There's not a lot for me to add to Mark Naison's account of the meeting between six BAT representatives and several Department of Education reps, including Arne Duncan. You should be giving that a read, if for no other reason than it represents a moment when the USDOE paid attention to teachers that they themselves hadn't chosen to talk to.
There are just a couple of moments that I want to highlight.
First, Marla Kilfoyle expressed her concerns about the Department's new policy of testing students with disabilities into a magical state of Not Having Disabilities.
Secretary Duncan deflected her remarks by saying that the Department was
concerned that too many children of color were being inappropriately diagnosed
as being Special Needs children and that
once they were put in that category they were permanently marginalized. He then
said “We want to make sure that all student are exposed to a rigorous
So... we're afraid that too many children of color are being mislabeled as having special needs, so rather than fix that, we're just going to operate on a new assumption that students labeled special needs don't actually have special needs. This is perhaps not the most direct way to attack that particular problem (we might start by checking to see how big a problem it is).
Then this, in a discussion of VAM and school closings, leading to the subject of teacher evaluation.
They two officials [one communications guy and an intern] had no real
answer to what Dr Wiliams was saying and deflected attention from his critique
by insisting that we needed to hold teachers accountable by student test scores
because there was no other way of making sure teachers took every student seriously and helped all of them reach their full potential.
It's not that we didn't deduce this already, but there's your statement. Teachers are the problem. We don't want to do our jobs and the only way we can be made to do our jobs is with threats, because that's the only thing we will possibly respond to.
It would be interesting to climb in my time-space machine and ask that un-named intern exactly what sorts of threats got him to take his interning position. Or is he perhaps interning away because he believes in the work and thinks he's Doing Something Important that uses his skills and knowledge to their best advantage.
No matter. As long as the assumption in DC is that teachers will only do their jobs properly when cajoled and threatened, fire to their feet and boots to their asses, we are going to get policy designed to punish teachers.
I have no idea what might actually come out of the meeting, but it's certainly heartening to many folks to know that some unedited unfiltered words were spoken in a DOE meeting room. That, and a face to face meeting, is no small thing.