Posts Tagged ‘Standardized test’

Obama Administration Appears To Change Tune On Endless Testing

October 24, 2015

So after seven years of reckless and ignorant force feeding tests to millions of American school children at the cost of billons to American taxpayers;
seven years of increasingly emaciated education, stressed out students, outraged parents, and the systemic degradation of teaching and teachers from coast to coast, the Obama administration arrive at the same conclusion that sane and sensitive people instinctively knew must occur the moment they grasped the intentions behind Race to the Top: this is a mistake.

That is to put it very diplomatically.

Yet even as I am happy to read that the Obama administration seems to be beginning to come to grips with reality in terms of its radical neo-liberal education policy, I cannot help but take a serious wait and see attitude toward today’s surprise announcement. The historical disconnect between what Obama has said he would do and what Obama has done is too consistent to give the man’s words any credence. Even assuming the Obama administration means what it says — an assumption, I, for one am not prepared to make — the potential billions to be made by testing companies will insure that their servants in Congress and state houses across the country will fight to keep this gravy train going as long as they possibly can.

That said, I must hope that this marks the beginning of the end for this sorrowful and sick period in American education which has produced almost nothing for students but suffering and a cheap facsimile of an education at the same time it has demonized teachers, exculpated a predatory economic system and provided endless distraction from a political system in an advanced stage of complete moral and intellectual degeneracy.

Of course, given this state of degeneracy, this announcement could also be nothing more than a ruse intending to deceive a battered public while allowing those who forced this madness on this nation to appear responsive and reasonable as they plan their next move in the privatization of the public school system.

Austerity and Accountability for Thee But Not for Me

October 15, 2012

One can hardly be within earshot of any babbling politician anywhere in the US these days without hearing about the need for accountability and austerity, austerity and accountability. This goes double  — at least ! — if said babbler is babbling about education  which is likely as the  weeping and gnashing of teeth over the sheer lousiness of public school teachers  has become a  national pastime greater than baseball and is infinitely easier to play.

Now there is nothing necessarily wrong with talking about austerity and accountability if it is implemented in a sane fashion and shared across the board.  But, when it comes to education, at any rate, how exactly is this accountability and austerity stuff played out? Well, for the austerity part you simply slash budgets left and right, regardless if said slashing results in elephantine class sizes, vanishing music, art, and gym   classes, and legions of teachers buying pencils, notebooks and what have you for their students.   Rather more furtively you undermine teacher’s pensions and health care, target   teachers with experience and hence higher salaries and systemically create conditions that are so demoralizing and degrading many people simply quit after a couple of years.   This kind of thing is absolutely guaranteed to keep the ship a bit more austere.

The accountability angle is even simpler.  In fact, one might say it is simple minded.      For about a decade now the idiotic idea of applying the principles of business to the art of teaching has been allowed to run roughshod over just about the entire United States. This has led to the absurd if revealing situation in which the language of education and the language of business are in many cases interchangeable, even if the change only went one way. That is to say while I have yet to hear of any businessman speaking of, say, “disjunctive conjunctions” or “pathos” I have been forced to listen to rivers of crazy and reckless blather (all somehow delivered with a straight face ) concerning a teacher’s  “value -added”  “metrics” and the like all built around the apotheosis of the standardized test. In fact, more standardized tests than have ever been seen before or even imagined on planet earth. And there is more to come.  More  and more and more.     It remains to be seen what, if any,  positive changes will come of the ceaseless testing of our children, at least as opposed to the certainty of the billions that will be made by test makers and text book publishers, all certain to be revised every year or so to insure even more billions and all courtesy of the public dime.

No austerity there, thank you very much.

I, for one, predict that the cultural illiteracy that allowed this testing mania to take hold will merely deepen.  How can it not?    I also believe it will be produce millions of test drunk graduates who will be shocked to discover that the vagaries of life bear zero relationship to a standardized test.  How could they be otherwise ?

For the time being, however, it’s the teacher’s turn to be shocked:  First by the viciousness and relentlessness of their billionaire backed attackers and then by the ease in which a handful of billionaires have pushed around our elected officials  — up to and including the president of the United States — like they were so many balloons, forcing their ignorant will upon an entire nation of children and their teachers, come what may. Let us put aside, for the moment, the outrageous truth about the tests that are increasingly used to evaluate public schools and public school teachers: put aside the fact that they have no scientific merit whatsoever. None. Zero. Zip.   Put aside the fact that the very people who created them have stated explicitly and repeatedly that they were not designed to evaluate teachers and should not be used to evaluate teachers.  Today, in more and more of the country the teachers are judged “effective “ or  “ ineffective”’ largely by the test scores of their students.

Let us consider the consequences of receiving such an  evaluation.

When a public school teacher is judged incompetent and fired, unlike say a bank employee or a Wall  Street  hustler, they cannot simply walk down the street and  apply to the school a few blocks down.    They are stripped of their licenses, and with their license, their livelihood.   This is bad.  Very, very bad. And if you are going to do it, if you are going to strip  a person of their ability to support themselves and their families,  you had better have some damned good reasons to do so and they’d better be more than hopelessly flawed tests scores.    I have seen this horrible and humiliating process play out with three fine teachers whom I had the privilege to work with.   Indeed, two years later it is still playing out as two of them are still searching for work and one recently had to leave the country to land a job.

And with them you have austerity and accountability in one big disgusting bang.

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Which brings us to the curious case of peripatetic twice failed school chancellor Jean Claude Brizard, late of Rochester and more recently Chicago who seems, like so many people of power and authority, somehow immune to the pitiless eye of both  austerity and accountability that has caused so many so much pain and misery. In fact, Brizard’s situation seems to  mock it.

Consider the following from  chicagotribune.com:

Departing Brizard to get full year’s salary

By John Byrne

Clout Street

12:12 PM CDT, October 12, 2012

Departing Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard will get a full year’s salary as part of his severance package, district officials said today.

The school board gave Brizard a two-year contract at $250,000 a year when it hired him in April 2011. The contract was set to expire next May.

A severance package of a full year’s salary seems peculiar enough in the best of times but in an age of austerity?  And it is that much more peculiar when, as the  paragraph below seems to indicate, Brizard,  in fact, quit.

Brizard approached Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale about stepping down.”

Is it customary to receive severance package when you quit your job ?  Will I get one if I quit mine ?   A full year’s salary?   Or is this extraordinary arrangement reserved only for those who wander from city to city furthering the deliberate destruction of the public  school system, paying fealty to their corporate overlords  while preaching from  their perches of fleeting power the eternal gospel of accountability  and austerity for the little people ?

Hundreds of New Yorkers Rally for Chicago Teachers

September 10, 2012

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In a show of solidarity with Chicago’s striking teachers hundreds of New York City educators along with union leaders and parent activists rallied in Union Square this afternoon.  The rally was organized by the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), a newly formed caucus of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and drew approximately 350 people.  Among the speakers were UFT Secretary Michael Mendel and parent activist extraordinaire Leonie Haimson, founder of Class Size Matters. Haimson   noted that contrary to what the corporate press was reporting, the major concern  of the CTU was not money but   insane evaluations based on standardized tests, class sizes, and humane work conditions for both students and teachers.

The rally concluded with a spirited march up to the 23rd St office of the reprehensible Democrats For Education Reform (DFER ),  run almost exclusively by hedge fund managers who, in a sane world, would be sitting in eight by ten jail cells  instead of  privatizing the public school system.

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