Thursday, July 09, 2015

The damage Arne Duncan has done to American education

In response to a sympathetic article about Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in today's Washington Post, blogger and former top official in the Department of Education under President George H. W. Bush, Diane Ravitch notes what Duncan's tenure has meant to American education:

During Duncan’s tenure in office,

*He used his control of billions of dollars to promote a dual school system of privately managed charter schools operating alongside public schools;

*He has done nothing to call attention to the fraud and corruption in the charter sector or to curb charters run by non-educators for profit or to insist on charter school accountability or to require charters to enroll the neediest children;

*He pushed to require states to evaluate teachers by the test scores of their students, which has caused massive demoralization among teachers, raised the stakes attached to testing, and produced no positive results;

*He used federal funds and waivers from NCLB to push the adoption of Common Core standards and to create two testing consortia, which many states have abandoned;

*The Common Core tests are so absurdly “rigorous” that most students have failed them, even in schools that send high percentages of students to four-year colleges, the failure rates have been highest among students who are English language learners, students with disabilities, and students of color;

*He has bemoaned rising resegregation of the schools but done nothing to reduce it;

*He has been silent as state after state has attacked collective bargaining and due process for teachers;

*He has done nothing in response to the explosion of voucher programs that transfer public funds to religious schools;

*Because of his policies, enrollments in teacher education programs, even in Teach for America, have plummeted, and many experienced teachers are taking early retirement;

*He has unleashed a mad frenzy of testing in classrooms across the country, treating standardized test scores as the goal of all education, rather than as a measure;

*His tenure has been marked by the rise of an aggressive privatization movement, which seeks to eliminate public education in urban districts, where residents have the least political power;

*He loosened the regulations on the federal student privacy act, permitting massive data mining of the data banks that federal funds created;

*He looked the other way as predatory for-profit colleges preyed on veterans and minorities, plunging students deep into debt;

*Duncan has regularly accused parents and teachers of “lying” to students. For reasons that are unclear, he wants everyone to believe that our public schools are terrible, our students are lazy, not too bright, and lacking ambition. If he were a basketball coach, he would have been encouraging the team to try harder and to reach for greater accomplishment, but instead he took every opportunity to run down the team and repeat how dreadful they are. He spoke of “respect” but he never showed it.

This era has not been good for students; nearly a quarter live in poverty, and fully 51% live in low-income families. This era has not been good for teachers, who feel disrespected and demeaned by governors, legislatures, and the U.S. Department of Education. This era has not been good for parents, who see their local public schools lose resources to charter schools and see their children subjected to endless, intensive testing.


Anonymous said...

This whole article is one massive list of . I generally enjoy Turner's stuff, but this was a little disappointing.

1. What is the problem with this? Competing schools?! For shame! Some children might have opportunity and choices available to them!
2. Citation Needed. If there is corruption (I'll admit this is probable, as most systems have some) is it lesser or greater than the corruption in public schools?
3. Evidence is ample that this policy is a failure.
4. Agreed. Common Core is not only horrendous, but setting students and schools up for failure. (Very good article on this at this morning.)
5. Nothing wrong with rigorous testing. The problem is that the material tested is not the material taught, and that Common Core is terrible in it's entirety. See above reference to article at on this.
6. Citation Needed.
7. Collective Bargaining for any public employee should be illegal.
8. Don't see the issue here either. Why should parents not be able to choose where their kids go. Vouchers help kids, they don't hurt them.
9. Don't know anything about this one, so I have no comment other than: Citation Needed.
10. I think most of us can agree this is a terrible policy. Tests should be a benchmark, not the entire purpose of schools.
11. Public schools should be abolished, so I don't know what you're getting at here, other than the fact we should be doing this in every district.
12. Citation needed. If so, certainly a terrible idea.
13. These adults were dumb enough to take on the debt, they bear the responsibility and consequences of their actions. (It has been my experience that schools & teachers promote to children that they MUST go to college to have a future, so who's really responsible here?)
14. Citation Needed. Further, public schools are in general pretty terrible. The issues among student achievement are a symptom of the greater problem.
15. Citation needed on the poverty numbers. What defines low income? Further respect is earned, not a given right. RE: Funding, Public schools are better funded than they have ever been yet their failure rate continues to soar. (source: US Census)

Anonymous said...

@10:00 AM:

This whole comment is one massive list of derp and fail.

Let's boil it down:

11. Public schools should be abolished,

Why not just save all the pixels and electrons?

Just post Public schools should be abolished.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:29 AM

"Why not just save all the pixels and electrons?

Just post Public schools should be abolished."

Each item should be addressed, as they are separate issues. Public Schools should be abolished, but never will be so the rest are of relevance. I will add that it is a good idea to promote competition for existing schools everywhere. More options for kids and parents is good for kids and parents.

Anonymous said...

10:29, please elaborate on your wonderful plan to eliminate public education. I want details of your alternative plan. Will every child get an education, or are certain groups cast aside? For-profit schools can look fantastic when they can pick and choose which students are accepted. What happens if they have to accept every student and their results are no better than lowly public education? If not every child deserves an education, what happens to the kids that have to stay home. Any thoughts on the economic impact of suddenly having multitudes of parents faced with no daytime childcare that public schools provide, or eliminating the thousands of jobs held by public educators. I would love your visionary insight on the matters.

Anonymous said...

As I stated previously, I have no hope that such a thing will ever happen. Playing "what if" though:

Any such reform would not be done in a day, so set aside the fearmongering. It took over a century to build this monolithic monstrosity called the education system, and it would take time to dismantle it. Parents managed without it not so long ago and we can again. The first step would be to offer vouchers and encourage new schools be built. We could then over time phase out the public education system to a completely private one--or at the very least drastically reduce it. New private schools would hire teachers--so it's not like they would all suddenly be jobless, but rather just not be public teachers.

School should not be a daycare service. That it is viewed by you as one is atrocious and speaks volumes. If truancy laws stay in place, this remains a non-issue. If truancy laws are ended, then it still wouldn't become as big of one as you imply. What happens to the kids during summer? Do they all disappear? The economy, society and the country survive it every year, in fact people manage quite well. It's almost as if the public doesn't need the government doing these things for them, isn't it? Honestly, the idea that children need to be watched more closely than prison inmates is a very new idea to humanity and is not based in reality.

To discuss this topic in it's full, and to properly debate the merits, allowing for a point-counterpoint discourse would make this post far too long, but hopefully this gives you an idea of where we would go.

Anonymous said...

I can't argue that Duncan has done his share of damage to education, but he was just building on the damage done when NCLB was put in place. To suggest that public education should be abolished is ignorant. Please show me a successful country that does not educate its children. I think there is plenty of room for improvement, and we should probably look at the most successful countries and emulate them instead of purchasing improvements from vendors or allowing legislators to decide what should happen in the classroom. It isn't rocket science, but "improving" education has made a lot of people wealthy and has created a lot of unnecessary jobs in education. Look at Joplin Schools for evidence of the failure of NCLB.

Held: Public Education should be altered or abolished said...

Well, it seems that after reading Randy Turner's laundry list of grievances that most of us hold that the present scheme of public education should be altered or abolished.

The test scores have gone down since integration. No Child Left Behind merely placed the fault for lower non-white IQ on the teachers. So now Randy is blamed for not being able to educate the largely uneducatable.

Why not simply only have three years of reading, writing and arithmetic paid for at the public purse and everything above that is bourne by the parents or local churches?

Anonymous said...

2:39, Besides offering no evidence of how this could be done, there is also no evidence from any study that indicates charter schools even outperform public education. You completely misinterpreted the daycare remark. No one is suggesting that schools are day cares, but it is foolish not to realize that they, in essence, serve that role by providing a safe haven for children during the daytime hours. If not all children are allowed to go to these schools you are proposing, do you not see that many parents would be forced to leave work in order to stay home and care for their children? If every child can attend these private or charter schools, why are they going to outperform public education. As I stated earlier, studies show that this is not the case.
"Research on charter schools paints a mixed picture. A number of recent national studies have reached the same conclusion: charter schools do not, on average, show greater levels of student achievement, typically measured by standardized test scores, than public schools, and may even perform worse.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found in a 2009 report that 17% of charter schools outperformed their public school equivalents, while 37% of charter schools performed worse than regular local schools, and the rest were about the same. A 2010 study by Mathematica Policy Research found that, on average, charter middle schools that held lotteries were neither more nor less successful than regular middle schools in improving student achievement, behavior, or school progress. Among the charter schools considered in the study, more had statistically significant negative effects on student achievement than statistically significant positive effects. These findings are echoed in a number of other studies."

Instead of going of on asinine tangent like insinuating that I think schools should be run like prisons, you should answer the questions I asked previously. Are your non-public education schools for all children, or only a select few? You are spitting out right-wing talking points with no factual evidence to back any of your claims. The idea that public schools are failing is a myth generated by those looking to profit from the dismantling of public education. 3:12 is exactly right. We should be emulating successful public education (see Finland), not destroying it with standardized testing and assessments designed with failure in mind so that companies like Pearson can continue selling more and more test preparation material.

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of Diane Ravitch's comments. However, I disagree with her assertion about the demoralization of teachers due to tying teacher evaluation to student achievement. Every certified employee in a district (including teachers, principals and superintendents) should be evaluated on what a student learns (based on growth measures). The evaluation should not be tied solely to one test but on a variety of measures of student learning or growth. I would hope the primary reason for a school is to educate students and not for adult employment. How about the morale of student or parents of students who do not receive a quality education.

Anonymous said...

@ 5:51 I warned earlier this will become TL;DR --10:00am; 2:39pm.

If you read my previous post you will see that your questions were answered. I promoted vouchers be used to slowly phase out the current system. I didn't indicate the vouchers would end, which indicates private schools would be available to all children, via the voucher system (becoming a privately operated, psuedo-public school system). If this is how the system is implemented should we to expect a mass migration of parents from the workforce and into homemaking / childcare. If it did happen it stands to reason many parents would offer daycare services for hire to those who need it. Since you're so concerned with this, please provide data supporting your fear. Does Summer correlate to mass ejection from the workforce?

My proposal assumes some of the schools will outperform, some will stay equal, some will fail. When parents have the capacity to choose the schools a lot of the failures will have to either change or risk losing their students / funding or be replaced with better schools. More children having more options is a good thing, not a bad one.

I did not insinuate that you think schools should be run like prisons rather that you indicate children can't function without constant surveillance--like prisoners; a subtle difference. RE Tests: I am quite opposed to standardized tests in their current form--a topic for another day.

Your ad hominem attacks implying that I am 1) Conservative--wrong; 2)That Conservatism is wrong on this issue--unsubstantiated and debatable; 3)That the only people (such as myself) who think public schools are a failure stand to profit from their end--a flat out lie--indicate a fear that you are losing this debate. Fallacies are meant to take others' eyes off the real issue at hand. It is imperative that we not lose sight of what this is about: the students.

Look at Stanford's followup to CREDO 2009: CREDO 2013.

Currently, Charter Schools serve the poorest students. "Charter schools in the United States educate a higher percentage of students in poverty... than all US public schools, While about half of all public school students are white, this proportion is much smaller in US charter schools (slightly over one-third)"(p.16)

Charter Schools typically serve under-performing students. Out of 27 states, Only 10 had positive standard deviation in Reading and 11 (including (2) @ 0.00) in Math. The national averages are -.05 & -.10 respectively. (p.21 & 22)

If you read the study in it's entirety, you will see that indeed the gains and losses tend to be modest in Charter Schools. These schools are dealing with poorer, lower performing students than TPS on average which is something to consider. Also, as we see, the continuing schools are improving and impoverished students and ELL students are making the most out of these schools, which is who these institutions were formed to help.

If we look at Missouri (where this blog is based and focuses it's attention) the starting standard deviations are lower than public schools by -.61 in Reading and -.71 in Math. The gains are ~+.04 above MO public schools in both subjects. Something is being done right here. Moreover, as we see in Figure 22,(p50) CMO's are correlating with an ongoing positive trend.

The data supports the hypothesis that some will do better, while others won't--differences in strategies, teachers and students--but that generally things will improve. By opening this up further instead of stifling the charter school growth we will be able to get rid of the under-performing schools (charter and public) more easily. Again, more options is better for parents and kids.