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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Race to the Top or to the Bottom? Make your voice heard!

Patrick has posted his comments on the proposed regulations for the US Dept. of Education’s Race to the Top grants – check them out!

The deadline for comments is Aug. 29 – please, even if you just write a sentence or two, make your voices heard, if only to protest the way they have left parents out of their list of “key stakeholders,” as Patrick was the first to point out. Among those cited instead are charter school operators and private foundations. Remind you of anyone?

Here is a link to the proposed regs on how this $4.3 billion funding should be divvied up, where you can also post comments.

The federal government wants to use the promise of these funds to bribe states to lift their caps on charter schools, despite any research showing that charter schools deliver superior results. Currently NY State has a cap of 200 for charter schools, which will soon be reached. Without a cap, the Bloomberg administration will be able to start hundreds more charter schools over the next few years. The DOE has publicly stated that they want to reserve 100,000 school seats in NYC for charter school students – which will require the closing of many more neighborhood public schools. No community, no matter where you live, will remain free from this threat.

The US Dept. of Education is also proposing that states be required to develop data systems that will allow tenure decisions and teacher pay to be linked to student standardized test scores, and closing a lot more schools, while reopening them with new staff. Their agenda is almost identical to that of Joel Klein, which has wreaked such havoc here in NYC.

As of this morning there were over 500 comments, most of them highly critical of the proposed regs, all of which you can access on the govt. website here.

Some of the best are from Diane Ravitch, Julie Woestehoff of PURE, a parent organization in Chicago, Helen Ladd of Duke University, Paul Barton, education researcher and consultant, Sean Corcoran of NYU and the Economic Policy Institute, and many others, including several classroom teachers. See also these letters to the NY Times, uniformly critical of Duncan's proposals. Here are comments from Charles Finn of California:

Yet again we have a system designed by bureaucrats, not educators. It gives classroom teachers virtually all of the responsibility for improving education (it's their salaries on the line, not those of principals and other administrators) while giving them no power whatsoever. Super-high-stakes testing is one of the major problems with education today -it is not the solution! Our current tests are inappropriate, and improperly used. Even the people who created them are appalled by the way scores are being used. It's time to stop the madness and actually talk with parents, teachers, and students about what is working and what is not in our schools. Politicians have their own agenda, and it's not about kids. "Race To The Top" will likely go down as President Obama's biggest blunder.

Together, the responses make a very compelling case that these proposed regulations are not only unsupported by research and experience, but will also likely lead to even worse conditions in our neediest schools.

The deadline for comments is Aug. 29 – please, even if you just write a few words let the US Dept. of Education hear from you by clicking here. Let them know that parents are the most important stakeholders of all. And please share your comments with the rest of us.

1 comment:

Teacher said...

It's funny, I recently attended a PD given by Marco Torres, the ed tech video guru. He mentioned that he had advised Obama and Klein on education policy. He's a strong believer in the educational system teaching/fostering creativity. I guess O and Joe didn't listen very well. Big surprise. My (conspiracy?) theory is that, because finance people were such big supporters of Obama's candidacy, Obama went with the 'reforms' that they favor and ignored the educators who advised him. At one point in the training, while Mr. Torres was talking about the importance of creativity, one of the teachers said, "Tell it to the mayor!" He responded by saying, that the teachers have to 'push back' against the focus on testing. How many brave souls will be willing to do this if their job and pay is determined by the test scores? Will there be any space for creative projects under the Race to the Top regime?