Wednesday, December 9, 2015

ESSA: All New Baloney!

ESSA has just cleared Congress, and the Department of Education is already giving us a look at the freshly sliced baloney that they will be serving at the Ed Reform Buffet. From Twitter, just now:

Let's count all the ways this is wrong, because it helps us understand just how USED's vision is messed up.

Holds all students to high academic standards?

The federal government cannot hold all students to a high academic standard. The mind boggles at even attempting to imagine how that would work. John King, Acting Pretend Secretary of ED, will stop by my classroom and go over my students' work with them? He'll engage in spirited motivational speeches to get my students to try extra hard.

The federal government is a dozen layers of management removed from interacting with students. They cannot "hold them" to anything. The most they can do is to try to force those of us who actually deal with students to prove, somehow, that we're holding the students to high standards, and then either carrot or stick us for what they think they know.

But the feds don't have any idea how to do that, just as they don't have any idea what "high standards" would really look like, and just like they no evidence that a high standardy system improves student learning or national security or the price of tea in China.

Prepares all students for success in college and career?

Again, federal law will not do this. But then, USED and Congress and the rest have no idea what "college and career ready" either looks like or means. On this point, we are right where we've been for fifteen years.

Provides more kids access to high quality pre-school?

I would be more excited about this if I thought USED had a clue what a high-quality pre-school looks like, but there is no indication that they do, and every indication that they think that four year olds doing worksheets is higher quality than four year old playing. Which is backwards.

Guarantees steps are taken to help students, and their schools, improve?

Again-- what does anyone at USED know about how to help a student learn? And the feds have been "helping schools improve" for fifteen years, with absolutely nothing to show for it. School Improvement Grants were a bust, takeover and turnaround districts have failed to get results, and charters have taught us what we already knew-- that if you have a select group of students in a well-supported fully-resourced school, they might maybe do a little better than the regular pubic school. The jury is still out on how much damage you do to the social capital and stability of neighborhoods when you take their neighborhood school away.

Guarantee steps? You can't even say what the steps would be.

Reduces the burden of testinga ,mwxkjwvin,s

Sorry. My fingers literally refused to type this baloney. ESSA could have reduced the burden of testing and it very carefully and deliberately refused to do so. The burden of testing has not been reduced, and I defy any USED employee to point to a place where the law makes any meaningful attempt to do so. It's the same old Big Standardized Tests-- plus the opportunity for daily "assessments in a can" to suck even more education out of school and pubic education dollars out of the public education system.

Promotes local innovation and invests in what works?

This is a new USED talking point, so I've been trying to unravel it. It appears to mean "We will find new excuses to funnel public tax dollars to private entities like charters and test manufacturers and alternate certification groups like TFA, because we can declare anything a Local Success that we want to. Watch us make it rain, baby."

So this is the new baloney, much like the old baloney. They have missed the one useful feature of ESSA-- a reduced opportunity for USED to inflict its delusions directly on state departments of education. We can only hope that little bit of air between the feds and the states comes into play in the years ahead, because this little bullet list shows the USED has a Grand Canyon's worth of air between itself and pubic education reality.


  1. This morning, the DOE posted a new picture and quote on their Google+ page. Ironically, the quote is "Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire." ~ William Butler Yeats
    What hypocrisy! In the same ball park as Duncan sending his kids to the University of Chicago Lab School--founded by John Dewey!

  2. I think you meant to say John King in the beginning when referring to our farce of an "acting" Ed secretary....of course John White (who I have to endure along with his lies living in Louisiana.) is the exact same as John King so I can see how easy it is to just type his name. Always love reading your take on everything!

  3. These "goals" remind me of the behavioral objectives I was forced to write years ago...vague, all-encompassing and high-faluting talk for "it sounds good but no way it hell will it work for the 100% of the kids." Teachers will continue trying to do their jobs and non-educators will continue to blame them when yet another of their programs fails.

  4. I very kindly wrote to my senators with what I considered a reasoned argument to vote against ESSA. Both my Republican Senator and my Democratic Senator voted "yea" (I will now send the same reasoned argument in the hopes that the Prez will veto it).

    On the other hand, the tea-party representative who represents me in the house and who has hardly ever voted the way I wanted him to in the years he's been there, voted against the House version.

    Go figure...