Friday, September 25, 2009

Don't choke on the shit 

Education: a machine through which unformed biological material can be processed into focused, goal-oriented, functional, obedient, conscience-less, murderous achievers of success.

And if you disagree, maybe you haven't taken to heart what it means to work in a disciplined, bipartisan fashion in the service of our nation.

Unions Criticize Obama's School Proposals as 'Bush III'

To the surprise of many educators who campaigned last year for change in the White House, the Obama administration's first recipe for school reform relies heavily on Bush-era ingredients and adds others that make unions gag.

Standardized testing, school accountability, performance pay, charter schools -- all are integral to President Obama's $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" grant competition... Labor leaders, parsing the Education Department's fine print, call the proposal little more than a dressed-up version of the No Child Left Behind law enacted seven years ago under Obama's Republican predecessor...

"Obama's the fourth president in a row who has been in favor of standards-based reform and test-driven accountability," said Jack Jennings, a former Democratic congressional aide and president of the Center on Education Policy...

On Thursday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told interest groups in Washington that the administration hopes to improve the 2002 federal law by raising expectations for students, giving schools more flexibility and tracking classroom gains rather than how far test scores fall short of what he called "utopian goals."

But Duncan reiterated his commitment to testing and accountability: "I will always give NCLB credit for exposing achievement gaps and for requiring that we measure our efforts to improve education by looking at outcomes rather than inputs. . . . Today, we expect districts, principals and teachers to take responsibility for the academic performance of their schools and students."

The standardized testing culture has sunk deep roots in public education under the federal mandate to assess students in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. State tests are widely criticized for uneven rigor and quality, but they provide data crucial to many reform efforts. The administration has set aside funding to help develop a new generation of exams as a group of states seeks to write what could become the first nationwide academic standards. But for now, the regular state tests will feed into Race to the Top...

...Details embedded within the proposal have sent shock waves through the education world.

For example, it defines an "effective teacher" as one "whose students achieve acceptable rates (e.g., at least one grade level in an academic year) of student growth" -- and it requires such growth to be measured through state test scores when applicable. To revive struggling schools, including many Duncan calls "dropout factories," the proposal urges states to sweep out their staff or management, convert them to charter schools or close them entirely, with a fourth option of "school transformation" recommended only when the more aggressive strategies "are not possible." And the proposal declares ineligible for funding any state that prohibits the linkage of student achievement data to teachers and principals for job evaluations...

The National Education Association, with 3.2 million members, called it a "disturbing" federal intrusion. "We have been down that road before with the failures of No Child Left Behind," the union writes, "and we cannot support yet another layer of federal mandates that have little or no research base of success and that usurp state and local government's responsibilities for public education." Union affiliates from 19 states weighed in, many echoing such views.

The National School Boards Association declared itself generally supportive but worried that the program is "overly prescriptive," with an "overemphasis on charter schools [which can prohibit unions] and school takeovers."

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell (R) commended the administration's push for performance pay and charter schools. "Education reform is not a partisan issue," he wrote in a letter to Duncan last month.

In a joint statement, the Center for American Progress, Democrats for Education Reform, the Education Equality Project and the Education Trust called the proposal "a strong and good-faith effort" to fix education problems.

"There hasn't been enough focus by those on the left on innovation and entrepreneurship. It's ironic because it's those traits of America that have pushed this country into world leadership," Cynthia G. Brown of the Center for American Progress said in an interview. Said Brown, who was an assistant education secretary in the Carter administration: "We have to move forward and try some new ways of doing things. We need to do it in partnership with those who teach in our classrooms and those who govern our schools. But we've got to move forward."...

Innovation, entrepreneurship, moving forward, we've got to move forward. It's important for children to learn lessons, right? If you apply yourself, you accomplish that to which you've applied yourself. Kids have to learn to respect rules and standards. How can kids achieve success if they don't learn the importance of adhering to the rules and standards according to which success is measured and achieved?

America: where children learn how to become sales clerks, receptionists, concentration-camp guards, information-processors, and producers of reports on the necessity of standardized testing and precision-bombing in the Middle East.


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