needs to be questioned on the basis that education is not the same as medicine. As Biesta says: "Being a student is not an illness, just as teaching is not a cure." (2007, p8) We should never assume that education is a "push and pull" process of simply linear causal relationships.
Tait Coles, Take no heroes; only inspiration.
"Batman has officially been kicking the ass of Gotham's villains for 75 years," explains Ryan Kristobak, "and so to honor the Dark Knight, the Warner Bros. panel unveiled the 'Batman Beyond' animated short at this year's WonderCon."
For long-time and recent fans of Batman, however, the legends of the Dark Knight are complicated by the many versions that exist among the DC comic book and graphic novel universe, films, TV, animated series, and video games.
The Batman Myth has several foundational characteristics and common themes that are nested in the Caped Crusader's first appearance in Detective Comics 27 in 1940: Batman's essential nature as a detective and crime fighter, the ambiguous relationship between Batman and the Gotham police department and city officials, and the larger themes about justice that are contrasted by Batman's vigilante tendencies.
In The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment of the film trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, the opening scene framing the film also highlights a central message reflecting how justice is traditionally characterized in the U.S. The mayor of Gotham and Commissioner Gordon preside over Harvey Dent Day, named for the district attorney who is killed as Two-Face in The Dark Knight:
[the Mayor is giving a speech being at hosted at Wayne Manor]
Mayor: Harvey Dent Day may not be our oldest public holiday, but we're here tonight because it's one of the most important. Harvey Dent's uncompromising stand against organized crime has made Gotham a safer place than it was at the time of his death, eight years ago. This city has seen a historic turn around. No city is without crime, but this city is without organized crime because of Dent's act gave law enforcement teeth in its fight against the mob. Now people are talking about repealing the Dent Act, and to them I say, not on my watch.
[the audience claps]
Mayor: I wanna thank the Wayne Foundation for hosting this event, and I'm told, Mr. Wayne couldn't be here tonight. I'm sure he's with us in spirit….
Mayor: Jim Gordon, can tell you the truth about Harvey Dent. He could…but I'll let him tell you himself. Commissioner Gordon!
[the audience claps as Gordon makes his way to the stand, Gordon looks down at his prepared speech and says to himself as he remembers the real truth of what happened to Dent]
Commissioner Gordon: The truth…
[he addresses the audience]
Commissioner Gordon: I have a speech telling the truth about Harvey Dent. Maybe the time isn't right.
[he puts the speech away in his jacket pocket]
Commissioner Gordon: Maybe right now, all you need to know is that there are one thousand inmates in Blackgate Prison as the direct result of the Dent Act. These are violent criminals, essential cogs in the organized crime machine. Maybe, for now, all I should say about the death of Harvey Dent is this; it has not been for nothing. (transcript found here)
Justice in Nolan's Gotham reflects the central elements of justice found in the U.S.: the right laws, the right people to enforce those laws, and the evidence those laws are working represented by a growing prison population.
Reagan Era Mass Incarceration and Education Accountability
As I have detailed in Education Reform in the New Jim Crow Era, the 1980s and the Reagan administration planted the seeds of both an era of mass incarceration, labeled the New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and the high-stakes accountability era in public education.
The most troubling aspects of both mass incarceration and high-stakes education accountability are that the policies have created, not ended, the claimed problems they were designed to address.
Over the past thirty years, the criminal justice system in the U.S. has filled prisons with a disproportionate number of African American men as part of our most recent war on drugs—despite whites and African Americans using recreational drugs at the same rates.
The current era of mass incarceration has unintended consequences similar to prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s:
Prohibition turned law-abiding citizens into criminals, made a mockery of the justice system, caused illicit drinking to seem glamorous and fun, encouraged neighborhood gangs to become national crime syndicates, permitted government officials to bend and sometimes even break the law, and fostered cynicism and hypocrisy that corroded the social contract all across the country. With Prohibition in place, but ineffectively enforced, one observer noted, America had hardly freed itself from the scourge of alcohol abuse – instead, the "drys" had their law, while the "wets" had their liquor.
The recent legalization of marijuana suggests a possible social recognition that traditional views of the right laws enforced by the right people and resulting in the right people sitting in prison is the wrong formula for either justice or a peaceful and equitable society.
Along with a growing number of states legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana is a concurrent discussion of releasing prior drug offenders from prison, again suggesting a social admission that the laws we establish create criminals, but rarely deter crime.
Seeking justice must not be separated from seeking equity. If the shift in how people in the U.S. view marijuana signals anything, I think, it shows a broader concern for equity: Just as changing inequitable laws surrounding powder cocaine and crack came to represent an inequitable criminal justice system, legalizing marijuana is yet another effort to move the pursuit of justice in the U.S. toward a pursuit of equity.
Legalizing Marijuana: A Lesson for Changing Course in Education Reform
The war on drugs and the resulting mass incarceration have proven to be the wrong policies for achieving justice or equity in the U.S. Directly, we know that mass incarceration negatively impacts children (see Holly Yettick and Children of the Prison Boom).
But the parallel era of high-stakes education accountability shares the central flaws now being recognized in mass incarceration: high-stakes accountability creates failure in schools, teachers, and students (see FairTest's Reports: High Stakes Testing Hurts Education).
Under Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, federal and state education policies have remained focused on identifying the right standards and the right tests, most recently Common Core standards and so-called "next generation" tests. Unlike the move toward legalizing marijuana, education reform remains trapped and unable to see the Bitter Lessons from Chasing Better Tests, as Duncan proclaimed in 2009:
Until states develop better assessments—which we will support and fund through Race to the Top—we must rely on standardized tests to monitor progress—but this is an important area for reform and an important conversation to have.
Debating the quality of Common Core and the related tests, however, are the wrong arguments because high-stakes accountability is the wrong policy paradigm just as the war on drugs and mass incarceration are the wrong policies for justice.
Adopting and implementing Common Core as yet another round of seeking the right standards and the right tests will not work. We have three decades of evidence on that approach revealing that there is no correlation between the existence or quality of standards and student achievement (see Mathis, 2012).
The war on drugs has proven to be finding ourselves in a hole and continuing to dig. Legalizing marijuana is dropping the shovel and choosing instead to acknowledge that failure and to try another approach, one more rightly attuned to equity.
This is a lesson high-stakes accountability advocates need to learn.
Common Core and the related high-stakes tests are the wrong approach to equity and high-quality education; they are finding ourselves in a hole we created and continuing to dig.
As legalizing marijuana signals a possible turn to the end of mass incarceration, we need also to end the era of high-stakes accountability in education.
Let's choose instead An Alternative to Accountability-Based Education Reform.
EDUCATION POLITICS-Something in me snapped today and I realized that I am finished using the phrase "education reform."
That's how folks refer to the constellation of ideas firmly entrenched in the White House right now, upheld by almost every governor of every state, red and blue, and most mayors, notably our own. It includes the tenets that privatizing our schools will improve them, that the Common Core State Standards are the fix for all that ails our failing schools, and that testing our students more and more will raise test scores.
But this, truly, is not "reform." Some of these are ideas that have been implemented for 25 years all over the country to little effect.
This is the status quo.
So I'm not going to call it reform anymore.
I'm going to call it what it is. Corporate control of education.
And here's why. In every instance, every plank in the platform, every element of this effort can be traced back to cash--flowing into the coffers of very rich corporate entities and individuals.
Like Pearson, one of the testing companies that is creating the tests and the test prep materials, all new and improved and Common Core aligned, and who lobbies Congress to mandate more tests.
Like Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, a huge proponent of charters and innovative uses of technology in schools. What kind of technology does he advocate as the best fix for students today? In Learning Lab modules at his Rocketship Charters kids sit at a computer monitor, streaming video content for 100 minutes per day.
Or Rupert Murdoch. He is a cheerleader for what he calls a $500 billion industry of education technology including content and assessment.
Or Bill Gates. His push for the Common Core, the inBloom initiative to harness students' big data, and his vision for the classrooms of the future, which will be heavily dependent on his own technologies.
The proponents of this snake oil have managed to control the rhetoric for so long that we don't even blink when they say that their education plan is "the civil rights issue of our time." They say this a lot.
So if we wish to stand up against the corporate control model we are not only anti-reform but anti-civil rights.
They say they want "excellent teachers," and by this they mean they want to get rid of union teachers and replace them with uncertified, pensionless staff handling up to 50 kids at once who receive their education from handheld devices or monitors.
They say they want "school choice," which usually means less choice: families can't choose their neighborhood schools that the city has underfunded to the point of death throes, pouring its available money instead into privately supported charters.
They say they want all children to be "college and career ready," and to ensure this they prescribe as many as 25 standardized bubble tests every year starting in Kindergarten, using a standardized scripted curriculum.
The testing piece is a critical component of corporate control of education. And it's very important to them that we don't question this. As we saw in Chicago, retribution for opting out of tests is real and administrators don't care if they have to isolate children to get them to rat on their teachers. Anything to stop parents, teachers, and principals from reconsidering what all these tests mean, how they contribute to children's education, and who they benefit.
But the corporate education controllers will not accept that ordinary well-informed people are questioning their plan. They and the Department of Ed portray dissenters as Tea Party crazies or entitled white suburban moms who cannot face their disappointment that Boopsie is not actually a genius.
Another grab for narrative control. The only possible opposition comes from insane people or delusional ones.
But it's getting harder and harder to keep the little man hidden behind the curtain. It's getting harder and harder to uphold the illusion of the actually naked emperor's fancy new suit.
Little bits of reality pop out now and again.
Intertangled ugly trails of cash and power come to light--as in the (Chicago) Sun-Times' Dan Mihalopoulos' work on how many Illinois legislators are connected to Turkish power broker Fethullah Gulen and his charter schools. Just as a for instance.
Or, perhaps, occasions of obvious cruelty to children becoming public.
Like the CPS schools that have taken away play from 5 year olds by removing kitchens, blocks, paints, dolls, everything from Kindergarten. Because "Kindergarten is the new first grade" and we have to get these little dudes college and career ready. (I am assuming this also means that 5 is now the new 6.)
Enough little bits of reality have popped out that folks are starting to notice. The stranglehold grip on the narrative held by the corporate education controllers is beginning to weaken. Because we can all see with our own eyes that it isn't actually civil rights for kids to have their school closed or subjected to a turnaround. It isn't actually higher order critical thinking to bubble in bubbles. And it isn't education and it isn't reform to work toward the dismantling of public schools in our city and our country.
It's stale old rhetoric that is losing its power. And it can no longer conceal the naked emperor, nor the naked greed of the corporate power grabbers.
(Julie Vassilatos blogs as South Side CPS Mom in Chicago. She provides a valuable and important perspective on education everywhere. Julie can be reached at www.chicagonow.com/chicago-public-fools.)
Vol 12 Issue 29
Pub: Apr 8, 2014
John Kugler - April 15, 2012While doing some research on answers as to why the Chicago Public Schools have fallen so low in terms of morale and public perception, I can across the following write up on the Website "Seattle Education." It pretty much sums up what has happened in recent times to Chicago Public Schools and the infiltration to the highest levels of administration by Eli Broadâ€™s corporate-trained administrators. One of the most amazing things about the warnings we received a year ago, when Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel announced that he was going to make Jean-Claude Brizard the CEO of CPS, was that everything we've seen since was predicted by those who knew the "Broadies" back then: misuse of data; financial mismanagement; attacks on teachers and parents; lies, greed, and deception.
Please notice THE DATE when this message was originally sent out? If the Union Power slate is allowed to take the reigns of UTLA, they will no doubt continue UTLA's spiral decline into insolvency. These people have not once (for the exception of "election season") ever condemned-
Unfair and illegal lay offs, RIF's and Teacher Jail!!
If these people have (not once) condemned any of these unjust practices while they were in office, holding UTLA Board positions or other leadership positions---why would anyone assume they'll be any different now...?
The union power slate violated the ULTA election campaign rules when its members illegally took unpaid leave from their assignments for the purposes of campaigning.
If these people will blatantly disregard adherence to the guidelines set forth and already established by UTLA's election committee---how can there be any assurance that these individuals will lead UTLA truthfully and with integrity???
As members of the UTLA Board of Directors, you have a responsibility to ensure that UTLA's electoral process is not made a mockery by disregarding its established policies...
Alex Pearl and every single member who has stood to benefit from associating with the union power slate must be disqualified from this years citywide elections. These people, most of whom have already enjoyed excessive tenure as leaders within UTLA, will only continue their legacy of duplicitous behavior and inaction if they are allowed to remain in power.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: david garcia [mailto:email@example.com]
> Sent: Sat 4/28/2012 5:18 PM
> To: undisclosed-recipients
> Subject: Denying the Facts...
> >>>PLEASE FORWARD & REPOST<<<NO RE-EDITINGApril 28, 2012There is a district headhunting edict, to indiscriminately remove as many At-Will employees from the Los Angeles Unified school District as possible. When a teacher is RIF'ed, the District assures them that they can remain employed through priority substitute teaching, but what no one openly discusses is, substitute teachers are At-will employees and in effect, can be dismissed without due process. Therefore, if the Superintendent wishes to implement a policy, which affords him the ability to remove teachers from the classroom without reason, sending an excessive amount of RIF's notices empowers him to this end.Meanwhile, the union considers a "Priority Substitute Teacher" a "Rehired" teacher, in spite of the fact that they are now without sick time, without vacation days, and forced to meet additional requirements for health care coverage.Why is it that The Los Angeles Unified School District is tactfully, strategically.even masterfully dismantling public education in the Nation's second largest school district? Because United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) continues to allow the death of public education to become a reality.With no union to counter The LAUSD Board of Education and Superintendent John Deasy, LAUSD is free to purge education of honest hard working teachers with total impunity.and at its flagrant discretion.UTLA is a FAILURE until it decides to counter these egregious offenses but, UTLA is also internally eroding due to its misguided leadership that concerns itself more with political posturing and the individual "careers" of bureaucrats instead of honest advocacy and representation.UTLA leadership champions itself as committed to education reform, but teachers haven't had a salary increase since 1989? UTLA has had career officers in power since 2006, and some officers have no teaching credential or relative teaching experience at all.For further information, Please email me at;David.firstname.lastname@example.org
More than 300 students, parents and community members from the Eastside of Los Angeles and South Los Angeles demonstrated during the first week of April in front of the Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters to demand that Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) dollars be directed to schools based on a comprehensive set of needs that includes academic outcomes and neighborhood conditions.
Passed by the California Legislature in 2013, the formula provides school districts with additional resources specifically for foster youth, English learners and low-income students. It is an important starting point for closing the achievement and funding gap that has plagued California schools for years. New dollars for high-needs students provide school districts and their respective communities the opportunity to invest wisely.
Advancement Project, in close collaboration with Community Coalition and InnerCity Struggle, has produced a Student Need Index. The index is a rigorous, research-based ranking of the highest-needs schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District that best meet the criteria for additional funding under the new funding formula. For example, in the top 10 highest-needs high schools, 284 students drop out, compared to 17 students at the lowest-needs high schools, according to the Student Need Index. This shows that the needs of schools within the district are vastly different.
The Student Need Index not only measures how students are doing in the classroom but also takes into account the neighborhood conditions that can negatively impact a student's academic success. The index measures target student populations specifically highlighted in the new funding formula: foster youth, English learners and low-income students. The Student Need Index also measures neighborhood conditions, such as exposure to violence, access to youth programming and early care and education. Schools are ranked on a scale from lowest to highest need.
The recently released budget proposal by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy is promising but does not target sufficient resources toward the schools with the highest concentration of needs. We propose that the district align with the spirit of the new funding law and adopt the Student Need Index as the principal guide for distributing additional state education funds it will receive. This is a high-stakes moment regarding how to best invest resources on behalf of high-needs students. The LCFF is bringing more than $800 million to the district to close the achievement gap for these students, but the district needs a better approach for how to invest these dollars. By doing so, it would ensure that investments are targeted strategically and are guided by a comprehensive set of objective data.
Schools in the Eastside of Los Angeles, Northeast Valley and South Los Angeles have historically faced the challenges of being under-resourced and neglected. This has resulted in lack of opportunities for students living in our communities. While LAUSD has many schools with needs, we urge the district to target resources to the highest-needs schools.
Our Student Need Index identifies 242 schools with greater needs, thus providing an innovative framework for targeting resources for higher impact. These schools are burdened by unjust and unequal conditions that must be addressed if we expect to dramatically close the achievement gap. For example, these schools:
In recent years, the district has focused on school transformation efforts that have led to progress. Graduation rates are on the rise, suspension rates are declining, students are now required to complete the college course requirements and overcrowding has been alleviated. These gains are due to years of the community demanding justice and insisting that our neighborhoods are prioritized. The district can further improve the odds for students by using state education funds to hire additional counselors, increase school-based health services, add sufficient "restorative justice" coordinators to help reduce suspension and expulsion rates, and strengthen parent engagement for the highest-needs schools.
As the largest school district in California, LAUSD has the opportunity to dramatically move the needle on equity for the highest-needs schools within its boundaries. We call upon our district leadership to adopt this index as a decision-making tool and direct funds to the schools that need them most for the programs and services that will make a real difference. That is what is needed to close the achievement gap and fulfill the promise of offering a quality education to every Los Angeles student, regardless of where they live.
Marqueece Harris-Dawson is president of Community Coalition, John Kim is co-director of Advancement Project, and Maria Brenes is executive director of InnerCity Struggle. All three organizations are based in Los Angeles.EdSource welcomes commentaries representing diverse points of view. The opinions expressed in this commentary represent those of the authors. If you would like to submit a commentary for EdSource Today, please contact us.