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'...trying to micromanage 100,000 schools from Washington is precisely what Duncan has been doing...' Arne Duncan's six years of meddling criticized from 'right' to 'left'

When the Chicago Plan for corporate "school reform" was first launched in Chicago following the passage of the 1995 Amendatory Act [to the 1988 School Reform Act] by the all-Republican Illinois state government (the Senate, House, and governor's seat were all held by Republicans then, just as in Wisconsin today), the first couple of years required careful pushing of limits and experimental attacks, as if those with the news powers of mayoral control and the "CEO Model" weren't sure how much they could get away with. As a result, Paul Vallas (the first CEO of Chicago Public Schools, from 1995 - 2001) didn't close too many schools, or open too many charter schools. It was left to Arne Duncan to go all out after Vallas was dumped by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley following the May 2001 Chicago Teachers Union election (of Debbie Lynch, after Vallas had endorsed Lynch's opponent, the incumbent CTU President Tom Reece) in the Chicago Teachers Union.

Arne Duncan was not selected to be a part of the Cabinet of Barack Obama because of his basketball skills, but because he would ruthlessly impose the "Chicago Plan" for corporate "school reform" as far as he could across the USA. As he approaches his sixth anniversary in office, he has achieved those attacks on the nation's public schools, teachers and unions beyond his wildest dreams.Despite the fact that the CTU would no longer collaborate openly with corporate "school reform" against the public schools, Lynch had to militant program to oppose Duncan and Mayor Daley, and Lynch was afraid to try and lead a strike. The best summary of her philosophy came when she praised what was called the "Saturn Model" for labor management cooperation -- based on the supposed success of that supposed "model" at General Motors. Saturns are no collectables and thousands of GM workers learned the hard way that the boss is always the boss.

Once he realized that Lynch's bark had no bite and that he could get away with just about anything as long as it was larded over with "school reform" talking points and the kinds of mindless cliches he specialized in, Duncan went all out. He opened more charter schools than any other city in U.S. history (prior to New York taking over that title when Michael Bloomberg became mayor) and closed more real public schools, firing their staffs, than anyone had thought of trying to get away with before. First facing Debbie Lynch (2001 - 2004) and then the even worse collaborationists under Maryilyn Stewart's regime at the CTU (2004 - 2010), Duncan perfected the "Chicago Plan" and the rhetoric of the Chicago Plan.

Hence, when Duncan was picked by Barack Obama to become U.S. Secretary of Education in December 2008 (a month after Obama's election; Duncan became U.S. Secretary of Education when Obama was inaugurate in January 2009), everyone knew -- or should have known -- that the United States was going to get the Chicago Plan in a fierce yet bland way. Duncan would continue to mouth the same cliches he'd been using in Chicago, while the bureaucracy he headed would go all-out in attacking the schools, the unions, and teachers who served the poor.

In January 2015, Duncan marks his sixth year in office, becoming by far the longest-serving Secretary of Education since the Cabinet post was invented less than 50 years ago.

But the more Duncan pushes the Chicago model across the USA, the more people -- from "right" to "left", or if you want, from "red" to "blue") speak out and organize against it.

On October 11, 2014, Diane Ravitch shared the following on her blog. Ravitch moved away from the right wing work she had been doing (as she notes below) and is now one of the more effective critics against Duncanism and Obamaism. Below, we see how she is joined by right wing power Michael Petrilli. It's worth reading.

RAVITCH AND PETRILLI

RAVICTH:

Mike Petrilli leads the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which advocates for the Common Core and for privatization of public education. Although I was a founding board member of TBF, I left the team because I no longer agree with the rightwing agenda.

But on one thing we can agree: Arne Duncan has overstepped his bounds as Secretary of Education. Mike is exercised because Duncan's Office of Civil Rights believes that all children as a matter of right should have equal access to Advanced Placement courses. Mike writes:

Another obsession of Duncan’s OCR has been getting more poor and minority students into advanced courses, such as the College Board’s AP classes. On its face this is a laudable goal, and reform-minded districts (and charter schools) have made much progress in preparing disadvantaged students for the rigors of challenging coursework. But is this an appropriate realm for civil-rights enforcement?

If schools are forced by an OCR investigation to expand access to AP classes for poor and minority kids, what are the chances that they will also do all the complex work it takes (from kindergarten through 11th grade) to make sure those students are ready? To implement solid curricula, hire stronger teachers, provide extra help for struggling children? Isn’t it much more likely that bureaucrats will simply flood AP courses with unprepared students? We can all guess what the impact will be on the students who are ready for AP coursework, whose classes will be inundated by peers who haven’t mastered the prerequisite material.

From one perspective, Duncan is shoveling more money towards the College Board to pay for AP courses. This is very profitable for the College Board, run by Arne's buddy David Coleman, architect of the Common Core. Taking an AP course does not guarantee that one will pass it, although OCR might require that too.

But that is the least of Arne's meddling. He used Race to the Top to force states to adopt the Common Core standards before the ink was dry on them; the former Commissioner of Education in Texas, Robert Scott, said he was asked to endorse them before they were finished. He used Race to the Top to force states to evaluate teachers by the test scores of their students, which has failed wherever it has been tried. He used Race to the Top to demand greater privatization of public schools. He has rewarded schools that close public schools and replace them with privately managed charters. Now, he is punishing states that refuse to bow to his edicts about teacher evaluation by canceling their waivers from the onerous and absurd sanctions of No Child Left Behind.

This is a man who never taught, but thinks he knows better than any teacher what should happen in the classroom and how teachers should be judged. I have not decided whether he suffers from a surfeit of arrogance or a lack of judgment or something else.

Whatever it is, Arne Duncan will be remembered as a man who was a destructive force in public education, a man who blithely closed schools and fired staffs, a man who disrupted the public education system of the most successful nation in the world.

I admit that I have lost all respect for Duncan. I believe he disregards federalism. His funding of Common Core tests, in my view, directly breaks federal laws that prohibit any officer of the government from trying to influence, control or direct instruction and curriculum. To cling to the transparent fiction that testing does not influence curriculum or instruction fools no one.

When I worked for Lamar Alexander in the U.S. Department of Education, one thing I admired about Lamar was that he did not think his ideas were better than those of everyone else in the nation. Arne does not have that sense of humility. In fact, he has no humility at all. He tramples on the lives of children, teachers, and educators as though they were insects under his feet, awaiting his all-powerful judgement. Where he got the idea that he knows ore about education than people who have actually taught children for many years is a mystery.

My experience working at the Department of Education taught me an important lesson: there are very few people who work there who are educators. There are many program administrators, contract managers, and clerks. They should not tell schools how to educate children because they have not done it. Arne should not do it either. It is against the law.

PETRILLI: AGAINST DUNCAN’S SIX YEARS OF MEDDLING, BY PETRILLI (ED WEEK)

Arne Duncan’s Office of Civil Rights: Six Years Of Meddling, By Michael J. Petrilli, October 10, 2014 3:00 AM

At his confirmation hearing in 2009, Senator Lamar Alexander famously told Arne Duncan that “President-elect Obama has made several distinguished cabinet appointments, but in my view of it all, I think you are the best.” Duncan had already made statements indicating a willingness to embrace charter schools and break with the unions over teacher evaluations –- sentiments not typically expressed by Democratic secretaries of education. And on many issues, Secretary Duncan has not disappointed, regularly pushing a pro-education reform line, especially via his bully pulpit.

Most intriguing about Secretary Duncan — from my perspective at least — was his early embrace of the theory of “tight-loose” federalism. As he put it in 2012,“the federal government should be tight on goals,” but state and local leaders should decide how to attain them. “Local leaders, not us, know their children and communities best — to try to micromanage 100,000 schools from Washington would be the height of arrogance,” he said.

Indeed it would be. But trying to micromanage 100,000 schools from Washington is precisely what Duncan has been doing.

In fact, Duncan’s greatest failure — on par with politicizing the Common Core and trying to kill D.C.’s school voucher program — has been his unwillingness to follow through on the “loose” part of his “tight-loose” promise. It feels like there’s been no problem too big or too small for his Department of Education to tackle. This is particularly the case for his Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which has been a prime example of executive overreach and federal interference run amok for almost six years now.

Its actions haven’t just trampled all over federalism and the Tenth Amendment, though they have. They have also made it tougher for local educators and officials to do their jobs well.

THE WAR ON SCHOOL DISCIPLINE

This conflict started in earnest in 2010, when Duncan gave a big speech at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to mark the 45th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. He and his assistant secretary for civil rights, Russlynn Ali, promised to use “disparate-impact theory” to investigate schools that were disproportionately disciplining minority children or weren’t ensuring equal access to advanced courses. Furthermore, Ali promised to “issue 17 guidance letters that will touch on issues such as how districts should address sexual violence in schools, how nurses should be trained to address students’ food allergies or work with students who have diabetes, and how schools should address the needs of ELLs who are gifted or have disabilities.” No micromanagement there!

These were not empty threats. In January of 2014, OCR, along with the Justice Department, rolled out a “Dear Colleague” letter that is certain to have a chilling effect on the use of appropriate school-discipline measures.

The key part of the administration’s policy states,

The administration of student discipline can result in unlawful discrimination based on race in two ways: first, if a student is subjected to different treatment based on the student’s race, and second, if a policy is neutral on its face — meaning that the policy itself does not mention race — and is administered in an evenhanded manner but has a disparate impact, i.e., a disproportionate and unjustified effect on students of a particular race.

As eminent legal scholar Richard Epstein explains in a recent Education Nextarticle,

Much of the analysis turns on the word “unjustified.” Disproportionate rates should not be regarded as unjustified merely because they reflect higher rates of improper behavior by minority students than by white students. But this point is never explicitly acknowledged in the ED and DOJ guidance.

This is the heart of the matter. What if African-American and Latino students actually misbehave at higher rates than do white and Asian students? If that’s the case, then race-neutral discipline policies, fairly applied, will result in a greater proportion of minority students receiving punishments. Yet the administration is saying that educators whose legitimate, even necessary, actions produce that result can still be charged with discrimination. Epstein rightly asks,

Just what sanction should apply to a school where discipline is imposed on a color-blind standard yet has statistically imperfect outcomes? Should some white students be summarily suspended, expelled, or otherwise sanctioned to make the numbers come out correctly? Or should schools give a pass to black students who have committed serious offenses in order to achieve the same ends?

Lamentably, it cannot surprise us if minority students today misbehave at “disproportionate” rates. African-American and Latino children in America are much more likely to face challenges that put them “at risk” for antisocial behavior. They are more likely to be poor (and much more likely to be extremely poor); more likely to grow up in a single-parent family (nearly always headed by a mother, which is especially problematic for boys growing up); much more likely to have a parent in prison; and much more likely to live in neighborhoods where poverty is concentrated. Civil-rights enforcers should, at minimum, consider these “background variables.” Yet the administration’s policy looks at race alone. A RIGHT TO ADVANCED PLACEMENT?

Another obsession of Duncan’s OCR has been getting more poor and minority students into advanced courses, such as the College Board’s AP classes. On its face this is a laudable goal, and reform-minded districts (and charter schools) have made much progress in preparing disadvantaged students for the rigors of challenging coursework. But is this an appropriate realm for civil-rights enforcement?

If schools are forced by an OCR investigation to expand access to AP classes for poor and minority kids, what are the chances that they will also do all the complex work it takes (from kindergarten through 11th grade) to make sure those students are ready? To implement solid curricula, hire stronger teachers, provide extra help for struggling children? Isn’t it much more likely that bureaucrats will simply flood AP courses with unprepared students? We can all guess what the impact will be on the students who are ready for AP coursework, whose classes will be inundated by peers who haven’t mastered the prerequisite material.

Yet that’s precisely the chain of events set in motion by OCR’s latest (and breathtakingly audacious) “Dear Colleague” letter, this one focused on “unequal access to educational resources.” While asserting a federal right to equal spending (something the left has sought ever since its defeat in San Antonio v. Rodriguez), OCR claims (emphasis added),

Equal educational opportunity requires that all students, regardless of race, color, or national origin, have comparable access to the diverse range of courses, programs, and extracurricular activities offered in our Nation’s schools. Students who have access to, and enroll in, rigorous courses are more likely to go on to complete postsecondary education. Further, completing college or other postsecondary education such as a technical certification is increasingly necessary for students to enter careers that will enable them to join the middle class.

Therefore, OCR assesses the types, quantity, and quality of programs available to students across a school district to determine whether students of all races have equal access to comparable programs both among schools and among students within the same school. OCR generally considers a range of specialized programs, such as early childhood programs including preschool and Head Start, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, gifted and talented programs, career and technical education programs, language immersion programs, online and distance learning opportunities, performing and visual arts, athletics, and extracurricular activities such as college preparatory programs, clubs, and honor societies.

So if a district has two high schools — one serving mostly affluent white students, and another serving mostly poor and minority students — those schools had better offer a similar number of Advancement Placement courses, lest the OCR come knocking on their doors. Never mind everything we know about low-income children coming into school with all manner of disadvantages, all of which make them much less likely to be ready for AP-level courses by the 12th grade. Some will make it there, to be sure, thanks in part to great schools. But to expect equal numbers of rich and poor to be ready for advanced courses is to ignore reams of social science and to engage in wishful thinking.

Each of these examples has three things in common. First, they show a complete disregard for the notion that federal power is limited by our Constitution. Second, they illustrate an almost endless faith in federal bureaucrats’ ability to intervene effectively and positively in far-away places. And third, and most disturbingly, they consistently disadvantage the poor and minority children who deserve our greatest support: those who are already striving to be successful. Schools serving poor and minority students will respond to these dictates by turning a blind eye to discipline problems and by crowding advanced courses with unprepared students.

It’s a perversion of the notion of equal opportunity, and it’s wrong.

— Michael J. Petrilli is research fellow at the Hoover Institution and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

COMMENTS



Comments:

October 12, 2014 at 12:31 PM

By: Ken Derstine

Arne Duncan and the Broad Foundation

It should be pointed out that Arne Duncan was on board of the Broad Foundation while he was CEO of Chicago schools and has maintained close ties with them as Secretary of Education. http://goo.gl/zzHRL0

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