Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Race to the Top: The Surge Phase II

Fallout from yesterday's grant announcements

Phase 2 of Race To The Top marks a new stage, and escalation, a surge (to borrow from past and current administration war rhetoric) in Arne Duncan's politically triangulated war on the schools. The early casualty reports are already trickling in.

It's clear now that last week's widely-criticized L.A. Times report, which published names and pictures of inner-city teachers and their supposed "value-added" test-score quotients, was no ill-considered aberration, but rather a calculated part of the surge. Duncan sat poised, press release at the ready, waiting to salute the Times board and dangle the prospect of Race To The Top funding if the public exposure of teachers continues. Of course, no RTTT money was forthcoming for bankrupt California. The Times' denigration of teachers and the teaching profession was not nearly enough to divert $700 million from politically hot-button states and the District of Columbia.

This morning's Times confirms all this with a follow-up by embedded hatchet-man/reporter Jason Song
The lack of public accountability in California's schools compared with those in some other states could have been a factor Tuesday in the state's failure to win any money in the federal government's competitive Race to the Top education grant program.

Duncan chimes in calling for more such public teacher exposures.
"The truth is always hard to swallow, but it can only make us better, stronger and smarter," according to remarks he plans to deliver in Little Rock, Ark. "That's what accountability is all about — facing the truth and taking responsibility."

The "truth" to Duncan is nothing more than a factoid--an equation--linking a child's standardized test score to an individual teacher. Hard-to-swallow? Sure, no credible researcher of educator buys into this crass, unethical, and probably illegal use of questionable school data.

One interesting sidelight in the Song piece: Gates Foundation implant, Deputy Supt. John Deasy, grabbing control of the district's rudder from Supt. Contines, voiced his support for value-added, albeit, a softer version than Duncan's. In a memo Tuesday to the Board of Education, Deasy said that a teacher's value-added score should NOT be reported publicly and that including it in a performance review "would shield it" from public disclosure. He also said the district had had "positive" preliminary talks with the unions on a new evaluation system. UTLA prez Duffy seems to confirm this, as well as his own willingness to comply with the surge.

Getting crass in D.C.

Speaking of crass, Duncan's election campaigning for D.C.'s Mayor Fenty, the morning of the grant announcement, followed up by a $75 million RTTT grant, has to raise more questions about granting process itself. The power-philanthropists underwriting Chancellor Rhee's crumbling teacher-bashing reforms, have threatened to pull the plug if Fenty loses in the upcoming elections.

Rhee used the grant award to make claims way beyond the award's scope:
"Winning this grant is a testament to the extraordinary progress we've made as a city," Rhee said in a statement issued early this afternoon. "The U.S. Department of Education clearly recognizes that students in Washington D.C. are progressing at an unprecedented pace, and that the reforms DCPS has instituted are working and should be expanded." (D.C. Schools Insider)

More fallout from the surge to follow. Stay tuned.

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