Teachers Now Lack Faith In Common Core Too

One day after a poll showing that a plurality of parents split opinions on Common Core, another survey by Gallup shows that public school teachers are having major doubts about the new multi-state education standards as well.

According to Gallup’s survey, only 41 percent of teachers view Common Core very or somewhat positively.

That’s less than the 44 percent who view it very or somewhat negatively (16 percent have no opinion). After accounting for the margin of error, the poll essentially measures a tie between supporters and opponents of the standards.

That’s a bad sign for Common Core supporters, however, who have fought to defend the standards from a rising tide of opposition by emphasizing their popularity with professional educators. Those who know the most about the standards, they say, are the most enthusiastic about them. If teachers are no more upbeat on Common Core than parents, that claim holds less water.

Supporters can take heart, however, that in states that have progressed the farthest in implementing Common Core, teachers are more likely to view it favorably. In states where Common Core has been fully implemented already, 61 percent of teachers are favorable to it, and just 35 percent view it negatively.

Where the implementation is still a work in progress, only 37 percent think positively of the Core, while 43 percent dislike it. In states that have never used Common Core or have abandoned it, only 26 percent view the standards positively and 59 percent view them negatively.

Those numbers have supporters of the standards sticking to the narrative that familiarity with Common Core breeds support rather than contempt.

“Teachers who have implemented the standards like the standards,” Michael J. Petrilli, president of the pro–Core Thomas B. Fordham Institute, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

However, it is also possible that Common Core’s stronger reception in states with full implementations simply reflects political realities, with states that are more enthusiastic for the standards also adopting them more swiftly.

Interestingly, opinions differ sharply based on teachers’ grade levels. Elementary school teachers are the most positive on Common Core, with 43 percent viewing it positively and 41 percent negatively. Among high school teachers, however, the situation is reversed, with only 39 percent happy with Common Core and a hefty 49 percent viewing it negatively.

Respondents to the poll had the opportunity to explain in a free response what they thought Common Core’s best and worst aspects were. While Common Core has been touted by supporters for allegedly being more rigorous or encouraging greater critical thinking, 56 percent of teachers said the best aspect of Common Core has nothing to do with its content at all. Instead, they say Common Core’s supreme feature is that it makes standards identical between states, something they view as good regardless of what the standards actually are.

On Common Core’s negative aspects, teachers were far more divided, with five different criticisms garnering between 10 and 15 percent of responses. Teachers faulted Common Core for being unrealistic, for being badly implemented, for placing too much emphasis on standardized tests, and for creating a “one size fits all” approach that hurts student achievement.

The survey was conducted from Aug. 11 through Sept. 7, and had a sample size of 854 public K-12 teachers. The margin of error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

This piece was originally published at the Daily Caller News Foundation

LAUSD Turmoil Continues Despite Superintendent Resignation

John Deasy’s recent resignation as the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District ends three years of controversy. But a cloud of chalk dust remains over the mammoth district’s future.

Deasy conceded his policies sowed sharp disagreements. And a conciliatory statement by the LAUSD School Board acknowledged “academic achievement rose substantially despite severe economic hardships, and the students of the district have benefitted greatly from Dr. Deasy’s guidance.”

The LAUSD Board of Education tapped his predecessor, Ramon Cortines, 82, as an interim replacement, giving it time to find a longer-term leader who could take the troubled LAUSD in a new direction.

Deasy’s rocky tenure culminated in dual controversies — his emphasis on quantifying education improvement through testing and his strong personal push to increase the use of technology in the classroom. In the first case, critics said, Deasy contributed to a climate of stress and inadequacy for teachers unprepared to meet higher testing goals. In the second, critics blasted Deasy for overreaching with a rushed and ineffective $1.3 billion program to give iPads to all the district’s 650,000 students.

Testing trouble

Deasy’s reforms upset the L.A. status quo on a number of levels. As the Los Angeles Times observed, Deasy made waves with “a teacher evaluation system, stricter bars for gaining tenure, a classroom breakfast program and a stronger embrace of alternatives to turn around struggling schools — including charter schools and the complete replacement of staff.” Though most of these measures threatened to take control away from teachers unions, Deasy’s desire to hold teachers accountable through student testing drew the most ire.

Among administrators, Deasy wasn’t alone in taking that approach. Its prominence in the Common Core system, which is being implemented in California and many other states, led a growing number of unionized teachers to speak out in opposition.

Previous to his work with the Los Angeles schools, Deasy served as deputy director of education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Common Core has been closely associated with Bill Gates, who almost single-handedly fueled the initiative with millions in funding and closed-door lobbying.

With that background, few were surprised when the testing reforms Deasy advanced were “fought by teacher unions and some community activists,” who opposed “so-called corporate reform because it often involves data-driven performance reviews that can affect high-stakes personnel decisions,” according to the Times.

The limits of technology

In the worst ordeal of his time as superintendent, Deasy tried to swiftly implement a plan that would make iPads a classroom standard. Although a LAUSD investigation concluded Deasy did not act unethically, his effort became an albatross amid technological failures, vendor problems and student hooliganism.

As Time reported, some students “hacked the devices — which the district had said were meant solely for academic work — to enable more general use. And when the program began, some schools did not yet have proper wifi infrastructure that would allow all their students to be online at the same [time].”

On the positive side, the hacking crisis did show LAUSD kids were more adept in the growing high-tech economy than district officials suspected.

A brewing crisis

Deasy’s departure summed up a broader trend in education reform battles playing out nationwide. It pitted traditional allies against one another, including Democrats and their teachers union backers.

Democrats’ flagging credibility on education has been exacerbated this year by election-year politics and the Vergara ruling, which held California teachers union tenure protections unconstitutionally infringe on students’ rights.

But Democrats — like many pro-corporate Republicans — turned to a small network of wealthy, successful elites to respond to the nation’s systemic education problems. GOP heavyweights like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former U.S. Secretary of Education Bill Bennett lent their support to Common Core in an effort to broaden Republicans’ appeal — despite the opposition of many of their conservative allies.

And Democrats embraced the Gates and Deasy approach as a way of taking the focus off of teachers unions. Gates, the world’s richest man, is a Democrat.

Those reformers discovered, however, that the public education system could not be transformed effectively through testing or technology.

Deasy’s exit again puts LAUSD policy up for grabs, with potential reforms including the perennial proposal to break up the nation’s second most populous school district to make it more responsive to voters, parents and students.

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com

 

Kashkari’s Attention-Getting Ad has a Point

Neel Kashkari’s campaign for governor sought to gain attention with its first statewide television commercial and succeeded. The ad titled Betrayal depicts a boy drowning before being pulled to safety by Kashkari. The boy is symbolic of the school children Kashkari asserts have been abandoned by Governor Jerry Brown when he appealed the Vergara vs. California case.

The judge declared in Vergara that conditions in California schools for minority students “shock the conscience” in concluding that “grossly ineffective teachers” protected by the state’s teacher tenure laws deny minority students constitutional protections for an equal education.

Kashkari’s attention-getting ad is intended to get the media and, through the media, the people talking about this issue. With the one sided advantage the governor has in financial resources Kashkari is relying on an edgy campaign commercial to get his word out.

Brown argued that the appeal to a higher court was necessary if the teacher tenure laws are to be changed. Previously, I wrotethat an appellate ruling would be helpful in validating the lower court’s decision.

However, Brown’s reasoning for the appeal ignored the main question ruled upon by the Superior Court. He did not take a stand on the issue. He did not say that his goal with the appeal is to confirm that the current standards must change; that the students are being denied a quality education. He was silent on the issue.

By not speaking up for the students who brought the Vergara case it clearly appears that Brown is playing up to the teachers’ unions, as Kashkari charges. The unions adamantly want to wipe Vergara away.

I suppose there is something to say about the attention getting aspect of the ad – a boy drowning until pulled to safety by Kashkari. Attention to a child in jeopardy worked in the famous political commercial put out by Lyndon Johnson’s presidential campaign in 1964. A little girl picking flowers disappeared from the screen replaced by the mushroom cloud of an atomic explosion. That commercial actually ran only once but we are still talking about it 50 years later.

Kashkari, undoubtedly, was willing to use a dramatic image to get people talking.

Kashkari speaks of the problem examined in the Vergara case as a civil rights issue. If that is so, the dramatic ad to point out the issue can be compared to the demonstrations that were criticized during the civil rights era. They brought attention. But, the key for Kashkari is that people examine the core point he is making – that Brown is unwilling to stand up and proclaim that minority children are suffering under the current teacher protection laws supported by the unions — and not the ad’s image.

As Martin Luther King noted in his civil rights struggles of a half-century ago, while critics deplored demonstrations they failed to express similar concerns for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. He wanted his critics to deal with the underlying causes.

Kashkari hopes his commercial will bring attention to the underlying problem and those who resist change.

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily.

Tuck outraising incumbent, but union looms large in State Superintendent race

Education reformer Marshall Tuck has accomplished a rare feat for a political challenger: He’s raised more money than the incumbent.

According to the most recent campaign finance disclosure reports released Monday, Tuck has raised nearly $1.6 million since he launched his campaign to fix California’s failing schools. That’s roughly $200,000 more than incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. Both are Democrats.

In addition to raising more money, Tuck has more cash on hand heading into the final month of the campaign. Tuck’s $699,037 in available funds puts him with a nearly six-figure advantage over Torlakson, who reported $608,609 in cash on hand, as of Sept. 30.

Tuck’s strong fundraising shows donors are responding to his reform message. He’s the only statewide challenger to outraise an incumbent this year. In some cases, challengers are at a significant disadvantage.

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Republican Ronald Gold, who is challenging Attorney General Kamala Harris, had $17,601 in available funds, with $80,000 in outstanding debts. Meanwhile, Harris reported $3.6 million in cash on hand for the most recent period.

Teachers union’s $1.9 million ‘issue’ campaign just beginning

But Tuck’s financial advantage is largely illusory. That’s because the California Teachers Association, the most powerful special interest group in Sacramento, has declared war on Tuck. The teachers union is the biggest player in the superintendent’s race, even dwarfing the candidates.

On Oct. 1, the state’s richest union launched its latest “issue” advocacy praising their loyal ally Torlakson. According to state campaign finance disclosure reports, the CTA reported spending $1.94 million in issue ads benefiting Torlakson. To put that number in perspective, it’s more than either of the candidates has raised for his entire campaign.

And the union is likely just getting started with its outside campaign spending. According to the Los Angeles Times, the CTA spent $2.5 million in independent expenditures during the June primary on Torlakson’s behalf. Despite the union spending, Torlakson received the fewest votes of any statewide incumbent, an anemic 46.5 percent of the vote.

Vergara decision alters the race

Since the primary, things have only gotten worse for Torlakson as more voters are becoming aware of a landmark court case, Vergara v. California, which has fundamentally changed the dynamics of the superintendent’s race.

In June, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu found California’s teacher tenure and dismissal process violates students’ rights by leaving low-income and minority students with the worst teachers. Immediately, the teachers union adopted a “you’re either with us or against us” policy, attacking anyone in their way, even the judge.

“The Vergara ruling makes clear that Judge Treu failed to engage the evidence presented in court by education experts and school superintendents who testified that teacher rights are not impediments to well-run schools and districts,” California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt said in a press release condemning the ruling. “Instead he issued a blanket decision to scuttle these important statutes, absent the kind of compelling evidence that should be the standard for changing state law.” The CFT is the state’s second teachers union.

In August, Torlakson, a staunch union defender, announced he would appeal the decision. “The people who dedicate their lives to the teaching profession deserve our admiration and support,” he said in a statement. “Instead, this ruling lays the failings of our education system at their feet.”

In contrast, Tuck has praised the ruling and vows to drop the state’s appeal if elected.

“When I win … I’m immediately submitting to the appellate court our request to no longer be a defendant and will side with the plaintiffs in the case,” Tuck told the UT San Diego.

Tuck’s reform message resonating with all Californians

The teachers unions’ campaign onslaught could backfire. But, much like Republican Meg Whitman proved in 2010 with her run for governor, money sometimes can backfire. Every major newspaper in the state has endorsed Tuck — all citing Torlakson’s cozy relationship with the union as part of their reason.

“As for Torlakson, he seems too busy defending public schools to think about fixing them,” wrote San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders. “Torlakson actually has attacked Tuck for working on Wall Street during his first two years out of college. That’s the sort of nasty salvo that made it easy for every major newspaper in California, including The Chronicle, to endorse Tuck.”

On Monday, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune became the latest newspaper to back Tuck.

“Torlakson has joined in a legal appeal of the Vergara ruling, and mouths the union line that people want to streamline the hiring and firing rules are ‘blaming teachers,’” the paper wrote. “Tuck applauds the Vergara decision and has called on the state Board of Education not to wait through an appeal before developing alternative rules, including longer evaluation periods before tenure is granted.”

This piece was originally published on CalWatchdog.com.

 

Why California is Losing the Competitiveness Race in Education

California’s education establishment dislikes competition but the most recent research shows that, in the education marketplace, competition works.  A March 2011 study by the Foundation for Educational Choice (FEC) analyzed the results of all empirical studies that used the best scientific methods to measure how school-choice vouchers affect the academic outcomes of participating students.  The results should serve as a beacon as California policymakers debate ways to improve the state’s poorly performing government-run school system.

Under voucher programs, a state attaches funding to a student, which he or she can take to the public or private school of his or her choice. The study concluded, “Contrary to the widespread claim that vouchers do not benefit participants and hurt public schools, the empirical evidence consistently shows that vouchers improve outcomes for both participants and public schools.”

According to the FEC study, nine out of the 10 studies found that vouchers improved student outcome measurements such as test scores in the core subjects and graduation rates.  In addition, by increasing competition between public and private schools, voucher programs forced public school systems to improve.

Eighteen of the 19 empirical studies that looked at how vouchers affect public schools found that public schools improved their performance in the face of the increased competition fostered by vouchers.  In fact, every empirical study conducted in states with voucher programs, such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida, has found that “voucher programs in those places improved public schools.”  The FEC study said that while there are a variety of reasons why vouchers might improve public school performance, “The most important is that competition from vouchers introduces healthy incentives for public schools to improve.”  Yet, California has erected barriers to widespread competition in education.

Over the last few years, voucher and other pro-school-choice legislation have died in the state Legislature.  Now, with Democrats controlling the Assembly, Senate and the governor’s office, liberal legislators have unleashed a flood of anti-choice bills.  For example, AB 401 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) caps the number of charter schools, deregulated public schools started by parents, teachers and community organizations.  Ammiano’s bill targets charters despite the reality that they are four times more likely than regular public schools to be among the top 5 percent of schools statewide in student achievement.  Current California regulations also block students from choosing online and virtual education alternatives.

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