I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Disappointment, Thy Name Is Arne Duncan

Oy vey:
Q. Let me bounce off you three of the key concerns I’ve heard from those who are opposed to the reforms, or are skeptical. One: Charter schools are not dramatically lifting student performance, and they harm traditional schools by diverting money and active parents.
A. The data on charters is very clear. The highest-performing charters are a huge part of the solution. There are some in the middle, and there are some that are part of the problem. The key for Newark is to bring in more of the high-performing charters. There are some amazing players out there who can help. And at the end of the day, it’s a false argument against charters. These are public schools, public dollars, public school children and should be part of any reform. [emphasis mine]
See, the charter schools that are above-average are above average. And the ones in the middle are... in the middle. And the lowest ones... uh...

OK, let's put it another way: we need all schools to be above average!  And the upper half of charter schools are above average! So let's all work hard to get all of those schools in the upper half!

That was simple! Illogical, but simple...
Q. A second concern: Reforming tenure is dangerous because student test scores do not provide an accurate measure of teacher performance.
A. Linking student performance and teacher evaluation is hugely important. You have to look at multiple measures, as you do in any profession. But the issue we have is that teacher evaluation has been entirely divorced from student performance, as if that’s not relevant. To me, that demeans the profession. We haven’t rewarded great talent, supported those in the middle and moved out those at the bottom.
Q. So you’d use test scores as part of the evaluation, but look far beyond that?
A. Absolutely. And on tests, you have to focus on growth and gain to measure the improvement, not the absolute scores. You also look at peer evolutions, principal evaluations, a whole set of things.
So, even though you don't dispute that test scores are inaccurate measures of teacher performance (read through again and see if Duncan disputes this - he doesn't), we still need to use them. Because, otherwise, we wouldn't have any way to measure teacher effectiveness other than the ways we already use. Which we should still use, because test scores shouldn't be used by themselves. Supposedly because they are inaccurate by themselves. But we still need to use them. Or something - it's confusing...

By the way: everyone who knows about this stuff says not to use test score gains to evaluate teachers. And Duncan et al will have created a huge incentive for massive cheating, which will destroy the reliability and validity of the tests, force us to spend all kinds of money of test security, or both.

But, we've got to do something! Because we have to replace all these "bad" teachers! With people who are willing to accept jobs with lower wages, fewer benefits, and less job protection than current "bad" teachers have!

I mean, it's so obvious...
Q. A third concern: Heavy philanthropy in Newark will allow outsiders to dictate what reforms take place.
A. Of course not. We always need resources to help fund innovations. But this isn’t about outsiders controlling anything. What is happening today is unacceptable, and we need to do much better, so we need all hands on deck. We have to ask more of parents, of teachers, of superintendents, of school boards and mayors. Where we can get philanthropic support, great. And support from churches and business. All hands on deck.
Just don't expect to run your own schools, people of Newark. Even though...
Q. In Washington, Mayor Adrian Fenty lost re-election after pushing a very similar reform program. What does that tell you?
A. You want strong mayoral leadership, and mayors have to stay close to the community. They have to be in the streets, in the schools and listening to parents. You can’t have a world-class city without a world-class school system. Mayors have to step up to the plate.
Except Cory Booker has no authority over the Newark schools. No democratically elected local official does. But Newark is still a great example of potential reform, because what we learned in DC is that schools policy leaders need to be close to the community. Even though Newark school policy is being run by West Coast corporate billionaires and Trenton politicians.

Q. What message would you offer to those who are worried about the changes coming to Newark?
A. What keeps me up at night is the historic lack of urgency, the acceptance of the status quo. We need to change. Anyone who is defending the status quo is part of the problem. And Newark has a unique opportunity now. Given its size, given the leadership from the top in (Cory) Booker and given the partnerships, Newark has a chance to leapfrog other places and lead the country.
The goal in Newark is that in five years, not 10 years, it should be the best urban school system in the country.
This is not about incremental change. This has got to be about fundamental and dramatic change. And I’m very optimistic. The eyes of the country will be on Newark.
Let's say, Mr. Secretary, that despite all of your gibberish and contradiction here, the schools in Newark suddenly bloom into a system that rivals Finland. What then?

Where will the graduates of these stellar Newark schools go? To elite colleges on scholarships that don't exist? Into a work force that already faces massive unemployment?

Maybe they'll all emigrate to China and chase down the jobs we've shipped over there.

Let's cut the crap: all this talk about failing schools is a distraction from the fact that we have a failing society - at least as far as the working poor and the middle-class are concerned. People are working harder and yet falling further and further behind, and it's all due to a rigged system created by the plutocrats who bought and paid for both the political establishment and the press a long time ago.

When Arne Duncan and Barack Obama start presenting a serious plan to deal with chronic unemployment, rebuilding America's infrastructure, fixing massive wealth inequity, paying off the $3 trillion dollar debt incurred by waging wars of choice, saving our planet, and ensuring that people who work hard and play by the rules don't go broke going to the doctor...

... we can have a conversation about getting rid of a few bad teachers in the schools. But until then, I can't take you seriously. Because what you're spouting now is pure nonsense.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It would be better for Secy Dunca to sleep at night. he test, at best, woul have teachers abandon their profession and teach for rtificial results. The DOE doesn't get it. The President does!

Cap Lee