Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ravitch answers Gates

Leonie Haimson

And what about class size?

Until the class sizes in large urban school districts w/ high needs students begins to approximate those in our most successful schools w/ middle class students, we have utterly failed to give kids their right to a quality education.


Ravitch answers Gates

By Valerie Strauss
In a paean to Bill Gates, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter calls Diane Ravitchthe Microsoft founder's "chief adversary."

It's the world's richest (or second richest) man vs. an education historian and New York University research professor.

Gates, through his philanthropic foundation, has invested billions of dollars in education experiments and now has a pivotal role in reform efforts. Ravitch, the author of the bestselling The Death and Life of the Great American School System, has become the most vocal opponent of the Obama administration's education policy. She says Gates is backing the wrong initiatives and harming public schools.
In the Newsweek piece, Gates poses some questions aimed at Ravitch. I asked her to answer them. Below are the questions Gates asked, in bold, and the answers, in italics, that Ravitch provided in an email.

Gates: “Does she like the status quo?"
Ravitch: "No, I certainly don't like the status quo. I don't like the attacks on teachers, I don't like the attacks on the educators who work in our schools day in and day out, I don't like the phony solutions that are now put forward that won't improve our schools at all. I am not at all content with the quality of American education in general, and I have expressed my criticisms over many years, long before Bill Gates decided to make education his project. I think American children need not only testing in basic skills, but an education that includes the arts, literature, the sciences, history, geography, civics, foreign languages, economics, and physical education.
"I don't hear any of the corporate reformers expressing concern about the way standardized testing narrows the curriculum, the way it rewards convergent thinking and punishes divergent thinking, the way it stamps out creativity and originality. I don't hear any of them worried that a generation will grow up ignorant of history and the workings of government. I don't hear any of them putting up $100 million to make sure that every child has the chance to learn to play a musical instrument. All I hear from them is a demand for higher test scores and a demand to tie teachers' evaluations to those test scores. That is not going to improve education."

Gates: "Is she sticking up for decline?" 
Ravitch: "Of course not! If we follow Bill Gates' demand to judge teachers by test scores, we will see stagnation, and he will blame it on teachers. We will see stagnation because a relentless focus on test scores in reading and math will inevitably narrow the curriculum only to what is tested. This is not good education.
"Last week, he said in a speech that teachers should not be paid more for experience and graduate degrees. I wonder why a man of his vast wealth spends so much time trying to figuring out how to cut teachers' pay. Does he truly believe that our nation's schools will get better if we have teachers with less education and less experience? Who does he listen to? He needs to get himself a smarter set of advisers.
"Of course, we need to make teaching a profession that attracts and retains wonderful teachers, but the current anti-teacher rhetoric emanating from him and his confreres demonizes and demoralizes even the best teachers. I have gotten letters from many teachers who tell me that they have had it, they have never felt such disrespect; and I have also met young people who tell me that the current poisonous atmosphere has persuaded them not to become teachers. Why doesn't he make speeches thanking the people who work so hard day after day, educating our nation's children, often in difficult working conditions, most of whom earn less than he pays his secretaries at Microsoft?"

Gates: "Does she really like 400-page [union] contracts?"
Ravitch: "Does Bill Gates realize that every contract is signed by two parties: management and labor? Why does management agree to 400-page contracts? I don't know how many pages should be in a union contract, but I do believe that teachers should be evaluated by competent supervisors before they receive tenure (i.e., the right to due process).
"Once they have due process rights, they have the right to a hearing when someone wants to fire them. The reason for due process rights is that teachers in the past have been fired because of their race, their religion, their sexual orientation, or because they did not make a political contribution to the right campaign, or for some other reason not related to their competence.
"Gates probably doesn't know this, but 50% of all those who enter teaching leave within the first five years. Our biggest problem is not getting rid of deadbeats, but recruiting, retaining, and supporting teachers. We have to replace 300,000 teachers (of nearly 4 million) every single year. What are his ideas about how to do this?"

Gates: "Does she think all those ‘dropout factories’ are lonely?"
Ravitch: "This may come as a surprise to Bill Gates, but the schools he refers to as "dropout factories" enroll large numbers of high-need students. Many of them don't speak or read English; many of them enter high school three and four grade levels behind. He assumes the schools created the problems the students have; but in many cases, the schools he calls "dropout factories" are filled with heroic teachers and administrators trying their best to help kids who have massive learning problems.
"Unless someone from the district or the state actually goes into the schools and does a diagnostic evaluation, it is unfair to stigmatize the schools with the largest numbers of students who are English-language learners, special-education, and far behind in their learning. That's like saying that an oncologist is not as good a doctor as a dermatologist because so many of his patients die. Mr. Gates, first establish the risk factor before throwing around the labels and closing down schools."

Gates: "If there’s some other magic way to reduce the dropout rate, we’re all ears.” 
Ravitch: "Here's the sad truth: There is no magic way to reduce the dropout rate. It involves looking at the reasons students leave school, as well as the conditions in which they live. The single biggest correlate with low academic achievement (contrary to the film Waiting for Superman) is poverty. Children who grow up in poverty get less medical care. worse nutrition, less exposure to knowledge and vocabulary, and are more likely to be exposed to childhood diseases, violence, drugs, and abuse. They are more likely to have relatives who are incarcerated. They are more likely to live in economic insecurity, not knowing if there is enough money for a winter coat or food or housing. This affects their academic performance. They tend to have lower attendance and to be sick more than children whose parents are well-off.
"The United States today has a child poverty rate of over 20%, and it is rising. This is a national scandal. The film compares us to Finland, but doesn't mention that their child poverty rate is under 5%. Mr. Gates, why don't you address the root causes of low academic achievement, which is not 'bad teachers,' but poverty. It won't involve magic, but it would certainly require the best thinking that you can assemble. And if anyone can afford to do it, surely you can.
I don't mean to suggest that schools as they are now are just fine: They are not. Every school should have a rich and balanced curriculum; many don't. Every child should look forward to coming to school, for his or her favorite studies and activities, but those are the very studies and activities likely to lose out to endless test preparation. Schools need many things: Some need more resources and better conditions for teaching and learning; all need a stable, experienced staff. Teachers need opportunities for intellectual growth and colleagueship. Tests should be used diagnostically, to help students and teachers, not to allocate bonuses and punishments. Teachers, principals, administrators, parents, and local communities should collaborate to create caring communities, and that's happening in many places. I know that none of this is the "magic way" that you are looking for, Mr. Gates, but any educator will tell you that education is a slow, laborious process that requires good teachers, able leadership, willing students, a strong curriculum, and willing students None of that happens magically."
I also asked Ravitch about her reaction to the strange comparison Alter made in calling her "the Whittaker Chambers of school reform." She wrote:
"I wondered if Alter knows much about history. Whittaker Chambers renounced Communism and embraced American patriotism. Was Alter suggesting that Bill Gates is the Alger Hiss of school reform? I thought it was a weird analogy.

Detroit schools in final death spiral?

Detroit is dying a death of a thousand cuts. Still, the cuts add up and will someday become the last breath. . . . a product of the cruel mixture of racism and capitalism.

by Rich Gibson

The Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) may be on its last legs. This was a once-proud union that fought like hell, alongside other workers, not only for the school worker force, but for kids. Last year, behind the urgings of the DFT President, Keith Johnson and AFT President Randi Weingarten, the DFT bargained what I think is the worst contract in the history of school-based collective bargaining. Substance (subscribe now for lower rates!) ran a piece on that contract (http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=1063&section=Article).

Detroit schools lost 1/2 of the student body in the last decade, probably more than that because no statistics coming from any Detroit agency can be trusted. Over the years, the school system, like the entire Detroit public sector (and parts of the private sector — what is left of it) grew riddled with incompetence, corruption and dishonesty, at every level.

That is a product of the cruel mixture of racism and capitalism. Nevertheless, the organized teachers were the last force in the city that could truly fight back. That they failed, almost completely, does not speak well of them, or most teachers in the US either.

As a result of the DFT contract, what are called "neighborhood" schools have collapsed. Already in rapid decay, they appear to be nearly finished off. "Priority schools," are funded, get supplies, cream kids and teachers. Not too many complaints come out of them. In fact, I know quite a few priority teachers who are happier in their jobs than ever before. There is a lesson to them below.

There are more charters than before, but nobody can make a case that they caused the ruin of DPS, nearly in ruins before they arrived.

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson (above, speaking at the 2010 AFT convention) has been accused of supporting the worst union contract in AFT history. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Detroit is dying a death of a thousand cuts. Still, the cuts add up and will someday become the last breath. With a long history of rebellions and uprisings, that last death could be ugly. With hope in schools evaporating fast, that possibility is greater every day.

There is an election going on in the DFT now. Votes are to be tabulated in about ten days. It's unlikely that the contract can be upended, even if the traitorous leadership of the union is.

Below is a letter from the DFT web site, written by the V.P of the DFT. Nothing in the contract that I know of can protect school workers from the practices the letter describes. Only direct action could. I'll let it stand alone with just one warning: an injury to one really does just go before an injury to all.

Good luck to us, every one

Letter to Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett [11.22.10]

[Letter sent today to Dr. Barbara Byrd Bennett, DPS Chief Academic and Accountability Auditor]

Dear Dr. Byrd-Bennett:

We are getting a lot of feedback from teachers concerning the overwhelming amount of testing and progress monitoring they are required to do. While each of the assessments may have merit, taken as a whole they leave too little time for instruction. Teachers throughout the district are asking "When do we have time to teach?"

In addition to the regular curriculum, students are assessed using the Star Math and Star Reading programs. They work on individualized lessons and assessments through Accelerated Math and Accelerated Reading. Three times per year students take a battery of benchmark assessments including up to five Dibels assessments, Burst, and TRC. Throw in quarterly Q tests that take two class periods per day for four days each quarter, and two to three weeks of MEAP testing, and it's no wonder teachers want more time to teach.

In between benchmarks, teachers are asked to print up to 80 pages of Burst lessons every two weeks. These lessons are to be taught to the lowest achieving four to five students in each class for a half hour per day. Some schools don't have enough toner to print these lessons, others don't have enough copiers, and nobody seems to have enough time. One teacher estimates that a quarter of her instructional time is devoted to these assessments and progress monitoring.

On a weekly basis, teachers also are asked to do time-consuming progress monitoring for Dibels and TRC. Much if this work is done with one student at a time. While our teachers are doing their best to keep the rest of the class doing meaningful work, it is not possible to properly monitor and coach the others while you are testing individuals.

Two common themes emerge from discussions with teachers throughout the district. First, these assessments all have some merit individually, but together, they are too much. Second, we as teachers can handle all this, but our students are suffering.

One teacher told me that for one day, she ignored Burst, Dibels, TRC, Accelerated Math and Reading, and all she did was teach. It was the best day the class had all year! The saddest thing is, this didn't happen until the third week of October, and she had to ignore directives to make it happen at all.

To bring more balance to the classroom, we suggest that the district strongly consider the following changes.

1. Eliminate the Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4 benchmark tests. These tests are not aligned with the district's scope and sequence charts. Students are taking tests in November on material that won't be covered until March. As a result, there is no validity to these tests.Our teachers have seen tests designed by and for DPS every few years. From Exit Skills, to ESAT, to MIP, to Q tests, the tests come and go and you would be hard pressed to find a teacher who will claim instruction has improved as a result of any one of these.

2. Allow teachers to use their professional judgment to determine the amount of progress monitoring to do. Progress monitoring in TRC is particularly difficult, since the text in the Palm devices frequently does not match the text in the books students are reading.

3. Discontinue Burst groups. The lower achieving students can be helped in the regular classroom setting.

4. Provide additional personnel to help with assessments. Whether the district allows literacy coaches to do some of the assessments or provides classroom aides to assist with class management, more help is needed to keep all children learning.

We know that standardized testing is here to stay. To improve our scores, we need more instructional time, not more tests.

Sincerely, Mark O'Keefe, DFT Executive Vice President
— Rich Gibson
Substance News
- November 27, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Council for District One On Ross Global Academy charter school DoE authorized charter renewal hearing

 Council for District One
On Ross Global Academy charter school
DoE authorized charter renewal hearing

The CEC for District One has a history of challenging DoE’s practice of parachuting and shoehorning charter schools into our community school buildings, with no prior community needs assessment, consultation or involvement of any kind.

 Yet in the spring of 2006, the CEC for District One issued a resolution supporting the DoE’s placement of the RGACS into JHS 22 as a way of increasing utilization of that building by District One children. Our support was largely based on RGA’s commitment to engaging our community and community schools by recruiting District One students and working with parents, teachers, and school leaders to improve all of the District schools.
 Too we were favorably impressed by the promise of RGACS’s stated mission to provide our local students w/ 21st century skills by means of an interdisciplinary curriculum based on cultural understanding, multiple intelligence, globalization, communications, technology and well being.

When representatives from Ross began canvassing our district’s day care centers and Laundromats, effectively doing outreach exactly as promised, our support felt justified, as the first of many promises by RGACS appeared to be genuinely fulfilled.

Three years later, in early 2009 RGACS underwent a charter revision hearing to reflect the move to the ESCHS building here in District One. I again testified on behalf of the CEC in support of the school and move, which took place in the Fall 2009 at ESCHS.
 At that time I welcomed the school community to District One, offered our support, yet cautioned the school community that RGA would have to overcome many issues that had troubled the schools first 3 years.


The following statements are all culled directly from DoE/SED official reports, including annual Quality Review reports, Progress Reports, Charter School annual reports, Site visit reports, financial statements, etc

School Instability: high turnover/ low demand

High turnover of leadership:
Since opening in 2006, Ross Global Academy Charter School has had 7 principals in just 5 years, losing 4 in the first year alone.
Salaries/length of stay
FM 60 days/$53,704
JD 47 days/$24,923 (left before school started)
ME 4months/$22000

These changes were NOT communicated clearly to parents, creating confusion and uncertainty among the families that had chosen RGACS.

High teacher turnover:
2006-07=  92%, or 13/14
2007-08 = 75%, or 18/24
2008-09 = 42%, or14/33
During RGACS’s first year (2006-07), teachers reported chaotic working conditions; many quit/were fired in the middle of the year (8 before the middle of the year) and only 1/14 returned in 2007-08.

During the school’s second year, there were documented reports from staff of fear of retribution and exclusion from secret meetings; other complaints ranged from  inconsistent instruction, to lack of data/benchmarks/measures of accountability; from there being  no plan aligning RGA curriculum to NYS standards, to the failure to monitor that curriculum was progressively developing through the grades.

Comparing RGACS with national teacher attrition rates
Leaving profession, including retirement)
Regular publics: 7.9 percent
Charters: 12.5

Moving (switching schools):
Regular publics: 7.5
Charters: 11.4

High student attrition:
 According to the Department of Education, by February 2010, the middle of the 2009-10 school year 91 of the 410 students enrolled at Ross Global had left, at a rate of more than 22%. (Note- total enrollment was reported as 420 on 1/12/10 by Forbes).

 In 2009-10 more than 100 students transferred out from a total enrollment of 415 students (24%)
 In 2008-2009, the self reported attrition rate = 20.1% (80/399 students).
In 2007-08 = 24% (64/268)
And 2006-07= 20.5% (39/190)
At that time parents cited as reasons for pulling their kids out of RGA: violence/disorder/ curriculum too test focused, and not as elaborate as described in brochures/Summer school cancelled.
Not only it is important to note that these students attrition rate numbers are higher than average attrition rates for other schools, but we must keep in mind the documented positive correlation of student performance and attrition. The more a school counsels out  troubled or hard to reach students, students with high needs, English language learners, etc, the more likely the school is to show high performance.

 Board related issues:
According to the 2006-07 QRA, the board is run by founder, Ms. Ross, and was not operating credibly, failing to offer oversight, and awarding large compensation packages to former execs.

The reviewers note that there were no job descriptions, no strategic plan, and parents were not empowered

The QRA from 2007-08 again stated that the board was run by the founder.
Furthermore, teachers feared Board dismissal for minor dissent
There were reports of conflicting adult agendas among Board/Principal/Teachers, as well as confusion over roles, and lack of benchmarks for instruction and learning.

Reports from SED note that classroom management is a concern in many classrooms- there are no posted rules, many students are off task, and students’ misbehavior attributed to teacher inexperience.
Furthermore it was noted that curriculum lacks differentiation.
Teachers in middle school reported feeling isolated, and are not supported.
During year 3, DoE’s Charter School Office Director Michael Duffy raised the possibility of sanctions ranging from probation to shut down in June 2008 based on what was termed serious concerns and substantial issues with regard to performance.

Failure to comply with charter mandates/terms and goals for progress/achievement

Moving enrollment targets:
The RGA Charter was established in January 2006 for grades K-12 (500 students).
The charter was revised in October 2008 to scale back the school to K-8th grades (414 total) retroactively, because, as the school leadership expressed it, the school “needed to stabilize the K-8th grades before starting a 9-12 HS grades”. This was the first year that RGACS was host to its first 8th grade class, the soon to be rising 9th graders..

As RGACS was only serving 318 students as opposed to the 440 total approved in the charter, the enrollment plan was revised down again in May 2009 to mirror the school’s actual enrollment- in other words, changing targets to meet reality:

2007-08 from old target of 320 to new target of180
2008-09 from old target of 440 to new target of 322
2009-10 from old target of 500 to new target of 414
2010-11 from old target of 500 to new target of 414

Actual enrollment is down again this year (2010 – 2011) by 9% as compared with last year.

Elimination of key program offerings:
The school administration decided to eliminate all after-school and Saturday programs due to a significant decline in participation in the Saturday school program and a difficulty in securing a qualified teaching staff committed to working in the weekday after school program (beginning at 3:45)

 Chinese language instruction has not been offered consistently across all grade levels, as approved in the charter.

No structured athletics are offered.

Progress towards goals

RGCAS  sets the bar too low:

For performance
2006-07 stated charter goal=
50% students will meet proficiency (levels 3 or 4) on ELA/Math exams after 1 year
2008-09 stated goal =
65% students will meet proficiency (levels 3 or 4) on ELA/Math exams after 3 years
Citywide scores those same years far surpassed the modest RGACS goals:
   NYC public schools student achievement for this same period.
51% reached levels 3 or 4 in ELA
65% reached levels 3 or 4 in Math
58% reached levels 3 or 4 in ELA
 75% reached levels 3 or 4 in Math
 70% reached levels 3 or 4 in ELA
 82% reached levels 3 or 4 in Math

For attendance
RGA’s attendance goals are set at 90% average school wide, while in District One the attendance has exceeded that level, every year despite a much more high needs demographic district wide.

Yet, RGACS still missed many of its own goals:
On the NYS 2010 Assessment for 3rd grade, only 30% of students met or exceeded standards in English Language Arts and 36% met or exceeded standards in math, far from the not- yet published 5th year goal (that had to at least exceed the 2008 third year goal of 65% proficiency.

The latest Charter School Annual Report, for 2008-09, makes note of many additional  goals that RGACS failed to meet. Afew of these of note are:
 In Social Studies only 81% of students scored levels 3 and 4 as compared to the goals of 90% students will meet/exceed grade level standards.

In Wellness 90% students on average met/exceeded grade level standards, missing goal of 95%.

RGACS failed to meet goal of students eating a healthy breakfast/lunch at the school
RGACS also failed to provide students with multiple opportunities to pursue passion/interests including intersession/electives because such programs were either not established or not developed if established.

RGCAS has not met its student attrition goals each year. For example in 2008-09 the target was 6%, when actual attrition was 20.1%

Special Needs Students
Proposed Charter goals state that 12% of the RGACS population will be made up of ELL and 10-12% will be classified as Special Education students.

In 2008-09, 40/399 students had IEPs or 10%, but it appears none are receiving more than SETTs, and have no access to self contained classes.
Many parents claim they were urged to withdraw their kids who had special needs; even after paying for their own evaluation they were unable to get services needed at the school.

RGACS did not meet its own chartered goal to help all special education students meet the annual goals in their IEPs

SED monitoring site visit in March 2009 revealed that RGACS lacks coherent resources for meeting the needs of students with disabilities.

That same year, 10 students were classified as ELL’s or 2.5% of enrollment, some 10 percent fewer than the chartered goals demographics.

In 2007-08, 6 students, or 3%, were classified as LEP
And in 2008-09, 8 students, or 2%, were LEP.

Besides failing to enroll and serve students learning English, only 80%of the ELL students at RGACS taking the ELSLAT improved by at least one performance level each year (falling short of the chartered goal of 85%)

Progress reports:

 In 2009-10 RGACS was awarded the numerically lowest score in NYC , among all school.
RGACS ranked 1,140 out of 1,140schools.
The school was awarded:
 F for School environment  = 0 points/15
F for student performance  =  0 points/25
F for student progress          = 0.1 out of 60
NO ( zero) points for additional credit

Over all score 0.1 out of 100 = C *
*(really F, except the DoE agreed to drop a school by no more than 2 letters grades that year.)

Parent engagement/ trust/communication /empowerment
At the Quality Review visit and ensuing assessment, reviewers found that in 2006-07, parents at RGACS were not empowered.
Many parents have claimed they were urged to withdraw their kids who had special needs, paying for their own evaluation and unable to get services needed at the school.

Per the SED monitoring visit March 2009:
  only 22%  response rate to Learning Environment Survey in 2007-08; and

    only 28% of parents responded to an independent school survey administered in Dec 2008;

A high percentage of  parents were unhappy with  the discipline  system (documentation/ process not consistent/clear, according to SED monitors)

Reportedly, the Ross School founder has spent more than $330 million on the Ross School school in Sag Harbor, of which at least a million dollars or more goes to student tuition scholarships,
The  SED report from Year 3 points to issues around the schools’ financial goals and a lack of stability and clarity between the Ross Institute (not for profit) and the Ross School, RGACS.
The Ross Institute provides: curriculum, support, implementation, professional development, technical assistance, Quality Assurance, fundraising/development; advisors to school/board, as well as some services (such as HR/Fiscal that are not in the contract.
The Quality Review for 2006-07 report states that the school was “over spending, making the school increasingly dependent on cash/in kind services from Ross Institute.”

Of note: RGACS receives support from NYU, where the founder is a Trustee.

 RGACS was accused of test tampering – later cleared
Principal Stephanie Clagnaz (5th principal to leave) was reported by a teacher to have taken student exams home.

This is a difficult and disappointing decision for CEC  for District One given that RGACS came into District One with exciting plans and so much promise.
 After an auspicious start they have struggled and have been unable to progress and are now failing to provide a good education in a good learning environment as promised. 
After twice providing our support as described above, the CEC for District one now asks the DoE authorizing committee not to renew the Charter for Ross Global Academy Charter School.

Since every school in District One ( and in NYC) has outperformed RGSCA this year, and given the choices offered in our all-choice district, we pledge to help all students from RGACS to apply to enroll in  District One schools next year to suit their needs.
 We will provide any and all support at our disposal, including lobbying for assistance from DoE’s Office of Student Enrollment, our district office support staff , and school  and community leaders.

Chess Queen Rooked City

Charity queen's king's ransom
New York Post

EXCLUSIVE - Taxpayers are getting rooked.

A high-society charity that funds chess programs in poor schools has become a gold mine for its executive director, a former Wall Streeter who pulls down a $244,000 salary, and its treasurer, who helps run a mutual fund that handled millions in the program's investments.

In 1994, Marley Kaplan, 61, left the investment-banking world to be a do-gooder at Chess-in-the-Schools, which teaches children the game.

At the time, she was heralded in media profiles for giving up her six-figure salary for a job that paid a meager $25,000. "[She] did not have a wealthy husband or any family money to make up the difference," one story gushed.

But quietly, her annual salary leaped, including a $100,000 raise between 2007 and 2008, financial records show.

"That seems quite dramatic," said Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing for watchdog group Charity Navigator.

Kaplan's kingly compensation is double the $120,000 that chiefs of similar-sized nonprofits in the Northeast receive, according to Charity Navigator.

The chess group's former development vice president pulled down $164,000 and its head administrator raked in nearly $100,000, according to financial records.

The Manhattan-based program runs chess classes in 51 low-income schools, teaching 13,000 students and running dozens of tournaments.

Students get free books, boards and coaching from 17 chess champs, who are paid $35 to $50 an hour.

Since 2005, the City Council has allocated $1.8 million in funding to the group to run programs for the departments of Education and Youth and Community Development.

"It's an excellent program," said Councilman Robert Jackson, chair of the council's Education Committee, who conceded Kaplan's salary was "a lot of money."

In addition to the salaries, the nonprofit spent $104,000 on "investment advisory fees" last year, according to its financial statement.

Of the $7.7 million it invested -- taxpayer money and donations -- nearly half was moved into a mutual fund run by Blackstone Partners, the firm where Robert Friedman, the nonprofit board's treasurer, is a managing director.

He sat on the board's finance committee when the shares were bought.

Charity watchdogs said such a move is a no-no. "[Board members] need to be absolutely objective in that role," said Bennett Weiner of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, a watchdog group.

And the investments backfired, with the Chess-in-the-Schools group losing nearly $2 million last year, according to financial records.

A Blackstone representative said Friedman recused himself when the board voted on investing in the fund, and the idea came from a different trustee.

Sources close to the group said salaries across the board were slashed this year because of the economic downturn, with Kaplan taking the biggest cut. Unlike many other nonprofits, she is both the president and CFO, which saves money, they said.

Kaplan said she could not immediately comment, citing the need to get approval from her board before speaking.

Diane Ravitch's advice to the GOP

The GOP's Education Dilemma

·                                Article




Now that Republicans have regained control of the House of Representatives, they must take a stand in the battle for control of American education. The issue today is between those who want to federalize education policy and those who want to maintain state and local control of the public schools.
Historically, the GOP has always been the party of local control, and for most of the 20th century Republicans opposed almost every effort by Democrats to expand the power of the federal government over the nation's public classrooms.
In 1965, when Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Republicans worried that it was the start of intrusive federal mandates. In time, though, they accepted that there is a legitimate federal role in providing extra funding for needy students, ensuring educational opportunity for children with disabilities, protecting students' civil rights, gathering accurate data, and sponsoring research.
Today, however, the federal government has ballooned into the all-powerful education behemoth that the GOP long feared. Ironically, the trouble started as a result of President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. It has saddled the nation's public schools with a regime of testing and sanctions that is burdensome, harmful and ineffective.
NCLB decreed that all students, in all states, must be proficient on state tests in reading and mathematics by 2014—a goal no state is even close to meeting. As the deadline draws nearer, schools that are central to their communities are being closed or forced to fire their staff because of NCLB requirements. The local leadership may have better ideas, but the federal government demands punishments.
President Obama's Race to the Top fund extends federal control well beyond NCLB. Last year, as part of the economic stimulus plan, Congress gave the Department of Education an unprecedented $5 billion in discretionary funds to promote educational reform. The Obama administration used the money to promote unproven strategies.
To qualify for Race to the Top money, states and districts were expected to evaluate their teachers by using student test scores, even though research consistently warns of the flaws of this method. Similarly, the Obama administration is pressing states and districts to replace low-performing regular public schools with privately managed charter schools, even though research demonstrates that charters don't, on average, get better academic results than regular public schools.
The present course is virtually the opposite of what high-performing nations do. Countries like Finland, Japan and South Korea have improved their schools by offering a rich and broad curriculum in the arts and sciences, not by focusing only on testing basic skills, as we do. These nations have succeeded by recruiting, training and supporting good teachers, and giving continuing help to those that need it. The Obama administration, by contrast, has disregarded the importance of retention and improvement of teachers, while encouraging an influx of non-professionals into the field.
The Education Department, for example, recently awarded Teach for America $50 million to scale up its recruitment of smart college graduates who agree to teach for two years. The organization now offers five weeks of training to about 8,000 prospective teachers each year. While such a program is admirable, it doesn't help to replace the 300,000 teachers who retire or leave the profession annually. The teaching profession needs large numbers of well-prepared, experienced professionals, not constant turnover.
Many members of Congress were once members of local school boards. They understand that their public schools are the heart of their community and that local problems are best addressed by local solutions.
National curriculum standards may help, if they are validated. But the ones promoted by this administration were not implemented anywhere before they were foisted on 40 states by state legislatures competing for federal dollars. Massachusetts, the highest-achieving state in the nation, dropped its own proven standards to adopt the new, unproven ones so as to be eligible for Race to the Top funding.
The question today for Republicans is whether they are a party that endorses top-down reform from Washington, D.C., or a party that respects the common sense of the people back home and their commitment to their local public schools.
Ms. Ravitch, who served as assistant secretary of education in charge of research in the George H.W. Bush administration, is a research professor of education at NYU

Is your pension fund safe?

Following Hungary And Ireland, France Is Next To Seize Pension Funds

Tyler Durden's picture

If the recent Hungarian "appropriation" of pension funds, and today's laughable Irish bailout courtesy of domestic pension funds sourcing 20% of the "new" money was not enough to convince the world just how bankrupt the entire European experiment has become, enter France. Financial News explains how France has "seized" €36 billion worth of pension assets: "Asset managers will have the chance to get billions of euros in mandates in the next few months for the €36bn Fonds de Réserve pour les Retraites (FRR), the French reserve pension fund, after the French parliament last week passed a law to use its assets to pay off the debts of France’s welfare system. The assets have been transferred into the state’s social debt sinking fund Cades. The FRR will continue to control the assets, but as a third-party manager on behalf of Cades." FN condemns the action as follows: "The move reflects a willingness by governments to use long-term assets to fill short-term deficits, including Ireland’s announcement last week that it would use the country’s €24bn National Pensions  Reserve Fund “to support the exchequer’s funding programme” and Hungary’s bid to claw $15bn of private pension funds back to the state system." In other words, with the ECB still unwilling to go into full fiat printing overdrive mode, insolvent governments, France most certainly included, are resorting to whatever piggybanks they can find. Hopefully this is not a harbinger of what Tim Geithner plans to do with the trillions in various 401(k) funds on this side of the Atlantic.
More from FN on how first France, and soon every other socalized pension regime, will continue to plunder a nation's life saving to fund short-term deficits:
The decision has prompted a radical restructuring of the FRR’s investments. The new strategic investment plan, which will be released in the new year, will see a rapid reduction in its 40% allocation to equities and a shift to cash and short-term government bonds, according to a source close to the situation.

There will be a focus on liability-driven investment, where asset managers are told to minimise risk by matching assets closely to liabilities.

The transfer of the FRR’s assets to Cades is controversial. Force Ouvrière, a trade union confederation, accused the government of “provoking the clinical death” of the FRR.

The decision was taken within the context of this year’s pension reform, which provoked riots with its decision to raise the retirement age. The state old-age pension system, the Cnav, is in deficit, and responsibility for financing the deficit rests with Cades.

The government is requiring the FRR to pay €2.1bn a year to Cades to meet this obligation.
In other words, pension capital will now be used by perfectly rational third party managers to bid up sovereign bonds. Brilliant.
An asset manager said: “Clearly, the move creates new opportunities, because the French asset management market will be reshuffled because of the changes.

But it is also a step back because there are very few French capitalised pension schemes, and the experience around the FRR, the richness of the asset management and the opportunities it created will disappear in a few years.”
And elsewhere, in the UK, things in the pension arena are also starting to heat up as the country is preparing to launch an "auto enrolment" feature for workers, whereby up to 11 million will be eligible for automatic enrolment.
Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber hailed it as an “historic advance”: a minimum pension to go with the UK’s minimum wage. Pensions Minister Steve Webb confirmed last month that all employers would have to enrol staff into a company scheme. As a result, up to 11 million people will be eligible for automatic enrolment in a workplace scheme, with up to eight million of them saving for the first time. However, there is little evidence that employers are ready for it.
And judging by the Hungarian, Irish and French case studies, all monies auto deposited will soon find a new mandate: one of bidding up sovereing European bonds. More from Financial News:
Staff can opt out to avoid mandatory contributions that will eventually account for half of the minimum of 8% of salary, with employers contributing 3% of salary, and 1% coming from tax relief.

It is impossible to predict how many people might opt out, but Colin Tipping, head of institutional wholesale at asset manager BlackRock, points to an 80% take-up at US companies that have introduced auto-enrolment compared with less than half of that before the mechanism was introduced. The latest annual review of New Zealand’s national KiwiSaver scheme has an opt-out rate of 18%.

The European experience is less encouraging. Italy tried to boost private pensions saving in 2007 with reforms to the Trattamento di Fine Rapporto, a fund traditionally paid to workers on leaving an employer.

However, its policy of “silent consent”, which had the money transferred into a pension unless workers objected, saw only about a quarter participate. Tito Boeri, director of the country’s social policy reform group Fondazione Rodolfo Debenedetti, said: “It was a great opportunity to develop private pension schemes here, but to a large extent it failed.”
Our only question: how soon before the US administration takes this hint of what every proper socialist country does with funds apportioned to it by a gullible public and ends up investing trillions in the worst possible asset classes (while in Europe this obviously means sovereign bonds, in the US by and far the proceeds will be used to make further purchases of such equities as Apple, Amazon and Netflix, in whose continued successful ponziness lies the fate of a vast majority of US-based hedge funds, whose LPs may at some point, in the distant future, actually pay domestic income tax).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gary Anderson on Black and Palin

Cathleen Black: Education's Sarah Palin?

It was business as usual on Friday as David Steiner apparently has agreed to provide Bloomberg with the waiver he needs to appoint Cathleen Black as the new chancellor of education for New York City.
Cathleen Black is as embarrassingly ignorant of education as sure-to-be presidential candidate Sarah Palin is of national and geopolitical issues. Steiner, though should know better.
Unfortunately, although steeped in philosophy and educational theory, he shares Bloomberg's corporate ideology, and apparently is ultimately a political animal. He thinks John Dewey was wrong-headed and that he recanted his life's work. Instead of blaming exploding rates of inequality, concentrated poverty, and unemployment for the plight of inner-city youth, he blames progressive educators--progressive both in the Deweyian sense of "child-centered" and in the sense of "left-liberal".
Educators should be clear that this decision is not a compromise. Creating a new #2 position of chief academic officer was a ploy to make Steiner's decision seem more palatable in the face of significant public opposition. Shael Polakow-Suransky is already a top official at the city's department of education, and would be available to Ms. Black anyway. Giving him a new title will make little difference; it will only make the Tweed Hall administration even more top heavy. Good superintendents, and even high school principals have long worked as teams, meeting regularly with colleagues and pooling their knowledge. But this is not the kind of corporate management that Bloomberg has brought into public governance, nor unfortunately is it Cathleen Black's management style.
What was heartening was the immediate outcry and organized opposition to both the candidate and the non-process. In spite of buying off opponents, including the teachers union and nonprofits, Bloomberg's political machine is showing some cracks. For one brief moment, when his advisory panel, packed with members linked to Bloomberg, wavered in their support, I thought David Steiner might do something heroic and democratic. But it is now clear that behind the scenes (and the public's back) Steiner and the real players (apparently including Arne Duncan) were scrambling to shore up the damage caused by Bloomberg's secretive and impulsive appointment.
Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents, aware that the new #2 position was really political spectacle, asserted, "The issue for us is, 'can we create credibility around this position?' "
Clearly the "us" she is referring to is not the citizens or teachers of New York City. Sol Stern, a conservative commentator with The Manhatten Institute perhaps put it best when he said that Mr. Polakow-Suransky will be treated as a "gofer" by the mayor and Ms. Black.
Mr. Polokow-Suransky is an educator and has a graduate degree from Bank Street College of Education, one of the best and most progressive Educational Leadership programs in the city. One can only speculate why Mr. Polakow-Suransky would go along with what appears to be a political charade. He is also a graduate of what the Wall Street Journal called the "prestigious" Broad Superintendents Academy. I don't want to engage in guilt by association, since it is possible that Mr. Polokow-Suransky's Bank Street education inoculated him against the Broad Academy Kool Aid. But, it is worth taking a look at the ideological tenets of the Broad Superintendents Academy and its impact on the current cadre of corporate thinking superintendents around the country.
Eli Broad, a Los Angeles-based venture philanthropist, has for two decades bankrolled the corporate education of current superintendents and the retooling of business and military leaders to be superintendents. A recent press release for the Broad Superintendents Academy proclaims that Broad graduates filled 43 percent of all external superintendent openings in large urban American school districts last year. Not only is Broad selling a corporate management model, he is recruiting future urban superintendents from the ranks of the military. According to the same press release:
This year's class also includes high-ranking Army and Air Force leaders, including a major general who oversaw 45,000 combat soldiers in Iraq and led officers of 26 nations to coordinate efforts in Afghanistan, a brigadier general who led the Army to create and deploy a 4,000 man organization into combat anywhere in the world within 96 hours, and a colonel who created nationally recognized business practices to better utilize the skills and talents of 60,000 Army officers (Broad Center Press Release, 2010, paragraph 6)
If a corporate model seems top-down and undemocratic, imagine leaders used to a chain of command organization! I am not against cross-sector borrowing of evidence-based and appropriately applied ideas. In my last post I elaborated on why worn-out ideas (mostly ideologies) from the corporate closet have had a devastating effect on public education. But do you suppose there has been a nuanced discussion of the cross-sector borrowing from the military to education?
Speaking of cross-sector borrowing, a group of teachers from the Green Party will be applying for Ms. Black's position at Hearst magazines. They will bring books about the publishing industry and ask them to have patience while they "get up to speed." What do think their odds of getting hired are? Apparently cross-sector borrowing is a one-way street.

Jon Alter, Bill Gates' lap dog, strikes out again

Leonie Haimson writes:

This is one of the most idiotic  articles I have ever read. In addition to the rabid attack on Diane, the attack on teacher experience level and class size is ridiculous, as they are two of the very few observable factors that are clearly linked in research to higher student achievement. See the recent re-analysis of the STAR experiment for example.

Nothing that the Gates foundation is funding, by the way, has any research backing at all. Gates' goal is essentially to deprofessionalize the teaching force by allowing teachers to be fired at will. His is a radical agenda to privatize public education that will further destabilize our public schools, particularly in large urban school districts, where there is already far too much teacher turnover. The answer? Reduce class size and provide some of the same conditions that predominate in the private schools where most of the corporate reformers send their own kids.

“Is there any other part of the economy where someone says, ‘Hey, how long have you been mowing lawns? … I want to pay you more for that reason alone.

Huh?  About every other civil service job in the public sector, like police, fire fighters etc…where there is far less evidence that experience matters.

slides re STAR posted here, showing gains from  teacher experience up to 20 years or more:  http://obs.rc.fas.harvard.edu/chetty/STAR_slides.pdf

see also 


We analyze class size  effects using the same  intent-to-treat specications as in Krueger (1999), who shows that students assigned to small classes  score approximately 4.8 percentile points (0.2 standard deviations) higher than students in large classes on tests in kindergarten. We nd that students assigned to small classes are 1.8 percentage points more likely to be enrolled in college at age 20, a signi cant improvement relative to the mean college attendance rate of 26.4% at age 20 in the sample. Students in small classes also exhibit statistically signi cant improvements on a summary index of the other outcomes we examine (home ownership, 401(k) savings, mobility rates, percent college graduate in ZIP code, and marital status). ;...

  Prior studies (e.g. Krueger 1999) have shown that STAR students with more experienced teachers score higher on tests. We  fi nd similar impacts on earnings. Students randomly assigned to a KG teacher with more than 10 years of experience earn an extra $
; 093 (6.9% of mean income) on average at age 27 relative to students with less

experienced teachers.4
 see also:
Predicting Teacher Effectiveness by College Selectivity, Experience, Etc.
Matthew M. Chingos
Postdoctoral Fellow, Program on Education Policy and Governance
Paul E. Peterson
Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government
Figure 1a shows that in elementary school reading there may be student achievement returns to as many as 20 years of additional teacher   experience; 

A Case of Senioritis

Gates tackles education’s two-headed monster.

Bill Gates is raising his arm, bent at the elbow, in the direction of the ceiling. The point he’s making is so important that he wants me and the pair of Gates Foundation staffers sitting in the hotel conference room in Louisville, Ky., to recognize the space between this thought and every lower-ranking argument. “If there’s one thing that can be done for the country, one thing,” Gates says, his normally modulated voice rising, “improving education rises so far above everything else!” He doesn’t say what the “else” is—deficit reduction? containing Iran? free trade?—but they’re way down toward the floor compared with the arm above that multibillion-dollar head. With the U.S. tumbling since 1995 from second in the world to 16th in college-graduation rates and to 24th place in math (for 15-year-olds), it was hard to argue the point. Our economic destiny is at stake.
Gates had just finished giving a speech to the Council of Chief State School Officers in which he tried to explain how administrators could hope to raise student achievement in the face of tight budgets. The Microsoft founder went through what he sees as false solutions—furloughs, sharing textbooks—before focusing on the true “cost drivers”: seniority-based pay and benefits for teachers rising faster than state revenues.

Seniority is the two-headed monster of education—it’s expensive and harmful. Like master’s degrees for teachers and smaller class sizes, seniority pay, Gates says, has “little correlation to student achievement.” After exhaustive study, the Gates Foundation and other experts have learned that the only in-school factor that fully correlates is quality teaching, which seniority hardly guarantees. It’s a moral issue. Who can defend a system where top teachers are laid off in a budget crunch for no other reason than that they’re young?
In most states, pay and promotion of teachers are connected 100 percent to seniority. This is contrary to everything the world’s second-richest man believes about business: “Is there any other part of the economy where someone says, ‘Hey, how long have you been mowing lawns? … I want to pay you more for that reason alone.’ ” Gates favors a system where pay and promotion are determined not just by improvement in student test scores (an idea savaged by teachers’ unions) but by peer surveys, student feedback (surprisingly predictive of success in the classroom), video reviews, and evaluation by superiors. In this approach, seniority could be a factor, but not the only factor.
President Obama knows that guaranteed tenure and rigid seniority systems are a problem, but he’s not yet willing to speak out against them. Even so, Gates gives Obama an A on education. The Race to the Top program, Gates says, is “more catalytic than anyone expected it to be” in spurring accountability and higher standards.
Video muted: click volume for sound They're Not That Into You! NEWSWEEK's Jonathan Alter discusses how President Obama is still trying to find compromise with big business interests, despite their strong opposition to him and the Democratic party.
Gates hardly has all the answers: he spent $2 billion a decade ago breaking up big high schools into smaller ones and didn’t get the results he’d hoped for. Today, he’s too enamored of handheld devices for tracking student performance. They could end up as just another expensive, high-tech gimmick. But you’ve got to give Gates credit for devoting so much of his brain and fortune to this challenge. His biggest adversary now is Diane Ravitch, a jaundiced former Education Department official under George H.W. Bush, who changed sides in the debate and now attacks Gates-funded programs in books and articles. Ravitch, the Whittaker Chambers of school reform, gives intellectual heft to the National Education Association’s campaign to discredit even superb charter schools and trash intriguing reform ideas that may threaten its power.
When I asked Gates about Ravitch, you could see the Micro-hard hombre who once steamrolled software competitors: “Does she like the status quo? Is she sticking up for decline? Does she really like 400-page [union] contracts? Does she think all those ‘dropout factories’ are lonely? If there’s some other magic way to reduce the dropout rate, we’re all ears.” Gates understands that charters aren’t a silver bullet, and that many don’t perform. But he doesn’t have patience for critics who spend their days tearing down KIPP schools and other models that produce results.
There’s a backlash against the rich taking on school reform as a cause. Some liberals figure they must have an angle and are scapegoating teachers. But most of the wealthy people underwriting this long-delayed social movement for better performance are on the right track. Like the rest of us, they know that if we don’t fix education, we can kiss our future goodbye.

Progressive Education: Rest in Peace

Left Ed: Remembering What Progressive Education Stands For

by: jeffbinnc

Sun Nov 28, 2010 at 13:00

Beginning with this diary in memory of the great education research expert and commentator Gerald Bracey, I've been posting regularly about education policy on the frontpage of Open Left for a little over a year now. I'm well aware that most of these posts have been harshly critical of the policies promoted by both President Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the crowd of neo-liberal, conservative, and corporate/foundation-backed ideologues who call themselves "reformers." However, it is very important to pause now and again and remind ourselves what the progressive community is fighting for in the education debate.
So it being a holiday weekend and all, I thought a quick re-cap of what's essential to a progressive view of education was in order.
My first treatment of this topic appeared here on Open Left in a diary focusing mostly on the writings of Alfie Kohn. But progressive thought about education certainly isn't limited to him. Nevertheless, I find the short checklist I paraphrased from his writings to be a useful launching pad for advancing a progressive view about education that truly is progressive.
What follows is a brief recap of those key points with an update of where we progressives are in advancing our cause:
jeffbinnc :: Left Ed: Remembering What Progressive Education Stands For
Schools that are progressive attend to the whole child.
Everyone knows that academics alone are not what's essential to the healthy development and well-being of children. Schools must provide a curriculum that includes the arts, physical education, and life skills. And children's issues with health, nutrition, safety, and home-life have to be addressed in order for learning to happen in the classroom. This tenet of progressive education is beyond dispute even among those who call themselves "reformers." What the reformy crowd tends to dispute though is that public schools have failed to attend to the whole child and only a new structural innovation can accomplish this. They like to point to Geoffrey Canada, who was lionized in the movie "Waiting for Superman," and his Harlem Children's Zone charter school as proof positive that alternatives to traditional public schools are the only answer to educating the whole child.
But the truth is that there are many traditional public schools that do focus their programs on a whole child approach (Full disclosure: this is a client of mine.) What continues to stand in their way however, are the federal edicts to emphasize only standardized test scores in math and reading - something that reformers generally favor also. Duncan has claimed that the Obama administration is backing away from labeling schools as failed based on their "progress" as measured by these tests.
But there's very little evidence that the emphasis on tests scores in math and reading only is falling out of favor in the broader debate about education. And those of us who back a progressive view of education must continue to speak out against that.
Schools that are progressive support community.
It used to be almost a given across much of middle class white America that a public school was every child's gateway into community life. And because children learn many things so much more effectively when they learn with and from one another, an emphasis on community has always been a cornerstone of progressive education.
After Brown vs. Board of Education and the Federal Disabilities Act ushered in the era of making sure the "community" included in public school meant truly everyone in the community, traditional public schools made remarkable progress with educating the least served in our communities, while those students who were better off continued to do well academically in comparison to students in other countries. But for the last twenty years, the emphasis on education reform has been changing that.
Schools have been re-segregating at an alarming rate, and the charter schools favored by the reformy crowd are often among the most segregated. Furthermore, a wave of support and funding for delivering curriculum and instruction online - another favorite of reformists - is threatening to isolate certain communities of students, and isolate students one from another. Anyone who considers themselves progressive should resist education policies that result in re-segregation and should hold approaches that emphasize online delivery of education in deep skepticism.
Schools that are progressive encourage collaboration.
The belief that learning is something that has to be incentivized with competition and rewards and punishments is inherently damaging in the broach spectrum of education. By creating a system of winners and losers, you automatically create the condition where many children - maybe most - learn overtime that they are "losers," which is damaging to their long-term health and wellbeing.
However, funding and other education policies favored by Arne Duncan and reformists, such as high-stakes testing, teacher merit pay, and competitive grant programs like Race to the Top, seek to instill more competitiveness not only into the lives of students but into the very fabric of how schools function institutionally. Progressive must continue to speak out against these policies.
Schools that are progressive instill social justice.
Public schools should never be established purely for the sake of a community that just wants to take care of itself, its friends, its own ethnic group, or even its own country. A progressive approach to education emphasizes that when the human rights of individuals are violated somewhere, it's an infringement on human rights everywhere. And access to a quality public school is a matter of human rights. This must be the stated bedrock of any governmental policy regarding education. Few in the reform crowd seem to acknowledge or care about this. Progressives must.
Progressive school tap students' intrinsic motivation.
As Alfe Kohn writes, "when considering (or reconsidering) educational policies and practices, the first question that progressive educators are likely to ask is, 'What's the effect on students' interest in learning, their desire to continue reading, thinking, and questioning?'" That's why establishing education systems that enforce teaching to the test, which is what the trend has been in American education, is antithetical to quality education. Students will lean what they need just to pass the test, and the whole "reason" for learning is destroyed.
Reformists contend that "making the tests better" - which usually means conducting more of them under the guise of "formative assessment" - will lead to students' deepening their understandings and retaining more of what they learn. But this thinking is flawed from the get-go because it fails to acknowledge the need for learning for its own sake to remain intrinsic to the student.
Progressive schools want students to develop deep understanding of subjects.
Of course, facts and skills matter, but only in a context and for a purpose. That's why progressive education tends to be organized around problems, projects, and questions rather than around lists of facts, skills, and separate disciplines.
This often leads to the pointless discussion in the reform crowd about whether education should emphasize the process of learning or the content of what is to be learned. But this is a false polarity. Any educator who cares about whether their students develop deep understanding knows they have to attend to both the process of learning and the content to be learned.
Progressive schools use active learning.
In better off communities where students are enrolled in quality daycare situations, one of the first things the children learn is how to play. This "playfulness" in the learning process shouldn't stop at the K-12 threshold. That's why in progressive schools, students should play a vital role in helping to design the curriculum and learning activities. Educators then act as gatekeepers to ensure that curriculum and learning doesn't become trivialized or misdirected, and they gradually release more of the responsibility of learning to the learners as age and developmental levels progress.
However, the approach favored by reformists, as more and more students become passive test-takers of standardized-driven curriculum, makes active learning impossible. What the reform crowd pine for are one-sized-fits-all solutions that can be scaled up to schools and students everywhere. This would lead to killing an active learning approach.
Progressive schools take kids seriously.
Rather than making children everywhere adjust to the rules and curriculum of a top-driven, standardized, mechanized school system, progressive schools, as Kohn says, "take their cue from the children" and the "differences among them."
The current approach in American education that emphasizes that all students must be at the very same level on the very same day - the day the test is given - ultimately doesn't take children seriously. And regardless of how much Arne Duncan and the reformists want to talk about how much they care about "the kids," until they take them seriously, they're demonstrating that ultimately they don't.