Thursday, January 31, 2008

U.S. Department of Education Joining Forces with Department of Homeland Security


U. S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, joined by Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, announced today the creation of a new strong-arm agency of the Department of Homeland Security to be charged with the task of protecting and defending the security and accuracy of the nation's standardized test data. The Test Security Operations Center will train security officers to patrol our nation's K-12 schools during the administration of standardized tests.

The agency will be headed by former drill sergeant and part-time mud wrestler Brunhilda Briarballs. "She'll serve us well," mused Spellings, noting that Briarballs is notorious among military insiders as having 'scared the crap' out of many strapping young military recruits. "They don't call her Bulldozer for nothing," quipped Spellings, "and there's no doubt we can expect her to take a hard nosed approach when addressing testing irregularities which can potentially impact the security of the tests or the accuracy of the data."

Any event which might be construed as having the potential to compromise the security or accuracy of the test data will constitute a security breach and will result in a school's failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) toward the federally mandated target of 100% proficiency of all students by the year 2014. A teacher who is involved in a compromising event, such as administering an encouraging pat on the back to a struggling student during testing, will be subject to stern disciplinary measures. Spellings explained that such a gesture, while seemingly innocent to the untrained eye, could actually be a signal to the student that they have answered an item incorrectly.

As part of her dual capabilities, Briarballs will also head the Office of Testing Emergency Preparedness. In the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack occurring during the administration of The Tests, first responders will be dispatched to herd and guard students and teachers while the tests are being gathered and propelled to underground shelters for safekeeping.

Spellings became visibly irritated when a reporter asked if the practice of high-stakes testing itself didn't actually encourage cheating, given that educators' jobs and the survival of their schools depend on their reaching a goal that is neither mathematically nor humanly possible to achieve. She responded, "We know that the very vast majority of teachers do not cheat. However, only with the implementation of these measures can we be guaranteed that we have objective proof of whether public schools are doing their job of ensuring that all children are average or above by 2014."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Excerpt from President's State of the Union - Revised

"Too many public schools are getting away with not failing ...with failing," said the President. (laughter) "We must close all AYP loopholes to make sure all our nation's poor children, regardless of income or life circumstance, is reading and doing math at grade level. It's not right for there to be an achievement gap between some children and some other children."

Monday, January 28, 2008

Waiting List: Question #2

inconvenient questions for our nation's corporate/politicos

If there is a tight link between what takes place in our public school classrooms and our nation's economic competitiveness and productivity, why haven't you been singing the praises of public education for decades? And why aren't you singing them right now?

But we see how the great wealth being created manages to defy gravity.

Yours truly,
the nation's scapegoat

Saturday, January 26, 2008

WE'RE NUMBER ONE!!! ( childhood poverty)

Sadly, it is to the everlasting shame of our nation's leadership that the United States, the richest nation on earth, has the highest rate of childhood poverty of all the wealthy, industrialized nations. But alas, we can breathe a huge sigh of relief and ease our collective conscience, for a solution has been found. What is it? Why, it's for our nation's teachers to "try endlessly until the magic works"!! But of course! No, I did not make up that quote.

The solution to childhood poverty offered by authors Delia Stafford-Johnson and Vicky Dill appeared online today, 1/26/08, at under the title "Empowering Children Through Effective Education". However well intended Johnson and Dill may be, their solution could have easily been taken right from corporate America's executive manual on how to discredit and dismantle public education.

Johnson and Dill wrongly assert:

Equal and excellent education for all means access to high status jobs for those from poverty backgrounds.
No it doesn't. While we must indeed strive for excellent education for all, and while more equitable education for our nation's poor children is a national imperative, in order for better education to achieve better jobs for our nation's poor, there have to be decent paying jobs available. Lots and lots of them for lots and lots of poor people and our dwindling middle class. There aren't.

They're being outsourced and rendered obsolete by the same corporate elite who work relentlessly to discredit public education, the same corporate elite who would have the nation believe that public schools and teachers are responsible for the societal inequities that afflict innocent children, the same corporate elite who benefit mightily from cheap labor and that Golden Goose of profiteering and opportunism called the achievement gap.

As Jean Anyon, author of "Ghetto Schooling" recently pointed out in her article,
No Child Left Behind as an Anti-Poverty Measure:

For more education to lead to better jobs, there have to be jobs available. However, there are not now, nor have there been for more than two decades, nearly enough jobs for those who need them...the jobs the U.S. economy now produces are primarily poverty-wage jobs ---and only a relative few highly paid ones --- making it increasingly less certain that education will assure that work pays well. Seventy-seven percent of new and projected jobs in the next decade will be low-paying. Only a quarter of these are expected to pay over $26,000 a year (in 2002 dollars).
And how deceptive are statements from Bill Gates and his 60 million dollar ED in '08 campaign:

Two thirds of new jobs being created require higher education or advanced training.
And there is this many times repeated claim from corporate crony and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, whose most noteworthy qualification for the job is that she doesn't have one:

Eighty percent of the fastest growing jobs require a college degree.
What they and the Business Roundtable conveniently fail to tell the American people is that these "fastest growing" jobs hire very few people, as one can easily find out by checking the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Educational researcher Gerald Bracey notes:
Spellings' assertion...slides past the fact that rates and numbers often paint extremely different pictures of what is going on. "Fastest growing" is a rate. If I make $1 today and double that for each of the next 4 days, my rate of increase in rapid, but at the end of the week I've only made $31. The fastest growing jobs do not account for very many jobs. In the BLS projections from 2004 to 2014, the number of retail sales clerk positions totals more than the top ten fastest growing jobs combined.
If one looks at sheer numbers of jobs, one sees what we might call the "Wal-Martization of America." The occupations with legions of jobs are mostly in the low-skilled, low pay sectors. Nineteen of the 30 occupations with the largest numbers of jobs are in the "low" or "very low" pay categories such as retail sales, janitors, food prep workers, waiters, home health aides, office clerks, etc.
And Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute nails it too in his article, Schools as Scapegoats:

American middle-class living standards are threatened, not because workers lack competitive skills but because the richest among us have seized the fruits of productivity growth, denying fair shares to the working- and middle-class Americans, educated in American schools, who have created the additional national wealth. Over the last few decades, wages of college graduates overall have increased, but some college graduates -- managers, executives, white-collar sales workers -- have commandeered disproportionate shares, with little left over for scientists, engineers, teachers, computer programmers, and others with high levels of skill. No amount of school reform can undo policies that redirect wealth generated by skilled workers to profits and executive bonuses.
Johnson and Dill rightly seek to elevate the issue of childhood poverty in our national conscience. However, their stated position that our nation's school teachers are the solution to childhood poverty and the poor academic achievement that so often accompanies poverty and its deprivations is unbelievably simplistic. And it continues to place an enormously disproportional responsibility on schools and teachers alone:

Graduating every student with an excellent education is the solution, and effective teachers and principals are the key to achieving this goal.
Not only this, it serves to divert national attention away from social and economic policy changes that are desperately needed to help these children. I do not mean to diminish the importance of quality teaching and quality schools. It's part of the needed mix. I believe the number one IN SCHOOL factor affecting academic achievement is the quality of the classroom teacher. It's critical. However, when it comes to factors impacting academic achievement, especially the achievement of our nation's most disadvantaged students, we know that circumstances outside the classroom over which educators have no control dwarf what takes place in the classroom.

Until this nation stops using our nation's public schools and teachers as the national scapegoat for poverty and societal ills, until social and economic injustices are confronted and ameliorated directly, we will see little change in achieving a more just and equitable society for all of our nation's children. Can we please stop pretending?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

ED in '08 and Puppy Dog Tails

Educational researchers, economists, and research scientists in the area of human behavior, working in collaboration with canine behavior specialists, have completed a groundbreaking study, the policy implications of which are likely to cause hair to stand on end among the Strong American Schools/ED in '08 folks who compose a 60 million dollar public awareness and action campaign funded by billionaire philanthropists Bill Gates and Eli Broad. The stated mission of ED in '08 is to make education a top priority in the 2008 presidential election.

The findings exposed by the study and the preliminary recommendations being set forth by its authors are considered long overdue by frustrated teachers on the ground charged with carrying out misguided corporate/politico policies guaranteed to leave many children behind. Extensive documentation demonstrates irrefutably that much of the fear-mongering now being disseminated by ED in '08 is virtually identical to the years of "failing public schools" propaganda that paved the way for the No Child Left Behind Act, now aptly re-named the No Corporation Left Behind Act.

Remarkably, the study was inspired by a simple observation frequently noted by exasperated teachers, an uncanny similarity between the tight frenzied circle of unproductive tail chasing activity that certain dogs engage in and the endless revolving circle of resurrected myths about public schools perpetuated by powerful business interests --- myths which scapegoat already heavily burdened schools and teachers while conveniently neglecting the elephants in the classroom.

The examination of likenesses between corporate behavior and obsessive/compulsive disorders in dogs may lead to treatments and policies which will bring blessed relief to children, teachers, and schools. Canine behavior specialists have long known that dogs afflicted with obsessive compulsive disorders commonly develop a fixation on their tails. Many scientists believe compulsive tail chasing derives from dogs' natural predatory instincts. Corporate obsession with public school accountability is likewise predatory.

While scientists acknowledge that dogs bear no particular hostility or ill will toward our nation's public schools, the same cannot be said of their corporate counterparts, who in sum evoke images of an animal of behemoth proportions, lumbering in large figure o-eights around our nation's struggling schools, waiting to devour them.

Recommendations are under consideration for treating the corporate compulsion to control our nation's public schools. Teachers are favoring the securing of rigor wraps (electric shock collars) around the necks of offenders. Every time the word "rigor" is invoked as a solution for the childhood poverty and deprivations largely responsible for poor academic achievement, a succession of harmless but exceedingly unpleasant electrical jolts will be administered into the necks of offenders by highly qualified teachers carrying remote control devices. Though actual implementation of the remedy is not a certainty, teachers have already affectionately dubbed the devices "rigor triggers". In the most extreme cases of obsessive/compulsive school bashing, even shock therapy may not significantly reduce the problem . In these cases, muzzling may have to be considered.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Waiting List: Question #1

the beginning of my list of inconvenient questions for our nation's politicians

An oppressive regime of standardized testing has been imposed upon our nation's public schools as well as the very dubious practice of judging the quality of teaching and learning based almost solely on these test scores.

The following question is for the presidential candidates who support vouchers for public school students to attend private schools.

What is the justification for spending public money on
vouchers for students to attend private schools when the private schools are
exempt from the very tests being used to "prove" that our public schools are

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Letter N

My World Book Blogger's Encyclopedia of Debunked Pundit Blather

A memorable
column by Ruben Navarrette is really a jewel in exemplifying the quality, accuracy, and "expertise" of pundits who relentlessly malign our schools in the national free-for-all sport of public school bashing.

Although it has been a few months since his op-ed was published, it remains as relevant as ever to expose such nonsense as widely as possible because the same drivel continues to be repeated relentlessly and disseminated to millions. And besides, I didn't have my blog a few months ago - I'm making up for lost time!

Harvard educated Navarrette was writing in response to the Democratic presidential hopefuls' attacks on the bi-partisan No Child Left Behind Act when they attended the annual convention of the National Education Association. I hasten to add that these candidates, most of whom originally supported the law, have been more than a day late and a dollar short in attacking it.

Said Navarrette:

We're talking about one of the most important educational reforms of the
last 50 years -- and one that is quite modest. One of the law's central
goals is that all children be reading and doing math at grade level -- by

Why, have you ever heard of such a thing? A lot of teachers
oppose that requirement as too stringent and too unrealistic. Wouldn't you like
to know if your child's teacher is among those who want to keep the bar low and
who apparently don't see a problem with children performing below

It's embarrassing, really it is, Mr. Smarty Pants. Insofar as it is able to be defined, grade level is an average. It is the 50th percentile. By its very definition, nationally, about half of our nation's children will always be below grade level no matter how well some students may perform in isolated pockets. Now I know I am not the first to break the news to you sir, but here's the math:


And sir, the law does not require that all students be on grade level or above by 2014. It requires that all students be "proficient" by 2014. The two are not the same. What is defined as proficient varies from state to state. In my state it is safe to say that a child must demonstrate ABOVE AVERAGE performance to be considered proficient. Our cut scores for proficiency, like those on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), are quite difficult.

You can only imagine how misleading the newspaper headlines are when test score results come in.

As to your very unkind and uncalled for implication that teachers want to keep the bar low, the very vast majority of public school teachers have high expectations for every child and strive to do their best for each child under exceedingly challenging circumstances and unrelenting criticisms. But to expect every child to be able to learn exactly the same things in exactly the same amount of time is an exercise in cruelty.

I speak as a special education teacher who is forced to subject children with IQs in the 60s and 70s to the same grade level standardized tests as their regular education peers. And hey, this comes after Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Co. reluctantly allowed a little, um, "flexibility" in the special education provisions. Prior to that I had administered my state's very long and difficult test to a bewildered little girl whose IQ subscores were in the 40s and 50s.

She didn't understand enough to cry at the outrage, sir.

An educational reform that is quite modest? Hey, now that's a jewel!