Friday, July 1, 2016

John King's Law: 'Test & Punish'

Test-and-punish enforcer John King (right) with predecessor Arne Duncan. 
As he did while he was in New York, Ed. Sec. John King continues to play the enforcer on high-stakes, standardized test scores as the primary measure for rating schools under ESSA.

Now he's trying to force CA Gov. Jerry Brown to use a discredited, simplistic A-F grading system to rank schools or districts as  “very low performing,” “low performing,” “high performing,” or “very high-performing,” based mainly on students' standardized test scores. It's what he calls a “single summative rating”.

He acts as though Gov. Brown is committing treason by advocating the use of multiple measures.

King claims it has to be a "simple" rating system so that parents can understand it. He thinks parents are too stupid to understand that there's more than one way to tell how their schools and their children are doing. His approach is what led to the mass parent opt-out revolt in N.Y. under his administration.

This is the same line we heard under Bush's No Child Left Behind. It turned out that NCLB testing madness was just another form of social reproduction. Or more simply put, a way of replicating and enforcing existing inequalities by punishing schools and districts with the neediest kids. Testing mania only reinforced school segregation and hurt poor kids and children of color the most.

Not to mention the discredited role of the use of standardized tests as a valid measure when it comes to evaluating teachers or schools.

Some pinned their hopes on ESSA as a way of giving states and local districts more flexibility and easing the pressures of federally-enforced, top-down school "reform." I was even worried that the new law would just shift more power to southern segregationist states like Mississippi and Alabama. I still am.

But when Brown, the nation's most progressive Democratic governor, tried even the slightest departure from King's Law, he was called on the carpet. I say King's Law because there is nothing in ESSA to prevent a state from using multiple measures, just as California is already doing. King made it up.

When I tweeted about this yesterday, the first one to leap to King's defense was Arne Duncan's former flack, Peter Cunningham.
Yes, of course "not only." But mainly.
First of all, it's not "in the law." as even the law's co-sponsor, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander points out. He asks King,
“I’d like you to think about where in the law you get the authority to provide for a single summative rating.” 
King has no answer.
Then Alexander tells King:
“You’ve invented out of whole cloth a so-called summative rating system that’s nowhere in the law that would essentially require all states to come up with an A through F system for all of their schools based primarily on test scores on federally mandated tests in math and reading."
The great irony here is that when Arne Duncan ran the DOE, with help from Peter Cunningham, NCLB was "the law."  That didn't stop Duncan from imposing Duncan's Law, otherwise known as the now-discredited Race To The Top.

There are no big surprises here, especially when you consider King's history in N.Y.  As AFT Prez Randi Weingarten succinctly put it:
 ...his tenure as New York state’s education commissioner created so much polarization in the state with parents and educators alike that even Gov. Andrew Cuomo is finally doing a mea culpa over the obsession with testing. We can only hope that King has learned a thing or two since his tenure in New York.”
He hasn't.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Why does anyone listen to Peter Cunningham? He's paid to say what his funders expect him to say, little of which is based in reality.

  3. Jc grim,
    How do you suggest we take on the corporate reformers' ideas without listening to them? When you figure that one out, let me know.

    1. It was intended as a rhetorical question.

      Maybe this is better: Are Peter's pants on fire?

  4. Randi Weingarten trolling King is hilarious. She has more in common with him than she does with any classroom teacher. Ask her how her pal Hillary is going to behave any differently than King, Duncan, Obama or Bush. She made robocalls for Cuomo's running mate but thinks we forgot about it.


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