Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Message for Vander Ark & the ed deform crowd


Tom Vander Ark is a participant on the National Journal’s Education blog. Recently he posted a comment on Crist's veto of the Florida teacher bill (SB-6) and called it “Putting the Brakes on Progress.” The bill sought to tie 50% of a teacher’s evaluation and pay to test scores, and to make it easier for them to be fired.

As an ed defomer mouthpiece responding to a defeat, here’s Vander Ark description of what happened in Florida: “…despite overwhelming public, philanthropic, and federal support for teacher effectiveness, the brakes have been applied by well organized and funded forces protecting the status quo.” Funny how he can put a negative spin on people in a democracy organizing themselves for a cause they believe in.

Indeed, Florida’s resistance forces became well organized, but the movement didn’t turn into a flood of opposition because of money. This movement was generated at the grassroots level using online social networking tools. Anthony Cody described how it worked in “From Facebook to YouTube: A Teacher Movement is Born.”

The large response in Florida may be an indication that a major pushback to the ed deform movement is finally getting underway. The drive is coming deep from people’s hearts and is emerging out of a sense of frustration and a desire for the truth to be told. It taps into anger that has been produced by one’s hard work being publicly insulted and disregarded for years.

People in the ed deformer crowd like to present themselves as supremely righteous warriors on a battleground where they are fighting for “teacher effectiveness” (their own personal view). They broad brush their opposition (= public school supporters) as an entity who never wants the public schools to improve, and doesn't mind if bad, lazy teachers are running the classrooms. And the ed deform propaganda constantly blurts that public school teachers ARE “bad, lazy” teachers who all deserve to be fired. The media and politicians have come to parrot and support their message.

But this oft-repeated, skewed outlook on teachers has never made sense, and, to me, has always been the main clue that something about their message just isn’t right. Anyone with a pinch of practical experience in an urban public school knows that the volume of teacher-bashing is turned up way too high. Any critical thinker can deduce that ulterior motives must be at work.

The presence of a tiny number of flawed employees – which will exist in any workplace – has been magnified and dwelled upon and talked about incessantly and loudly. What is being ignored is the fact that the majority of teachers in public schools are either perfectly okay or good, and some of them are even great.

If public school teachers were as bad as the ed deformers like to say, one would think that public school parents would be greatly dissatisfied. But as it happens, this is not the case.

In 2007, the National Center for Education Statistics conducted a Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey (PFI) as a part of its National Household Education Surveys Program.* The final report, “Parent and Family Involvement in Education, 2006-07 School Year” was released in August 2008.

This study asked a large number of K-12 parents if they were 1. “very satisfied,” 2. “somewhat satisfied,” 3. “somewhat dissatisfied,” or 4. “very dissatisfied” with their child’s teachers. Interestingly, the report only revealed the first of the four possible responses. But it was produced under the Bush/Spellings regime, so it might have been intentionally written in such a way to make public school teacher satisfaction appear worse than it actually is.

Overall, 64% of surveyed parents were “very satisfied” with their teachers. Here’s the breakdown:

    · Public, assigned – 61% (representing 37,168 students)

    · Public, chosen** – 68% (representing 7,951 students)

    · Private, religious – 79% (representing 4,560 students)

    · Private, nonreligious – 78% (representing 1,438 students)

    · City dwellers – 65% (representing 16,195 students)

    · Poor families – 64% (representing 10,012 students)

    · Non-poor families – 64% (representing 41,487 students)

When a clear majority of parents are reporting that they are “very satisfied” with their child’s teachers, things are certainly not as bad as the ed deform camp has been trying to make it seem.

I wanted to see a breakdown of the remaining three possible responses for all school types, because if the truth was as bad as we hear about public school teachers these days, I'd expect to see at least 50% of the parents report that they were "very dissatisfied."

I inquired with a staff member at the National Center for Education Statistics who promptly and politely directed me to “Trends in the Use of School Choice.” (so much for 'dissing' federal government employees!). He suggested the variability seen in the figures (eg. 61% vs. 57%) might due to the fact that the second report used data for grades 3-12, while the other used K-12. (He's put out that query and if I get a response I'll post it in the comments).

So here is the data-based truth about what parents think about their child’s teachers.

TEACHER SATISFACTION


Public, assigned

1993

1999

2003

2007

Satisfied

(very satisfied + somewhat satisfied)

91%

(56+35)

92%

(54+38)

91%

(56+35)

91%

(57+34)

Dissatisfied

(somewhat dissatisfied + very dissatisfied)

9%

(7+2)

8%

(6+2)

8%

(6+2)

10%

(7+3)

Public, chosen

1993

1999

2003

2007

Satisfied

(very satisfied + somewhat satisfied)

95%

(62+33)

93%

(62+31)

94%

(65+29)

94%

(64+30)

Dissatisfied

(somewhat dissatisfied + very dissatisfied)

6%

(4+2)

6%

(5+1)

6%

(4+2)

7%

(6+1)

Private, religious

1993

1999

2003

2007

Satisfied

(very satisfied + somewhat satisfied)

98%

(75+23)

98%

(76+22)

95%

(72+23)

97%

(76+21)

Dissatisfied

(somewhat dissatisfied + very dissatisfied)

2%

(2+0)

2%

(2+0)

4%

(3+1)

3%

(2+1)

Private, nonreligious

1993

1999

2003

2007

Satisfied

(very satisfied + somewhat satisfied)

97%

(77+20)

97%

(75+22)

94%

(70+24)

97%

(74+23)

Dissatisfied

(somewhat dissatisfied + very dissatisfied)

3%

(1+2)

3%

(2+1)

6%

(4+2)

3%

(3+0)

The difference in overall satisfaction between the assigned public schools and other school types only ranges from 3% to 6%.

So, why would some people be working so hard to convince the public that 99.9% of the public school teachers are lazy, ineffective bums?

Because one of the things that the ed deform movement is after is to kill off the morale of public school teachers, and undermine any citizen support. They want to make the teachers weak, demoralized, and submissive, and they want to destroy their unions. This is the oligarchs' current national economic agenda.

And going back to Vander Ark’s original statement: “…despite overwhelming public, philanthropic, and federal support for teacher effectiveness…”

Well, “overwhelming” public support for his whatever-defined version of “teacher effectiveness” is pretty exaggerated. But I certainly know who he specifically means when he refers to philanthropic and federal support for the Florida bill. Naturally, this would be Eli Broad, Bill Gates and others, along with Arne Duncan and the Eli Broad and Bill Gates’ plants that Duncan installed as his senior staff members. These are Russlyn Ali, Assistant Secretary, Office for Civil Rights (former assistant director of policy and research at the Broad Foundation, and member of the review board of the Broad Prize), Thelma MelĂ©ndez de Santa Ana, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education (Broad Superintendents Academy Class of 2006), Carl Harris, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives (Broad Superintendents Academy Class of 2002), James H. Shelton III, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement (former program director for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who has strong ties to the NewSchools Venture Fund, a Broad/Gates, etc. supported, charter school start-up/financial support organization), and of course Joanne Weiss, who Duncan pulled from the NewSchools Venture Fund to become his Director of Race to the Top. And if you don't believe that some people who are working in government aren't there to fulfill other missions, just read here. So it does make sense that Vander Ark would consider these particular entities as the primary stakeholders in public education -- they are directly interested in its demise.

Broad, Gates, Bloomberg, the Waltons, the Dells, and other corporate malanthropies have poured billions of dollars into making their version of market-based ed deform happen. I hate that this country has become an oligarchy, as Simon Johnson defines as “political power based on economic power.”*** I hate that national education policy is now being dictated by a handful of wealthy, powerful forces who do their dirty work behind the scenes and never appear before the public for challenge or questioning. But enough about me.

Don’t forget that Teacher Appreciation Week & Day for 2010 are just around the corner:

  • Teacher Appreciation Week is May 3-7
  • Teacher Appreciation Day is Wednesday, May 4th

The big foundations should send each of the nation’s urban school teachers a thank-you-for-your-hard-work note, a bouquet of flowers, and a box of chocolate. At least.

` ` ` ` ` ` `

*From the report:

The survey addressed many topics, including school choice, homeschooling, family involvement in children’s schools, factors affecting parent and family participation in school, parent support for and satisfaction with the school, parents’ communication with other parents, school efforts to involve families, parent involvement with children’s homework, parent and family involvement in activities outside of school, parent and family plans for postsecondary education, and child health and disability status.

The sample was selected using random-digit-dial methods, and the data were collected using computer assisted telephone interviewing technology. NHES:2007 was conducted by Westat, a social science research firm, from January 2 through May 6, 2007. PFI interviews were conducted with parents or guardians of a nationally representative sample of children enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade including children who were enrolled in public or private schools or homeschooled. The total number of completed PFI interviews was 10,681, which represents a population of 53.2 million students in grades K through 12, when weighted to reflect national totals.

**Here’s something interesting about the “School Characteristics” definition in the glossary of the original report:

“Schools that are public are further classified using the variable SCHOICE according to whether the parent reported having chosen the school or whether the school had been assigned to the student by the school district. Students in public school whose parents reported that their assigned school is their school of choice are categorized as attending a chosen school.”

So, someone like me who is required to participate in my district’s “Options” program by filling out a form in which I list my neighborhood school as my first choice can be interpreted by the Department of Education as engaging in school choice. It just seems odd and a bit off.

***From Simon Johnson on the Bill Moyers Journal, April 16, 2010:

"Oligarchy is just- it's a very simple, straightforward idea from Aristotle. It's political power based on economic power… I know people react a little negatively when you use this term for the United States. But it means political power derived from economic power. That's what we're looking at here. It's disproportionate, it's unfair, it is very unproductive, by the way. Undermines business in this society. And it's an oligarchy like we see in other countries."


14 comments:

melody said...

Wonderful post, PP! Thanks for digging up that survey data.

It's very unfortunate that the whole school reform movement got hijacked by arrogant, deep-pocketed non-educators with a rightwing union-busting agenda. In the 1980s, we had thoughtful people like Deborah Meier and Ted Sizer with real experience, ideas, and humility. They have been brushed aside by bozos with none of those qualities.

The Perimeter Primate said...

D.R.: "Blaming the teachers plays well to crowds."

The Perimeter Primate said...

They must have some special computer deal. All hits come in pairs with one hit being unknown operating system and browser, and the other being Windows and I.E.

Direct Hit
April 21, 2010 12:12 PM IP: 65.214.152.90 Resolve IP to Hostname Unknown OS
Los Angeles, CA, United States Unknown Browser

Direct Hit
April 21, 2010 12:12 PM IP: 65.214.152.90 Resolve IP to Hostname Windows XP Windows XP
Los Angeles, CA, United States Internet Explorer 7.0 Internet Explorer 7.0

Direct Hit
April 21, 2010 12:10 PM IP: 65.214.152.90 Resolve IP to Hostname Unknown OS
Los Angeles, CA, United States Unknown Browser

Direct Hit
April 21, 2010 12:10 PM IP: 65.214.152.90 Resolve IP to Hostname Windows XP Windows XP
Los Angeles, CA, United States Internet Explorer 7.0 Internet Explorer 7.0

nikto said...

Tom VanderArk is unquestionably one of the most outstanding and significant disaster capitalists
in the country right now.


History will remember such people, for sure.

Ender said...

Wait, so you readily admit that giving kids a choice increases teacher satisfaction quite a bit? Now you see that and say and just notice the satisfaction levels, I see that and see that giving parents a choice might cut the disfaction levels in half or more. You ever stop to think that some of those parents might have reason to be satisfied? Like for example their kid was ready for high school mathematics and they were being taught 5th grade mathematics like I was. It gets frustrating.

nikto said...

Ender,
Tracking may be
a good idea
to keep mass-numbers of kids working around their grade level.

Unfortunately, Honors/AP/Magnets/Spec Ed are just about the only tracking that Public Schools are allowed to do.

It sounds like you would be in favor of tracking students in academic classes, as I am.

A big change we need is to make Public Schools able to track again--Atleast in the most academic classes.


This is a clear case of the OVER-REGULATION of Public Schools.

America under-regulates its big businesses, but strangles its Public Schools with over-regulations posing
as abject threats to the Institution.

BAD for many kids, teachers and families, but GOOD for venture capitalists and certain equity
fund managers.

I know, I know. This is just "bidness as usual" in America.

Ender said...

I am favor of opening up different environments for kids. I would have thrieved in a Montessori style environment, it was impossible for me though (due to finances not due to location, my location was fairly ideal). Not every kid would have. I have some friends with milder disabilities that are thrieving in SCHOOLS made just for them (sadly private), certainly not all kids would thrive there. I have another friend whos kid is trying to get into a school made just for gifted kids (would have also worked for me), but its a charter (aka your enemy). ETC. She made a good point a long time ago, educating truly gifted kids with normal kids all day, is like educating said normal kids in a room full of kids with mild mental retardation... they are just that far ahead.

We treat all kids as if they are the same in so many ways. Some kids learn by reading, some kids learn by doing, etc., why do we treat them like they are all the same. Some kids are 4 grades ahead, some are 4 grades behind, why do we treat them all the same. Some learn really fast, some learn really slow... and you know where this is going. Why not create new SCHOOLS (not just one class 30 minues a day like we have been doing since the beginning of the public education system) for them.

nikto said...

Ender,
What you are saying is that "one size fits all" programs and approaches are not appropriate for teaching children
these days, which I agree with completely.

The entire "reform" movement is based upon a "1-size-fits-all" approach, as far as testing and pressuring public schools is concerned.

Public schools have already been deeply affected by decades of lawsuits,
some necessary to protect children, and some sadly unnecessary over-reactions to problems.

The elimination of most tracking
in public schools resulted from racial segregation during the 40s/50s/60s---The heavy backlash against segregation led to the elimination of tracking as a scheduling device (apart from honors/AP and a few other "special" programs like magnets).
This was a mistake.

Also, SOCIAL PROMOTION is the other self-inflicted problem public schools have created, as an unfortunate reaction to the pop-psychology of the "self-esteem movement". Kids who should fail, don't. Therefore, their failure is reinforced and solidified for later, in most cases.

These are the 2 biggest issues where public schools have disrupted themselves, with public approval (at the time it was initiated),
no less.

These problems should be corrected by DE-REGULATING PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and allowing them to track students by grades/performance & behavior, IN ACADEMIC CLASES ONLY.

Also, SOCIAL PROMOTION MUST BE ENDED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

It is my firm belief that it is these 2 policies more than anything else (except the steady drumbeat of conservative and business attacks on Pub Ed), that have led to the public's dissatisfaction with public schools.

Conservative attacks and strategy are cynical--They just hate public schools and want to re-stream the money into private coffers.

But these 2 policies represent the 2 main causal factors for what might REALLY be wrong in our public schools. And THEY can be corrected,
if we have the will and the wisdom to do so.

Discipline policies are another current problem, but that is for another time.

But the answer is not to destroy public schools and hand the taxPayer ca$h over to opaque private interests.

The answer is to free-up public schools and let them track by ability and motivation, and also to fail students who deserve to fail in middle school and earlier, to avoid EVEN BIGGER STUDENT FAILURE LATER ON when it matters even more!!

Ender said...

There is more to this problem then tracking. Imagine having a disorder where 2 other kids in your school can relate to you, one 2 grades ahead, one 2 grades. The kids in your own grade bully and pick on you... and the teachers don't get you, and generally think your a freak, and sometimes say that to your face. Thats what life was like for me.

I have a younger friend who went through the same ****ing **** as I did for 9 years from K-7 (repeated K, wasn't emotionally mature enough for 1st... personally I wonder what kid is). His mom finally decided last year to pull him from that environment. As he doesn't have an individual aide anymore (doesn't need it) it would be a lot cheaper to the taxpayers... but a lot lot more expensive for her. I just think the government should help her out, even if it means giving money to private interests. Would be nice, sadly more likely, its back to the same old **** for him next year. Judging by how depressed he was when he was 13 (worked at a camp that he went to 2 years ago... cried himself to sleep every other nite) I hate to see what he will be like after 4 years of high school.

What I find so ironic is a lot of you also want single-payer health care. But isn't that what single payer health care would be all about, giving money to private interests I mean. I mean hospitals are "opaque private interests right". I know the person who runs the hospital here in town is one of the richest people in town (the kind of rich where you can buy your kid out of trouble... which they have done before). I just want single payer education, is that so bad?

Ender said...

Really, its gotten to the ignore, I have no good comeback, stage already. Normally it takes a few more posts before people become afraid of debating me.

nikto said...

I'm disappointed that your focus seems to be about your debating powers--That just seems such
an unnecessarily egotistic-narcissistic stance to have on important public issues.

And you are INCORRECT that single-payer is just giving money to private interests---Price controls and government-run institutions keep prices down in Canada, France and other countries with single-payer.

It is actually *Obama's idea* to give the money to corporations without much price control, at least to start with--Some "socialist" he is, huh?

Hopefully, we will evolve to a proper single-payer system before too long.

The way you describe your school years sounds like you had a very hard time---But it might have been even worse at a private school, where you might have gotten kicked-out if the school felt your special needs were too expensive to deal with and would cut into their profits. Conformity rules at private schools, and if you can't conform--Bye Bye!

You sound like you were a non-conformist kid, suffering from a lack of getting your specific, unusual needs met. A common problem in most schools.

"Single-Payer Education" would be a good description of US Public Schools before the last decade or so. Now it's a "multiple-Profit"
system, where opaque private interests funnel tax-dollar$$ into
their own coffers.

And, by the way, what is the "debate", really?

nikto said...

It is actually BIG BUSINESS's influence that tends to make Government wasteful and less-honest (and more opaque,
to protect the highly-profitable wastefulness and dishonesty).

Government WITHOUT corporate influence can be far more transparent and therefore MORE accountable to the public.

In the US Military, billion-dollar contracts are handed out in "insider" fashion & have been since the Bush years or earlier.
Whistleblowers are penalized.

Federal Education policy is also opaque and top-down, run by corporate suits like Arne Duncan, and making inside deals with power-people like Eli Broad and
Bill Gates.

Money is going out, in quantity, almost totally
uninhibited by public inquiry or detailed press reporting.

The problem with US Governance is WAY WAY TOO MUCH CORPORATE INFLUENCE AND PROFITEERING WITH NO CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY.

This is actually closer to "National Socialism" than just plain "Socialism", as in a socialistic Democracy or republic.

As John Stewart remarked in response to the reflexive "government-haters":

The Government runs the Army,Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, along with Police Departments, Fire Departments, parks, roads, bridges, airways safety, railroad regulation, Dept of Agriculture, Dept of Interior, etc etc etc etc

OMG,
WE'RE SURROUNDED!!

RUN FOR THE HILLS!!

Ender said...

So wait... aren't hospitals private for profits? Aren't medical centers private for profits? Aren't psycatrists (hopefully) offices private for profits? Seriously, I would be willing to bet a much higher percentage of hospitals are for-profits (one of the richest families in my city runs the local hospital.)

Beyond that yes, you are correct, in a teacher centric school system, public or private, they are incredibly conformist. Though in everything I have learned about Montessori school (which there is a K-8 one in the area, probably would develop a high school if they could find the finances) they are pretty non-conformist. Nothing really to conform too.

Likewise my friend Zach's school for special needs kids is quite non-conformist, because when most of the kids are ADHD or asperger's... its really really hard to conform lol, the aspies don't know how, and the ADHD kids are too crazy (in the best possible way). Why can't the government help him out? Would that kill the public school system? Personally I think even if it would it would be well worth it... maybe we can get a system that gives a damn about kids like him in its place :).

Beyond that I don't agree with all charters, not by a long shot. Charters for average kids seem dumb to me, public schools serve them just fine. But there are the kids with tough to serve needs that we need to serve better. Public schools have been failing there badly since they have come into existance, and lets face it, most school boards don't give a damn. When your part of maybe 5% tops that need new schools... the other 95% will always outvote you.

The Perimeter Primate said...

Ender: Maybe this is the solution

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705354696/New-help-for-autism.html

Take the special ed kids and those with disruptive behavioral problems out of the publics and isolate them in specialty charters.

Then, their needs could be then be dealt with intensively and the mainstream schools wouldn't have to be bothered with dealing with them.

What about that as a compromise? It might be better than privatizing the whole thing.