Obama's school policies called 'Bush III'

In a speech on reauthorizing No Child Left Behind, Education Secretary Arne Duncan gave the law “credit for exposing achievement gaps, and for requiring that we measure our efforts to improve education by looking at outcomes, rather than inputs.” Duncan called for developing better tests to monitor progress and more focus on student growth.

But the biggest problem with NCLB is that it doesn’t encourage high learning standards. In fact, it inadvertently encourages states to lower them. The net effect is that we are lying to children and parents by telling kids they are succeeding when they are not.

It’s one reason our schools produce millions of young people who aren’t completing college. They are simply not ready for college-level work when they leave high school.

. . . In my view, we should be tight on the goals – with clear standards set by states that truly prepare young people for college and careers – but we should be loose on the means for meeting those goals.

We don’t believe that local educators need a prescription for success. But they do need a common definition of success — focused on student achievement, high school graduation and college.

Duncan’s speech was a “pretty pep talk,” writes Ken DeRosa on D-Ed Reckoning. He predicts a “hodgepodge of reforms” doomed to failure.

. . . we have a system in which consumers of education get almost no choices and consolidating power at the Federal level on common standards will only reduce the few choices we have. That’s the main advantage of a competitive market — consumers get choices and everyone gets a chance to see if their crackpot theories work the way they think they will.

. . . The problem with the current education system is that the self-interest of the adults running the system is not aligned with the interests of the children being educated.

Teachers’ unions aren’t happy with the administration’s push for testing, accountability, performance pay and charter schools, reports the Washington Post.  Obama’s policies are “Bush III,” said Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers.

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Comments

  1. I’m so disappointed in Obama’s education policy. Performance pay is way worse than anything W or his meddling brother Jeb! (I’m teaching in Florida) ever did to us.

    Testing is NOT teaching!!

  2. You’re disappointed? I’m pleasantly surprised.

    Given Obama’s state senate district, he would’ve gotten an ear full from parents desperate to get their kids out of rotting and rotten Chicago district schools. Being a good, and relatively young, politician he was well-positioned to take a chance on education reform.

    You know, the real kind of reform.

    Not the “oh, if only education were properly funded” kind of reform but reforms in which the professionals have a professional stake in education.

    Things could be much worse though. The Republicans might have noticed that there was a real issue to engage as well as exploited but there’s scant chance of that occurring.

  3. Trey Wodele says:

    “The problem with the current education system is that the self-interest of the adults running the system is not aligned with the interests of the children being educated.”

    I like to hear statements like this that echo my thoughts. I’m a non-union charter school teacher and I’m tired of the teachers union and their lobbyists desperately trying to protect the status quo, their jobs, and their paychecks while they ignore the needs of the children they have made a commitment to educate.

  4. Arne Duncan is great.

  5. I’m on the student growth monitoring train! Especially if we finally monitor ALL students, including those who long ago met NCBL standards. While I am not on the train that says everyone should go to college (as there are other ways to do life and be successful), to have so many students leave college, at a rate President Obama pegged at 50%, is the ultimate monitor. Sad. and a waste of human potential.
    It’s time to educate ALL students–not only those who are not yet proficient–but also those who are far more than proficient (on rather basic standards). Make the tests harder and meaningful for ALL students. I’m on that train!

  6. “Make the tests harder and meaningful for ALL students” Are we willing to accept the idea of a 10-year old student who is still in second grade? How about the 19-year old high-school freshman? Are we willing to waive the age-out requirement for public school (most states only require students to remain in school until age 16 and stop providing education to students at age 21)? What is the appropriate definition of “meaningful” here? When does the idea of monopoly-busting get applied to the public school system, like it did to Microsoft or to Standard Oil? Or is the fact that the schools are “public” exempt them from the idea that they are monopolies?

    I’m sure that I’m not alone in wishing to see the lousy schools closed (like the Chicago schools allen points out). The parents know which schools are god and which aren’t; why not let them vote with their feet (by letting the school funding dollars follow the students)? Perhaps then, the college attrition rates might be different.

    I know someone who has never gone to college. At the age of 18 she realized that she wasn’t ready for more schooling and preferred to work. She has told me that she never regretted this state of affairs, and has continued her own education by being widely read. I think that she is a very happy and fulfilled person, and there are times I envy her.

  7. “The parents know which schools are god” Oops – my spell check failed 🙂 That should read, “The parents know which schools are good”

  8. Yes…If it takes a child longer to get through second grade then it takes a child longer…to do this means we have to change how government education is done in this country. I have said a few times on this board I am all in favor of kids advancing through subjects at their own speed. Some will be advanced some will be slower. Most will be influenced by their peers to stay together as best they can in most of their classes. This could be positive peer pressure…

    I believe it can be done…

    I have a question…does anyone know how schools performed in their community before forced busing? I have no problem with integration as we all should be colored blind. I ask because once again the ugly question of racism is raising its head in my community because certain schools were rezoned to enable kids to be closer to home to encourage more parental involvement. Last year many of these kids were bussed 45 minutes each way with limited parental involvement.

    The vast majority if not all of the kids impacted by the rezoning have the ability with transportation provided to return to schools in the cluster they attend the year prior…

    Thanks for the help…
    Oh yeah…I do know the schools, supplies etc were subpar but I do not know about the effectiveness of teachers and the results of the kids in those schools…

    Thanks again —

  9. Yes…If it takes a child longer to get through second grade then it takes a child longer…to do this means we have to change how government education is done in this country. I have said a few times on this board I am all in favor of kids advancing through subjects at their own speed. Some will be advanced some will be slower. Most will be influenced by their peers to stay together as best they can in most of their classes. This could be positive peer pressure…

    I believe it can be done…

    I have a question…does anyone know how schools performed in their community before forced busing? I have no problem with integration as we all should be colored blind. I ask because once again the ugly question of racism is raising its head in my community because certain schools were rezoned to enable kids to be closer to home to encourage more parental involvement. Last year many of these kids were bussed 45 minutes each way with limited parental involvement.

    The vast majority if not all of the kids impacted by the rezoning have the ability with transportation provided to return to schools in the cluster they attend the year prior…

    Thanks for the help…
    Oh yeah…I do know the schools, supplies etc were subpar but I do not know about the effectiveness of teachers and the results of the kids in those schools…

    Thanks again —

  10. Trey Wodele,

    Can you give an example of how teacher unions are substantially damaging public education (aside from supporting tenure laws that protect weak teachers)?

  11. Trey Wodele says:

    Ponderosa, You named the big one. I go back and forth on unions. My wife is an RN and a union member and I see ways in which her membership is advantageous to our family and her job security.

    I think the important thing to remember is that, no matter the intentions of its members, a union is designed to protect the worker, not those who the workers serve. That is why I become frustrated with teachers unions – their primary mission is to protect the jobs of educators, rather than to protect the education of students.

  12. Trey,

    Thanks for your response. All I can say is that in my district I see a lot of teachers sacrificing way more time than they ought because we must “think of the children”. This refrain, and the guilt it inspires, are formidable tools for squeezing the life blood out of teachers. Over the last five years in my district I’ve noticed fewer and fewer teachers coming to lunch (they’re giving extra help in their classrooms, or administering lunch detentions) and forget about hanging out and socializing before classes start. School truly feels like a frantic sweatshop. I feel that teachers are uniquely vulnerable to exploitation –even in unionized districts like mine –because sticking up for their rights looks like sticking it to the children. I actually think it would be better if our unions had MORE backbone in resisting the pressure to sacrifice all for the children, because there would be less burnout, fewer young teachers quitting, and happier, more productive teachers among those who stay.

    I know this runs counter to America’s workaholic ethos, but once upon a time a 40 hour work week was considered a requisite for a balanced, happy life.

  13. And may I add that I don’t think this new franticness is helping students much. I think we need to work smarter, not harder, and union push-back may be just the thing to spur administrators to look into ways to do this.

  14. Randi Weingarten probably doesn’t realize that some of us think that “Bush III” is a compliment, and much better than we had hoped for from this administration.

  15. If you’re worried about over-exerting yourself ponderosa you might want to stop trying to figure out how unions are going to improve the public education system. That’s not their job and they’d be no better at it then the UAW would be at producing a better car.

    The job of a union is selfishness incarnate and a union strays from its role at the peril of the leadership and the membership.

    It’s kind of interesting to read the complaints about being insufficiently respected for what you do by the system that employs you interspersed by fierce defense of the system. You want everything to change just as long as nothing changes.

    Sorry bubbala, that’s not the way it works.

    You can continue to work for an organization that takes no note of whether kids are learning, therefor takes no note of whether teachers are teaching and treats teachers accordingly or you can work for an organization that lives or dies by whether kids are learning and treats teachers according to their contribution to organizational survival.

  16. Andrew Bell says:

    Arne Duncan is great? Have you SEEN him give a speech? Snooze.

    The pay for performance thing is ridiculous. There is no money.

    P.S. – I can’t wait to see the tests they give kids so that they can evaluate the P.E. teachers. That’ll be fun. Do we get to watch on You Tube?

  17. You really need to think this through if you think that charter schools are the right and equitable answer to all that ails our educational system.

    Check out http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com/

    Charter schools are selective as to the students who they allow into their schools and they can kick out any student if they do not perform up to the standards of that school.

    Is that how our public funds should be spent for education. It reinforces the idea of inequality in our school system.

  18. I am kind of new to this. But do education policies change with a new president? Changing the leader will not completely change the organization.

  19. Trey Wodele says:

    dorainseattle: I can’t talk about every charter school in the nation, nor would I want to. By their very nature, charter schools are unique institutions and to lump them all together is not a realistic or fair way to judge them.

    I can only talk about my employer: one of Minnesota’s largest, oldest, and (in many ways) most successful charter schools. I can only state what I know from experience, but for a very easy-to-read and informative document outlining Minnesota’s laws surrounding charter schools, you can look at the Minnesota House of Representatives research department’s information brief on charter school law: http://tinyurl.com/yc4eft5

    I can also counter some of the general claims made by the Seattle Education blog you cite. Remember though, while I am writing about Minnesota charter schools, the Seattle Education blog refers to the nation’s many charter schools and in very general terms. In reality, each state is different in the way they regulate charter schools and some of what I am reporting will not be true in other states.

    1. In Minnesota, charter schools are sponsored by a private organization, a public school, or even a post-secondary institution. They are managed by an elected board of directors. There is absolutely not, “complete control of the school by a private enterprise.” Decisions are made by the board of directors which (by law) includes educators, administrators, community members, and parents.

    2. While the blog’s claim that most charter schools do not hire union teachers is true, the phrase, “they can demand the teacher work longer hours including weekends at the school site and pay less than union wages,” is troubling. Again, I can’t speak for every charter school, but I am on a contract which states very clearly when I am and am not expected to work. I was aware of the requirements (which include a three week stint teaching summer school) when I took the job and I’m fairly compensated. I’ve never been forced or coerced to go beyond my contractual obligations.

    3. My charter school does not, would not, and cannot expel a student, “(who) it doesn’t believe fits within its standards or meets its level of expectation in terms of test scores.” In fact, many (but certainly not all) of our students are kids with academic, social, and economic troubles. We are the last hope for many inner-city parents who have tried everything and who cannot afford the cost of living in the successful suburban districts or the tuition costs of private schools as an alternative to public schools.

    By Minnesota law, charter schools have, “an obligation to enroll an eligible pupil who submits a timely application unless the number of applications exceeds the capacity of the program, class, grade level, or building.”

    In addition:

    -My school offers high quality and innovative programs like: a Digital Media Academy featuring Video Production and Editing, Screenwriting, Music and Sound Recording, and Graphic Design; a Medical Careers Academy; a Carpentry Careers Academy; and a Sports Careers Academy. These are the kind of programs that just don’t exist for many students at inner-city public schools.

    -We embrace new ways of teaching using technology and the internet, Google Apps for Education, and Moodle – among others.

    -Our high school classrooms average around a dozen students per teacher.

    -Our teachers are paid a competitive wage, our medical and family medical benefits greatly exceed those offered by the local public district, and we have the opportunity to earn performance pay through Minnesota’s Q Comp program.

    Are charter schools the only answer? Absolutely not. Do they fail sometimes? For sure. But ask yourself the same questions about traditional public schools and your answer may be the same.

    But most importantly, we must look honestly at charter schools, voucher programs, public schools, alternative schools – and any other education solution. It is difficult for those of us in the field of education to discuss policy without looking at it through the window of our own self interest. But these are our children we are talking about, and those of neighbors and our fellow citizens.

    Let’s stop misstating facts, tearing down solutions, and complaining about what does not work – and start offering suggestions, solutions, and advice to the people who are trying to make a difference.