Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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If you like your teacher…

Common Core, the stealth invasion of  public education, is now joined by another little known federal initiative.  It is called “Excellent Educators for All,“ and it, too, is courtesy of President Obama  and his education consigliere Arne Duncan.

The stated goal of this new initiative is to improve teacher quality in schools serving disadvantaged and minority students. But, as experience should tell us, the devil is in the details and the details are sparse to none. Here’s what we know:

In a press conference Duncan said he was the launching the program without congressional approval, mouthing Obama’s line about its too important to wait for Congress to act.

Duncan claims authorization for the program in the 2001 NCLB Act. Specifically cited is that NCLB requires states to “ensure that low-income and minority students are not taught by teachers who are not highly qualified at higher rates than are non-minority and low-income students.”

States will be required to analyze data and submit plans to ensure students are taught by “effective educators.” The agency is setting aside $4.2 million to assist the effort and starting this fall will publish district profiles. Duncan said the administration would not require states to follow a specific approach.  He does not say what the states will be required to do in addition to filling out reports.

Few folks out side the education community are aware that Duncan’s original plan was to make state renewals of NCLB waivers contingent on complying with “Excellent Educators for All,” and federally sponsored professional development for teachers. Vociferous objections from state school officers caused DOE to back away from that idea. But according to DOE deputy assistant secretary, Scott Sargrad, the Department is developing a “a 50-state strategy’ to enforce equitable distribution everywhere, not just in states seeking waiver renewals. He also said the DOE would be developing “the strategy and the consequences for non-compliance.” The federal hammer is very much in evidence in Duncan’s initial plan and Sargrad’s comments.

The National Education Association endorses “Excellent Educators For All.”

So lets take these one at a time. The first indicates that the president is again
bypassing Congress and that another unconstitutional executive order is on the way.

As to NCLB, this blogger spent most of a morning searching for the phrase Duncan quotes from NCLB as authorizing “Excellent Educators for All.” If anyone locates it please provide WWTFT with the citation.

The closest match I found appears in a letter dated October 21, 2005 from then education secretary Margaret Spellings regarding state efforts to provide “highly qualified teachers.” Spellings wrote that states must report …

 the steps the State has taken to ensure that experienced and qualified teachers are equitably distributed among classrooms with poor and minority children and those with their peers. She further says that for those states that fail to comply the Department “reserves the right to take appropriate action such as the withholding of funds.” 

I did find the following in NCLB:

Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic achievement standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction.

In addition, although Duncan has not yet provided a definition of “highly qualified,” NCLB does:

The No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB] recognizes this. The law requires that all teachers of core academic subjects in the classroom be highly qualified. This is determined by three essential criteria: (1) attaining a bachelor’s degree or better in the subject taught; (2) obtaining full state teacher certification; and (3) demonstrating knowledge in the subjects taught.

Since states require all teachers be certified and have a bachelor’s degree in education, that definition is essentially meaningless. States view 1 & 2 as proof of 3. So it appears that Duncan intends to go beyond the NCLB definition.

Of course, all students should have “highly qualified teachers,” but the idea that the federal government in its wisdom (so well displayed by the VA and Obama Care scandals), on the basis of as yet disclosed DOE criteria, should require states to shuffle teachers from school to school is ludicrous and destructive.

If improving instruction for underprivileged and minority students is really the goal, it can be accomplished by providing more choice not more mandates. A 2013 Stanford study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes is instructive. A few highlights from the study:

“Results for different student groups indicate that black students, students in poverty, and English language learners benefit from attending charter schools.”

Charter students in poverty in 2013 continue to have an advantage over
their public School counterparts. The difference in 2013 is 14 additional days of learning. Both continuing and new schools have statistically significant and positive reading impacts for charter students in poverty.

Compared to the learning gains of public school students in poverty, charter students in poverty learn significantly more in math.

Not included in the Stanford study is that 21 of Arizona’s top 30 schools in 2013 were charters, despite charter students being funded on average $1,335 less than the average district student.

Finally does anyone seriously believe that the NEA would agree to judge teacher competence on the basis of student outcomes without built in caveats? According to the NEA Toolkit: “NEA opposes using student tests scores to assess teaching effectiveness because these models fail to acknowledge the many factors that impact a student’s learning, both in and out of school.“  Affiliates and members are encouraged to develop “bargaining and advocacy strategies related to evaluation and accountability.” Lest anyone forget, the NEA is the largest labor union in the United States and a major source of Democrat votes and funding.

So this blogger is going to hazard some predictions. One is that there is a pot of federal money somewhere for the NEA as well as a key role in defining “highly qualified” teacher. Judging by the resolutions passed at NEA Annual Meetings over the years it is likely that “highly qualified” will include” NEA/DOE approved attitudes and values.

And it is less a prediction than a certainty that this new federal intrusion is part of President Obama’s “social justice” agenda and that it is not excellence that drives that agenda but equality. And if on the way to a socially just society,  schools are equally worse, well “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.”


1 Erich { 07.14.14 at 11:14 am }

Of course the NEA opposes testing as a means of measuring teacher effectiveness. Anything that makes them accountable is unacceptable. Any standard that isn’t low enough to assure everyone can meet it “equally” is anathema. Any attempt to raise the bar necessarily means that some will likely fall short. Power, money, control and centralization. Thank God for the work done years ago by you and other ‘activists’ to provide the Charter alternative, which the establishment hates with every fiber of its being. Today’s students have better options at least in Arizona, than those a generation ago. “Highly qualified teachers” sounds like code to me, for gutting effective teachers in the charter schools. But I am just paranoid.


2 Martin { 07.14.14 at 3:40 pm }

Guess what happens when you force people to do things they aren’t comfortable with – they find something else to do. Imagine you are a teacher who lives and teaches in the suburbs and then some bureaucrat forces you to commute into the inner city and teach in a depressed area.

What do you think will be the end result – even fewer “qualified” teachers. The left is ostensibly about equality – even if it means everyone is brought down – that’s more important than trying to bring people up.


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