A Teacher’s Agreement and Frustration at the Save Our Schools Rally

At the SOS rally with other teachers at the ellipse in front of the White House this weekend, I wrestled with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, signs everywhere testified to our universal frustration with the failed policies of NCLB and to damaging cuts to education:  Education Cuts Never Heal . . . Education is Not Just for the Rich & White . . . No Teacher Supports the Status Quo . . . Education is Not Test Prep . . . Build Schools, Not Bombs.

I came to ED one year ago as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow, and have extended my position for one additional year. I share teachers’ concerns expressed at the rally. But, unlike them, I have witnessed Arne Duncan’s team working tirelessly to fix these very problems and overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act. President Obama’s Blueprint for Reform would dramatically reduce the number of schools labeled as failing for not making AYP so that only the bottom five percent would be identified, and those schools would receive considerable support to turn around. It would end the flawed practice of requiring students to reach an arbitrary bar on a poor proficiency test and ask states to focus on each student’s growth instead. It would provide incentives for programs to support teachers’ professional learning and use multiple measures to evaluate them, not only student growth scores. It would encourage states to expand their curricula to include the arts, history, and others neglected under NCLB. And the plan would support the states in their efforts to create better tests that cover critical thinking and really show what students know and can do.

And this is the source of my frustration:  that the teachers at the rally seemed unaware that the administration is with them on so many of the issues they care about. Since he took office, Arne Duncan has been calling for ESEA to be reauthorized so that we can fix the very problems that plague our schools, handcuff teachers, and handicap students. He talks with teachers continually and listens to their concerns. Secretary Duncan is working hard with Congress to pass a bill. If Congress fails to act before the beginning of the school year, he will consider offering regulatory flexibility to help alleviate the burdens of NCLB.

The Arne Duncan who I know developed a passion for education while his mom tutored students in her inner city Chicago Sunday school class who couldn’t read. He worked with her to help these kids, and since then he has built a career focused on educational equity, on ensuring that students do not to become victims of their zip code. He believes the fight for education is a fight for social justice.

At the rally, however, teachers clearly were angry at Arne Duncan for the law that he did not create and that he does not support.  Instead of blaming him, teachers and policymakers need to work together as a team to fix a law that we all agree is broken.

Laurie Calvert

Laurie Calvert is a teacher liaison on loan from Buncombe County Schools in N.C. and working temporarily at the Department of Education.

View A Teacher’s Guide to Fixing No Child Left Behind

46 Comments

  1. Above: “race to the top is a competition”…so, what happens to the losers? Are we as a society okay with this?

    Above: “I support accountability for all educational stakeholders, including myself.” Just want to clarify: are you embracing a data-driven labeling regime for legislators, parents, and mayors? If such genuine accountability existed, it would do my heartwood. Until it does, it feels very much to teachers that we are the scapegoats for all societal ills. You clearly have had a bad teacher or two, but the steamroller you are driving is mowing down many good teachers. Also, you avoid an important point: why don’t Arne, Barack and the rest have their kids go to the kind of schools they are promoting????? Because they like small class sizes and appropriate use of tests, of course. What a load. The vitriol won’t stop until the hypocrisy does.

    • When i was a little girl I loved reading, writing and just plain making up stories that I could entertain myself, and sometimes friends, with. When I begin school I was afraid and excited. I came from a dysfuntional family and looking at those from, not only my zip code but my cultural background I believed it did not matter how I did in school, what school I attended, or who my teacher was, I was doomed to fail because society said an education was being wasted on me and my kind. I believe that if my parents had been a different race, if there had been more people encouraging me as there were tearing me down, and if more people had stepped in and became a part of the solution instead of being an expert on criticizing those that were doing better, and wanting better for their children it may have helped me. I am now grown with children of my own I saw a in my doings failure and accomplishment in handling their educational desires. I found I could not blame their shortcomings on the teacher, the government, society or them alone there was a role I was to play in it rather I did or not. People like to look outwards to place the inadequatcies on shoulders other than their own, but I found everyone has a reflection even if they choose to ignore it. A mirror is handy for more than seeing what you look like after you have finish fixing yourself up to look how you what to look, it is there before you start covering up the flaws and imperfections you want to hide from your, as well as from other’s, eyes.

  2. Pardon me Laurie but you got me started. I’m sure you’re a very nice person so I don’t mean any of this to be personal but I have to ask a few questions as I have with this administration for the last three years and I was a big supporter. Where was Sec. Duncan during the Wisconsin witch hunt? Where was the Secretary during the Ohio fiasco? How about in Florida, indiana and Georgia? Where has the Sec. or Pres. been while the corporate mainstream media has been almost literally buring teachers at the stake? Corporate financiers created the mess we’re in and then used the power of their media outlets to blame education and “bad” teachers. WHERE WAS THE LEADERSHIP FROM THE SECRETARY AND THE PRESIDENT Laurie? Why didn’t they stand up and defend public schools and begin a dialogue on the social issues in this country instead of scapegoating teachers? If you want to understand the anger Laurie I think you will find much of it by the lack of support that teachers have received from this administration.

  3. I found this thread fascinatiing. Laurie, you are acting the part of the apologist and your use of the secretaries first name is informal to the point of condescending. He should be refered to as Secretary Duncan or Mr. Duncan not Arnie. Secretary Duncan has done nothing that was promised during the election. I believe this is intentional as Mr. Duncan was seen as a charter school toady (read voucher system by another name) from the beginning. This is nothing more than the corporate take-over of public schools. An interesting piece of evidence is how Mr. Obama seems to always be at charter schools whenever an education photo-op is called for. NCLB is a failure and so is this presidency. The sooner he is gone the faster we can take real action on the problems that plague our education system such as poverty, unwanted pregnancies and social ills caused by economic inequality and hopelessness. We have created a society where surviving is far more important than learning. Get to the root of the problem and stop blaming teachers. We didn’t cause these problem we’re just trying to deal with them.

  4. Teachers are frustrated because Secretary Duncan continues to promote a test, test, test, and then test some more policy. Certainly assessment is important, but no country that outscores us on international tests (which seems to be the concern) use testing as much as we do already, in fact they hardly use it at all, the President himself questions its validity, the school Secretary Duncan’s own kids go to uses testing sparingly, there is no study or data that show that testing for accountability leads to increased student achievement, testing is very expensive and takes gobs of instructional time from the classroom, it leads to a narrowed curriculum that benefits no one and the results are controversial at best. When teachers and parents raise their legitimate concerns about how over- testing is negatively effecting learning and teaching we never get specific answers to our concerns, but only broad comments that the tests will be better – but administered way more often and in every subject so we can keep track of progress, that the tests are not ready yet so we will hold you accountable based on current tests that even the testing companies agree should not be used for that purpose and we are condescendingly told it will be all right.

    Teachers are frustrated because Secretary Duncan seems unaware of how to evaluate the data from these international assessments beyond the raw scores. He slams US schools for not doing better and uncritically allows so-called “reformers” and others to make claims that US schools are failing when the data actually show a much different story. When the one-fifth of American students of poverty are removed from our scores, the almost 80% of our students not of poverty easily outscore the world. Even when some students of poverty are put back in we score the highest or among the highest depending on the percentage of students of poverty that are included. Secretary Duncan holds up scores of students of Shanghai, China, that beat us without explaining that they handpick the students they test in Shanghai and only test their very brightest and best test takers, hardly a worthwhile or informative comparison.

    Teachers are frustrated because poverty, health, parenting and other issues are swept under the rug and the false premise that a good teacher can overcome all those issues in every student in their classroom is repeatedly foisted on the public like it is common knowledge, when the reality is there is no proof of the validity of that claim. Again when teachers question or explain the difficulties they are having they are automatically labelled as for the “status quo” and not working in the best interests of children. Really? I question whether there might be other things to consider or other ways to move forward and that means I want to keep doing things the same as always? It is a lie and a misrepresentation and Secretary Duncan goes right along with it and supports the people that spread it the most with NEVER any criticism of their doing so.

    Teachers are frustrated because Secretary Duncan seems laser focused on a very, very narrow range of reforms that mainly focus on charter schools that usually do worse or no better than non-charter schools, but they are what the billionaires and other neo-reformers like and he follows their lead unquestioningly. In addition he seems unaware or indifferent to any actual innovative school models outside of that narrow focus area.

    Laurie I could go on, and perhaps I’ll add pieces about unions, supporting the firing of entire staffs of schools, his focus on top/down implementation in schools when high achieving schools do the opposite, and more, but these are just some of the reasons we are frustrated with Secretary Duncan, I hope that helps. Thanks for the opportunity to share.

  5. Dear Ms. Calvert,

    I am a social studies teacher and aspiring school leader from Long Island, NY. As I see it, the the major problem with RTTT is that it was poorly designed and does not involve the stakeholders – students, parents, teachers, and school/district leaders. Yes, some of these stakeholders may have been involved but it certainly was not enough to create the necessary “buy in.” Of the $700 million that New York State won through RTTT, how is it true that $350 million is being used for a data base? How does this directly help teachers and students? RTTT does attempt to reform NCLB but in my opinion it is just another fix that fails. President Obama and Secretary Duncan failed to make their educational reform agenda democratic to involve all stakeholders. Teachers and school leaders look at NCLB and RTTT as punitive and it does not look at the bright spots in what we do each day. Please make the educational reform agenda more democratic and not punitve to the profession.

  6. Forgive me, please, if I don’t consider Mr. Duncan’s mother’s contributions an adequate measurement of his own qualifications to create educational policy, any more than I would look to Matt Damon for advice on my profession. I have many reasons for appearing at the march and can assure you that as much as I wish the current administration were supportive of public schools and teachers, I have seen much to demonstrate the contrary.

  7. I traveled many miles to come to SOS because the situation in the school where I teach breaks my heart on a daily basis. I do not worry for my job – I am an excellent teacher. I abhor the Race to the Top model – like John Kuhn, I will stop along the way to lift up the wounded children. I witness children being tested way too often for the purpose of the “growth” model…but their growth is individual and not measured well on any standardized test. We all know the tests are to test teachers anyway…and not as incentives – as a way to turn up the heat and control teachers like they are children themselves. Teachers WANT to teach and want to ensure that children are valued for their differentiated gifts – music, art, etc. – not constantly “assessed” for purposes of building data collections as though this will help anyone other than Pearsons…Testing doesn’t encourage states to expand their curricula to include the arts, history, and others neglected under NCLB – those are being lost as funding goes to the tests, not the students. School librarians are being lost. It is tragic. When masters of the universe build “Avenues” schools for their own children and make others’ schools punitive and narrow, we have to protest. We don’t need better tests – we need teachers, not corporate CEOs, at the table. We need learning not for college and career readiness but for joy and creative innovation, and we need this absurdly disproportionate funding to stop for elite college students to add 2 years of charitible teaching to their resume as TFAs while real, committed teachers are neither honored nor funded. We need the myth of the bad teacher to die. We need to be raised up and supported, and most of all, we need a true educator to lead the way.

  8. I am the teacher who loses sleep at night because:
    I spend day after day prepping my students for standardized tests
    I teach them how to fill in bubbles properly because every answer counts
    I allow the administration to intimidate me into doing what I know is wrong
    I am no longer allowed time to get to know my kids’ strengths
    I cannot address their social/emotional needs properly
    I waste hours of planning time analyzing data
    I see the love of learning leaving their eyes
    I am not teaching enough critical thinking and creativity
    I no longer teach much social studies or civics
    I no longer conduct hands on experiments in science
    I worry about my class list for next year
    I see teachers argue over who will take children with disabilities

    While politicians with no real classroom experience play games, my kids lose out on a well rounded education because they come from poor homes and do not test well. Do the kids in the wealthy suburbs miss out? Not like my kids. It is breaking my heart. The humanity is gone and even though we say it over and over, nobody seems to care- Arne Duncan included.

  9. Arne Duncan has added NOTHING of value to our struggle to make education better or even more efficient. It appears that he lives on the “more tests, the better” planet– (sharing space with the likes of NYC/Mayor Bloomberg, his former Chancellor J.Klein — now besties with Rupert Murdoch, and others equally obsessed more than knowledgeable). I had such hopes for the White House, but it appears that Duncan is simply another example of the Educrat crowd, this crew of people who know next to nothing about helping our city and country’s schools offer QUALITY and LEARNING… instead, our kids are just being taught to the test … for months each year… and Mr. Duncan is just leading that charge. It’s a sad commentary; where are the leaders who can remind themselves what a truly meaningful education is about? Florida, Texas, Washington DC, and NYC are just huge examples of following the Educrats…. and forgetting what teaching and learning is REALLY about… it is sad.

  10. I’m still waiting to hear what practices in education the “reformers” take exception to. I am not a teacher, but a school board member in a community that, mostly, supports its schools. Until the “reformers” tell me what they want to reform, in terms of how teachers teach, or treat children, I have no use for their rhetoric. Mostly, I believe, the millionaires have found a pot of money they don’t control yet, and are engaged in a massive anti-public schooling PR campaign to convince the public that teachers and schools are bad, so they can get their hands on the money through testing companies and charter school management companies, as well as one-size-fits-all curriculum companies. Kids in schools serving areas of deep poverty are mostly not doing well. That’s a function of poverty, poorly equipped schools, and schools in areas where many good teachers are afraid to go. Schools in areas where children are well care-for are doing fine. Teaching isn’t the problem. Poverty is.

  11. I’m heartened to know that DoEd is working hard. As a special education teacher, I, too work hard. However, I’ll never wipe enough noses for you to measure as ‘adequate’ on your fraudulent accountability standards. Your post, pleading for understanding, doesn’t help the thousands of teachers who were fired, children thrown into confusion when schools were abruptly closed, the uncertainty families faced while waiting for their number to be pulled in lottery for a seat in a charter school, or the terror of a child who fears failing a test- all a direct result of your department’s policy mandates in Race to the Top.

    We were watching very carefully when Arne supported the propaganda and promotion of the movie ‘Waiting for Superman’, funded by the billionaire boys club. We’ve listened very carefully to his rhetoric and noted it rarely matches his practice. You see, experienced teachers are excellent observers of behavior. We know when a student is ‘BS’ing about needing to use the bathroom- a useful skill for critically evaluating Arne’s rhetoric.

    You can’t convince me that DoEd is working for authentic ed reform when what we see actually happening is the wholesale privatization of public education. Obama’s last education meeting was with members of the business roundtable to discuss “public/private” partnerships (aka, license to rob the public coffers with NO oversight) and not ONE educator was present. Doesn’t sound like education was his primary topic, unless he thinks the CEO of Microsoft or AOL can teach and assess learning. Oh, wait, if we put more kids on computerized programs, we could fire more real teachers- even better for the bottom line. Human capital is such a drag on profits.

    We know that DoEd gave $50 million dollars to Teach for America to send their unqualified, unprepared, short-term, actor-teachers into the most difficult classrooms in the poorest communities. TfA looks great on a resume for law school or Goldman Sachs; yet requires no commitment to our profession in which experience is critical for expertise. No other profession has been subjected to DoE’s denigration of experience like teachers. Arne or Obama or Bill Gates would ever allow such untrained, inexperienced, neophytes to teach their children- least of all if they have learning difficulties.

    Every mandate in Race to the Top punishes teachers with failed, unproven, discredited “reforms” such as alternate certification (cram courses for short termers) charter schools, merit pay, competition, and more standardized tests. None of these ridiculous measures are supported by evidence from the education literature. DoEd isn’t even mandating reducing class sizes- the one proven method by your own Institute of Education Sciences (here’s the link for Arne if he’s interested in actual education scientific data to replace the poison of free market ideology http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/)

    So, when you all wonder why teachers and parents are upset with your policies, look no further than your own scientific literature. We’ve done our homework- we know who teaches the billionaires’ kids and how their schools operate. What SOS wants is the same conditions for ALL kids that the billionaires have for their kids. That’s why we marched. And that’s why we will NOT be working for Obama’s re-election unless there are drastic changes in his policy direction.

  12. Really. Three years into an administration you tell me what they are working on and tirelessly working toward with no success. No good teacher would accept 3 years of “working” on it in their classroom and no one should accept it from Washington. This is just plain wrong.

  13. If indeed this is the case, then Arne Duncan has a serious public relations problem. Then again, I understand who you’re writing for.

  14. Thank you, Laurie, for sharing your valuable perspective. I attended the march, and I too was struck at the remarkable vitriol directed at people in the Administration who are fighting to improve education. On a weekend where many in the Republican Party attacked Pell Grants — which help pay for poor people to go to college — not once did I hear anyone mention the names Boehner or Kline. And one of the speakers even claimed that Secretary Duncan is trying to implement the segregationist laws that were upheld under Plessy v. Ferguson! I’m all for healthy debate, but absurd claims like that just serve to inflame passions rather than promoting dialogue. It’s also too bad (and in my view, shortsighted) that the march organizers turned down an invitation from the White House to meet on Friday because, as you rightly note, “teachers and policymakers need to work together as a team.” Would be nice if people who believe passionately in publicly education — SOS Marchers and “reformers” both — would spend more time working with each other, rather than against.

    • Brown v. BoE clearly stated separate is not equal, yet charter schools systematically exclude children who fail their tests, who break arbitrary or minor rules, and who have significant disabilities. They take federal and state tax money to educate kids- but only kids THEY choose to keep. You know, the “right kinds of kids”. If you don’t see that as promoting a separate is equal model similar to Plessy, than you haven’t had a kid expelled or rejected from a charter school for not fitting into their regime. NO public school is permitted to deny any child’s right to free appropriate public education that charters deny regularly to kids.

      The SOS rhetoric was on target and if you don’t believe me, visit New Orleans. No high income community would tolerate the behavior of the charters DoEd is promoting in communities of color and poverty. If that’s not the recipe for further segregation, I don’t know how you define it.

  15. My frustration is that Secretary Duncan’s policies don’t match his rhetoric. I agree with much of what he says, but see policies promoting high-stakes testing, merit pay, and increased support of charter schools despite no research that has ever been presented supporting these policies and much that contra-indicates them. I would love to work with Secretary Duncan to bring about the reality depicted in his rhetoric. But first he has to acknowledge the disconnect, and we will also need to start including educators, parents, and students in Education Summits.

    • Thanks Gary for your response. I share your frustration at how long reauthorizing ESEA is taking. The Obama administration released its Blueprint to fix NCLB nearly a year and a half ago. Without a change in the law from Congress, the Department of Education is required to enforce the current law on the books. Arne has also been frustrated by the slow pace of change in Washington, and he is constantly reminding legislators that we need to fix this law in real people’s time, not in Washington time. A new school year is rapidly approaching and we all agree that one more year under the broken NCLB just won’t cut it. That’s why Arne is considering a package to offer regulatory flexibility to address NCLB’s problems.

      Laurie Calvert
      Office of Communications and Outreach

      • Laurie: the administration’s Blueprint “to fix NCLB” is as bad as NCLB itself, if not worse; especially for our high-poverty, under-resourced school districts. More high stakes testing, more school closings, more teacher evaluation linked to test scores, more data gathering and not any single reform or proposal which will help children succeed. We have had three long years of PR spin from the US Ed Dept, with not a single proposal with any research to back it up. Even the funds for preschool expansion are warped by an emphasis on testing. When will you admit that you are on a wrong course, that you are listening to teachers and parents who are seeing the damaging effects of your policies at ground level, and that you are ready to reverse direction?

      • Dear Laurie,

        I am a veteran social studies teacher from Long Island, NY. To my understanding, N.Y.S. won 700 million dollars through Race to the Top. Is it true that 350 million of this went to create a data base system to track student performance? If this is true, how does this actually help our students? How does this help teachers and school leaders? As an aspiring school administrator, I have learned that great leaders involve all stakeholders in the change process. From my perspective, my colleagues, and my current school leaders, we were never involved in the change process. This same sentiment is felt in public schools across the country and the S.O.S. march was further evidence. The RTTT initiative created by President Obama and Secretary Duncan has failed to involve all stakeholders and it has come across as punitve and demoralizing to the public education profession. As a result of reading your experience at the S.O.S. march, I realize RTTT has great intentions but from a public relations standpoint, it is failing in the eyes of teachers, parents, and school leaders – the stakeholders that needed to be involved from the beginning. Democracy was totally taken out of the process of educational reform.

        • Again, thank you for taking time to read my post. I’m looking forward to further dialogue and it is this dialogue that we need to democratically reform education.

        • Dear Joe,

          Thank you so much for your comment. I’ve been wanting to talk with other teachers about Race to the Top (RttT) and your questions have provided an occasion where I can share some things that I know. Race to the Top is a federal competition, but the specifics of how it plays out locally really depend on how states choose to run the program. There is tremendous flexibility built in.

          Many aspects of the RttT program require teacher involvement, but as any teacher knows, there are both substantive and cursory ways to do this. Clearly, some states are doing a better job than others of involving teachers in the decision making. I agree with you that those who choose to do reform TO teachers instead of WITH them are likely to have tremendous obstacles. You can’t make teachers do what they don’t understand or what they believe is not in students’ best interests. One of the best things that teachers in RttT states can do is to get involved in their districts and schools with implementation of the grant. One teacher I know wrote her state superintendent and asked to get on a team working on teacher evaluation because she feared what the state was going to do when moving toward new evaluation systems. That’s terrific.

          With regard to your question about collecting student data, we may have to disagree on this issue, and that’s okay because teachers have a variety of experiences, and there is no one, universal teacher voice. For myself, I welcome the opportunity to look at how well my students are performing and measuring things like added value as long as the evaluation instruments are fair. That’s the rub, of course, that so many of them are not there yet. I don’t want my students’ growth data to be the only factor used to evaluate my teaching me, but I also think it’s important to look at the data. When other factors are affecting student performance, we should bring those to the light so that we can work together to solve those problems.

          Laurie

  16. Although the administration is trying to tweak NCLB, the reality is it can’t be tweaked. It still mandates that kids blossom at the same time like the Stepford kids and it still ranks kids for failure and it still has all students respondng to a singular test. Shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic is not the answer. They are still treating kids like chunks of plastic on an assembly line.

    However, my frustration is that teachers are doing no more than whining. It is time for us to put something on the table that takes kids from where they are using standards as guidelines for success rather than deadlines for failure. Education is not a race and when we recognize that those who progress slower might very well be smarter than the book learned kids who are faster, then and only then will we develop a system and philosophy of education that realy does respect the intelligence and abilities of ordinary people.

    The sysem failed long before NCLB. NCLB just put a strong focus on artificial learning to assure student aand school failure. And what Secretary Duncan is doing is only superficial with no real change.

  17. First, reauthorizing the ESEA is NOT the answer, and I suppose if you had actually LISTENED to Jonathan Kozol or Diane Ravitch or Matt Damon (did you get YOUR photo with him by flashing some Dept of Ed smile?) you would have heard that message loud and clear.
    Second, the POINT is that no school should be labeled as FAILING when the underlying CAUSE of childhood poverty in this country is equal to that of Mexico! Was that message not “heard” either? I heard it, and as an American, I am ashamed that we have so many children living in deplorable and impoverished conditions. Perhaps the Secretary doesn’t bother to visit Appalachia or the Native Americans?
    Third, other than “helping him mommy tutor”, what degrees in EDUCATION and/or CHILD DEVELOPMENT does the Secretary hold?
    Finally, when this Administration holds and “Education Roundtable” and NOT ONE educator is invited, the message to teachers is heard LOUD AND CLEAR! This Administration doesn’t CARE what actual, real live day to day professionals have to say. No, instead, this Administration has dreamt up another “RACE” for our youngest children.
    I’m not sure you were at the same March I attended. I’m not sure that you visited the SOS web site and read any of the position papers. I’m not sure about a lot when it comes to this Administration and Education Policy, but I am sure that the words I heard on Saturday are true: “The President is losing his base, and we all know what happens when you lose your base – you lose elections.”
    So, whatever the purpose of this post – if it is to SHUT ME UP and SHOW ME THE LIGHT – it ain’t workin’! I will continue to protest and speak against a government that leaves the POOREST children behind and makes back room deals with, as Mr. Damon said “People that literally haven’t taught anyone ANYTHING.”

  18. I know a number of people who have similar perspectives on Mr. Duncan, derived from similar access to him through various meetings, summits, and teacher ambassador experiences. But all the listening and all the shared concerns have somehow led to policies almost diametrically opposed to what we seem to agree on. NCLB was a disaster particularly because of the misguided use of tests. Mr. Duncan can say he doesn’t support NCLB, but RTTT carries on with the same flaws. Performance pay based on test scores is thoroughly discredited by research for FIFTY YEARS (see Dan Pink or Dan Ariely on this topic), and further discredited by decades of failed attempts around the country (NYC being the most recent and dramatic example). Mr. Duncan continues to support the idea of performance pay based on test scores. It all begs the question, who else is Mr. Duncan listening to on these topics, and why do their priorities hold sway on matters related to teaching and learning?

  19. I marched to end the abuse of standardized testing, testing the DOE wants expanded. Standardized tests were designed to do ONE thing: predict performance on future standardized tests. NOT retain or promote students, not evaluate teachers or ‘reward’ them with ‘merit’ pay, and not grade schools and school districts. I need to know that my DOE supports the research about standardized testing and the current abuse. As my son said, his daughter is now in first grade, and he does not want to feed the beast of testing with his child’s life for the next 12 years.

  20. What a load of unmitigated garbage! Teachers know full well what Arne Duncan’s agenda is: open up our public schools as a captive market for “education” industry expansion. Make sure schools are forced to spend their precious resources on expensive tests and one-size-fits-all curriculum packages! Turn teachers into mere test-prep technicians. And in the end, what does one get? Graduates who know how to think creatively and adapt to changing conditions? Or graduates with their heads stuffed with outdated “facts?”
    Duncan and Obama both send their kids to elite private schools. The teachers at Sidwell Friends (Sasha and Malia’s school) have spoken out against high-stakes testing! Get real, Laurie, and find yourself another “industry” to work in–one where the profit motive you support is more appropriate. May I recommend Wall Street?

  21. I am very concerned that the Save Our Schools “movement” is perpetuating the “us vs them” mentality. I AM a parent of children in the CT public schools. I teach parents to NOT participate in the “blame game” and become a part of effective solutions to turn around low-performing schools thus improving outcomes for ALL children. NCLB did help to identify the children that were falling through the cracks and focused on individuals versus “groups”(taking into account NCLB short falls). No one in there right mind could argue differently. As a country we know what a successful school looks like because we have MANY. We need to replicate what we know works, move to a fiscal and outcomes based accountability system that ALL stakeholders are held accountable to high expectations and results! Early intervention/ongoing assessments is key. If something is not working, intervene early enough, and make cost effective adjustmenst thus maximizing the tax payers investment into the Public education system. This article speaks the truth of the situation and those leaders who are trying to mislead parents about the meaningful education reform efforts under way are in for a rude awakening because the vast majority of parents support reform efforts that put OUR children’s well being first and effectively maximizes the tax payer investment into the public education system .
    Empowered Students + Engaged Parents +Effective Teachers and Administrators = SUCCESS (A Qualified Workforce and Productive Citizens engaged in the civic peocess i.e voting)

    • “move to a fiscal and outcomes based accountability system ”
      This is the line used by the inappropriately-named “Stand for Children” organization. This is their anti-union rhetoric, their talking point!
      This person is part of a group that seeks to use economic measurements in education, and privatize our public schools, handing them over to for-profit industries.
      I’m not sure what is worse–reading this propaganda, or having the writer pretend that he or she is not part of a right-wing group that seeks to destroy public education and turn it into just another market.

      • I agree. As I was reading “Gwen”‘s response it seemed way too polished and rhetorical to be just a “concerned parent”. I wonder what she actually does for a living and I also wonder what her husband (if married) does.

        In addition, this type of approach that assumes stupidity on the part of the teachers that it targets has been one of the great handicaps of those who have worked with Sec Duncan and to support him all along. You only make matters worse putting plants like this to suppress criticism.

        • Brett I assume you take the approach that most parents are not educated enough to respond with any degree of intelligence or maybe you are just paranoid. So I will save my elequence for another and be basic!

          Thankfully I have been fortunate to have teacher’s in my children’s lives that are not only the best a parent could ask for but are welcoming to the parents and work with them for the students best outcome on a daily basis.
          You wonder why parents do not support their schools? Perhaps because of stories like ours -

          My son (one of 3) has had the misfortune of having a teacher that after 41 years (retire/rehired) can only hand them a math sheet with basic explanation and after failing to follow his IEP, (she does not like students with IEP’s in her classroom – you must also have straight A’s to be in her class) provide extra time for testing or failing to provide guided notes all year and refuses to return graded tests to her students because she uses the same test each year, he failed. Not because he takes longer to complete the algebra – slow processing disorder – but because she says he just doesn’t know how to do it. He has never failed in math or any other class and had all A’s and B’s in pre-algebra the previous year. Apparently if she cannot teach a student it is always their fault not her’s. As we are small district she is the only Algebra teacher for 8th grade. As his parents, we are paying for a credit recovery system- which he is doing very well in thank you, not the school. They would not recommend him for summer school. Looks bad for their numbers.
          I have and will continue to support the amazing teachers we have in our small rural school system and across the country, but all it takes is just one lousy teacher to ruin it for all.
          Get over yourself and acutally work together so that we can keep our teachers! We cannot fall, as Gwen said, to the “us vs. them” mentality, we must work together! I trust our teachers to put together a better educational system than the politicians come up with. Even though my son benefits from IDEA & NCLB, I also agree that NCLB needs overhauled for the teachers and the students, not some numbers based, value added product dreamed up by a politician.

          • Us vs. Them is what the reformers created with their culture of teacher bashing and dismantling of public schools. You can not work with dishonest people – the reform rhetoric of the USDOE does not match their actions, and the astroturf parent groups are funded by billionaires who are lining up their software, tests, and virtual schools at the public tax dollar teat – all to the detriment of the nation. They are not about student’s first, they are about privatizing and segregation. If you truly are a parent, then you must agree that the culture of testing and segregated corporate charter schools is harmful to the health of your child and the nation.

    • To Gwen,

      I’m a teacher / parent / grandparent, and I welcome more and more active interests by parents in the changes that need to be made in our educational system. I understand your concern about the “them vs. us” perception; the public education system–its troubles and its successes–belong to all of us, and we all have a part to play in improving public education. While some have been actively working for years, others are just beginning to take notice; while still others have yet to get directly involved. I’m hopeful things like the SOS March will activate more teachers and parents around education.

      However, I disagree with you that it took NCLB for us to identify the children that were falling through the cracks (and I assure you, I am in my right mind). There have been teachers and parents, particularly teachers and parents of color, who have been sounding the alarm about the miseducation of huge sections of our students long before NCLB was implemented. The sadder fact is that much of this educational inequity has not occurred accidentally, but has been the result of systematic, deliberate, consistent decisions at the local, state, and national levels in some cases for decades.

      To Laurie:
      What I saw on the Ellipse was the frustration of people who love children, love what they do, and want to do it well—but can’t. It’s the frustration of broken promises, and deteriorating working conditions. Many of the educational reforms currently underway are not meaningful, rather they are mean spirited and short sighted. For example: We don’t have to take special needs children and humiliate them publicly in the name of “gathering data” to show they are not receiving quality education, yet that scenario is being played out all over the country. The ED has it within its power to stop such abuses without waiting for the reauthorization.

      Certainly, it is important to keep the debate over laws and policies from disintegrating into personal attacks. I have talked with Sec. Duncan and other members of the ED on several occasions. He is not uninformed, nor do I believe he is personally malicious towards teachers. The policies coming out of the ED, however, reflect an attempt to appease multiple political and economic forces, and they are hurting people, especially children, unnecessarily.

    • How insulting for people responding to MY point of view as a PARENT of 3 Black boys and a daughter who has faced discriminating practices in the public education system to imply that I must be some type of right winger, left winger and some hidden agenda because I demand accountability from ALL stakeholders including myself! MY agenda and special interest is MY children and ALL children. You are right I do SATND for children against a system that treats children like money making pawns in a game that disregards their well being! Its insulting to know that because I identify myself as a parent and because I demand accountability for the billions of tax payers dollar poured into educational systems WITHOUT high expectations or results I am anti-union . Educators and administrators get paid whether they peform or NOT! I am not anti-union because I am a product of GREAT TEACHERS, ROLE MODELS and FAMILY/COMMUNITY support. I take offense that because I don’t agree with your blame game messaging I am anti… I lost my job like many americans during the recession and I am not on line whining. I am doing something about it! I am taking personal responsibility to help improve our educational system! I pray none of you are MY childs teacher spewing confusion and poor messaging further dividing our country. You should be ashamed if any of you are teachers insulting parents of children, because I don’t agree with your President and Arne duncan bashing. The bottom line is we have to do more with less. There are NO more guaranteed jobs, you work you produce good results you have no problem. I am 200% behind supporting EFFECTIVE teacher preparation programs and supports because if the teacher are successful in the classroom the chances of my child being successful increases. You have such inflated egos and non team playing skills that you ignored an invitation with the White house to discuss improving education for all children thats selfish and all about YOU not my child or any child and that makes you dangerous because you would sell a child down the river to prove a point! Where were parents of the vast majority of schools in America that need school improvement they were not good enough for your March. I am a PROUD parent like many so STOP acting like the status quo-either be for children or against children stop “clouding” the waters or you will see many more thousand AGAINST your “SOS” cause so please don’t under estimate the LOVE parents have for their children! Either work toward improving the educational system for ALL children or please retire. Plese excuse any typos and for those teachers and administrators that want too meaningfully work with PARENTS I stand beside you for the sake of My children and ALL children!

      • You know, Gwen, there’s a reason people become enraged when they see familiar rhetoric from known groups with a proven anti-public education, pro-privatization track record. Furthermore, many of the teachers you’re bashing happen to be parents of school-age children. I have a 16 y.o. son in public high school who is about to enter his junior year, THE key year for kids and schools when it comes to high-stakes testing. I suspect I’m not an isolated individual who is both an educator and parent. And I simply see way too many reasons to support SOS and reject the privatization, deform movement. Apparently, you see it the other way. So be it. But how can you be surprised that the rhetoric you chose to use led people to identify you with the groups who originated it?

        Meanwhile, you might try reading the following: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jim-taylor/arne-and-bills-misguided-_b_914728.html

        I think it does a good job of outlining why many very reasonable people don’t find Mr. Duncan or Mr. Gates to be admirable or sensible on these issues.

  22. It is a relief to hear that the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is on the same pages of the millions of teachers out there in the schools. I am personally comforted that his ideas include focusing on students individual gains as opposed to reaching an
    ‘arbitrary bar’ of achievement that in some instances is unattainable.

    • Merit Pay and evaluations via test scores is not based on sound research, it’s quite the contrary. Focusing on VAM will worsen a child’s experience. Millions of teachers do not agree with Duncan – this post is all hype.

      • Could you please post a list of quasi-experimental studies that you have read to support your conclusion?

        Additionally, if you could also post some studies that show how a single salary schedule has been effective in rewarding teachers and supporting student learning I would greatly appreciate it.

        • Maybe you should learn to use Google. Carolyn isn’t making up the existence of an overwhelming number of studies indicating the ineffectiveness of VAM and merit pay. Do your own homework, Christopher.

  23. I’m sorry. What BS this is. You took a contentious meeting and spin it to your favor. Shame on the usdoe.

    • I’m a teacher, I’ve worked both in traditional schools and in a public-charter…and I agree with the frustration and the disconnect that the author of the post expresses.

      Can we please move away from fiery rhetoric?

  24. Brace yourself for the tsunami you just stirred up.
    We know our history, we know the man’s words, we know the man’s deeds.

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