Tag Archives: Race to the Top

Obama Administration’s Handling of Education Survey Results

First, I want to thank those of you who participated in the survey. The response was up 65% from last month.

The EducationBug survey question this month is:

Do you think the Obama administration and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are doing a good job of leading the country in the right direction with education?

The answer choices are:

• Yes: they really “get it.”

• Yes, national standards and the reform funded by Race to the Top are really needed, but we still need an overhaul of No Child Left Behind.

• Yes, the oversight of the for-profit schools is critical, and the other things I can live with.

• No, they’re off-track in just about every possible way.

• No, some things are okay, but Race to the Top and the national standards are a major step in the wrong direction in terms of educational quality and giving up local control.

• No, the federal government should be moving towards less involvement in education, rather than more.

Other (please specify)

We have more than twice as many votes cast as we did when I prepared the halfway report on August 16.

Here are the results:

170 people voted. One ‘Other’ response was deleted for being offensive, but definitely counted in the ‘No.” category, however, it is not counted in the results. One ‘Other’ response was deleted for not being germane to the question. It did not express an opinion on the topic, so could not be counted. One criticized the Obama administrations economic policy, but did not mention schools. Therefore, 167 votes.

Overall, there were 42 ‘Yes’ votes, 112 ‘No’ votes, and 13 ‘Other’ votes, of which 12 were fairly negative and one was reserved positive. The percentages then are:

No—74%
Yes—26%

Compare this to the halfway point, when we had 81 votes with 6 fairly negative ‘Other’ votes and one reserved positive, and the percents were:

No—75%
Yes—25%

So almost identical percentages, even when the number of participants more than doubled.

The answer that received absolutely the most votes was:

• No, the federal government should be moving towards less involvement in education, rather than more.

with 46 votes (27.5%).

A close second was:

• No, they’re off-track in just about every possible way.

with 42 votes (25.1%).

The least chosen answer was:

• “Yes, the oversight of the for-profit schools is critical, and the other things I can live with.”

with 5 votes (3%).

There are differences in the percentages, but these were the identical leaders and losers as at the halfway point.

The positive answer that received the most responses was

• Yes, national standards and the reform funded by Race to the Top are really needed, but we still need an overhaul of No Child Left Behind.

with 21 votes (12.6%).

The ‘Other’ responses were as follows. They have been lightly edited for typos and clarity.

1. No, as an educator the No Child Left Behind Act is just another mandate that makes new rules for the administration enforce on its staff. It needs to be rewritten. if you need help in that – give me a call

2. No. Obama asked all Americans to return to school for a better education. Education tuition increased almost 7% for our state. He removed Educational tax credits and reductions.

Additionally, struggling families with children (like mine) who are trying to do the right thing and return to school are now losing the child tax credits (my family loses $2,000. in 2011 – that is my college tution). Americans are drowning in debt, losing their homes and their jobs and we can’t get a break. A “promise” of not having a dime increase for families that make under 200,000.” was broken a long time ago. America is asleep as the country is being run aground. Check out the new tax laws taking affect in 6 months. Taxes on soda, tanning, PIZZA and even bottled water. America is dying quickly due to this administration. Throw us a line on educational credits and tax exemptions!

3. I can’t wait for the next election

4. Let the people who are doing the job, do their job and make the necessary changes in the system. The government should respect that.

5. need funding to hire the staff for inclusion -and for some a child with an IQ of 60 may never learn like a child with an IQ of 90 -and home environment -kids go to school with toothaches, sick, worried about home, yelling in the morning that upsets them by the time they arrive, hungry because the only food they get is at school -but heaven forbid they comprise more then 3%

6. While there should be *some* overarching accountability and assessment federally, local areas are probably better able to determine the needs of their own students. The money put into administering ought to be moved to educating, and then I imagine we would find that the budget crunch would largely disappear. It is amazing to me when schools cut three teachers or four staff, but leave all the high cost administrative bloat in place.

7. After 10 years in education I have left the classroom and taken my 3 children with me, we will be homeshooling from now on. Until NCLB is recognized as the “Every Child Held Back” program that it is and we stop punishing teachers for going into the most illiterate schools in the country by touting Pay for Performance as a means of rewarding teachers that take the easy way out, it really isn’t that hard to teach children who can read and write BEFORE coming to school and who have parental support; well until that time my children and I will not set foot in a public school again.

8. not so rigid on certification for international teachers who are already certified and brilliant on their country.And no discrimination on application.They are employing a lot of international teachers not knowing they are victimized by private agencies hiring them back home charging them their whole salary upon employment and leaving them destitute and not to be renewed for the next school year because of the probationary certificate for the expensive visa they have paid from hard work. May the government have pity on the poor but bright international teachers that they are hiring for lack of teachers in science, math and sped in the USA.

9. Education is one of the small things in these bad economical times. Obama needs to get the economy better before he tries anything big like education.

10. NCLB needs a major over-haul, less emphasis on AYP and less testing requirements. Students should not be tested every year, every other is plenty. National standards are already in place and working well. Merit pay could work if done right: it should be based on teacher performance and training, not student performance. Race to the Top as it stands will harm students. The biggest change that needs to happen is FUNDING REFORM. School funding should not be linked to property tax. At least half of school funding should come from the federal government. Our schools are not equitable and no amount of reform will help our students until school funding is equitable.

11. I’M HOMESCHOOLING AND NOT LEAVING IT UP TO ANYBODY BUT ME AND GOD.

12. Get rid of the Unions and schools might have a chance!

13. more vouchers and school choice, they are good on charter schools

August Survey Halfway Report

Halfway through our August survey on the Obama administration’s education leadership, we bring you a report of the results so far. If you haven’t yet participated in our August survey, you can vote here.

The survey question this month is:

Do you think the Obama administration and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are doing a good job of leading the country in the right direction with education?

The answer choices are:

• Yes: they really “get it.”

• Yes, national standards and the reform funded by Race to the Top are really needed, but we still need an overhaul of No Child Left Behind.

• Yes, the oversight of the for-profit schools is critical, and the other things I can live with.

• No, they’re off-track in just about every possible way.

• No, some things are okay, but Race to the Top and the national standards are a major step in the wrong direction in terms of educational quality and giving up local control.

• No, the federal government should be moving towards less involvement in education, rather than more.

Other (please specify)

So far, 81 votes have been cast, with 19 people (23.4%) voting for one of the three answers beginning ‘Yes,’ 55 (67.9%) voting for one of the three answers beginning ‘No,’ and 7 (8.6%) choosing ‘Other’ and leaving a comment.

The leading answer is: “No, the federal government should be moving towards less involvement in education, rather than more,” which has 33.3% of the vote.

Second place goes to: “No, they’re off-track in just about every possible way,” with 24.7% of the vote.

The least chosen answer is: “Yes, the oversight of the for-profit schools is critical, and the other things I can live with,” with 2.5% of the vote.

The responses to ‘Other’ include the following (lightly edited for typos, etc.):

• “After 10 years in education I have left the classroom and taken my 3 children with me, we will be homeshooling from now on. Until NCLB is recognized as the “Every Child Held Back” program that it is and we stop punishing teachers for going into the most illiterate schools in the country by touting Pay for Performance as a means of rewarding teachers that take the easy way out, it really isn’t that hard to teach children who can read and write BEFORE coming to school and who have parental support; well until that time my children and I will not set foot in a public school again.”

• “not so rigid on certification for international teachers who are already certified and brilliant on their country. And no discrimination on application. They are employing a lot of international teachers not knowing they are victimized by private agencies hiring them back home, charging them their whole salary upon employed and leaving them destitute and not to be renewed for the next school year because of the probationary certificate for the expensive visa they have paid from hard work. May the government have pity on the poor but bright international teachers that they are hiring for lack of teachers in science, math and special ed in the USA.”

• “Education is one of the small things in these bad economic times. Obama needs to get the economy better before he tries anything big like education.”

• “NCLB needs a major over-haul, less emphasis on AYP [Annual Yearly Progress] and less testing requirements. Students should not be tested every year, every other is plenty. National standards are already in place and working well. Merit pay could work if done right: it should be based on teacher performance and training, not student performance. Race to the Top as it stands will harm students. The biggest change that needs to happen is FUNDING REFORM. School funding should not be linked to property tax. At least half of school funding should come from the federal government. Our schools are not equitable and no amount of reform will help our students until school funding is equitable.”

• “I’M HOMESCHOOLING AND NOT LEAVING IT UP TO ANYBODY BUT ME AND GOD.”

• “Get rid of the Unions and schools might have a chance!”

• “more vouchers and school choice—they are good on charter schools

If you haven’t yet voted, we’d like to include your opinion for our final report, so please take the survey here.

Common Core Standards: Round 2 Results and Critique

The finalists from round two of the Race to the Top Program, an initiative sponsored by the federal government to reward states for educational reform under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, were announced yesterday.

Of the 35 states and D.C. that applied for the second round, 18 and D.C. were chosen:

• Arizona
• California
• District of Columbia
• Florida
• Georgia
• Hawaii
• Illinois
• Kentucky
• Louisiana
• Maryland
• Massachusetts
• New Jersey
• New York
• North Carolina
• Ohio
• Pennsylvania
• Rhode Island
• South Carolina

Finalists will present their plans to reviewers in Washington in early August, with winners announced in September. Not all finalists will receive grants.

Meanwhile the NYTimes in its Room for Debate feature, had panelists consider the question “Will National Standard Improve Education?” Here’s a summary of comments by invited contributors:

• Sandra Stotsky, professor at University of Arkansas in the field of education reform suggests that, contrary to the hopes of those who created them, the Common Core standards are likely to result in uniform mediocrity. Stotsky claims that the way the Common Core is structured may reverse the trend of increased numbers of students completing Algebra I by 8th grade, an accomplishment that enables greater achievement in both math and science in high school. She also critiques the Common Core “college readiness” standards as not being adequate for college-level work.

• Richard D. Kahlenberg, a Century Foundation senior fellow, points out that in the past, conservative desire for local control and liberal opposition to the testing programs linked with strong standards has prevented a move such as the current Common Core. He notes (without criticism), that it is the state’s impoverished budgets that has lead to the consensus.

Neal P. McCluskey, Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom associate director, remarks that having national standards does not change the underlying situation that public schooling is a monopoly and that those within the system have a strong motivation to have as little accountability as possible. He suggests that parents, rather than the government, should control educational spending and autonomous educational options, rather than the government, provide the choices, and states that research shows that free-market education performs better than monopolies, while there is no “meaningful” evidence that having national standards improves educational outcomes.

Michael Goldstein, MATCH Charter Public School’s founder, says that while he doesn’t think the curriculum will help his school in Boston, Massachusetts (Massachusetts has been touted for its high-quality standards), the Common Core standards are potentially beneficial for “millions of at-risk children” because it will allow successful schools and teachers to share seamlessly with other schools without different state curriculums getting in the way.

Alfie Kohn, an author in the field of education and human behavior claims that the most dedicated proponents of national education initiatives such as Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind “tend to be those who know the least about how kids learn.” He points out that uniform instruction offers only an illusion of fairness. What he seems to be arguing, although he does not say so explicitly, is that an excellent education for Child A, who may have the capacity to do college level calculus while still in high school may not be the same excellent education that would suit Child B, who has the capacity to become an internationally acclaimed oboist, or Child C, who has the capacity to repair the family car at age 14. What the Common Core standards say, according to Kohn, is that these children should be offered the same instructional demands. What Kohn seems to be advocating is an equally excellent education for each student.

Bruce Fuller, and University of California, Berkeley professor of education and public policy points out that when standards-based accountability was first introduced, gains were seen, especially in students who had weak literacy skills, but worries that the approach to education called “liberal” (not to be confused with the political persuasion)—which he characterizes as nurturing curiosity and the ability to question the status quo—will be lost in the attempt of the standards to make learning fit into uniform modules.

Sources

www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/07/27/race.to.top/

National Standards Acceptance Update

Let’s take Massachusetts as a for-instance…

Last Wednesday, the state of Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to adopt federal Common Core State Standards in place of their own state standards. Note that the word state is in the standards and national is not. You can draw your own conclusions about why this might be…

According to the Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mitchell Chester, the state plans to take advantage of a Common Core State Standards option that allows states to change up to 15 percent of the (let’s call them what they are) national standards to suit regional academic needs.

It seems important to add that Massachusetts standards have an excellent reputation and their implementation has resulted in very high student rankings, both nationally and internationally. But to qualify for Race to the Top funding from the Obama administration, compliance with the Common Core Standards was made a requirement, and Massachusetts is submitting an application in Round 2.

So, two questions arise:

• Is this coercion?

• Are these really national standards?

What seem to be genuinely “higher standards” in Massachusetts than a) in some other states and b) in the national standards, can remain higher—at least, up to the 15% point. So, Massachusetts is planning to invoke that option and make changes.

If Massachusetts changes 15% and California or Virginia, say—also known for their high academic standards—changes a different 15%, then extending from that model, any two states could be following 30% different standards.

Or, every state could change the same 15%, each in its own way, so that only 85% of the standards overall would be standard.

Another point:

Concerns have been raised that this is a step from which there is no going back. Once a state has opted in—even one like Massachusetts, whose state content experts had a great deal of input into the initial Common Core documents—it appears that they’re in for the long-haul, even if their experts are not among those consulted, or heeded, in the next revision.

Sources

www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/07/education_commi_2.html

www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/07/21/massachusetts-swaps-state-curriculum-national-standards/?test=latestnews

National Common Core Standards: Necessary or Not?

Released by the state school chiefs and governors yesterday, a set of English Language Arts and Mathematics standards that the Obama administration hopes states will adopt is now available on the Common Core State Standards Initiative website. Alaska and Texas opted not to participate in the development.

The goal of the new standards is to unify and make coherent the vision of what K–12 students should know and be able to do, which currently is ruled by each state’s own benchmarks. How the standards will be taught is up to states and teachers.

The current benchmarks vary widely, making school adjustment difficult for students who change schools and comparison of schools in different states in order to judge how schools are performing in their task of educating young people. They also mean that there is duplicate effort 50 times over, as each state addresses the same questions with its own set of personnel and resources.

There are several objections to this plan. One is the loss of local control in states and communities. Another is the need for different approaches to teacher education and massive professional development outlays for current teachers. The cost of textbooks and materials and the need to change standardized tests also loom.

Another type of objection is to the standards themselves. While states in which the standards are seen as a step up seem more likely to sign on—especially as accepting the standards is a criterion for a chance to share in the Race to the Top money—states that already have rigorous standards are not eager to join in. California, Virginia, and Indiana have been named as states that are hesitant to adopt the new standards.

We encourage you to take a look at the standards using the link above, and to take our survey to make your views on the national standards known.

Sources

www.nytimes.com/2010/06/03/education/03standards.html?src=mv

online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704515704575282920918415774.html?mod=WSJ_latestheadlines

www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2010/0602/New-public-school-core-standards-Which-states-might-not-sign-on