Anthony Cody was not heartened by Marc Tucker’s vision of a new accountability system with fewer tests. In this post, he explains why. If ever there was a need for close reading, he believes, this is it.


Cody writes:


“Tucker’s plan is confusing. In a proposal in which accountability remains closely tied to a set of high stakes tests, Tucker cites the “Failure of Test-based Accountability,” and eloquently documents how this approach doomed NCLB.


“Tucker speaks about the professionalization of teaching, and points out how teaching has been ravaged by constant pressure to prepare for annual tests. But his proposal still seems wedded to several very questionable premises.


“First, while he blames policymakers for the situation, he seems to accept that the struggles faced by our schools are at least partly due to the inadequacy of America’s teachers. I know of no objective evidence that would support this indictment.


“Second, he argues that fewer, “higher quality” tests will somehow rescue us from their oppressive qualities. He also suggests, as did Duncan in 2010, that we can escape the “narrowing of the curriculum” by expanding the subject matter that would be tested.


“It is worth noting that many of the Asian countries that do so well on international test contests likewise have fewer tests. This chart shows that Shanghai, Japan and Korea all have only three big tests during the K12 years. However, because these tests have such huge stakes attached to them, the entire system revolves around them, and students’ lives and family incomes are spent on constant test preparation, in and out of school.


“Third, and this is the most fundamental problem, is that Tucker suggests that the economic future of our students will only be guaranteed if we educate them better. Tucker writes:


“Outsourcing of manufacturing and services to countries with much lower labor costs has combined with galloping automation to eliminate an ever-growing number of low-skilled and semi-skilled jobs and jobs involving routine work.


“The result is that a large and growing proportion of young people leaving high school with just the basic skills can no longer look forward to a comfortable life in the middle class, but will more likely face a future of economic struggle.


“This does not represent a decline from some standard that high school graduates used to meet. It is as high as any standard the United States has ever met. And it is wholly inadequate now. It turns out, then, that we are now holding teachers accountable for student performance we never expected before, a kind and quality of performance for which the present education system was never designed. That is manifestly unfair.”


“Tucker then repeats what has become the basic dogma of education reform. The economy of the 21st century demands our students be educated to much higher levels so we can effectively compete with our international rivals. Education — and ever better education to ever higher standards — is the key to restoring the middle class.”


But Cody objects:


“I do not believe the economy of the 21st century is waiting for some more highly educated generation, at which time middle class jobs will materialize out of thin air.


“Corporations are engaged in a systemic drive to cut the number of employees at all levels. When Microsoft laid off 18,000 skilled workers, executives made it clear that expenses – meaning employees, must be minimized. Profits require that production be lean. There is no real shortage of people with STEM degrees.


“On the whole, it is still an advantage for an individual to be well educated. But the idea that education is some sort of limiting factor on our economic growth is nonsense. And the idea that the future of current and future graduates will be greatly improved if they are better educated is likewise highly suspect.


“Bill Gates recently acknowledged in an interview at the American Enterprise Institute, “capitalism in general, over time, will create more inequality and technology, over time, will reduce demand for jobs particularly at the lower end of the skill set.”


“This is the future we face until there is a fundamental economic realignment. Fewer jobs. Continued inequality and greater concentration of wealth.”


Cody argues for a different vision, in which accountability goes far beyond teachers and schools:


“For far too long educators have accepted the flagellations of one accountability system after another, and time has come to say “enough.”


“We need to learn (and teach) the real lesson of NCLB – and now the Common Core. The problem with NCLB was not with the *number* of tests, nor with when the tests were given, nor with the subject matter on the tests, or the format of the tests, or the standards to which the tests were aligned.


“The problem with NCLB was that it was based on a false premise, that somehow tests can be used to pressure schools into delivering equitable outcomes for students. This approach did not work, and as we are seeing with Common Core, will not work, no matter how many ways you tinker with the tests.


“The idea that our education system holds the key to our economic future is a seductive one for educators. It makes us seem so important, and can be used to argue for investments in our schools. But this idea carries a price, because if we accept that our economic future depends on our schools, real action to address fundamental economic problems can be deferred. We can pretend that somehow we are securing the future of the middle class by sending everyone to preschool – meanwhile the actual middle class is in a shambles, and college students are graduating in debt and insecure.


“The entire exercise is a monumental distraction, and anyone who engages in this sort of tinkering has bought into a shell game, a manipulation of public attention away from real sources of inequity.”


Cody says:


“We need some accountability for children’s lives, for their bellies being full, for safe homes and neighborhoods, and for their futures when they graduate. Once there is a healthy ecosystem for them to grow in, and graduate into, the inequities we see in education will shrink dramatically. But that requires much broader economic and social change — change that neither policymakers or central planners like Tucker are prepared to call for.”
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1lCjUyU

Anthony Cody is confused by the contradictions of the corporate reform movement. “On the one hand, we have a seemingly utopian project with bold pronouncements about the boundless capacity of all students – even those with serious learning disabilities – to succeed on ever more difficult tests. On the other hand, we have tests that are apparently intentionally designed to fail in the realm of two thirds of our students.”


Cody considers the views of Bill Gates, who has finally admitted that student motivation plays a role in whether students learn.


Cody points out that student motivation is affected by their sense of their own future. Yet as Gates himself admits:


“Well, technology in general will make capital more attractive than labor over time. Software substitution, you know, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses… It’s progressing. And that’s going to force us to rethink how these tax structures work in order to maximize employment, you know, given that, you know, capitalism in general, over time, will create more inequality and technology, over time, will reduce demand for jobs particularly at the lower end of the skill set. And so, you know, we have to adjust, and these things are coming fast. Twenty years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower, and I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”


So if there are fewer jobs, a shrinking middle class, and fewer opportunities for social mobility, students face a bleak future. How can they be motivated in an economy where their prospects are dim?


Cody writes:


“Gates is suggesting we increase taxes on consumption by the wealthy, and use those revenues to provide a sort of subsistence level payment to the poor. He opposes an increase in the minimum wage because it might raise employer costs, which they would then try to cut by laying people off.


“Gates is unconcerned about income inequality as an issue. He defines poverty as abject starvation and homelessness, and hopes employers can be convinced to keep on employees because they do not cost very much.


“The motivation of 50 million K12 students in the US is directly related to the degree to which their education leads to a brighter future. We have a big disconnect here when the future does not, in fact, offer much chance at access to college or productive employment. And as Wilkinson and Pickett established in their book The Spirit Level, the level of inequality societies tolerate has a dramatic effect on the mental state and wellbeing of its citizens…..


“As I wrote earlier in the week, there seems to be an attempt to use ever more difficult Common Core aligned tests to certify as many as two thirds of our students as unworthy of such opportunities.


“This brings to mind a dystopian future where an underclass of Common Core test rejects is allowed to subsist with the bare minimum payments required to keep starvation at bay, while a shrinking cadre of insecure workers maintain the machinery that keep the lights on and the crops harvested.


“The fundamental problem of the current economy is that we have not figured out a means by which the top 1% can be persuaded to share the prodigious profits that have flowed from technological advances…


“I cannot reconcile how this future of growing inequality and a shrinking workforce intersects with the grand utopian vision of the Common Core. So then I go back and have to question the validity of the promises made for the Common Core, since the economic projections Gates is making here seem sound….


“These economic problems will not be addressed by Common Core, by charter schools or any other educational reforms. They will not even be addressed in a significant way by what we might praise as authentic education reforms, such as smaller class sizes or more time for teacher collaboration – though these are worthwhile and humane things.

Imperfect as they have been, public schools have been an institution under mostly democratic control, funded by taxpayers, governed by elected school boards, and run by career educators. Market-driven education reform is bringing the cruelty of commerce into what was part of the public sphere, attempting to use test scores to open and close schools like shoe stores, and pay teachers on test score commissions as if we were salesmen.


“The rhetoric of the corporate reform project draws on the modern movement for civil rights, and even Bill Gates asserts that his goal is to fight inequity. But elites have rarely, if ever, designed solutions that diminish their privilege, and this is no exception. It appears that corporate education reform has devised a means to affix blame for inequity on classroom teachers, even as technological advances make it possible to transfer even more wealth into its sponsors’ bank accounts, with fewer people being paid for the work that remains necessary. The promise that the Common Core will prepare everyone for the American dream is made a lie by the intentionally engineered failure rates on Common Core aligned tests.”
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1xLxGRL

Anthony Cody is confused by the contradictions of the corporate reform movement. “On the one hand, we have a seemingly utopian project with bold pronouncements about the boundless capacity of all students – even those with serious learning disabilities – to succeed on ever more difficult tests. On the other hand, we have tests that are apparently intentionally designed to fail in the realm of two thirds of our students.”


Cody considers the views of Bill Gates, who has finally admitted that student motivation plays a role in whether students learn.


Cody points out that student motivation is affected by their sense of their own future. Yet as Gates himself admits:


“Well, technology in general will make capital more attractive than labor over time. Software substitution, you know, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses… It’s progressing. And that’s going to force us to rethink how these tax structures work in order to maximize employment, you know, given that, you know, capitalism in general, over time, will create more inequality and technology, over time, will reduce demand for jobs particularly at the lower end of the skill set. And so, you know, we have to adjust, and these things are coming fast. Twenty years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower, and I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”


So if there are fewer jobs, a shrinking middle class, and fewer opportunities for social mobility, students face a bleak future. How can they be motivated in an economy where their prospects are dim?


Cody writes:


“Gates is suggesting we increase taxes on consumption by the wealthy, and use those revenues to provide a sort of subsistence level payment to the poor. He opposes an increase in the minimum wage because it might raise employer costs, which they would then try to cut by laying people off.


“Gates is unconcerned about income inequality as an issue. He defines poverty as abject starvation and homelessness, and hopes employers can be convinced to keep on employees because they do not cost very much.


“The motivation of 50 million K12 students in the US is directly related to the degree to which their education leads to a brighter future. We have a big disconnect here when the future does not, in fact, offer much chance at access to college or productive employment. And as Wilkinson and Pickett established in their book The Spirit Level, the level of inequality societies tolerate has a dramatic effect on the mental state and wellbeing of its citizens…..


“As I wrote earlier in the week, there seems to be an attempt to use ever more difficult Common Core aligned tests to certify as many as two thirds of our students as unworthy of such opportunities.


“This brings to mind a dystopian future where an underclass of Common Core test rejects is allowed to subsist with the bare minimum payments required to keep starvation at bay, while a shrinking cadre of insecure workers maintain the machinery that keep the lights on and the crops harvested.


“The fundamental problem of the current economy is that we have not figured out a means by which the top 1% can be persuaded to share the prodigious profits that have flowed from technological advances…


“I cannot reconcile how this future of growing inequality and a shrinking workforce intersects with the grand utopian vision of the Common Core. So then I go back and have to question the validity of the promises made for the Common Core, since the economic projections Gates is making here seem sound….


“These economic problems will not be addressed by Common Core, by charter schools or any other educational reforms. They will not even be addressed in a significant way by what we might praise as authentic education reforms, such as smaller class sizes or more time for teacher collaboration – though these are worthwhile and humane things.

Imperfect as they have been, public schools have been an institution under mostly democratic control, funded by taxpayers, governed by elected school boards, and run by career educators. Market-driven education reform is bringing the cruelty of commerce into what was part of the public sphere, attempting to use test scores to open and close schools like shoe stores, and pay teachers on test score commissions as if we were salesmen.


“The rhetoric of the corporate reform project draws on the modern movement for civil rights, and even Bill Gates asserts that his goal is to fight inequity. But elites have rarely, if ever, designed solutions that diminish their privilege, and this is no exception. It appears that corporate education reform has devised a means to affix blame for inequity on classroom teachers, even as technological advances make it possible to transfer even more wealth into its sponsors’ bank accounts, with fewer people being paid for the work that remains necessary. The promise that the Common Core will prepare everyone for the American dream is made a lie by the intentionally engineered failure rates on Common Core aligned tests.”
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1xLxGRL

15 Months in Virtual Charter Hell: A Teacher’s Tale – Living in Dialogue – Education Week Teacher

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15 Months in Virtual Charter Hell: A Teacher’s Tale

By Anthony Cody on January 6, 2014 6:12 AM

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Guest post by Darcy Bedortha.

In late August, 2012, I took a job in a school that is part of the largest virtual charter school chain in the nation. While I had misgivings about the nature of the school, I thought perhaps if I were diligent, I could serve my students well.  In November 2013 I decided I could no longer continue as a teacher. This is my story.

Some Background on K12 Inc.

K12 Inc., the virtual-education company, was founded in 1999 by the one-time “junk bond king” Michael Milken and the hedge fund banker Ronald Packard. The company’s original board chairman was William J. Bennett, who had been the U.S. Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan. (Bennett resigned from his position with K12 Inc. in 2005 after sparking controversy by stating that the U.S. crime rate would go down if more African-American babies were aborted.)

As a private company founded by financiers, K12 Inc. is highly profit-driven. Though its stock price has apparently taken a hit recently, there is little doubt that K12 Inc. has been quite successful in bringing in revenue–even as regular public schools have faced dire financial straits. According to the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch, Packard, who is the current CEO, earned $19 million in compensation from 2009-2013. In 2013 alone, as Chicago closed 50 of its public schools and Philadelphia closed 23 more, K12 Inc. brought in a whopping $730.8 million in taxpayer dollars from its managed public schools, and its top executives saw their compensation skyrocket by 96 percent.  

My Life as a Virtual Teacher

I became a teacher because I am an advocate for youth and social justice. However, this purpose was hard to fulfill working in a K12 Inc. school. With the kind of technology, systems and process management needed to keep the enrollment machine running (and the machine is priority), there is never much time to actually teach. In my former school, each class met for 30 minutes in an interactive-blackboard setting one day each week. Fewer than 10 percent of students actually attended these “classes.” Other than that time and any one-on-one sessions a teacher and student might set up (which, in my experience, almost never happened), there is no room for direct instruction.

Given the extensive needs of the students, this set up does not serve them well. Most of my contact with students was by email, through which I answered questions about everything from login issues and technology glitches to clarifying of assignments, and even that communication was only accessed by a very small percentage of students.

In addition, because students continuously enroll, no one was on the same assignment at the same time. I taught high school English. In a given day in mid-November I would grade introductory assignments, diagnostic essays and end-of-semester projects, and everything in between, for each course (this month I had 30 separate courses). I found it to be impossible to meet the learning needs of my students in that situation.

For most of last year I was Lead Teacher at the school, which required me to attend national staff meetings each week. At first the marketing focus of the conversations turned my stomach, and then it made me furious. In my experience, the conversation was never about how our students were struggling, how we could support those who were trying to learn the English Language, how we could support those who were homeless or how we could support those with special needs. It was never about how we could support our teachers. It seemed to me like the focus was often about enrollment, about data, about numbers of students who had not taken the proper number of tests, about ranking schools and ranking teachers. And there was marketing: how to get more children enrolled, how to reach more families, how to be sure they were pre-registered for next year, how to get Facebook pages and other marketing information “pushed out” to students.

The state-level staff meetings were not much better. Teachers were occasionally bullied and disrespected by the head administrator. Threatening teachers who had been unsuccessful at reaching students, he once yelled “I own your phone and I can see if you’re making calls!” (K12 Inc. does own the phones its teachers use, as well as the laptops and office equipment for teachers and students). During one meeting, in effort to force students to take yet another standardized test, it was suggested that we lock students out of their classes until they completed the tests. I urged them not to lock the curriculum. I had spent days each week trying to keep my seniors engaged and working in their classes, they were hanging on by their fingertips, and I knew that if pushed, they would simply give up.

Teachers who work for K12 Inc. are not well compensated for all their scrambling. At my former school, teachers are paid based on the number of students on their rosters. With 225 students they are still part-time (at .75 FTE), for which the pay is $31,500 a year. With 226 students they become full time employees, and will then be paid $42,000. Some full-time teachers now carry loads of well over 300 students. Even considering other expenses (but noting that these schools have no building or transportation costs), it is clear to me that K12 is generating considerable profits from the student/teacher ratio and compensation scheme.

My first month of teaching exhausted me, and there was never a moment in 15 months to catch my breath (many of us taught summer school, with no extra compensation, per employment agreement). Teachers are responsible for setting up courses, due dates, course pathways, etc. in connection to an extensive and ever-changing digital curriculum which is fraught with technical glitches and system-level errors. Teachers are also required to be available to students during the day, late into the evening and on weekends. In addition, they must contribute to “special projects”.

Courses and students are added daily, so there is continuous juggling, all happening during the first month of school (and beyond) while students (and teachers) are trying to learn how the system works. Granted, the first months of school are difficult for any school, but teachers at my school were putting in 40, 50, and 60 hour weeks in September 2012 while being paid only for the students on their roster, which for me hovered around 100 by the end of the first month. I think my first two-week paycheck, given the 75 students on my roster in the beginning, was about $300. Students are enrolled and drop out daily throughout the year (enrollment pauses only in December and May-June) so numbers change constantly and part-time teachers are never sure of their income.

Serving Disadvantaged Students Poorly

I believe K12 Inc. targets poor communities and economically struggling regions; they are easily influenced because they are desperately seeking alternatives to devastatingly under-funded schools. These financially strapped schools are being further bled by the exodus of students who are lured by what I now see are empty promises of marketing experts at K12 Inc. It is a vicious cycle in which, as far as I can see, no one but the corporate profiteers are winning, and that is no wonder to me: K12 Inc. has worked closely with the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has lobbied extensively for draft legislation to expand virtual education in 39 states or territories, potentially further crippling the financial status of public schools whose funds they siphon. 

Luis Huerta of NEPC and Teachers College, Columbia University cites K12 Inc.’s explicit strategy  of targeting the least-supported population of students. He states that the corporation has an established practice of going after students who are “at risk” because of their tendency to not engage in school or expect much, if anything, from their educational experience, thereby creating a greater profit margin for K12 Inc. If a student is not active in school or demanding a quality education, he or she does not take as much of a teacher’s time; fewer questions are asked, less work needs reviewing and less interaction is required. By targeting these students for enrollment, K12 Inc. is able to push a higher student to teacher ratio: fewer teachers equals less expense, more students equals more income, fewer expenses in conjunction with greater income equals greater profits. This is a core issue with for-profit education management organizations.

The majority of students at the school are the kinds of kids whose histories and current realities cause concerned adults to keep eyes open for signs of trauma, those that haunt the dreams of educators and social workers. My students were survivors – of suicide attempts, of bullying, of abuse, of neglect, of the attempted suicides of siblings or best-friends or boyfriends. Some of them battle addictions and destructive habits; some self-harm, isolate themselves, or even run away.

I was an English teacher, so my students would write. They wrote of pain and fear and of not fitting in. They were the kinds of young people who desperately needed to have the protective circle of a community watching over them. They needed one healthy person to smile at them and recognize them by name every day, to say “I’m glad you’re here!”  Many of my former students do not have that.

The last thing these young people needed, I came to realize during my time with K12 Inc., was to be isolated in front of a computer screen.  A week or two or three would often go by without my getting a word from a student. They didn’t answer their email, they didn’t answer their phones. Often their phones were disconnected. Their families were disconnected. My students also moved a lot. During my first year at the school I spent days on the phone trying to track students down. This year I struggled to not simply give up under the weight of it all.

In the fall of 2013, 42 percent of our high school students were deemed “economically disadvantaged.” I had a number of students who were not native English speakers. I cannot wrap my head around how to serve a student who is unable to read or comprehend the language that the virtual curriculum is written in, let alone learn the technology (when it is functioning) without sitting beside them in the same space. Many of my non-native speakers had parents who did not speak English at all. These students often struggled for a very short time, and then I never saw their work again. They dropped out, moved on.

 The majority of the students at the school were lacking credits needed for graduation. Most of them could not afford another failure, not in terms of credits and not in terms of emotional well-being, yet, as I wrote this in early December, nearly 80 percent of our students were failing their classes.  At that time there were 303 students (12 percent of the school) enrolled in special education programs – and 259 of them were failing while 17 had no grade at all. Eighty-two percent of the 9th graders were failing. This kind of failure is in no way limited to this school; it is system-wide, reigning throughout the virtual-school world, explicitly true for K12, Inc. and its national network of online schools.

According to a July 2012 report published by the NEPC, a nonprofit research organization that is skeptical of privatization initiatives in public education, only 27.7 percent of K12, Inc. schools met the Annual Yearly Progress goals, as compared to 52 percent of brick and mortar public schools (Miron & Urschel, 2012). Similarly, the same study calls attention to the fact that only 37.6 percent of students at full-time virtual schools graduate on time, as compared to the national average of 79.4 percent for all public high school students. A substantial number of my students transferred in from other virtual schools, such as Connections Academy. These students were markedly transient, and did not find success with K12 Inc. either.

In addition, CEO Ronald Packard was named in a 2012 class action complaint citing his alleged false statements regarding student performance and K12, Inc.’s “aggressive tactics” to recruit and enroll students in effort to cover up the 40-60 percent turnover rate (the parties reached a tentative $6.75 million settlement agreement in March 2013).

I can’t say I’m surprised by any of this. Earlier last fall, due to the sudden need for a colleague to take leave I was handed his student load on top of my own. For a month I had 476 students on my rosters, in 30 different classes. In my classes, my students were writing narratives, argumentative and research papers and poetry – all of which I was committed to reading. I had students who struggled to find their way through the course pages to the assignment they wish to work on, and in their frustration they often emailed for direction. I had students who were struggling to find their way through life. I began to write my story during the third week of November and at that point, I still had students beginning their first day, with the expectation to finish a semester’s work by January 24th.

Each of these situations and many others required individual attention. How does anyone offer anything close to personal attention for over three-hundred students, most of whom you never see? Practices such as excusing (eliminating) assignments were the norm at the school. K12 Inc. calls it a “proficiency model” but it amounts to an easy route to course completion. Even the students who were more or less on pace were not learning deeply; they were often merely filling out digital worksheets as quickly as they could. The most motivated of my students regularly finished more than a dozen assignments in a day.  What kind of depth of learning could that offer? That kind of workload for K12 teachers created fertile ground for practices like minimizing curriculum or sending essays to India to be graded.

Last year I had a student who never showed up to class, never turned work in, skimmed by on gaming the system with a phone call every few weeks, just enough to keep from being dropped from the rosters. She called me three days after my final grades were submitted in June, desperate to find a way to graduate. I apologized, said my grades had been submitted, and offered information for the summer school we were holding. A week or so later, when I arrived for graduation an administrator pulled me aside to tell me that this student had passed “by the proficiency method” and would be graduating. Our graduation rate was so low that this was not a surprise to me, not after the year I had spent working in this system. I was learning how things worked. Similar things have happened elsewhere. In Tennessee an email was discovered at a K12, Inc. school directing teachers to delete poor grades.

The July 2012 NEPC report concludes that virtual schools are not adequately meeting the educational needs of students. “Children who enroll in a K12 Inc. cyberschool, who receive full-time instruction in front of a computer instead of in a classroom with a live teacher and other students, are more likely to fall behind in reading and math,” the authors state “These children are also more likely to move between schools or leave school altogether – and the cyberschool is less likely to meet federal education standards.”

I became a teacher because I am an advocate for youth. My wish is to empower them to find their voices, to use them respectfully and effectively to work for justice in this world. I only scratched the surface of building relationships with my students last year. This year it was even more difficult. 

As I reflect, I realize that the inability to dig into their realities and connect provided me a level of protection.

As I begin telling my story to a national audience, I face considerable dilemmas. How do I call out the corporations for the wrongful actions they are taking, for the massive deception being perpetrated and the money being siphoned from public schools without real people who are trying to do good work being hit by the fallout? How do I highlight the research that makes clear the failure of virtual schools without throwing talented teachers who are doing their best under the bus? Teachers I worked with are afraid to speak out, they are afraid to challenge or even question the administration or the system. I see the same fear dominant in the narrative across the country, in all walks of education. It is a justifiable fear; work is hard to come by, in part because of the very online programs I am rallying against. It is not hard to see that as I speak out, I might lose friends and I will jeopardize my own potential to be hired elsewhere as a public school teacher. It is a lonely place to stand, and a difficult decision to make.

I struggled with the decision to leave my students, and if I had better identified their individual challenges and truly gotten to know them it would have been doubly difficult. I continue to remind myself that I left to save my own health, that if my health had failed I would not be able to continue to advocate for youth. I would not be here for my own sons and I would not be able to hold my grandchild. The internal agony of compromised values and the endless dance of ethical dilemmas spinning through my sleepless nights finally got the better of me, and in facing a choice between financial crisis and health crisis, I gave my notice. I am unleashed, I am educated and I am fighting for the students I left behind. As an advocate I have chosen to walk my talk. I will speak for my students until they can fill my shoes, and I have faith that they will.

Darcy Bedortha, MS, MA

High School Teacher

Student, Antioch University PhD in Leadership and Change

Oregon Team, Institute for Democratic Education in America

What do you think of Darcy Bedortha’s story? What should be done about virtual schools that operate in this fashion?

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The news earlier today that the Koch brothers are joining the fight against Common Core complicates the political calculus surrounding the controversial standards.


The Politico article gives the impression that the rightwingers are the main critics of Common Core by failing to mention that the most zealous advocates for Common Core are Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, the Business Roundtable, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


Anthony Cody tries to sort out the political contradictions here.


He writes:


“But blaming progressive critics of Common Core for the rise of this conservative movement turns reality on its head. The people who have let down our public schools are those who are willing to embrace standardization and high stakes tests as some sort of “progressive” guarantor of equity. We have been down this path with No Child Left Behind, which was sold to us by an alliance of liberal and neo-conservative politicians. We were told children in poverty would get more attention and resources once standardized tests “shed light” on just how far behind they were. We got teacher ‘evaluation’ schemes built around faulty VAM metrics, leading to mass demoralization and too-many losses of strong educators, simultaneous with a hypocritical push to replace seasoned teachers with Teach for America novices. The result? Intense pressure to raise test scores, narrowed curriculum, and school closings by the hundreds – all with the mantle of approval by our “liberal” leaders. Who really got played here?


“Then Common Core came along in 2009. Everyone was weary of NCLB, and ready for change. But some of us could read the writing on the wall. The fancy words about critical thinking and “moving beyond the bubble tests” sounded nice, but a closer look revealed standards that were originally written with little to no participation by K12 teachers. The promises to get rid of bubble tests only meant that the tests would be taken on expensive computers. The promise to escape the narrowing of curriculum only meant we would be testing more often, in more subjects.


“So many of us started raising concerns. The basic premise of Common Core was similar to NCLB – our schools are failing, and we must respond with “higher standards,” and more difficult tests. But the indictment of public education has been wrong from the start, and we should not lend it credence by supporting phony solutions.”


The bottom line, in my view, is that Common Core is getting increasingly controversial because of the way it was developed and imposed. The absence of a democratic process and the lack of transparency caused a lack of trust and an abundance of suspicion. In a democracy, major changes like national standards for public schools must be done with maximum sunlight and participation, not in secrecy. The fact that no amount of true grassroots opposition from parents is sufficient to alter the views of policymakers like Arne Duncan or Nee York’s Commissioner John King serves to feed the rage against Common Core, from right, left, and center, from parents and educators.


The Common Core is becoming increasingly toxic. As it becomes more controversial, its chances of survival will dim. The more that policymakers shun reasonable parents and teachers, the more frustrated the excluded become. If Common Core dies, don’t blame the Koch brothers: Blame Arne Duncan, the Gates Foundation, Achieve, David Coleman, the NGA, the CCSSO, and all those who thought that national standards could be imposed swiftly without the hard work of listening and participation that democracy requires.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://dianeravitch.net/2014/01/07/anthony-cody-who-are-the-critics-of-common-core/

Darcy Bedortha is a guest writer for Anthony Cody’s blog.


She tells her story as a Lead Teacher for a K12 virtual charter school.


She confirms all the worst fears of critics of virtual charters.


They make a lot of money. They are passionate about profits, not students.


Students need one-to-one contact with a human being. They don’t get it.


In a long and heartbreaking post, she writes:


I was an English teacher, so my students would write. They wrote of pain and fear and of not fitting in. They were the kinds of young people who desperately needed to have the protective circle of a community watching over them. They needed one healthy person to smile at them and recognize them by name every day, to say “I’m glad you’re here!” Many of my former students do not have that.


The last thing these young people needed, I came to realize during my time with K12 Inc., was to be isolated in front of a computer screen. A week or two or three would often go by without my getting a word from a student. They didn’t answer their email, they didn’t answer their phones. Often their phones were disconnected. Their families were disconnected. My students also moved a lot. During my first year at the school I spent days on the phone trying to track students down. This year I struggled to not simply give up under the weight of it all.


In the fall of 2013, 42 percent of our high school students were deemed “economically disadvantaged.” I had a number of students who were not native English speakers. I cannot wrap my head around how to serve a student who is unable to read or comprehend the language that the virtual curriculum is written in, let alone learn the technology (when it is functioning) without sitting beside them in the same space. Many of my non-native speakers had parents who did not speak English at all. These students often struggled for a very short time, and then I never saw their work again. They dropped out, moved on.


The school officials make millions of dollars. The virtual charter works for them.


Why are we allowing public dollars to flow to these non-educational institutions?


Silly question. They give campaign contributions. They lobby. They are strategic in advancing their goal: Profit.


 
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://dianeravitch.net/2014/01/07/anthony-cody-confessions-of-a-teacher-in-virtual-charter-school-hell/

Anthony Cody follows up his brilliant analysis of the flaws of Common Core with this thoughtful projection of what to do next.


Cody believes that the standards are fatally flawed by the absence of any democratic process or review or trial.


There is also the indisputable fact that the standards were adopted by 45 states without their review but because the federal government made the adoption of “college and career ready standards” a condition for eligibility to win Race to the Top millions. This, despite the fact that the federal government is prohibited by law from exercising any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, instruction, or textbooks used in schools. Promoting CCSS, as Arne Duncan does, is probably illegal.


Cody concludes:


“…there is a deeper principle at stake here. Standards developed in secret without the active participation of K12 educators, parents, students and experts from the start are not acceptable or legitimate. There may be elements of the Common Core that are worthwhile, as jpatten suggests. The trouble is, we have not had any real process to debate these standards, or try them out with real children. And as indicated before, there is no process available to alter the standards in any meaningful way. According to their sponsors, they must be adopted as is, or dumped. I say dump them. Start over. Go back and fix the process – and the new standards we end up with will be better as a result.


“And for those who just want to skip over the issue of democratic process, and take the standards as a starting point, I challenge you to stop and think about the precedent being set, and the prerogatives we are handing to both the Department of Education and the Gates Foundation. This is our chance to set a completely different precedent, which would undermine rather than reinforce the prerogatives of the powerful. Isn’t that worth doing?”


My view:


Stop the Common Core testing. The students and teachers have not been prepared for the tests.


Stop the Common Core tests. The cut scores are aligned with NAEP proficient, which is a high level of achievement and not a reasonable pass-fail mark. it is guaranteed to fail–unfairly–70% of students.


This is what I hope will happen after the testing is called to a halt.


States and districts should review the standards and see how they work in real classrooms with real students.


The K-2 standards should be dropped or revised.


The arbitrary division between literature and informational text should be eliminated. It has no basis in evidence, experience, or research. If teachers want to teach all-literature or all-informational text, that is their prerogative.


Tests should be prepared and scored by teachers, as they are in other countries. The teachers not only get instant feedback, but see what their students understood and did not understand, and also learn what they did not teach well enough for most students to understand. The current Common Core tests do not provide instant feedback or item analysis, and nothing can be learned from them other than to rank students.


Bear in mind that no one can enforce the standards as written. Will the National Governors Association or the Council of Chief State School Officers sue a dozen states to stop them from improving the standards? Not likely.


Let us not forget that the central conversation here is not about test scores. It is about children, teachers, and education. What is in the best interest of our society? The Common Core causes scores to collapse. Its boosters say that is a good thing. But in the meanwhile, they are causing havoc in the lives of children, teachers, and schools. That is not a good thing, unless you believe that disruption is a thing of beauty and that something good is sure to emerge from chaos, disappointment, outrage, crushed egos, and upheaval.


Count me skeptical.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://dianeravitch.net/2013/11/18/anthony-cody-what-happens-after-common-core-is-ousted/

Anthony Cody follows up his brilliant analysis of the flaws of Common Core with this thoughtful projection of what to do next.


Cody believes that the standards are fatally flawed by the absence of any democratic process or review or trial.


There is also the indisputable fact that the standards were adopted by 45 states without their review but because the federal government made the adoption of “college and career ready standards” a condition for eligibility to win Race to the Top millions. This, despite the fact that the federal government is prohibited by law from exercising any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, instruction, or textbooks used in schools. Promoting CCSS, as Arne Duncan does, is probably illegal.


Cody concludes:


“…there is a deeper principle at stake here. Standards developed in secret without the active participation of K12 educators, parents, students and experts from the start are not acceptable or legitimate. There may be elements of the Common Core that are worthwhile, as jpatten suggests. The trouble is, we have not had any real process to debate these standards, or try them out with real children. And as indicated before, there is no process available to alter the standards in any meaningful way. According to their sponsors, they must be adopted as is, or dumped. I say dump them. Start over. Go back and fix the process – and the new standards we end up with will be better as a result.


“And for those who just want to skip over the issue of democratic process, and take the standards as a starting point, I challenge you to stop and think about the precedent being set, and the prerogatives we are handing to both the Department of Education and the Gates Foundation. This is our chance to set a completely different precedent, which would undermine rather than reinforce the prerogatives of the powerful. Isn’t that worth doing?”


My view:


Stop the Common Core testing. The students and teachers have not been prepared for the tests.


Stop the Common Core tests. The cut scores are aligned with NAEP proficient, which is a high level of achievement and not a reasonable pass-fail mark. it is guaranteed to fail–unfairly–70% of students.


This is what I hope will happen after the testing is called to a halt.


States and districts should review the standards and see how they work in real classrooms with real students.


The K-2 standards should be dropped or revised.


The arbitrary division between literature and informational text should be eliminated. It has no basis in evidence, experience, or research. If teachers want to teach all-literature or all-informational text, that is their prerogative.


Tests should be prepared and scored by teachers, as they are in other countries. The teachers not only get instant feedback, but see what their students understood and did not understand, and also learn what they did not teach well enough for most students to understand. The current Common Core tests do not provide instant feedback or item analysis, and nothing can be learned from them other than to rank students.


Bear in mind that no one can enforce the standards as written. Will the National Governors Association or the Council of Chief State School Officers sue a dozen states to stop them from improving the standards? Not likely.


Let us not forget that the central conversation here is not about test scores. It is about children, teachers, and education. What is in the best interest of our society? The Common Core causes scores to collapse. Its boosters say that is a good thing. But in the meanwhile, they are causing havoc in the lives of children, teachers, and schools. That is not a good thing, unless you believe that disruption is a thing of beauty and that something good is sure to emerge from chaos, disappointment, outrage, crushed egos, and upheaval.


Count me skeptical.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://dianeravitch.net/2013/11/18/anthony-cody-what-happens-after-common-core-is-ousted/

Anthony Cody follows up his brilliant analysis of the flaws of Common Core with this thoughtful projection of what to do next.


Cody believes that the standards are fatally flawed by the absence of any democratic process or review or trial.


There is also the indisputable fact that the standards were adopted by 45 states without their review but because the federal government made the adoption of “college and career ready standards” a condition for eligibility to win Race to the Top millions. This, despite the fact that the federal government is prohibited by law from exercising any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, instruction, or textbooks used in schools. Promoting CCSS, as Arne Duncan does, is probably illegal.


Cody concludes:


“…there is a deeper principle at stake here. Standards developed in secret without the active participation of K12 educators, parents, students and experts from the start are not acceptable or legitimate. There may be elements of the Common Core that are worthwhile, as jpatten suggests. The trouble is, we have not had any real process to debate these standards, or try them out with real children. And as indicated before, there is no process available to alter the standards in any meaningful way. According to their sponsors, they must be adopted as is, or dumped. I say dump them. Start over. Go back and fix the process – and the new standards we end up with will be better as a result.


“And for those who just want to skip over the issue of democratic process, and take the standards as a starting point, I challenge you to stop and think about the precedent being set, and the prerogatives we are handing to both the Department of Education and the Gates Foundation. This is our chance to set a completely different precedent, which would undermine rather than reinforce the prerogatives of the powerful. Isn’t that worth doing?”


My view:


Stop the Common Core testing. The students and teachers have not been prepared for the tests.


Stop the Common Core tests. The cut scores are aligned with NAEP proficient, which is a high level of achievement and not a reasonable pass-fail mark. it is guaranteed to fail–unfairly–70% of students.


This is what I hope will happen after the testing is called to a halt.


States and districts should review the standards and see how they work in real classrooms with real students.


The K-2 standards should be dropped or revised.


The arbitrary division between literature and informational text should be eliminated. It has no basis in evidence, experience, or research. If teachers want to teach all-literature or all-informational text, that is their prerogative.


Tests should be prepared and scored by teachers, as they are in other countries. The teachers not only get instant feedback, but see what their students understood and did not understand, and also learn what they did not teach well enough for most students to understand. The current Common Core tests do not provide instant feedback or item analysis, and nothing can be learned from them other than to rank students.


Bear in mind that no one can enforce the standards as written. Will the National Governors Association or the Council of Chief State School Officers sue a dozen states to stop them from improving the standards? Not likely.


Let us not forget that the central conversation here is not about test scores. It is about children, teachers, and education. What is in the best interest of our society? The Common Core causes scores to collapse. Its boosters say that is a good thing. But in the meanwhile, they are causing havoc in the lives of children, teachers, and schools. That is not a good thing, unless you believe that disruption is a thing of beauty and that something good is sure to emerge from chaos, disappointment, outrage, crushed egos, and upheaval.


Count me skeptical.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://dianeravitch.net/2013/11/18/anthony-cody-what-happens-after-common-core-is-ousted/

Anthony Cody follows up his brilliant analysis of the flaws of Common Core with this thoughtful projection of what to do next.


Cody believes that the standards are fatally flawed by the absence of any democratic process or review or trial.


There is also the indisputable fact that the standards were adopted by 45 states without their review but because the federal government made the adoption of “college and career ready standards” a condition for eligibility to win Race to the Top millions. This, despite the fact that the federal government is prohibited by law from exercising any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, instruction, or textbooks used in schools. Promoting CCSS, as Arne Duncan does, is probably illegal.


Cody concludes:


“…there is a deeper principle at stake here. Standards developed in secret without the active participation of K12 educators, parents, students and experts from the start are not acceptable or legitimate. There may be elements of the Common Core that are worthwhile, as jpatten suggests. The trouble is, we have not had any real process to debate these standards, or try them out with real children. And as indicated before, there is no process available to alter the standards in any meaningful way. According to their sponsors, they must be adopted as is, or dumped. I say dump them. Start over. Go back and fix the process – and the new standards we end up with will be better as a result.


“And for those who just want to skip over the issue of democratic process, and take the standards as a starting point, I challenge you to stop and think about the precedent being set, and the prerogatives we are handing to both the Department of Education and the Gates Foundation. This is our chance to set a completely different precedent, which would undermine rather than reinforce the prerogatives of the powerful. Isn’t that worth doing?”


My view:


Stop the Common Core testing. The students and teachers have not been prepared for the tests.


Stop the Common Core tests. The cut scores are aligned with NAEP proficient, which is a high level of achievement and not a reasonable pass-fail mark. it is guaranteed to fail–unfairly–70% of students.


This is what I hope will happen after the testing is called to a halt.


States and districts should review the standards and see how they work in real classrooms with real students.


The K-2 standards should be dropped or revised.


The arbitrary division between literature and informational text should be eliminated. It has no basis in evidence, experience, or research. If teachers want to teach all-literature or all-informational text, that is their prerogative.


Tests should be prepared and scored by teachers, as they are in other countries. The teachers not only get instant feedback, but see what their students understood and did not understand, and also learn what they did not teach well enough for most students to understand. The current Common Core tests do not provide instant feedback or item analysis, and nothing can be learned from them other than to rank students.


Bear in mind that no one can enforce the standards as written. Will the National Governors Association or the Council of Chief State School Officers sue a dozen states to stop them from improving the standards? Not likely.


Let us not forget that the central conversation here is not about test scores. It is about children, teachers, and education. What is in the best interest of our society? The Common Core causes scores to collapse. Its boosters say that is a good thing. But in the meanwhile, they are causing havoc in the lives of children, teachers, and schools. That is not a good thing, unless you believe that disruption is a thing of beauty and that something good is sure to emerge from chaos, disappointment, outrage, crushed egos, and upheaval.


Count me skeptical.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://dianeravitch.net/2013/11/18/anthony-cody-what-happens-after-common-core-is-ousted/