Posts Tagged ‘Diane Ravitch’

Are New York Times Opinion Writers Too Coddled?

November 25, 2013

DownloadedFile

For the fourth time in as many months the stately New York Times, “the paper of record “ and all that, has published yet another remarkably uninformed opinion piece attempting to defend the deceptively named Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by discrediting those who refuse to genuflect before them.

A vast and unprecedented national experiment on American’s children, paved by sound bites and steamrolled into reality by billionaires and testing companies, the recently implemented CCSS has been furiously rejected by an ever-increasing army of parents, disgusted and dismayed at what it is doing to their children. The standards, you could say, are going over like a lead zeppelin. Except that is, at institutions like the New York Times whose writers see light where parents see darkness and crazed Tea Partiers where others see concerned parents.

And once again the New York Times, here in the person of Frank Bruni, comes to the rescue with an article titled, “Are Kids Too Coddled? ” Like every one who attempts to defend an untested experiment, Bruni, like NYT’s writers Bill Keller, Paul Krugman and Charles Blow before him, has very few hands to play. One is to repeat ad nauseum the standards creators’ stated goals of inducing critical thinking skills, making students college and career ready (as if they are the same thing) and preparing them to compete for jobs in the super savage new global economy. One must repeat these aspirations as if they are hard proven facts. Indeed, as if constant repetition makes them into hard proven facts. As of now, defenders have nothing to offer but hope, a quality that has lost a lot of its market value following the election of Barack Obama. A second strategy, and one favored by the Times and Arne Duncan, is to attack the credibility of all those who dare question the Most Holy and Sacred Core.

Bruni was inspired to action by parental reaction against Arne Duncan’s latest insult. You know, the one about the “white suburban moms” whose kids the Common Core is exposing as “not as brilliant as they thought they were.”
Bruni looks not at the CCSS itself, of which he apparently knows only what is claimed for it in press releases, but instead follows “the fevered lamentations over the Common Core” to “ look hard at some of the complaints from the parents and teachers and factor in the modern cult of self-esteem.”

In short order, Bruin determines that the problem with the CCSS is not with the CCSS itself – a self evident impossibility for New York Times opinion writers — but that parents are surrendering to the impulse to coddle their kids.

Lord!

Even as I share Mr. Bruni’s disdain for the once faddish “cult of self esteem, “ I can honestly say that I have seen very, very, little evidence of such a cult in all my years teaching. What I see daily, however, is lots, and lots and lots of evidence of the cult of the Common Core. That which one shall not question. That which thou shall obey. That which knoweth all. And as for coddling, musing over their anemic arguments, I could not help but wonder if the editors of the Times are coddling their opinion writers — at least when they are writing about the Common Core.

I’m not joking. Consider Bruni’s article. Bruni begins with an anecdotal story about a silly decision made by administrators at a school near Boston, fattens it up with more meaningless anecdotes about sports leagues where no one loses and high schools with 30 valedictorians that have no conceivable connection with the rage and disgust parents feel about the effects of the CCSS on their kids. Or the intrinsic data mining. Or the high stakes testing that are part and parcel with the scheme and of which Bruni says nada. Zilch. Nothing.
As a non-coddling editor (or even a high school English teacher) I would never accept Bruni’s specious attempt to wed the wholly unconnected scenarios. I’d send him back to work. Not, it seems, the Times.

Consider that the Times were apparently fine with the fact that the only two people Bruni actually bothered to speak to — education entrepreneur and “architect of the Common Core” David Coleman and Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy — could not have been more predicable or less challenging interviewees. Or had greater stakes in seeing criticisms of the CCSS dismissed as political lunacy or psychological weakness.

Were the editors of the Times worried that talking to real parents who have concluded that the CC is damaging to their children might be damaging to Bruni’s self esteem?
Consider Bruni’s s bi-partisan expansion of nut-job opponents of the CCSS complementing fellow Times writer Bill Keller’s earlier depictions of CCSS opponents,as Tea Partiers. Were the editors concerned that indisputable facts from some of the “ left-wing paranoiacs” ( Diane Ravitch, for example, along with millions of American parents) who Bruni sees “imagining some conspiracy to ultimately privatize education and create a new frontier of profits for money-mad plutocrats, — (many of whom who are named as benefactors of Tucker’s NCEE and every other “reformer” front group) “might shatter Bruni’s fragile sense of reality ?
Note to Bruni: Former Assistant Secretary of Education and Diane Ravitch’s new book, Reign of Error, is subtitled, The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.)

Are the editors of the Times so concerned with sheltering the psyches of their opinion writers that they allow them to publish on vast, far reaching and shadowy issues like the CCSS while not requiring them to do the slightest bit of research into who funded such programs and why? And how they dare impose such a thing on an entire nation without as much as a field test ?

Will America be allowing pharmaceutical companies to do the same if desired by Bill Gates and the Business Round Table ?

I don’t know about you but such lousy writing and thinking sure smells like coddling to me.

Addendum: I learned only after I had written this piece that Bruni is a food critic, a fact that partially explains his complete ignorance of the subject on which he pontificated but does not excuse his arrogance. The fact that the New York Times allowed a food critic ample space in which to babble on about education is merely a continuation of their unstated but apparent belief that just about everyone is an expert on education excepting the people actually engaged in it on a daily basis, which is to say, teachers or, through their children, parents.

Post script: Herein is a link to an article in a mainstream news outlet reporting a secret meeting of millionaires and billionaires, among them Gates, Bloomberg and Jeb Bush, all whom are deeply involved and invested in “education reform. Mr. Gates claimed the meeting concerned the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which it may well have done. But anyone who has been in anyway following anything that has been done in education for the past decade knows the Bill and Melina Gates Foundation has bankrolled and largely dictated just about every aspect of it. They also know that Arne Duncan takes his marching orders from Gates and that the Common Core is largely the product of Gates and his Foundation. Indeed, it is impossible to conceive of “education reform” without the Foundation. This, despite the fact that Gates is a private citizen and the DOE is a vital public trust.
Given this, I would love to hear Mr. Bruni and anyone else who speaks so contemptuously of “left wing paranoia” explain this little gathering of concerned citizens.

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The Lie and Disgrace that is NBC’s Education Nation

September 22, 2013

iNBC

The yearly corporate sponsored corporate education reform propaganda extravaganza Education Nation sinks lower and lower and as it does so it showers the American people with greater and greater corporate contempt. Here is an event that is billed as a “summit” of educational leaders that, as far as I can see, includes not a single teacher in a position of prominence or authority. (Sorry Weingarten and Walcott, you don’t count.)
Here is an event beamed out across America that includes not a single dissenting voice from the “reformers “ increasingly reckless experiments on American children such as the deceitfully named Common Core State Standards.
Here is an event in which the promoters are not satisfied with merely elevating non-educator hucksters like Joel Klein, (billed as the CEO of education techno firm Amplify) or David Coleman (no longer known as “the architect “ of the Common Core but rather as President and Chief Educative Officer of the College Board ) to the level of expertise but also adds the educational wisdom of non-educator Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, and non-educator politicians like Mike Bloomberg, Jeb Bush, Arne Duncan, and Bobby Jindal.

For a final spit in the face of American parents there is the inexplicable inclusion of filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, singer Tony Bennett, and actress/comedienne Goldie Hawn.

Well, why not? If Joel Klein can use the “summit” on education to shill for Rupert Murdoch and Jeb Bush use it as an avenue to the presidency, why shouldn’t poor Goldie Hawn use it to get herself back into the public eye?
In short, here is a lineup for an event that is so ridiculous that it is impossible to parody.
And it would be funny if the stakes were not so high.
But they are.
A “summit” on education that is not merely not based on the experience and knowledge of teachers like Susan Ohanian but actively exclude teachers such as Ohanian is beyond a farce.

A “summit” on education that pretends to discuss “active parenting” and does not include the likes of Leonie Haimson and Class Size Matters is a sin.

A “summit” on education that does not include the political insights of Lois Weiner is a disgrace. A “ summit” on education that does not include the voice and vision of CORE’s Karen Lewis is a sham.

A “summit” on any aspect of education today that systemically excludes the moral and intellectual authority of Diane Ravitch is simply a lie and it should be identified as such.

And this should be done again and again and again and in any way, shape, or form that people who are meant to be brainwashed by this egregious show of money and influence will understand. NBC and the forces that created this thing are counting on our silence. We must not be so.

Danielson Condemns Using Test Scores to Assess Teachers: A Potential Chip in the Reformer Armor

August 26, 2013

char

Diane Ravitch posted a blog this morning stating that Charlotte Danielson, creator of the infamous Daniel Framework for teacher effectiveness that has been implemented into practice and written into law in New York, publicly condemned using standardized test scores to assess teachers in the strongest term possible. “Using standardized test scores to assess teachers is indefensible, ” said Danielson. This is not the first time I’ve heard Danielson make such a declaration – there is a clip of her saying something of the kind floating around You Tube – but it is the most forceful and unambiguous.
As such, it is also something that all teachers effected by Danielson’s system should know and make sure as many parents of school children as possible know. We would do well, too, to contact Danielson, thank her for her courageous statement and urge her to repeat it as publicly and widely as possible. Her statement is potentially a serious chip in the reformer armor but will only be if we make it so. If not it will die on the vine. Moreover, we need to bring Danielson’s statement to the attention of Andrew Cuomo, Commissioner John King, Meryl Tisch, Dennis Walcott, Michael Mulgrew, and ask them, in light of Danielson’s statement to defend the system they have all agreed upon. This need be public knowledge. Above all the parents must know. You can be sure the reformers are attempting damage control and to muzzle Danielson as I write. The importance of such action on our part cannot be overstated. The evaluation system as it stands is a monument to reckless and cavilier thinking and, in effects, is rolling dice with the livelihoods, reputations and lives of teachers. It is unconscionable. As written it will unquestionably lead to the unjust termination of countless fine teachers. The politicians do not care and have hid behind Danielson’s reputation. Her statement can be used as a spotlight and should be. The public, by and large, does not know and this is an opportunity to inform them.

There is contact information for Charlotte Danielson at her website at http://www.danielsongroup.org/article.aspx?page=contactus

Following is Dr. Ravitch’s entire post.

Charlotte Danielson speak about how to use her rubric: “At the
NJAFPA Conference on May 29, Charlotte Danielson (creator of the
Danielson Frameworks for Teaching evaluation system that so many
states and districts have adopted) said in her keynote: “Very
strong words, considering her audience included members of the
NJDOE. Danielson went on to say: “What counts as evidence? How will
we use it? People are calling me for information on this; I don’t
know; NO ONE KNOWS! Rather than standardized tests, we need to look
at classroom/teacher’s learning evidence.”

The New York Times Publishes Yet Another Rubbish Based Editorial Praising Common Core State Standards

August 22, 2013
Sez "Common Core is Good For You !"

Sez “Common Core is Good For You !”

Not to get conspiratorial about it but exactly what is happening over at the New York Times? Has there been an outbreak of Common-Core-itis, some strange new virus that somehow destroys the reasoning power and critical thinking of brilliant people reducing them to dummies for corporate ventriloquists? Even as the paper has never had anything even remotely “left leaning” or even as “liberal “ as its conservative critics incessantly claim, even though the writing of columnists like Thomas Friedman and David Brooks would make Pollyanna herself blush, even though it is as corporate as corporate can be, the Times has usually offered at least one columnist who observed reality from outside the comfortable hermetically sealed world of corporate bubble-dum, and have, after their fashion, even challenged it.

In happier times there might even be two.

Paul Krugman and Charles Blow, in fact, are two such writers. And yet, within the span of a few days, on top of yet another wildly effusive column by Bill Keller, both Krugman and Blow, far and away the most thoughtful of NY Times columnists, have each written articles praising the Common Core State Standards based on the same stale cream-puff quality of research habitually favored by Friedman and Brooks or, far that matter, Keller.

The decline in the quality of both articles is extraordinary.
Whereas Krugman seems to simply take as gospel Bill Keller’s biased and ignorant rant, Blow partially bases his conclusion about the CCSS on information from the Broad Foundation, which is analogous to basing research on the links between smoking and lung cancer from information from Joe Camel of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Still, I want to make it clear here that I am not writing here about their opinions or even so much rather the information (or lack there of) oh what their opinions are based on but rather their impetus and motivations for writing about the subject at all.

Joe Camel sez, "Smoking is good for you!"

Joe Camel sez, “Smoking is good for you!”

(By the way, can someone somewhere please explain to me how it is possible that “graduates” of a completely unaccredited, transparently ideologically driven private organization such as the Broad Foundation’s Superintendent Academies can legally be running a public trust as vital as the public school system in city after city in America ? How is this possible? Why is this not a scandal? Like any teacher, I had to spend six years in college, earn two degrees, take a battery of tests, be fingered printed certified by the state before I could legally even step into a classroom of children unaccompanied by a certified professional.)

For more on Blow’s sources and rational see posts by Diane Ravitch and Arthur Goldstein.
Nor am I not speaking of Krugman and Blow’s political bent. Democracy is, by definition, a messy, loud, inefficient system that cannot function without equal measure of confrontation and consensus. The clash of opinions is what makes a democracy function. Informed opinions, however, are what make a democracy thrive, and it is the quality of information in all three articles appearing in this most influential publication which is particularly disturbing.

Above all I am trying to understand how, on this one particular subject – a subject, mind you, championed by the unelected, unaccountable, unconscionable plutocrats who have completely overtaken our public school system — two people as intelligent and thoughtful as Blow and Krugman could produce such propagandistic drivel?

Why?

How is this to be explained? Is this simply a coincidence? Or, is it something more aligned with FDR’s quip that there is no such things as either an accident or a coincidence in politics.
I will go further: based on what I’ve read of both men’s works in the past on virtually every other subject, I find it impossible to believe that, faced with the facts concerning the genesis, political machinations, unknowable results and billions to be made from unwitting American taxpayers on what is nothing more than a wholly untested experiment of American students and teachers, I find it extremely difficult to believe that either Krugman or Blow would be stating anything near the positions they have stated.

I do not wish to impugn the integrity of either of these men. But I, like many people whose livelihood is directly and imminently threatened by the imposition of the CCSS and the policies surrounding it, and whose child will be faced with a battery of tests like none that has ever before been seen, am deeply disturbed, by the confluence of the Common Core chorus among the elite and only the elite, with little or nor consideration whatsoever to anyone else effected by it. And I speak here not merely of the corporate elite. Consider that American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten and the National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel are both tireless proponents of the CCSS, even as the hundreds of thousands of their due paying members are not. Indeed, out of the many perverse realities made manifest in its saga, the advent of the Common Core may have occasioned the first time in the history of American labor where plutocrats, corporate chieftains and union presidents are united in their desire to keep a labor force – in this case teachers — as utterly powerless in the creation of their working conditions as possible.

The decline in quality of both Krugman’s and Blow’s work on this particular subject makes no sense to me at all, any more than does the suicidal enthusiasm of the AFT and NEA. All of the above are but terrible signs of something in America that grows increasingly powerful in direct proportion to American citizens growing increasingly powerless.
Something is wrong here. Very wrong. Something does not add up. This is not the country I was born in, problematic as that nation was, nor is not the country I want to raise my child in. There is something the American citizenry is not being told and that something is aimed straight at the remains of our already enfeebled, anemic, perhaps terminally ill democracy.

New York Times Editorials Reveal A Complete Ignorance of Common Core

August 20, 2013

DownloadedFile

But two days after a sizable anti-Common Core rally in suburban Port Jefferson, Long Island, the venerable New York Times saw fit to publish not one but two editorials in two days, not merely praising the Common Core State Standards, but attempting to reduce almost all criticism of it to right wing nut jobs like Glenn Beck and the Tea Party. To make matters worse, the editorials were written by Times heavy hitters Bill Keller and, sadly, Paul Krugman. Both articles reveal Keller and Krugman to be completely ignorant of both the Common Core Standards themselves, their genesis, as well as to the ever widening and deepening political opposition to the entire billion-dollar Common Core campaign.
Nonetheless both articles are a massive public relations gift to corporate education reformers nation wide – and you can rest assured they will make use of them. Moreover, by insinuating that most opposition to the CCSS derives from the far right, the articles are simultaneously an insult to the hundreds of thousands of educators from coast to coast who distrust or even loathe the Common Core and all that it stands for — particularly the very real fear that intrinsically related high stakes testing combined with junk science testing will lead to their termination — as well as to leading education scholars and activists such as Diane Ravitch, Lois Wiener, Gary Rubinstein, Leonie Haimson, Arthur Goldstein, Carol Burris, Anthony Cody, and Susan O’Hanian, to name but a few. Both Keller and Krugman seem oblivious to them all.
Neither seems to be aware of the fact that the Common Core has never even been field tested.
Neither writer seems to be aware that states were pressured if not coerced into “adopting” the Common Core because they were bankrupt.
Neither writer seems aware of the fact that, so great are the potential corporate profits, states were pressured into signing on to the Common Core before it was even finished.
Neither writer seems to be aware than prominent educators ( as opposed to politicians and billionaires) and have very serious issues with how developmentally appropriate the Common Core actually is and some are nothing less than appalled.
Neither writer, that is, seems to have a clue.

Whereas Keller’s piece reads as if it were cribbed from Arne Duncan press releases with political slants provided by Thomas Friedman and David Brooks, Krugman’s piece reads like a dashed off afterthought, seemingly composed solely to support Keller’s would-be -arguments, and, highly uncharacteristic of Krugman’s work, contains not a single original thought. For his sake, I hope Krugman, always the most prescient and intrepid of the Times scribes, was drunk when he wrote it so that he might be excused for employing such extravagant or even silly language such as “ entirely praiseworthy” to describe a subject he clearly knows absolutely nothing about.

Note: I have read the Times consistently my entire adult life and I do not recall a single instance in which two writers wrote essentially the same article two days in a row on the same subject.

Given the prestige and national reach of the Times, the tag team approach is an immense gift to corporate reformers and, to that end, the timing of the articles could not have been better. There has been evidence of ever growing parental dissatisfaction over the CCSS since the 30% drop in test scores that were bizarrely celebrated by virtually the entire New York City and New York State education hierarchy. Such dissatisfaction culminated in Saturday’s rally on Long Island.
I lost respect for both Bill Keller in particular and the New York Times in general years ago when they both reduced themselves to mindless cheerleaders for the butchery of Iraq (it was not a war), which has been proven to have been exactly what many of it critics predicted it would be: a pointless, needless and grotesque slaughter based on deliberately falsified evidence, rank ideology and colossal hubris.

Structurally, minis the bloodshed and the bombs, something similar is afoot with the plutocrats and corporate America’s ceaseless and insidious campaign for the Common Core. So here we are a decade later with that debacle having receded from American consciousness altogether, and here is the same Bill Keller pontificating about yet another war ( “The War on the Core” ) based on falsified data, widely exaggerated threats with equal ignorance and hubris.

Oh! And let us not forget Condi Rice and Joel Klein declaring American education to be a threat to national security!

(Note: in the same way public relation firms tricked Americans into referring to McDonald’s as the almost familial “Mickey D’s”, adherents of the Common Core State Standards seem to refer to the thing, as does Keller, as the much cozier “the Core.”)
Whereas in Iraq there was falsified evidence, with the Core there simply is no evidence at all: the Common Core, like much of corporate education reform, is entirely faith based. It troubles Keller not at all that the deceptively named Common Core State Standards are yet another extra-legislative imposition created and engendered by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has become the de facto US Department of Education with Bill, in the words of Diane Ravitch, “the nation’s Superintendent of schools. “

Keller essentially repeats a more conversational version of Common Core press releases including the outright lies that “ the Common Core was created with a broad, nonpartisan consensus of educators, convinced that after decades of embarrassing decline in K-12 education, the country had to come together on a way to hold our public schools accountable.”
Virtually noting of the above sentence is true. If there were any educators present in the creation of “ The Core “ they were tokens, there to give cover for its corporate genesis. Keller seems utterly unaware of the fact that “The Core” is, at best, a vast taxpayer funded experiment on American school children based on nothing but rhetoric. Everything that can be said about it is pure speculation.
To this, Keller and Krugman are oblivious or unconcerned. For Keller and Krugman, to be against “The Core” is to be aligned with right wing nut jobs like Glenn Beck or more sinister and shadowy Tea Party associates.
“But overwhelmingly,” writes Keller, “ the animus against the standards comes from the right.”
Wrong.
Curiously, Keller mocks as fantasy Beck’s fear of “bio wristbands, ” gizmos that sound incredibly similar to Bill Gates fascistic idea of students and teachers wearing “galvanic bracelets “ to somehow measure student engagement. “ Beck,” writes Keller, “ also appears to believe that the plan calls for children to be fitted with bio-wristbands and little cameras so they can be monitored at all times for corporate exploitation.”
That said, I have no illusions as to the continued power of the Times to influence middle class America, to convince them, even with the intellectual shabbiness of these articles, that to be against the sacred Common Core is to be with Glen Beck and his paranoid yokels. This is bad. It is so bad that it behooves every parent and educator in America to write the Times and speak his or her truth to power. Who knows, if enough do and do so with clarity, a man like Krugman could even become a powerful ally.