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    The NPE/Fairtest Machine: Culpability High, Credibility Low

    by Jim Horn

    The last minute flip-flop is a tactic favored by politicians whose allegiances and/or debts cannot be shared among supporters who have been led to believe a narrative that is anything but true.

    When Hillary Clinton, for instance, was Secretary of State and even months after, she remained ostensibly on the fence about the TPP, which will likely to become this generation's equivalent to the toxic NAFTA. When TPP negotiations were completed and passage was inevitable, Clinton came out strongly against it, thus satisfying her multinational corporate donors while pretending to side with workers here and abroad. She played the same game with the Keystone pipeline.

    On a much smaller scale, Ravitch and her NPE have done something very similar around the ESEA/ESSA/ECCA issue.

    It started back in April of this year, when Ravitch offered her unequivocal support for the Senate version with this:

    One may quibble with details, but the bottom line is that this bill defangs the U.S. Department of Education; it no longer will exert control over every school with mandates. This bill strips the status quo of federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators. . . .This is a far better bill than I had hoped or feared.

    Of course, none of that was true, except for the fact that Ravitch was on board the Lamar Alexander privatization train barreling toward passage of a more damaging version of NCLB. Lamar has been at it for so long that anyone with Ravitch's history knows where his priorities are.

    Defanging of ED? I think not. What the Feds have done is allow the charter industry to write most of this ESEA update and the corporate foundations to write the rest. The result is a states rights version of ESEA, which, as Gary Orfield has noted, will "set the country back by more than a half century."

    Meanwhile, the Feds, who have spent $3.3 billion on charters over the past two decades, will escalate the handouts to the segregating charter industry for new and established "no excuses" charters to buy everything from real estate to scantron machines:

    Along with incentivizing more charters comes an ECAA treasure chest of discretionary grant opportunities that will now be open to states, municipalities, and other "state entities." Under the new ECAA, federal money will go directly from Congress to the states or to another "state entity," which now may include a "state charter school board" or even a "charter school support organization."

    The new ESEA, if approved, will further erase the boundaries between corporations and government, and the main job of the USDOE will be to service the applications for assistance for charter school expansion, charter school facilities, training of charter school teachers and administrators, incentivizing test-heavy merit pay plans, and other corporate "innovations" aimed to privatize public schools and to further diminish the profession of teaching.

    Even without passage of the Escalating Charter Compensation Act (ECCA) the new ESEA, ED will increase its funding to charter schools by 48 percent in 2016--to a whopping $375 million per year. Even so, the charter industry is pressing for $500 million per year next year. If ESEA passes, that number will look look small potatoes.

    So while the Feds at ED have been de-fanged in terms of regulation and oversight for segregated charters and the corporate teacher education that they will fund over the coming years, the budgets at ED, with the passage of ESEA, will remain overflowing with education privatization dollars that will go to any outfit waving a charter school flag.

    But surely, at least, Ravitch must be right that the new ESEA will strip "federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators." Yes? Once again, not true.

    In fact, annual mandated testing will continue unabated. Even though Monty Neill, now acting as front man for Ravitch, argues that AYP and sanctions have been eliminated, this is not accurate.

    The 5 percent rule, however, remains a central privatization tool in the new ESEA, which means that the bottom five percent of test-scoring schools, i. e., the poorest schools, must be targeted for turnaround each year. And with a new bottom 5 percent guaranteed in perpetuity (or until all schools have been privatized), tell me again that sanctions have been eliminated.

    Obfuscation, dissembling, and lies.

    The NPE/Fairtest Machine: Culpability High, Credibility Low, Part 2
    The Flip-Flop

    In Part 1, I pointed out that Ravitch and NPE has been pushing for passage of the updated NCLB. It wasn't until last week, however, when Congressional action to pass this awful bill was imminent, that NPE took to Hillary's tactic to produce a statement of opposition to two elements of the new bill that Ravitch been supporting since April.

    Both of the concerns with the updated NCLB, which were expressed in an NPE fund-raising ad , were with specific elements, one having to do with siphoning Title II money for "social impact bonds" to benefit corporations, and the other concerned with federal proficiency and growth demands based on test scores.

    NPE expressed no concern about any of the other bill's multitude of shortcomings, profiteering opportunities, segregative influences, damaging directives, privatizing incentives, or corporate welfare initiatives.

    As of today, Ravitch's specific reservations regarding the ESSA passed by the House have been reduced to the one having to do with social impact bonds. Gone is her earlier concern over test based proficiency and growth demands, even though that problem remains in the House passed version of HR 5 (pp. 26-27) (pdf file) :

    "(A) IN GENERAL.--Each State plan shall demonstrate that the State educational agency, in consultation with local educational agencies, has implemented a set of high-quality student academic assessments in mathematics, reading or language arts, and science. The State retains the right to implement such assessments in any other subject chosen by the State.
    "(B) REQUIREMENTS.—Such assessments shall—--
    "(i) in the case of mathematics and reading or language arts, be used in determining the performance of each local educational agency and public school in the State in accordance with the State’s accountability system under paragraph (3);
    "ii) be the same academic assessments used to measure the academic achievement of all public school students in the State;
    "(iii) be aligned with the State's academic standards and provide coherent and timely information about student attainment of such standards;
    "(iv) be used for purposes for which such assessments are valid and reliable, be of adequate technical quality for each purpose required under this Act, and be consistent with relevant, nationally recognized professional and technical standards;
    "(v)(I) in the case of mathematics and reading or language arts, be administered in each of grades 3 through 8 and at least once in grades 9 through 12;
    "(II) in the case of science, be administered not less than one time during--
    "(aa) grades 3 through 5;
    "(bb) grades 6 through 9; and "(cc) grades 10 through 12; and
    "(III) in the case of any other subject chosen by the State, be administered at the discretion of the State;
    "(vi) measure individual student academic proficiency and, at the State’s discretion, growth;

    Oh well.

    Does Ending the Disease Require Killing the Patient?

    The toxicity of NCLB has led NPE and Fairtest to conclude that anything that may bring an end to some of the suffering caused by the NCLB poison must be a good thing. Regardless. No matter that the remedy that promises temporary relief is going to kill us in the near term.

    It seems to have never occurred to those embracing this kind of dispirited masochism that there may be a cure to the disease that does not kill the patients. Ravitch posted today a commentary by Jeff Bryant, whose work I normally respect but in this case argues unconvincingly that getting rid of AYP, dumping Arne Duncan, and damping the malicious incompetence at ED are enough to call the new version of NCLB a "modest step forward."

    Bryant cites Monty Neill at Fairtest as his inspiration in believing that this bill, the same one that sets education back to an era of states right segregation, can be a positive move. How can it be?

    Another thing that bothers me about Bryant's analysis is that he points to criticism of the new ESEA by the NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center as coming from "outliers" on the leftist fringe. Just how far has the Right pushed our consciousness when these mainstream organizations like NAACP and SPLC can be labeled as outliers?

    Does that really preserve the rational mainstream only for those who will accept this corporate states rights version of ESEA, which is the Orwellian antithesis of the ESEA conceived fifty years ago as a tool for achieving educational justice and social equality? How haywire has the moral and political compasses become?

    Why is that we cannot take the time, and it will not take years, to develop legislation that will cure this problem, rather than pretending that doubling down on corporate education control and failed accountability systems provides the only option we have?

    There is a major social thought disorder at work here, mixed with a lethal form of corruption.

    — Jim Horn
    Schools Matter
    December 04, 2015

    Index of Data Command Force

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