By Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, For The Associated Press, Pottstown Mercury, 2/28/15
HARRISBURG >> It’s no secret that Harrisburg is a hive of lobbyists, each representing industries and interests that spend millions to persuade state lawmakers to bend laws in their favor.
But perhaps what makes the charter-school lobby unique among the pack, says State Rep. Bernie O’Neill, a Republican from Bucks County, is its ability to deploy children to its cause.
In 2014, O’Neill experienced that first hand after proposing changes to a funding formula that would affect charter schools. Parents and children stormed his office and barraged him with calls and emails.
“They were calling me the anti-Christ of everything,” O’Neill said. “Everybody was coming after me.”
In recent years, as charter schools have proliferated — particularly those run by for-profit management companies — so too has their influence on legislators. In few other places has that been more true than Pennsylvania, which is one of only 11 states that has no limits on campaign contributions from PACs or individuals.
According to a PennLive analysis of donations on Follow The Money, a campaign donation database, charter school advocates have donated more than $10 million to Pennsylvania politicians over the past nine years….
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by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses
Part I – Complaints, Complaints
Every so often books and articles appear bemoaning the state of U.S. education. The complaints address all levels, from the elementary grades to high school to college and university. You can get a sense of this by going to Google and doing a search under the heading “American Education.” Most of what comes up is negative. In 2001 President Bush, who is not exactly a poster boy for U.S. schooling, told us that, at the lower levels, a whole lot of American children were being “left behind.” And, at the upper levels, who can forget the angst of Alan Bloom who, in 1987, told us higher education was destroying students’ minds and ruining the country by endorsing relativism and multiculturalism.
The most recent example of this negativity is William Deresiewicz’s book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. Deresiewicz’s concern is with America’s elite colleges and universities which, in his view, “manufacture students who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but … with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose.” As a result “what we’re getting is thirty-two flavors of vanilla.”
I think that all those who complain in this fashion, be they parents, teachers, administrators or politicians, are missing the point. It may seem odd, but those most critical of today’s schools seem not to recognize what mass education is really designed to accomplish. Such education has always had two main objectives: one vocational and the other civic. Let me elaborate….
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Diane Ravitch, 11/12/14
Now that we have endured more than a dozen long years of No Child Left Behind and five fruitless, punitive years of Race to the Top, it is clear that they both failed. They relied on carrots and sticks and ignored intrinsic motivation. They crushed children’s curiosity instead of cultivating it.* they demoralized schools. They disrupted schools and communities without improving children’s education.
We did not leave no child behind. The same children who were left behind in 2001-02 are still left behind. Similarly, Race to the Top is a flop. The Common Core tests are failing most students, and we are nowhere near whatever the “Top” is. If a teacher gave a test, and 70% of the students failed, we would say she was not competent, tested what was not taught, didn’t know her students. The Race turns out to be NCLB with a mask. NCLB on steroids. NCLB 2.0.
Whatever you call it, RTTT has hurt children, demoralized teachers, closed community schools, fragmented communities, increased privatization, and doubled down on testing.
I have an idea for a new accountability system that relies on different metrics. We begin by dropping standardized test scores as measures of quality or effectiveness. We stop labeling, ranking, and rating children, teachers, snd schools. We use tests only when needed for diagnostic purposes, not for comparing children to their peers, not to find winners and losers. We rely on teachers to test their students, not corporations.
The new accountability system would be called No Child Left Out. The measures would be these: Continue reading
Diane Ravitch’s blog, 10/13/14
Alyson Klein of Education Week reports that the powerful in Congress are beginning to hear the massive discontent of parent, educators, and local school boards about the excessive testing imposed on the schools by No Child Left Behind, and multiplied by Race to the Top. …
continue reading at Diane Ravitch’s blog