Posts Tagged ‘Pearson’

Fear and Loathing and the Common Core

April 18, 2013

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This morning, like yesterday morning and the morning before that, I was complicit in the wholesale corporatization of American public school education, playing my small but essential role in a corporate experiment of unprecedented proportions and titanic intent.     This morning and yesterday morning and the morning before that, I, like thousands of my fellow teachers, administered to my students the first of a promised endless battery of New York State standardized tests.

It is hard not to feel demoralized if not utterly invisible administering such things, that much the more when you know that few in your profession had any say at all  in the production  of such things, that such tests are incapable of measuring and therefore subtly  dismiss the most sublime human gifts such as creativity,   and that they are designed, in large part, to strip teachers of our  autonomy.

And more than that:  you know that under the current data crazed evaluation systems, the outcomes of such these tests threaten your very livelihood.

It is harder still to believe that such emotions are not part of the design of the entire project.  After all, a cowed, terrified workforce is a compliant workforce and no word is more operative in today’s “new normal” school system than “compliance.”

The Pearson produced tests are all aligned to what are deceitfully  called the  Common Core State Standards, the first of countless tests to be so,  and as such are designed to insure the ten year olds in my charge were on track to be “college and career ready”, the better to help them succeed in the global economy and “win the future.”

And who can argue with that ?

I can.

I can because not only is such a notion of education limited and limiting to the point of vulgarity, but because everything about the Common Core State Standards Initiative, beginning with its name, stinks to high heaven. Everything about this privately funded, privately owned, secretly created scheme, sponsored by the un-elected National Governors Association and given pseudo academic legitimacy by the equally unelected but lofty sounding Council Of Chief State School Officers, is meant to obscure or hide altogether what the Common Core is, why it exists and how it came — ready or not —  to be rammed down the throat of almost every school kid in America  — including the ten year olds I saw pointlessly suffer through  it the  past three days.

Search the New York State Education website and you will find nothing about the Core’s (as it is now called) main funders, Bill and Melinda Gates, nothing about its fantastically lucrative connection to Pearson Publishing, who have already made millions and stand to reap billions of tax payer bucks creating more tests for our kids — beginning in kindergarten — than have ever been seen before in human history, nothing about the multi million dollar Common Core paraphernalia industry.

Lord of American Education

Lord of American Education

Seek and you will find nothing to indicate the “Core”, in Common Core is, in fact, nothing less than the arbitrary selections of educational entrepreneur and non teacher, David Coleman, pal of Michelle Rhee; he , who gets to pretty much single handedly decide what is and what is not important in our children’s education.

The Divine Decider

The Divine Decider

And this, does he , from sea to shining sea.

Seek and you will find nothing about the grossly coercive manner in which the Obama administration forced the Common Core upon cash starved states in exchange for their autonomy and enough strings attached to slowly strangle their teacher unions who insanely went along with it;  nothing about  the totalitarian ethic inherent in the Core that mandates that once “adopted “ ( what a disgracefully manipulative use of our language !) by a state not a single comma of the holy document could be altered.

Seek and you will find nothing to indicate the fact the “initiative” in the Common Core State Standard Initiative is the initiative not of states, teachers, or parents  but only that of its  super rich sponsors and   corporations. Seek and you will find nothing about the incredible fact that the vast experiment called the Common Core has never even been field-tested — even as it is utterly remaking the American public  school system as we breathe.

What kind of  people would do this ?

Nothing I can  think of  in the current political landscape more clearly illuminates the insidious transformation of the United States from a problematic democracy into an outright oligarchy and corporate fiefdom than the remarkable series of outrageous experiments currently  being performed on American public school children at the behest of a handful of unelected, wholly unaccountable,  madly narcissistic billionaires and their  corporate allies via the  machinations of their hirelings in elected office.  As yet, the most outrageous of these experiments is the Common Core and its concomitant testing frenzy than comes with it.  As many have pointed out,  the children of the  proponents of the Common Core go to schools that hold such stuff in outright disdain.

We should do as well. Those intrepid parents in the Opt Out movement are showing the way.  The testing industry is the central nervous system of the entire corporate education reform campaign.  If enough refuse to  feed it,  it will die.  If we continue to accept it,  our already deeply enfeebled democracy will.

Next year my child will enter  “a testing grade” and is therefore meant to share in the glories of the Common Core Initiative.  Let me rephrase that:  She will be forced to share in the glories of the Common Core Initiative.

Note:  as they are expanding their empire to kindergarten, next year just about everyone’s child is meant to share in the glories of the Common Core State Standard Initiative.

I do not know what will happen from now till then but I know this: My child will partake in this ruthless, rapacious corporate hustle over my dead body.

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The Ignorant and the Egregious: Educators 4 Excellence Hold a Rally

December 3, 2012
The egregious Evan Stone declares "I am not satisfactory!  I am excellent."

The egregious non teacher E4E leader Evan Stone declares  insanely, “I am not satisfactory! I am excellent!”

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Educators 4 Excellence is nothing if not an extraordinary organization.  It is so because it is simultaneously astoundingly arrogant, totally devious and utterly pathetic.  But what else, really, can you expect from a organization that pretends to be a grassroots collection of teachers but whose real reason for existence is to insidiously further the will of their sugar daddy, private citizen Bill Gates and his hedge fund pals in their relentless campaign to privatize the public school system?  What else can you say about a group of teachers whose leaders taught for two or three years (now living quite cozily on Gates Foundation welfare) and believe they have figured out how best to teach and run entire school systems? How else can you define a group of teachers who blather on about desiring “excellence” but whose every policy is a shameless echo of every education hustle and fad in the land?  How can you possibly respect a group of teachers who are so empty and lacking in self awareness that they believe the only way they can improve as teachers is to have principals, an increasing percentage of whom have little or no educational experience at all, provide them with constant “feed back? “

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How can you take seriously a group of teachers who are so ignorant  (or pretend to be so ignorant) that they look stunned when you inform them that every  dime of the $30 million Race to the Top extortion money will be spent, not on teachers and schools, but on consultants and corporations and other lucky players in the Corporate Education Industrial Complex.   How can you not find reprehensible a group of teachers who rally, not for their fellow teachers who are being hounded and demoralized and degraded by an increasingly insane system, nor for their beloved students whose schools are being shut down and communities disrupted, but for the teacher’s union to immediately agree to an evaluation system riddled with mechanisms designed to destroy the careers of their fellow teachers?

What really can you say about people who, in the face of the greatest assault on public education in American history, gather in a park on a Sunday afternoon to bellow idiocies such as    “We want a deal! “ and ‘ I am not satisfactory! I am excellent!”  And “ We crave feedback” , in  a desperate  attempt to please those committing  said  assault who are simultaneously their financial backers ?

What can one conclude about the authenticity of any organization whose membership is   infinitesimal and whose every policy is a crude re-writing of union busting corporate education reform policies yet it granted instant credibility and glowing press reports and editorials in the New York Post and Fox News right out of the egg?

What can you possibly say about the integrity of a teacher who claims he left teaching and joined the leadership of the E4E, not because it infinitely easier and more lucrative than teaching,  but because he just couldn’t bear to work under the present evaluation system any longer ?

How can you not find despicable an organization of teachers who would if they could leave teachers with as many rights as an employee of McDonald’s while feeding their students a steady diet of test prep because this is what their hidden backers, billionaires and hedge fund managers, have required them to do ?

Such is the farce, the disgusting and devious  farce,  called Educators 4 Excellence.

Addendum: What follows is a post containing the ridiculous pretense for the ridiculous rally.  Like the statements on the signs shown above, it speaks for itself.

My name is Kate Schuster, and I am an elementary ESL teacher at PS 38. Last Tuesday I attended an E4E event with over 150 teachers and Chancellor Walcott, to discuss evaluation. As a result of the event, and the urgency of the issue, I will be rallying tomorrow and I want YOU to join me. 
Here is a quote from my recent blog post about the event that explains why I am rallying:“We are the change makers. We are the ones that turn non-readers into lovers of books, a writer of simple sentences into an essayist. We can use those same skills to be a part of this conversation and policy-making. This is why I am attending E4E’s “Move Beyond Satisfactory” rally this Sunday at City Hall. The rally is our chance to tell the DOE and the UFT that teachers want a better evaluation system administered by school leaders who are well trained to support our teaching.
Please stand with me on Sunday. The rally will be a ton of fun and it’s incredibly easy to get to. Plus you’ll get one of the sweet beanies I’m wearing in the picture above!
You’ll find a map, including all nearby subways, and the details below.
Sunday, December 2nd at 2PM
City Hall Park
Swag and coffee: 2PM
Start: 2:30PM
Finished: 3:00PM
Hope to see you there,
Kate
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 Lastly,  there is the truth.

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The Common Core: Putting Corporations First. Always

November 17, 2012

 

There is an old saying that’s been running through my mind quite a bit these days:  “What is good for the goose is  good for the gander.”

Alas, alas…some seem to disagree.

For the past decade American teachers have been in the cross hairs of the most well financed, relentless, and hydra-headed public relations campaign against a legal profession in our history.  Nothing else even comes close. Indeed, I can think of no other formally respected   profession ever so targeted.  Anywhere. At  any time.  This campaign, which masquerades as a movement, was created by  and  is bankrolled  by the richest individuals in the nation and backed by  some of the most powerful political figures in the land under the rubric of education reform.  Most prominent in the former category are Bill Gates, the Walton family, Eli Broad and any number of hedge fund managers such as instant education expert   Whitney Tilson, founder of the egregious Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).  Prominent in the latter category are Jeb Bush, Andrew Cuomo, Rahm Emmanuel and Barack Obama. Despite such powerful figures,  the campaign likes to present itself not merely as a movement  but as  a grass roots movement, spontaneously erupting like a long simmering volcano, it’s gases escaping from the magma chambers of the American educational earth.

Three Friends

The campaign is masterful at the creation and propagation of demands and the dissemination of lies, deceptions and false accusations.  Central to the campaign is the idea of teacher accountability. Indeed, the campaigners want to hold teachers accountable for their student “a performance”, a performance  measured in large part by highly unreliable high stakes tests.

What follows are a few of their most insidious and blatantly false claims:

Poverty is an excuse and is no obstacle to student achievement.

Tenure guarantees a teacher a job for life.

Standardized tests are true indicators of a quality education and quality teachers.

The real problem with schools is that selfish teachers and their thuggish unions   are forever putting their interests over the children they are charged to serve.

 

Of all the lies hurled at teachers ad infinitum, none is more repugnant and underhanded than the last and none gets more mileage by the messianic corporate reformers. It  carries within it, albeit in embryonic form, the zero sum ideology of   corporate education reform: it is somehow impossible to reach an accord in which    both teacher and student are treated fairly and with dignity.  For these folks, one side must dominate the other. That’s simply how life is, you see.

(The fact that the charge of teacher selfishness emanates from billionaires and hedge-fund managers is completely congruent with the surreal nature of the entire corporate education campaign in which the least knowledgeable and experienced are somehow, mystically, the most qualified, the most insightful as well as the most concerned.  )

This particular lie has been perhaps most effectively (because unconsciously) propagated in the very   names of any number of reform organizations: names that in many ways serve as accusations in and of themselves.  What conclusion can one draw from an organization that calls itself Children First Network ?  Or  Students First. Org ? Or Stand For Children ?   What conclusion other than someone  ( psssssssss… hint: teachers )  or something ( psssssssss…  hint:  teacher’s  unions ) out there is putting these poor kids last ?

Then there is the masterful motto of the New York City Department of   Education:  “ Children First. Always.”

Except, it seems, when tending to the needs of corporations like Pearson and their  (equally misleadingly named ) Common Core State Standards, currently  being presented to the nation as the panacea to all that ails American education.

Not to mention the millions of dollars to be made in the production and sale of Common Core based tests, Common Core Text books, Common Core guides, and Common Core learning aids and accessories of every conceivable (and inconceivable) kind.

But there is a problem in paradise.

Somehow in the frenzied production of all these Common Core based paraphernalia, both city and state failed to insure the production of the element most essential to the possibility of the Common Core having any kind of real educational success.      Somehow both city and state failed to produce a curriculum.  It is difficult to overestimate how grand a failure this is.

Imagine, for example, someone trying to sell you a car with a speedometer but no engine.

In the place of a curriculum, New York City and  New York State   have offered teachers and administrators  the Common Core Standards and sample “bundles”,   implying that said standards,  said “bundles,” and curriculum are more or less the same thing, an error that no one even vaguely knowledgeable in or concerned with education would ever make, not to  mention those determined to “put kids first.”

This is, of course,  one of the many problems with allowing people with little no educational experience  — think Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Dennis Walcott — to completely remake  an education system.

But, in typical fashion,  it has become the problem, not of those who created it but those who must deal with it.  That is to say, teachers.   For New York City and New York State, the solution to their failure to provide curriculum for their teachers is to have teachers write curriculum.   No matter that it is not the responsibility of teachers to write curriculum. (Teachers are meant to write lesson plans from curriculum not lesson plans and curriculum. )  No matter that most teachers most have no idea of how to write curriculum. No matter that teachers are not contractually obliged to write curriculum. (The issue is now in arbitration at the New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB.)   No matter that teachers have never even seen the test that they are to somehow, magically, write curriculum to prepare their student for. So what if 17,00 New York City schools produce 17,00 different curricula, hodge-podged together by people who have no business doing anything but teaching.   So what if the third to eighth grade tests administered in March will be up to two grade levels more difficult than anything the students or their teachers have ever seen before.

So what that the New York State Department of Education knowingly decided that millions of  children will be forced to take Common Core based high stakes tests of which many haven’t a prayer of passing. So what if this unconscionable incompetence leads directly to demoralizing millions of kids.  So what if the same test scores are used to evaluate teachers, principals, and schools and may be used to terminate the former and close the latter.

The imperative, it seems clear, is to ram the unproven, untested, unknown entity called   Common Core State Standards into the very center of the educational lives of these   kids and their teachers as fast as possible, ready or not. Now.  Before it’s too late. There’s not a moment to spare.

Let the chips fall where they may.

After all, hasn’t Arne Duncan spent the last four years criss-crossing the country  enlightening all to the notion that  “education is the civil rights issue of our time?” Didn’t Condoleezza Rice declare at the Republican National Convention that education is now a matter of national security?

Seen in those glaring lights,  the absence of a curriculem seems almost petty.

On the other hand, on what planet can this kind of educational malfeasance be considered   “putting children first?” And what about that tricky issue of accountability? Who is responsible for this ?  How is it possible that a screw –up of this magnitude is allowed to go by not merely without heads rolling, but   without barely   a peep in the press?   Where are the hedge funders weeping copious tears for the poor children now?  Where are the apostles of accountability with this travesty?

The larger question, of course, is what is the priority here?  It is kids or corporations?  Is it to help make kids “college or career ready” so as to compete in the ever more savage global economy?  Or is it to shovel millions of taxpayer dollars to Pearson and associates   on Common Core accessories before most people even know what Common Core is?

“ We’ve been working really hard around Common Core, said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, whose educational experience consists of one year teaching kindergarten.     “We’ve been really light years ahead of the rest of the state in terms of the implementation of Common Core but at the same time, we’re ready for the new curriculum to be put in place as well.”   Asked when that might be, Walcott replied, “I don’t know.  I’ll let you know.”   That was last month.

He taught kindergarten for a year or so a couple of decades back.

So much for putting children first.  So much for  accountability.

By way of excusing the inevitable results of this  farce, Walcott added:  “We’ve said that we expect scores to go down.  We just don’t know to what level.  I mean, this is going to be a tough, tough test.”

I’ll say. And it’s hard cheese, old chap!

State Education Commissioner John King (whose educational experience consists of teaching for three years) at least provided an answer if a completely unacceptable one.  The curriculum will be ready “by Fall, winter 2013, said King.

John King who taught for three years.

Why is the media not all over this?  Where are all those concerned faces found on Education Nation? Why is this not considered a major scandal by all of those pundits forever gasbagging  about  selfish unions and the holy efficiency  of the business world ?

The absence of criticism is understandable but not excusable.  It is understandable because both the people running the school system and those commenting on those running the school system have no idea   what they are talking about and could easily believe a standard is a curriculum.  Why wouldn’t they?  Many seem to believe that closing down schools and mass firings of teachers are somehow great accomplishments.

My fear, bordering on absolute certainty, is that no matter what the real pedagogical value of the Common Core actually is, it will be declared a success. Indeed, it has already been declared so. Unique among federal impositions, contrary to common sense or common decency,  there has been no attempt to field-test the Common Core.  It is   assumed ready to go on arrival.  Even, apparently,  without a curriculum.

What we are witnessing here is the slow motion creation of a system that is built to be too big to fail.  It is built to be too big to fail because there is simply too much money to be made in its implementation.  Millions and millions on tests alone.  It will generate more tests than have ever been seen before on planet earth.  That is not hyperbole.  Because of Common Core, writes Diane Ravitch, “Our children shall eat, live and breathe tests, from birth to the end of their education.”

If nothing else the Common Core  is a virtual industry on a scale hitherto unknown in American education. We have seen this before, of course in other fields.   We have seen it with Goldman Sachs or Fannie Mae or any number  of colossi, too big to fail operations that failed anyway and almost brought the entire world  down with them.  We have just never seen this kind of thing   in education before.  But then, ours is a time in which there are many, many things we have never seen in education before.

As I write the Common Core is being used to  lead  children to slaughter.  Right behind them are the reputations of teachers and principals and entire schools. If you wish to see the abject contempt in which corporate reformers and their employees in elected office hold our children and our families look no further.   If you wish to see children being put very far behind immense corporate profits, look here.  If you want to see the opposite of accountability, you’ve come to the right place.

It is a place where what is good for the goose is very, very good indeed for this goose is a very, very golden goose.

And never you mind the gander.