Sunday, July 23, 2017

ICYMI: Hot and Sticky Edition (7/23)

I don't have a lot for you this week, but what's here is, as we say, cherce. 

A Detailed Critique of a PBS Run Education Documentary

PBS has seen fit for $ome rea$on to run an advertorial for school privatization. Carol Burris and Diane Ravitch here provide a detailed rebuttal. You'll want this for that dinner when your brother-in-law opens with, "Hey, I saw this thing on PBS that says you all suck."

Teacher Tests Test Teachers

Rachel Cohen with a great piece about how VAM and its ilk are increasingly coming under well-deserved attack.

On Common Terminology and Teaching Writing

Paul Thomas takes a look at writing instruction and the importance of shared terminology.

Why Teachers Need To See Themselves as Experts

Jose Luis Vilson on one of my pet peeves-- the teacherly tendency to be all humble and yield the mantle of expert to folks who don't deserve it.

The Deep Irony in Betsy DeVos First Speech on Special Education

This will be the ongoing mystery of DeVos as ed secretary-- does she know she contradicts herself, or does she just not care.

The Many Ways We Are Deprofessionalizing Teaching

Do you read Nancy Flanagan every week? You should. Here she is looking at just how badly, widely and deeply folks are chipping away at the teaching profession.

Want To Kill Your Economy? 

Not strictly an education piece, but a clear look at how MBAs who are takers rather than makers have been blowing a hole in the economy. At a minimum this is a good piece to keep in mind every time someone starts talking about approaching education like a business.


  1. That Betsy Devos! Can we begin to call voucher programs what they really are: GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES FOR PRIVATE ENTITIES. Viewed that way, it is surprising that such a free market advocate as Devos is in favor of them. We might call into question her principles and mark her enthusiasm down to greed.

  2. Regarding the Special Ed. issue:

    Secretary Devos is proposing expanding a dubious voucher system that is already operating in certain states. It works the following way for Special Ed. students.

    1) Special Ed. kid’s parents ask for a voucher to fund their leaving public school and attend an unregulated or very loosely regulated private school;

    2) The government gives the parents a voucher, but in exchange, the parents must sign onto an agreement that includes some interesting some fine print — language not noticed at the time by the parents.

    3) Parents takes the voucher to some unregulated or very loosely regulated private school, which quickly cashes it while accepting — for the moment, at least — the Special Ed. child for admission, promising to provide for that child all the services and support that are legally required to be provided, according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

    4) Since, according to IDEA, the Special Ed. child is significantly more costly to educate — including: a separate Special Ed class different than the other classes, a small class size, a smaller ratio of students to teachers/aides, a higher standard and salary legally required for the child’s teacher, etc. — the private school operators then go back on their earlier promises, and fail to provide some or all of those expensive, legally mandated Special Ed. services and educational requirements.

    (btw, this reneging could all happen right away, or happen down the line, or happen gradually as time progresses — with a periodic cutting back of services, low class size, etc.)

    I mean, c’mon! All this IDEA stuff is sooo expensive, and these private school folks have got a Bottom Line to which they have to answer, after all.

    5) The parents complain that the unregulated or very loosely regulated private school operators have reneged on their earlier promises, provided substandard services, and/or have dumped their child into a mainstream class (illegal, given the child’s disability) without providing some or all of IDEA’s legally-required services and support for special ed kids.

    Predictably, the child is floundering and struggling. It’s so frustrating and painful that it’s worse than no school at all. The kid would rather stay home.

    6) The unregulated or very loosely regulated private school operators reply to the parents, “Look, I know what we promised BEFORE, but this is how we roll, NOW. From here on out, this is all your kid’s gonna get here. Now, if you don’t like it, scram!”

    7) PARENTS: “But you promised us … you can’t get away with this … Oh, to Hell with this place. Just give us back our voucher money and let us get our child the hell-outta this place.”

    8) PRIVATE SCHOOL: “Good, get that kid outta here, NOW! Because frankly, we don’t want your child here, either, but hey, we’re keeping your voucher cash. We’re legally allowed to do so, and there’s nothing you can to stop us, and nothing that you can do to get that cash back from us.”

    9) PARENTS: “Oh no, you’re not. We’re suing you, based on the rights guaranteed to us by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

    10) PRIVATE SCHOOL: “Ehhh … not so fast. Go back to Step 2), and check out that ’interesting fine print.’ In accepting the voucher money, you signed an agreement that forfeited all your rights to sue under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Since that’s a binding legal agreement, that ends this story .. in favor of us, and to detriment of you.”



    In her confirmation hearings, Devos was questioned about this ridiculous requirement mandated for parents of of special ed. kids who use vouchers — that they must waive all their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and Devos ducked the question over and over.

    In effect, Devos was and is now siding with those corrupt, unregulated or very loosely regulated private schools, and against the best interests of parents of special ed. kids — much like her siding with corrupt for-profit college operators over the students whom those for-profit college operators have financially victimized …and will continue to victimize in the future.

    But hey, what if the parent DOES read —or IS somehow made aware of — that odious fine print that enables this bait-‘n-switch?

    Why, that’s where another version of Devos’ beloved philosophy of “choice” comes into play. You parents don’t have to take that strings-attached voucher, the one where you must sign off on your right to sue if your child’s IDEA needs aren’t met. Why, that’s your “choice” — the only one you have in this instance.

    Take it or leave it.

    PARENTS: “But hey, can’t I have both a voucher, and also retain my right to sue, should the unregulated or very loosely regulated private school fail to meet the standards of the American with Disabilities Act? I mean, that’s the only ‘choice’ that we and pretty much every parent with a disabled child wants.”

    Nope, that’s not a “choice” that Secretary Devos and her school privatization allies are offering.

    To quote ed blogger Jennifer “Have You Heard?” Berkshire:

    “What good is ‘choice’ if you have no control over the choices that you get to choose?”