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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reading between the lines of education reform

Having read Valerie Strauss's blog about Donna McKenna the ESL teacher who dared the DOE to measure her value, 
I began to read between the lines of Race To The Top Reformers. You'll find NCLB/RTTT reformers love to pit parents against teachers, and teachers against parents. They love using the words "accountability for children", "parents, teachers, and schools", but yet they never hold themselves accountable.
In 2001 we passed NCLB and we allocated $1.2 trillion federal dollars to fund this educational reform.   
$1.2 trillion only accounts for about 10% of what we actually are spending, since local and state funding picks up the difference (an additional $9 trilion)
.  These reformers have had their way for more than ten years.
 They have spent most of that money. All this money with little to show for their reforms.  
They will point their finger in blame at others; never at themselves. 

But, last time I checked they were the ones in charge.
They claimed that their new testing and standards would save our children in 2002. 
They got their new standards.
They allocated where the money went.
They claimed in '02 that Reading First Schools would make every child a reader by grade 3. 
They picked the scientifically based reading curriculums and assessments. 
They supported those schools with extra resources, extra money, extra professional development,.
 They celebrated Reading First Schools everywhere in the media. They held these schools up a model for the teaching of reading. 
But then after 6 years, independent research indicated that the 3rd grade students in Reading First Schools comprehended even less than the control group in the non-Reading First Schools, (2008/9 U.S. First Grade Impact Studies).

In 2004 the U.S. DOE's Golden Child of NCLB/RTTT Reform, New York City's very own Commissioner of Education Mr. Joe Klein said "Children have to be held accountable".  He ended social promotion for third graders. Mayor Bloomberg has since extended this to fourth and fifth graders. To this day researchers advise against what New York is doing.  New York City children and parents are still being left behind. 
In 2008 reformers promised that Race To The Top would have schools compete against each other, and this competition would save our schools. In Summer 2011 Arnie Duncan made a statement that claimed "without NCLB waivers 85% of our public schools will not make Adequate Yearly Progress, (AYP)."
Again, who is still in charge?
   The reformers now find themselves banging their accountability drum for "Teachers all over our nation", and once again the U.S. DOE is promising that new assessments and new standards will save our schools.
While they cannot measure one ESL teacher named Donna McKenna;  we certainly can measure their failure at education reform. 
It's worth reading Valerie Strauss's blog about Donna:
Teacher: I dare you to measure my ‘value’
An ESL teacher tells about the reality of her classroom and issues a dare to school officials who insist on evaluating teachers by value-added methods that rely on standardized test scores.
If you are wondering what the walking man is listening to after his walk it's Peter, Paul and Mary's singing If I had a hammer:


  1. At the age of 73 1/2, after 51 years of teaching in NYC public schools, after recently having my book published, AS BAD AS THEY SAY? ,after teaching over 14,000 public school students who are my heroes,after just returning from speaking at Princeton University, I will continue to speak out against such so-called reforms as NCLB and RTTT and so called reformers such as Bill Gates, the Walton Family, Eli Broad, Mayor Bloomberg, Arnie Duncan and President Obama and others of their ilk.These non-educators must be held accountable for the demise of public education. I will fight to my last breathe!

    Janet Mayer

    1. Salutations Janet, my wife and love your book. You took on mayoral control and NCLB head on. You are absolutely right these people need to be held responsible for their actions. I promise their time is coming. That NCLB/RTTT train hits the wall December 2013. They have been trying to renew NCLB every year since 2005 without success. Thank you for speaking out students and teachers, and thank you for 51 years of unbroken service. I think I hear those Bronx students cheering bravo Ms. Mayer.
      People Janet book is a great inside look at teaching.