Arne Duncan’s Moment of Truth
Ohanian Guarantee: Read this all the way through and I guarantee you will find new information--things you did not already know. This is my goal: Information as well as opinion. I don't feel justified in whining about the current state of affairs unless I offer information that helps justify my whine.
Don't skip the list of grant recipients. That's where the information is. And get prepared for deeper learning, a trending term. You can ask the grant recipients if it is related to deep learning.
Merrow introduces this column thusly:
I have just come from the annual meeting of the New Schools Venture Fund, an energetic gathering that I have not attended for a few years. I was surprised by the push back against high-stakes testing, something I had not anticipated. Below are some thoughts about what I see as an opportunity for public education to make a (much needed) course correction.
Barnett Berry, mentioned below, is co-author of upcoming TEACHERPRENEURS: Innovative Teachers Who Lead But Don't Leave, coming in August 2013. Teacherpreneurs: what a god-awful term. The book calls for "a bold new brand of teacher leadership"--for the 21st Century. According to the book blurb, Teacherpreneurs spend part of their day or week teaching students and the other part working to change policies and practices beyond their schools and districts.
Merrow is not alone in promoting this. Others who promote the book include: Pasi Sahlberg,Linda Darling-Hammond, Dennis Van Roekel, Arthur E. Wise.
I can't get beyond the title. . . and this constant insistence that teachers must be remolded.
Merrow makes one good point in his column below: Cheating is not the problem that must to be addressed.
In a footnote, Merrow mentions Project Respect Remember what Duncan said at the launch:
"Our goal is to work with educators in rebuilding their profession--and to elevate the teacher voice in shaping federal, state and local education policy. Our larger goal is to make teaching not only America's most important profession--but America’s most respected profession."
Duncan has never treated teaching as a profession but as a service occupation hired to provide service to corporate America. And, in essence, that's just what Merrow is proposing below.
Merrow says Bill Gates should be invited to a meeting "to reach a consensus on what it is we want schools to "produce"." In claiming that Gates should be invited because he is "a smart man" confuses wealth with wisdom. That's been the problem with the Common Core and other Gates-funded reforms all along.
How is schools as "producers" any different from schools as factories? Positing teachers as production managers is demeaning and dangerous.
Merrow was a winner of the 2012 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education. Learning Matters reveals its funders. I would add that these funders have clear goals.
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
- Carnegie Corporation of New York
Merrow received a grant from the Grade Level Reading Fund of The Tides Foundation
($200,000 in 2011 to create PBS segments on grade level reading.)
Sidenote: On the Tides 2011 tax form, Melissa Bradley was listed as working 12 hours per week for annual pay of $298,986. She has since moved on to found and direct New Capitalist. The secretary at Tides was listed as working 0.5 hours per week, at a salary of $82,320.
- The Hastings/Quillin Fund, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Among other initiatives, Silicon Valley Community Foundation Silicon Valley Community Foundation has launched the Silicon Valley Common Core Initiative (SVCCI), an ambitious three-year effort to encourage a collaborative approach to operationalization of the CCSS among the 54 school districts in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
- The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.
You can see projects they've funded here.
- The Wallace Foundation
- The Tietz Family Foundation
This is not a mega-donor like some of the others. Here is info on some grantees--a teen center, a public school arts program, and so on.
It's worthwhile to take a closer look at Wallace and Hewlitt. Both fund lots of endeavors in many fields. I have picked out a few of their grantees in education. Notice the pattern.
The Wallace Foundation
In their Own Words:
Our grant recipients generally fall into one of three categories:
Organizations that work with us to develop and test potential solutions to important public problems;
Organizations that conduct research to contribute to field knowledge and evaluate what is and is not working; or
Organizations that help us in communications by getting issues and solutions before those who can help effect change.
Wallace grants in the "leadership" category fill over 50 pages on the Internet. They fall into these categories: the press, state departments of education, some school districts, and other foundations and political outfits pushing the Common Core. I admit to some shock and concern that the New York Times received $1,000,000 in grants. Maybe they pay salaries of those writing editorials on education?
Here is just a sample of Wallace Leadership Grants--over several years.
- Aspen Institute
- Atlanta Public Schools (5)
- Council of Chief State School Officers (13)
- Education Trust (3)
- Education Week (5)
- Education Writers Association (3)
- James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy Foundation (4)
- Jefferson County Public Schools (7)
- Massachusetts Department of Education (5)
- Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (5)
- National Conference of State Legislatures(7)
- National Governors' Association Center for Best Practices(6)
- New York City Leadership Academy, Inc. (11) [Remember, Neutron Jack Welch was the first leader.]
- The New York Times (2): $1,000,000
- Providence School Department and the Providence Plan (6)
- State of New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration (5)
Other states received grants. I include New Mexico because I'm directly aware of the misery their state "leadership" has heaped upon teachers and students there.
One has to ask the question of where the line is between philanthropy and lobbying. People at the Wallace Foundation have an agenda traveling under the name of school reform. And they dump a lot of money into legislative organizations to push that agenda.
Here are Wallace Grants to Learning Matters:
2012: School Leadership
2011: School Leadership
2007-09: School Leadership
2008-2010: School Leadership
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
- Council of Chief State School Officers (2)
- Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education
One of their projects is Utilizing the Common Core
- Envision Education Inc.
- High Tech High Foundation
- State Higher Education Executive Officers Association
- Center for American Progress
- Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education
- Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
PIE Network (for state-based Common Core and deeper learning outreach) $300,000 (Take a look at PIE Policy Partners)
- New Visions for Public Schools
- America Achieves
- New Tech Network
- Aspen Institute ("for workshops to define education's role in supporting democracy and its link with the Common Core")
American Public Media
2012 grants Here, I started counting how many grants some organizations received. I did not do that for 2013. And remember: Some outfits like Center for American Progress and Stanford receive grants in lots of fields, creating a certain institutional loyalty to the grantor. (Money talks.) I was just looking at education.
- New Venture Fund
- Harvard University ("for support of a Deeper Learning book")
- Stanford University (2)("for creation of open online learning platform to accelerate Common Core State Standards") ("for a national cost analysis on performance assessment and related outreach to policymakers")
- Education Sector ("for analysis of state waiver practices to develop measurement criteria of Common Core implementation")
- WestEd ("for developing an online professional development course for science teachers")
- Achieve (2) ("for support of state adoptions of OER materials")
- University of Washington ("for the development of a next-generation instructional evaluation ecosystem")
- Council of Chief State School Officers (4) (One is "for support for the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium's operations")
- Rice University ("for creating free open community college textbooks")
- Community Growth Educational Foundation ("for business community outreach in support of deeper learning")
- University of California at Los Angeles ("for research, analysis, and technical assistance to the state-led assessment consortia")
- The Teaching Channel ("for a video production project to showcase deeper learning in the classroom">
- Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching ("for Carnegie Units update")
American Institutes for Research (2) ("for identification of deeper learning schools and steps needed to scale the deeper learning model") ("for Common Core Standards implementation in California"
- New Visions for Public Schools
- U. S. Department of Education ("for a symposium on innovation and productivity in postsecondary education")
- PIE Network (2)("for a communications campaign for targeted states to support Common Core assessments" emphasis added)
- Business-Higher Education Forum ("for engaging businesses to support improved education goals")
- Brookings Institution
- Partnership for 21st Century Skills
- National Center for The Improvement of Educational Assessment Inc. ("for tools to evaluate the relationship of educational materials to the Common Core")
- The University of the State of New York Regents Research Fund (2) ("for optimizing the quality and delivery of Common Core support and materials")
- The Beryl Buck Institute for Education (2) ("for the development of a deeper learning math curriculum")
- American Youth Policy forum ("for site visits to deeper learning schools")
- New Visions for Public Schools ("for researching, cultivating, and showcasing exemplary schools to advance deeper learning")
- Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (4)("for promotion of K-12 and postsecondary alignment in ten states")
- Big Picture Company("for identifying, cultivating, and showcasing exemplary schools to advance deeper learning")
- EdVisions Schools ("for identifying, cultivating, and showcasing exemplary schools to advance deeper learning")
- New Tech Network ("for identifying, cultivating, and showcasing exemplary schools to advance deeper learning")
- National Academy of Sciences ("for developing a framework to guide the design of new national science assessments")
- Hamilton College ("for helping colleges improve effectiveness by defining, measuring, and using learning outcomes")
- Council for Strong America ("for mobilizing business leaders to advocate for deeper learning"
- Association of American Colleges and Universities ("for implementing new rigorous student learning assessments in higher education">
- Brigham Young University ("for exploring the financial and educational impact of use of open textbooks in high school")
- National Governors Association Center for Best Practices ("for a new initiative to engage higher education in implementation of the Common Core">
- America Achieves
- OpenCourseWare Consortium
- Los Angeles Area County Chamber of Commerce Foundation ("for support of chambers of commerce to develop a consensus agenda for deeper learning")
- Stanford University ("for a white paper researching the importance of noncognitive skills")
- The Foundation at FCOE
Please remember this list is not complete. I'm just trying to give a flavor of how education policy gets made in this country. It's quite similar to the way sausage gets made: lot of ugly little pieces thrown into the pot. . . with the public left totally unaware of just what's going on.
If someone had the time to look at grants offered a few years ago, we'd see the Common Core money that doesn't get talked about.
by John Merrow
As two powerful forces collide at this moment in educational history, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has an opportunity to make a mid-course correction that could save public education. The first powerful force is the Common Core and the accompanying tests that are being 'rolled out' in classrooms around the country. The epidemic of cheating on standardized tests is the other threat that must be understood and addressed.
Think of these two forces as mighty rivers, separate until now--but converging.
Dealing with the Common Core is going to require restraint on the Secretary's part, it seems to me. Adopted by all but five states, the Common Core raises standards and expectations, surely a good thing. However, it is also scaring a lot of politicians and educators. Some are upset at the idea of change because fear of the unknown is par for the course, others suspect a federal takeover of education, and some think it’s a good idea being done badly.
Mr. Duncan's official position is that the Common Core is not Washington’s doing, but everyone knows that federal dollars have supported its development and growth–it wouldn’t have happened without Washington. As protests grow, Mr. Duncan might be wise to keep relatively quiet and let others defend it, lest his support be taken as evidence that the Common Core really is that 'federal takeover' the critics fear.
But the arrival of the Common Core has created an opportunity for Mr. Duncan to speak out about the epidemic of cheating. FairTest, an organization that is strongly opposed to over-reliance on standardized testing, has compiled a list of states and districts where cheating (most often by adults) has come to light.
It identifies 37 states and the District of Columbia ( I have written about the latter.)
Secretary Duncan has previously said that the solution to this problem is tighter security, a position he took with me in a conversation after the Atlanta scandal became public. That might have been an appropriate response back then, but it is woefully inadequate today. Calling for increased security to solve today's situation reminds me of that old fable, 'The Boy at the Dike.' You may remember the boy trying vain to plug holes and running out of fingers. Something more is going on here, and I think we should expect our Secretary of Education to help us grapple with this.
The challenge for the Secretary is that his own federal policy is at least partially responsible for what's going on now. By insisting that student performance on standardized tests be an important part of teacher evaluation, Mr. Duncan and his "Race to the Top" have helped change the game. But it's a game without clear rules besides "Produce or Else." Surely he, as an athlete, must know that competition without rules leads to chaos.
Secretary Duncan has, wittingly and unwittingly, allied himself with the "Produce or Else" approach favored by Michelle Rhee , Beverly Hall  and other school leaders, apparently without clearly thinking through what "Produce" means. As a consequence, standardized tests have become a wedge (or a weapon) for administrators in their relations with teachers, a 'them against us' approach that is souring public education.
When I was a kid and when my now-grown children were kids, tests were designed and used to assess student performance and make judgements about school quality. Now, however, tests are all about holding teachers and principals 'accountable.' We have lost our way, and the cheating epidemic is the clearest sign of that. Principals and teachers know that their livelihood depends on rising test scores, and so the curriculum has been narrowed; adult energy is focused on the so-called 'cusp kids' who are just a few points shy of making it over the bar; music, theatre, and field trips have disappeared; children are objects to be manipulated, not living, breathing human beings with individual needs, strengths and weaknesses; and morally weak adults are cheating.
Here's the rub: Cheating is not the problem that must be addressed. It is the most visible and disturbing symptom of the disease, but the disease itself is our excessive reliance on high stakes testing.
The Common Core tests represent an opportunity to cure the disease, and the Secretary should seize the opportunity. These new tests are supposed to reveal student strengths and weaknesses; their results should provide insights into what teachers need to do to help their charges learn. But if we continue with our "Get Tough" policies and use scores to reward and punish teachers, the Common Core is doomed, it seems to me.
The Secretary could proclaim a new day in testing and assessment--actually a return to the old days when we trusted teachers. He could seek consensus on what "Produce" actually means, which would be the first step to moving us beyond hyper-testing. Most of the teachers I have known over 39 years of reporting on education are not afraid of accountability. They need to be part of the conversation, however.
Why not bring together  several dozen thoughtful teachers? ( Barnett Berry's Teacher Leader Network would be a great place to recruit.) Invite the two teacher union leaders and some savvy principals and superintendents (I'd pick some names from David Kirp's excellent new book, Improbable Scholars.) I suggest inviting Bill Gates, because he now says that education needs an accountability system that has the support of teachers, and because he is a smart man. Let these men and women--at least half of them classroom teachers--discuss and argue until they reach a consensus on what it is we want schools to "produce" and how that--and the adults in charge--should be assessed.
The ball, Mr. Secretary, is in your court.
1. The anger seems to be directed against high stakes testing, not the Common Core tests. Randi Weingarten has called for a one-year moratorium. Around the nation some parents are organizing to withdraw their children on testing days; some teachers in the northwest have refused to participate, and many school districts in Texas are petitioning their state legislature to ban high stakes testing. But that is my point: this moment of transition is a perfect opportunity to revisit what we are doing.
The Common Core tests have come and gone in New York City. I spent an afternoon with some 8th graders in Brooklyn last week, hearing their thoughts about the new tests they had just taken. Every single student wished for more time, but most did not seem fazed by the supposedly tougher requirements. The English Language Arts exam required them to read and write about several non-fiction passages, which most of these bright kids found boring. "Who wants to read about robot soccer players or the intelligence of crows," one kid asked scornfully? English Language Learners who have taken the tests may have had a very different experience.
2. The DC schools are worse off today by every measure I can think of. See my blog post. And Secretary Duncan has made no secret of his admiration for Michelle Rhee, even to the point of electioneering. The Washington Post's Bill Turque reported, "if any doubt remained about where the Obama Administration's sympathies are in the District primary, they were eliminated at a morning photo op that preceded the official RTTT announcement.” Duncan's announcement of the grant on the eve of the election had "the unmistakable feel of a Fenty campaign stop," as Duncan joined the embattled mayor and his controversial chancellor in a walk with children wearing Fenty campaign stickers. Asked if he was taking sides in the Democratic primary, Duncan said of Fenty, "I'm a big fan." When the new mayor, Vincent Gray, took over, Duncan urged him to keep Rhee on as chancellor, but Gray wisely let her go. Duncan then reportedly urged Gray to promote Kaya Henderson, Rhee's Deputy Chancellor. (Cited in David Safier's blog)
3. Dr. Hall and 34 other Atlanta educators have been indicted and are awaiting trial, and Atlanta remains the epicenter of our cheating universe.
4. Peter Cunningham, Secretary Duncan's erstwhile Assistant Secretary for Communications, reminds me that the Secretary has been an active participant in Project Respect and has met personally with hundreds of the roughly 5,000 teachers the Department has met with since taking office.
John Merrow with extensive Ohanian notes
Taking Note blog
May 01, 2013
Index of Common Core [sic] Standards