Saturday, September 20, 2014

"Effective Educators" and public schools under attack in Wisconsin

Dear Wisconsin Politicians and Department of Public Instruction,

It is now time to pronounce standards and accountability based education reform dead.  No more high stakes tests tied to the common core standards.   The common core standards are political and not educational standards.  They are NOT supported by research or “internationally benchmarked.”  No more “school report cards” and call for a moratorium on “Educator Effectiveness.” Stop punishing teachers for the invalid and eugenics influenced test scores produced by the children they are supposed to teach. 

You cannot continue to insist that teachers close the achievement gap.   Poverty, racism and classism devastate a child’s chances at academic success.  Great teachers are necessary but the research is clear—out of school factors far outweigh in school factors. The American Statistical Association has stated that using test scores to punish and reward teachers should not be pursued at this point in time. “Educator Effectiveness” will create the illusion that we can figure out which teachers will help close the achievement gap

Just so you know, the teachers that I work with daily are offended and concerned.  They have been blamed for everything that is wrong in this state and country relentlessly for the last 10 years.

As I stated above, the achievement gap is the direct result of poverty.  Poverty is the direct result of bad social and economic policy with roots stemming from systemic racism and classism.  Bad social and economic policy is the result of politicians and lobbyists.  Systemic racism and classism is exacerbated by attacking and defunding public schools in favor of “accountability” schemes that only help testing and data companies get rich on what’s left in the public education budget. Defunded public schools that serve our most vulnerable children and communities will continue to add to the achievement gap.

If you really want to make a dent in the achievement gap stop talking about distractions like teacher effectiveness, standards, and new accountability scams. Address the fact that our public schools have been funded INEQUITABLY since their establishment and that Walker’s “choice” and “charter” programs are simply attacks on the public school system.  

He is a corporate education reformer backed by the billionaire Koch brothers who have nothing but disdain for “government” (public) schools. Walker has no intention of “reforming” public schools—he is systematically dismantling OUR schools.

Be bold and come out in favor of EQUITABLY funded public schools from the North Woods to Madison.  Support community based public schools and make sure that small towns clearly understand that Walker will destroy WI’s public schools and that in turn will devastate small communities where public schools serve as the social and economic center of these communities, Or for those that like high school sports we’re talking about the end of Friday night football.

Teachers are not the problem.  Walker and others who continue to defund public schools and social programs that help children in poverty steal the opportunities desperately needed for success in school.  Call them on their real motives to privatize public schools.  Come out in favor of authentically assessed, equitably funded public schools and do away with the test and punish blame machine.

80% of standardized test scores can be predicted by simply knowing the socio-economic status of children.  In the latest study of teacher effectiveness only 1-14% of test score movement was related to classroom teachers.

The achievement gap is a poverty gap that creates an opportunity gap for our most vulnerable children.




  1. You do realize that the Department of Public Instruction is not a cabinet department, which means that the State Superintendent of Schools is an elected official and not an appointee of the Governor, right? Your open letter to both is actually kind of funny, since you should also know that the State Superintendent has attempted to work collaboratively with the current administration, but has taken odds with the Governor's office in significant ways and issues that attempt to close the opportunity gap. Many of the initiatives you mention above (part of Agenda 2017) are ways that the DPI is trying to thwart the opportunity gap (since they can't solve poverty, after all).

    Finally, one very important note to your letter: the decision to use data (student scores, educator effectiveness data, etc.) to impact compensation and to make high-stakes human resource decisions (hiring and firing) is a LOCAL CONTROL decision (caps for emphasis, not for emotion), meaning local elected school boards have to choose to pursue using data in this manner. Using data to make compensation and hiring decisions is something that DPI has adamantly and publicly been against.

    1. I have a full understanding of the constitutional separation between the Gov and DPI. But other than a slight sliver of light between the two, neither seem quite interested in moving too far away from edreform based on standards, tests and punishments. If there are internal people fighting then speak loudly. All we hear is a deafening silence coming from DPI.

    2. Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who served on the Common Core Validation Committee and refused to sign off on the extremely flawed standards, is not profiteering off of Big Education and thus will honestly admit that no standards fix the achievement gap. That's what they learned when the standards she was the main writer on, in Mass., shot that state to the top of the charts. The kids at the bottom of the achievement gap outperformed their peers in other states but the gap didn't close. Thus, we MUST discuss the gap separately and not let the corporate education reformers fool people into thinking Common Core will magically fix the achievement gap. That myth has got to be busted. We cannot invest time and money on the false hope that this is the "superman" everyone's been waiting for! Loving the blog, Tim, and how to see you at the Oct. 5 rally in Germantown!

  2. Its really a sad news from Wisconsin that effective educators and public schools are under student conferences australia.They are not covering the students needs therefore government has started their accountability.