STOP ALLOWING A NEO-LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL PARTY CHOOSE YOUR CANDIDATES-----RUN AND VOTE FOR LABOR AND JUSTICE IN ALL PRIMARIES!
As I showed with my blog on higher education in Maryland the structures created for privatizing our public universities have lowered the standards of education for most. The same is happening in Maryland with the K-12 schools and much of this has to do with Race to the Top policies. Baltimore's achievement has dropped to such a low status as it seeks to dismantle public education and all that is equal access and opportunity that long-term teachers in schools are starting to shout out about this attack on democratic education in America.
As I said, Maryland has no public media or public universities producing data to support this but we can look across the nation where real data is collected to see how things are working. The article below shows how Wall Street and Bloomberg is working hard to skew all data for charters and successes that are not real. Remember, the plan is simply to get these private charters to look like they are doing good so as to expand them.....and then they will be defunded and left to become the same as for-profit higher education.
We need to take a look at what institutions and politicians are supporting these privatization structures and give them the boot! Stop allowing policy to be captured by Wall Street pols and private non-profits supporting them!
Baltimore residents will see the parallel to NYC and privatization-----the public education money being sent to these schools is completely wasted as money moves to administration and what will be profit. No quality to be found. If you are supporting charters because you want to use them for gentrification and/or segregation-----IT WILL COME BACK TO BITE YOU AS WALL STREET EXPECTS TO TAKE ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS----
Charter Schools: A UFT Research Report
Feb. 4, 2014
by UFT Research Staff
As charter school proponents go to Albany this week to plead their case, let’s examine the realities behind their claims of stretched resources, unique student demand and stellar academic results.
How poor are charter schools?
While charters maintain they have very thin budgets, and some smaller charters in fact operate close to the margin, others are extremely well-funded.
A review of the most recently available public documents showed that as of 2011-12, the schools in six of the city’s most prominent charter chains had a total of more than $65 million in net assets, including nearly $16 million for the charters which are part of the Uncommon Schools Network and more than $13 million for the Success Academy Network.
What’s more, this supposed poverty doesn’t prevent some charters from paying very large salaries to their executives, as the Daily News recently reported. The two Harlem Village Academies run by Deborah Kenny pay her a total of half a million dollars a year; Eva Moskowitz of Success Academies reported a salary only a few thousand less, while David Levin of KIPP got just under $400,000. All these salaries are dramatically more than those of the city’s mayor and chancellor, who supervise roughly 1,700 schools.
Charters’ opaque bookkeeping methods make it difficult to figure out how much many schools spend on their vendors, but tax filings by the Success Academy schools suggest that management fees charged by that network totaled $3.5 million of their schools’ per-pupil funds in 2011-12. In 2013, the Success Network requested and received a raise in management fees to 15 percent of the per-pupil funding it receives from the state and city.
The total amount of management fees charged by just four of the city’s charter chains in 2011-12 — Success, Uncommon, Achievement First, and KIPP — was over $12 million. (see table below)
Charter Chain Financial Data, 2011-12
Network Name Number of NYC Schools with Audits Total Net Assets of Schools Total Management Fees Top Executive Compensation 2010-11
Achievement First 2
Success Charter Network 4
Uncommon Schools 7
Village Academies Network 2
Not Listed on Audit $499,146
Icahn Charters 4
All of these figures are based on the schools’ own filings; the lack of publicly available audits for many other chains limits information about what other networks are charging. Meanwhile, charter proponents led by Success Academy have launched a court fight to prevent an independent expert — the State Comptroller — from auditing charters’ and charter management companies’ books.
A study based on 2010-11 by the city’s Independent Budget Office calculated that as of 2009-10, co-locating a charter school in a public school building in effect gave the charter about $650 per student more in public funding than district schools spend. Their calculations were based on earlier, lower levels of charter per-pupil funding, however; at current rates, that disparity may now be over $2,000 per student.
Charters also get foundation grants — including from right-wing organizations like the Walton Family Foundation, which has given more than $1 million to Achievement First in recent years. In addition, a look at official filings by many charters — in particular the Success Academy network — show that the schools or chains have boards dominated by hedge funders and other financial interests whose contributions could theoretically absorb any reasonable rent charged for public school space; at a gala in 2013, for example, the Success Network raised more than $7 million in one evening.
How unique are charter waiting lists?
Charters make much of the length of their student waiting lists. But the reality of New York City schools is that tens of thousands of students at all levels end up on waiting lists or completely frozen out of the schools they would like to attend.
More than half of the city’s nearly 64,000 eighth graders did not get into their first choice for high school last year and 7,200 — more than 10 percent of the total — did not get into a single school they applied to. Approximately 20,000 students who take the test each year for the specialized high schools do not get into one of these schools.
The same is true for thousands of elementary school students who apply for slots in competitive middle schools, and for thousands more families who cannot find space in gifted programs or whose kids end up waitlisted for kindergarten in their neighborhood schools.
Students can and do get off waiting lists in district schools, which generally backfill empty spaces in higher grades if and when students transfer out; most charters, in contrast, almost never accept transfer students off their “waitlists” beyond their early grades.
Does admission to a charter guarantee academic success?
Student scores plummeted across the city last year when the state introduced new tests based on the Common Core standards. But in reading, charters schools as a whole scored under the citywide average (26.4 citywide average, charters 25.1).
Even highly touted charters had classes with significant problems. Democracy Prep’s Harlem charter had fewer than 4 percent of 6th-graders proficient in reading and fewer than 12 percent passing math. Fewer than 12 percent of 5th-graders at KIPP Star College Prep were proficient in math and just 16 percent passed the reading test, while 11 percent of their 7th-graders scored proficient in language arts and 14 percent in math.
These results come despite the fact that, as a group, charter schools serve a smaller proportion of the city’s neediest students, including special ed and English language learners. A 2012 report by the charters’ own association — the New York City Charter School Center — showed that on average, charter schools had only 6 percent English language learners, compared with 15 percent in district schools.
A recent IBO study showed that an astonishing 80 percent of special education students who start in charter schools in kindergarten are gone by the third grade.
Student attrition is a particular issue for the Success network, whose schools tend to have far higher student suspension rates than their neighborhood schools; they also see their class cohorts shrink as many poor-performing students leave or are counseled out and not replaced.
How can we level the playing field?
If charter schools are serious about playing an important role in New York City education, they should take four immediate steps to level the playing field between them and district schools, as outlined by UFT President Michael Mulgrew below in an article reprinted from the New York Daily News:
For the past 12 years, the Bloomberg administration has singled out charter schools for special treatment, a strategy that embittered many ordinary New York City public school parents and children. Here are four steps charter schools should take now to end that divisive relationship:
Serve the neediest kids
State law requires that charters serve the same percentage of poor and special-needs children, along with English-language learners, as their local district schools do. Unfortunately, many charter schools ignore this requirement. Meanwhile, parents complain that special-needs children and students who struggle academically have been “counseled out” of charters, most of them ending up in local district schools while the charters hold onto students with better scores. A recent report by the city’s Independent Budget Office found that a shocking 80% of special-needs kids who enroll in city charter schools as kindergartners leave their schools by the third grade.
Be good neighbors
The Bloomberg administration often shoehorned charters into public schools. Because some charters didn’t want their children interacting with public school kids, gymnasiums and cafeterias would be limited to charter students at certain hours. Worst of all, students in dilapidated classrooms with outmoded equipment and few supplies watched with envy as the incoming charters spent small fortunes on renovations, paint jobs, new desks and equipment, books and supplies. If they want to be good neighbors, charters should share the wealth — and make sure all students sharing one school building have the same opportunities and environment.
Open their books
If charter operators truly want a new start, they need to abandon the lawsuit they have filed against the state controller seeking to block his ability to audit their books. Parents and taxpayers deserve to know where their money is going.
Stop treating children as profit centers
Charters receive taxpayer dollars. In addition, many get donations from major hedge funders, have millions of dollars in bank accounts and pay their chief executives — who typically oversee a small group of schools — as much as half a million dollars a year, along with lavish benefits. Charters with such resources need to pay rent, as Mayor de Blasio has suggested. And charters should set realistic salary caps for their executives and appropriate limits on payments to consultants.
You will notice the article coming from UFT in NYC addresses what is the democratic state of New York. Governor Cuomo and neo-liberals in the New York state legislature are pushing the dismantling of public education as hard as the republicans and pulling the same tax policy bait and switch as we say with Reagan.....soak the middle/working class with taxation and then claim the tax reform that gives the rich the breaks is about helping middle-class families!
REAGAN/CLINTON GAVE CORPORATIONS/RICH THE BIGGEST TAX BREAK IN HISTORY WHILE DOUBLING-DOWN ON TAXATION ON THE MIDDLE-WORKING CLASS. NEO-LIBERALS ARE NOW DOING IT AGAIN.
Maryland is ground zero for these voucher/private schools getting public funding policies. I am telling these religious schools that seek support with public money------LOSING OUR DEMOCRATIC EDUCATION SYSTEM WILL NOT BODE WELL FOR YOUR MEMBERSHIP! In an America currently controlled by global corporations-----totalitarianism does not end well for anyone!
We also see the private donation taking over paying taxes and the loss of tax revenue from writing-off these 'donations'. The US had the strongest public education system in the world when corporations and the rich were good citizens paying their fair share of taxes. WE WANT THEM PAYING TAXES AND NOT 'DONATING' TO OUR SCHOOLS!
I am listening as here in Baltimore one school gets air conditioning because of private donations while the others are allowed to operate in the worst of conditions. It is public funding of schools that allow for equal opportunity and access.
Hurt schools, help rich people
Mar. 27, 2014
by UFT Editorial Staff
[This editorial originally appeared in the March 27 issue of the New York Teacher.]
A new proposal making its way through the state Legislature is a thinly veiled voucher program that would use taxpayer money to fund religious and other private schools in New York City and across the state.
The proposal, already approved by the state Senate and included in its budget bill, threatens the future funding of public education and must be kept out of the final state budget.
It is misleadingly called the education investment tax credit. It would be more accurate to call it the plan to divest public education and further enrich wealthy donors to private schools.
The program would grant individuals tax credits of up to $1 million for donations to scholarship funds for religious or other private schools.
In other words, money that would go into state coffers to fund public education, affordable housing or infrastructure improvements would instead go into the bank accounts of wealthy people who donate to private scholarship funds.
And the scholarships themselves would benefit children of well-off families, with a generous household income limit of $550,000.
The tax credits would also be available for donors to public schools. But don’t let that fool you. Public schools were added to make the tax credit more widely palatable. This bill would allow wealthy donors to pick which public schools they want to support and which not.
In a cynical attempt by the bill’s writers to win over public school educators and their supporters, teachers would also get a tax credit of at least $100 for buying supplies.
Although the state Senate has passed the bill, which was sponsored by state Sen. Marty Golden, the Assembly leadership, to its credit, is showing less enthusiasm.
But the tax credit proposal has momentum. It is particularly alarming that 17 labor unions, most of them representing uniformed public employees, back the bill on the grounds that it would benefit their members, presumably because many of them send their children to parochial schools.
Have middle-class and working New Yorkers who choose to send their children to private school forgotten the importance of a well-funded public education system?
This proposed massive tax giveaway would hurt working people by increasing the already staggering wealth inequality in New York. By draining money that we need for our public schools, state universities, highways and other vital services, it would threaten the economic future of our state.
Chicago is the home of Rahm Emanuel and Arne Duncan------Obama's education-privatization team working for Wall Street. What Rahm is doing in Chicago is happening in Maryland and especially Baltimore. The difference is that Chicago, as with New York, has strong labor and justice advocate system. Maryland and Baltimore has none. Where Baltimore has organizations supposedly tasked with protecting civil rights and civil liberties working with these privatizers----- across the country parent and teacher groups are successfully fighting off this attack on public education.
Wall Street calculated that hitting underserved communities with this privatization scheme would allow them to create the structure for privatizing all public schools. As we see in Baltimore it is the opportunity to own a business that drives people of color to play with Wall Street. These small business charter school owners need to take a look at what happens when Wall Street simply steps in to take those businesses----as is happening today with Baltimore Minority Contractors.
STOP SUPPORTING THE DISMANTLING OF THE BEST PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM IN THE WORLD!
Chicago Teachers Union Advocates for Comprehensive Charter Reform in Illinois
For Immediate Release: April 07, 2014
Contact: Stephanie Gadlin - email@example.com/312-329-6250 CHICAGO –
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has been a vocal critic of Illinois charter operations which compete with neighborhood schools for critical resources and often cherry-picks students based on test scores. The law that sanctions the privately held, publicly funded charters is deeply flawed and in the wake of the UNO scandal the union and taxpayers have continued to lobby lawmakers to do something about it.
Thus, CTU, along with a number of education advocates, parents and others, currently backs several pieces of legislation under consideration in Springfield that will bring significant reforms to unstable charter movement in Illinois, including a bill calling for the elimination of the Illinois State Charter School Commission.
“Tax payers are demanding more accountability from charter operators; they want to know whether the money going to these schools is actually being spent on educating students,” said CTU President Karen Lewis, NBCT. “With all of this talk of school choice there is surprisingly little information about their students’ rates of graduation, drop out or push out from these organizations. The law as its currently written totally undermines the authority of the Illinois State Board of Education and gives it to a shadow commission with little to no oversight. This is unacceptable in the nation’s third largest school district.”
Charter operations not only lack accountability but with little to no innovation in pedagogy they also fail to outperform CPS’s traditional schools, according to research. Another crucial and little-known element of charter proliferation is the large financial windfall that can flow toward investors such as billionaire political hopeful Bruce Rauner. The would-be governor has given about $2.5 million to Noble Street, which has 8,850 students, 98 percent of whom are minorities and 89 percent who come from low-income families. A campus bears his name. His family foundation has also given about $4 million to other organizations that operate or support charter schools.
A vocal opponent of public education and unionized teachers, Rauner once floated a scheme that would call for the transferring of public wealth and resources to private hands throughout extreme leverage (debt) similar to financial structures that led to the Great Recession in 2008. In 2010, he instigated a plan that would raise $200 million in equity, borrow $600 million and purchase 100 CPS schools that the investor group would then lease to charter operators. In such a plan, the investor group would reap two benefits: First, they would receive steady streams of revenue from the leases, and second, they could claim tax credits from depreciation on the buildings. In short, the public would ultimately pay to lease back its own buildings.
Such schemes have made charter proliferation big business in Illinois. While CPS cited budgetary reasons for closing and consolidating scores of neighborhood schools, their own charter proliferation policies have caused unnecessary expenditures. Here is a look at current legislation pending in the General Assembly of which the CTU supports:
1. SB2627/HB3754: Eliminates the Illinois State Charter School Commission
What this bill does: Seeks to eliminate the Illinois State Charter School Commission and return its functions to the State Board of Education (ISBE).
Rationale: The State Charter School Commission (SCSC) is an initiative of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to promote the expansion of charter schools, especially in suburban areas where there is little support for charters. The SCSC eliminates local control of schools by providing a second application round for charter schools. Charters whose applications are denied by the local school board can appeal to the SCSC for approval. Two Chicago charter schools linked to the Turkish Gulen movement were approved in this manner, and a Sun-Times investigation found that these schools had significant conflicts of interest regarding contracts and expansion.
2. SB2779/HB4237: Diminishes authority of State Charter School Commission by mandating a referendum
What this bill does: Would require a voter referendum for any charter approved by ISBE or the State Charter Commission. The municipal election would take place in the district where the charter would be approved.
Rationale: The bill provides for voter approval for charter schools that have been approved over the wishes of the local school board. It is an additional mechanism to return control over district policy to local school boards.
3. HB 6005/SB 3030: Charter School Accountability Act
What this bill does: Requires the charter school authorizer to host charter school lotteries (rather than the school)
· Provides that a charter school waiting list must be centrally administered by the authorizer
· Prohibits a charter school from creating any admissions process subsequent to a lottery
· Requires the authorizer to inform the next parent or guardian on the waiting list in the event that a student transfers from a charter school
· Prohibits future charter schools from contracting with for-profit EMO/CMOs
· Mandates that the physical property of the charter school is owned by charter not EMO/CMO
· Forbids an employee to be employed by both a EMO/CMO and charter school
· Mandates that charters pay pro-rated portion of funding for student who leaves to the new school district
· Prohibits charter schools from spending public funds on marketing
· Charter is subject to an audit by auditor general administrative costs are 20% greater than those of the host district
· Requires a charter assessment report every 5 years
· Includes funding limits if charters are not in compliance with reporting regulations
· Creates a compensation cap for charter school CEOs—compensation cannot be greater than 80% of the compensation of the school district superintendent
· Creates a compensation cap for charter school principals—compensation cannot be greater than 10% more than the average compensation of principals in the district
Rationale: The UNO charter school scandal identified important weaknesses in the current law that have yet to be remedied and provide opportunities for future abuse. These reasonable regulations ensure a level governance playing field between charters and traditional public schools.
4. SB 3303: Limits charter expansion in areas where public schools have been closed
What this bill does: Provides that no charter can be granted within the same zip code, or neighboring zip code, in which a public school was closed within 10 school years.
· Provides that no charter must be granted unless the General Assembly has appropriated transition impact aid for the school district where the charter school is to be located.
· Provides that CPS designate attendance boundaries for Chicago charter schools.
Rationale: In the wake of the largest mass school closure in US history and the subsequent approval of 18 new charter schools, this law would provide crucial limits on future charter school openings by ensuring that any new campuses opened only where needed and when resources are available.
5. HB3745: Requires all charter high schools to establish vocational academies
What this bill does: Requires all alternative schools and charter high schools to establish vocational academies for students in grades 10-12.
Rationale: True career readiness requires access to experiential job training that only vocational education can provide.
6. HB4655/SB3004: Applies sections of the School Code that pertain to student discipline policies to charter schools
What this bill does: Amends the school code as it pertains to school discipline policies, and seeks to apply sections of the school code disciplinary policy to charter schools. The bill seeks to redefine what school behavior rises to the level of expulsion or suspension, sets limitations on out-of-school suspensions, in-school arrests, and requires behavioral support services and alternative educational services to be provided to certain students. The bill also provides that a student may not be issued a monetary fine or fee as a disciplinary consequence.
Rationale: Charter schools should be held to the same discipline standards as traditional public schools. Fines and harshly punitive discipline measures have resulted in an expulsion rate in Chicago charters that is 12 times the expulsion rate in public schools. These discipline actions have a disproportionate racial impact, as Latino and especially Black students are subject to such discipline at far greater rates than white students.
7. HB4527: Mandates charter school compliance with state and federal SPED and ELL laws
What this bill does: Requires charter schools to comply with all federal and state laws and rules applicable to public schools that pertain to special education and the instruction of English language learners.
8. HB 5328: Mandates Chicago charter schools be administered by a local school council
What this bill does: Requires a school that is initially placed on academic watch status after a fourth annual calculation or that remains on academic watch status after a fifth annual calculation to be approved by the school board and by the school's local school council, if applicable.
Rationale: Parents and community members should have a role in the governance of institutions that receive public money and claim to be public schools. This bill ensures that parents have meaningful roles in charter school operations.
9. HB 5887: Creates restrictions on virtual school options for students
What this bill does: Provides that the State Charter School Commission must require Commission-authorized virtual charter schools to (1) ensure student access to teachers and report to the local school board or boards information regarding teacher accessibility, the teacher/student ratio, and the amount of teacher/student contact time; (2) provide opportunities for peer interaction and collaboration; and (3) adopt protocols to prevent bullying or other inappropriate online behavior. Sets forth requirements and limitations that the Commission must impose with regard to entities proposing virtual charter schools.
· With respect to Commission-authorized virtual charter schools, requires the Commission to limit the withholding of State funds from a school district in proportion to the per pupil expenditure used for building maintenance, classroom supplies, transportation, safety and security, and other costs unique to brick-and-mortar schools.
· With respect to all Commission-authorized charter schools, provides that the Commission must require that proof of continuing enrollment and attendance be submitted quarterly, with prorated refunds to the school district upon withdrawal of students from the charter school.
10. HB4591: Requires funding to follow charter students who transfer to district schools
What this bill does: Provides that if a charter school dismisses a student from the charter school after receiving a quarterly payment from the school district, the charter school must return to the school district on a pro rata basis, for the time the student is not enrolled at the charter school.
Rationale: Because of high dismissal rates, charters are able to keep funds for students they no longer educate. Such funding should follow the student if that student transfers from a charter to another charter school or to a public school.
Common Core was written by corporations and developed during the Bush Administration. It is simply an attempt by global corporations to capture all information and Race to the Top captures how it is distributed. We do not need standardization of STEM------STEM is nothing but facts. We do not need standardization of liberal arts/humanities because the US is a democracy embracing pluralities-----ALLOWING OUR PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM TO BE FUSED WITH DIFFERING OPINIONS IS WHAT MAKES A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY.
The neo-cons and neo-liberals working to make the US an autocratic nation play the republican voters off the labor and justice democrats with these policies. Republican voters are fighting it because it will take control of what is taught in the classroom but they do not understand that it is their neo-cons that are pushing it. Labor and justice democrats are being sold that this will raise achievement and get rid of those 'anti-evolution' nuts.
STOP ALLOWING NEO-CONS AND NEO-LIBERALS KILL PUBLIC EDUCATION. THIS COMMON CORE POLICY IS BAD FOR EVERYONE.
So, as labor and justice fight the Race to the Top testing and evaluation----charters and Teach for America------the republicans are fighting Common Core AND THEY BOTH NEED TO BE FIGHTING BOTH POLICIES! Do not allow a need to segregate schools produce the conditions to take away your communities ability to control your own schools. Don't allow decades of defunding public schools and dismantling education policy with rigor and accountability sell you on the need for privatized schools to get good education.
DEMAND STRONG PUBLIC SCHOOLS WORKING TO SUPPORT INDEPENDENT THOUGHT, LEADERSHIP, AND DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES!
Below you see again that a Wall Street privatization scheme uses the propaganda of 'raising the underserved' just as they used Affordable Care Act as 'raising access to health care for the poor'. In both cases it has actually done the opposite. As we see in this article Common Core fails to address the largest problems for the underserved students and it is bringing down the rigor and standards for middle-class students. Achievement is in decline even as pols skew the data to make it sound as if things are going great. Maryland is the greatest example of skewing data in the country!
IT IS NOT ABOUT FLAWED IMPLEMENTATION-----IT IS ABOUT ALLOWING WALL STREET TO HAVE OUR PUBLIC EDUCATION AS IT IS TAKING OUR PUBLIC HEALTH!
The Answer Sheet: The Myth of Common Core Equity
The Common Core State Standards were originally promoted as a way of raising academic standards for all children around the country. But is the initiative really about equitable outcomes? Here’s a post that takes on that question, by award-winning New York Principal Carol Burris and Alan A. Aja, assistant professor and deputy chair in the Department of Puerto Rican & Latino Studies at Brooklyn College (City University of New York). In 2012, he was a recipient of a Whiting Fellowship Award for Excellence in Teaching. Burris has been writing about the flawed Core implementation in New York on this blog.
Burris, principal of South Side High School, has been chronicling the flawed implementation of school reform and the Common Core State Standards across the state for some time (here, and here and here and here, for example). She was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2010, tapped as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is the co-author of the New York Principals letter of concern regarding the evaluation of teachers by student test scores. It has been signed by thousands of principals teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens. You can read the letter by clicking here. Her new book is “On The Same Track: How Schools Can Join the Twenty-First-Century Struggle Against Resegregation.”
By Carol Burris and Alan A. Aja
When the Common Core curriculum was promoted in 2009, its creators said unequivocally that principles of equity would be at the center of its eventual implementation. After all, the Bush administration’s test-happy No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandate failed to close the “achievement gap” between whites and minorities. Then the Obama administration inaugurated a A Race to the Top contest among states and districts for federal funds and supported a new set of higher standards for all states intended to ensure college and career readiness for all students, with specific concern for our most under-served and disadvantaged.
On the surface, this seemed like a telling moment in a so-called post-racial, color-blind era, one where racism and institutionalized discrimination are viewed less and less as predictors of life chances. At last it appeared that policymakers were acknowledging the disparate effects of previous federal education policy toward marginalized communities, recommending instead to “raise the standards” through a rich curriculum and equitable teaching practices states could voluntarily adopt.
Five years and 47 states later, Race to the Top reforms are doing anything but to the communities that have been under-served. A barrage of news reports from states across the country underscore the growing discontent by students, parents, unions and legislators over the initial rollout of the Common Core, with a range of grievances from poorly constructed and confusing texts/materials, excessive testing preparation and concerns of children’s data-based privacy and security. But lost amidst the protests, town halls, so-called “delays” and potential “moratoriums” is the issue of equity all over again, making us wonder if “achievement gaps” were truly a primary concern of the Common Core architects at all.
In New York for example, one of the first states to roll out the new curriculum, scores from Common Core tests dropped like a stone—and the achievement gaps dramatically widened. In 2012, prior to the Core’s implementation, the state reported a 12-point black/white achievement gap between average third-grade English Language Arts scores, and a 14-point gap in eighth-grade English Language Arts (ELA) scores. A year later enter the Common Core-aligned tests: the respective gaps grew to 19 and 25 points respectively (for Latino students the eighth grade ELA gap grew from 3 to 22 points). The same expansion of the gap occurred in math as well. In 2012, there was an 8-point gap between black/white third-grade math scores and a 13-point gap between eighth-grade math scores. In 2013, the respective gaps from the Common Core tests expanded to 14 and 18 points.
The problem however, is more than just a gap in average scores. Using another indicator, the percentage of black students who scored “Below Standard” in third-grade English Language Arts tests rose from 15.5 percent to a shocking 50 percent post-Common Core implementation. In seventh-grade math, black students labeled “Below Standard” jumped from 16.5 percent to a staggering 70 percent. Students with disabilities of all backgrounds saw their scores plummet– 75 percent of students with disabilities scored “Below Standard” on the Grade 5 ELA Common Core tests and 78 percent scored “Below Standard” on the 7th grade math test. Also, 84 percent of English Language learners score “Below Standard” on the ELA test while 78 percent scored the same on the 7th grade math exam.
When a student scores in the Below Standard category of 1, there is a good chance that her or his answers were mere guesses, or that the test was so difficult, they simply gave up. How do such tests help nine year olds who are struggling to learn English, or poor students starting school without the advantages of pre-school and the enriched experiences that affluence brings? How do we advance the cause of equity by giving them the message: You are “below standard” and not on the road to be ready for college?
Rather than heeding the warning that something is very wrong, New York’s Board of Regents adds the highest of stakes for students—their very ability to graduate high school. In February, the New York State Board of Regents established the college-ready scores that students will need for graduation, beginning with the class that enters high school in four years. These scores, which up until now have been known as “aspirational” measures, have been reported by the state in the aggregate and by sub-group for the past several years. If these scores were used last year, the New York four-year graduation rate would have plummeted to 35 percent. This low rate masks even worse outcomes for students with disabilities (5 percent), as well as black (12 percent), Latino (16 percent) and English Language learners (7 percent). New York Education Commissioner John King even told reporters that he was disappointed that the scores were not phased in sooner because the delay means more students would leave high school “unprepared.” He need not worry. With his preferred cut scores, most students—especially students of color, poverty and disability–will not leave high school at all.
We need not wait until graduation, however, for our most vulnerable students to feel the consequences. The designers and supporters of the Common Core never considered how the test outcomes would affect the school opportunities of disadvantaged students within the context of the competitive design of the American public education system.
For instance, in many school districts state tests are used to make decisions about promotion as well to assign students into “honors,” “enrichment,” and other “accelerated” programs. State scores are used as well for admissions to competitive middle schools and high schools. Given the disturbing evidence that the score gap has widened, if these scores are used for these purposes, many of our students of color, poverty, disability and our English language learners will have doors of opportunity shut as they compete using these very scores. This, in our opinion, is a discriminatory practice.
Research has already established that holding back students unnecessarily can have detrimental impacts down the road, and that by design and impact high-stakes testing disadvantages English language learners, special education, minority and low-income children. The research of Claude Steele, Joshua Aronson, and Aaron Spencer demonstrates that outcomes on high-stakes standardized tests underestimate the achievement and college readiness of children stigmatized as cognitively inferior by stereotype, while exaggerating the scores for individuals from groups whom society deems cognitively superior. Needless to say, we are baffled as to why education reformers continue to deny the evidence that standardized tests are invalid measurements of learning, and would instead “up the ante”’ with Common Core testing.
In the meantime, the Common Core aligned-tests will be used to justify the continuance of market-based education reforms. This means firing teachers and principals based on test scores, closing urban schools with higher low-income populations and the proliferation of charters as punishment (which ironically scored worse in language arts and the same in math as New York City public schools in the latest round of Common Core-aligned tests). These strategies, straight from what economist Naomi Klein calls the “shock doctrine” school of economics, lead to further gutting and pseudo-privatization of the most necessary of our public goods, while continuing the false narratives that teachers and their unions are the problem or that racism, poverty and inequitable resource distribution are merely excuses.
In the coming months and years ahead, the debate will continue over the role and efficacy of the Common Core. In some states and localities, that conversation will focus on local control and federal intrusion, while in others it will concern the dubious marriage between business and government. Some will debate simply how to delay implementation, as though the reforms themselves are not the problem. They will ignore the evidence that is right before their eyes.
It is time for those who fight for equity to question the very assumptions of reform. If a goal of public education is to expand the life chances of all students, why are we pursuing punitive policies and practices that push the opportunities of our most vulnerable students even further behind?