Whatever is suggested on the education pages of Whitehouse.gov, by its federal education branches or by its corporate partners, ends up in Utah as a law, presented to the masses as if it were Utah’s idea.
Tonight: guess what?
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that tonight, Utah lawmakers passed a bill that “will assign rewards and consequences to Utah schools based on the state’s controversial school grading system. Schools who improve their grades will get funding and salary bonuses, while struggling schools will have the option of getting mentoring from school turnaround experts.”
Am I the only one reading this as: Utah adopted Obama’s School Turnaround model?
There is in fact an Obama-led, federal school turnaround model. There’s the federal “Office of School Turnaround” where states are assigned program officers. There’s a blue team and a green team.
Utah’s been assigned to the green team on that federal office of school turnaround chart. (I don’t remember voting on this.)
In the chart where Utah’s listed for turnaround (see below) the Utah program officer is not yet named. It says, “To Be Determined.” The feds hadn’t assigned us a program officer before today.
They surely will now.
There’s also a federal Center on School Turnaround (CST) that’s so much more than an office in D.C. It’s a whole ” federal network of 22 Comprehensive Centers” that boasts ” 15 Regional Comprehensive Centers… and 7 national Content Centers.” The federal CST condescends to report that states are allowed to play a role in their own school turnaround. But not the leading role; that’s for the feds and the Comprehensive Centers. In a report titled “The State Role in School Turnaround” we learn that some of CST’s goals are to change states’ laws and to micromanage turnaround efforts. In their words:
“The Center on School Turnaround’s four objectives:
- Create a Pro-Turnaround Statutory and Regulatory Environment
- Administer and Manage Turnaround Efforts Effectively”
Friends! Here’s our wakeup fact of the decade: our state holds a Constitutional duty and right to keep the federal government out of education. We are failing in this duty. Utahns are collectively– even lawmakers– either asleep, too busy or perhaps paid off by corporate lobbyists partnered with the machine, that we cannot notice a swift transfer of fed ed’s aims into local ed’s reality.
The passage of SB 235 is just one example of this ongoing series of terrible mistakes that cement our actions in line with the federal will.
The new Utah law calls for “turnaround experts” to improve low labeled schools using one driving method: tests. Schools will be labeled by student performance on Common Core/SAGE tests as low- or high-performing. Then some will be assigned a “turnaround expert” to raise Common Core test scores.
How will Utah, in practice, select the turnaround experts? Will the experts be chosen from Obama’s personal list of school turnaround experts, which you may view, with colorful photos of each person, at Whitehouse.gov? Will these experts be taken from Bill Gates’ personal turnaround recommendation list? Will they be recommended by the Federal Center for School Turnaround (CST)? –Or by bigtime school turnaround advocates at the Über-progressive Center for American Progress (CAP)?
That famous turnaround group, the Center for American Progress, brazenly “disagrees that school improvement should be left entirely to states” and the Center has written that: “the United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control… new authority will have to come at the expense of local control… local control is the source of many of the nation’s problems related to education.”
I am not screaming out loud because I’m saving my screams until this next paragraph:
This week, the Tribune reported that longtime Utah State School Board member Leslie Castle “expressed frustration with the political rhetoric that pits states’ rights against the federal government. She… urged her colleagues to refrain from statements critical of federal overreach.
‘I am not going to be voting in favor of anything that plays to this nonsense that somehow our relationship with the federal government is crazy and something we’re trying to get out of,’ she said.” -Read the rest here.
In the Utah turnaround law, the phrase “credible track record” is used to establish the person who will “fix” Utah’s low-labeled schools. “Credible track record” is an odd choice of words because in the post-2010 altered education world of Common Core, there has been no track record required of education reformers. There were exactly zero validity studies and no empirical evidence to accompany the Common Core standards and tests. If you didn’t know that validity and piloting were missing, read what academics and scientists have been shouting from the rooftops about the nonvalid, utterly empty track record of Common Core tests and standards: Dr. Christopher Tienken‘s and Dr. Sandra Stotsky’s and Dr. Gary Thompson‘s and Dr. Yong Zhao’s writings are good places to start.
Utah’s new law on school turnaround says that the experts who will turn around low-labeled schools must be: “experts identified by the board under Section 53A-1-1206“. They must “have a credible track record of improving student academic achievement… as measured by statewide assessments; (b) have experience designing, implementing, and evaluating data-driven instructional systems… have experience coaching public school administrators and teachers on designing data-driven school improvement plans…”
Translation: the expert solves problems by defining problems as test-centric. The expert is solely devoted to test-focused, test-and-data-centric methods and will likely be devotees of Sir Michael Barber’s “Deliverology” method. (“Deliverology,” written for American education reformers by a Brit, the CEA of Pearson, Inc., (the world’s largest education sales company) is a book/philosophy that emphasizes results to the point that it’s called “merciless… imposing arbitrary targets and damaging morale” in its “top down method by which you undermine achievement of purpose and demoralize people.”) Deliverology is popular because it works– but only when ruthlessly applied.
But I have veered off topic. And Utah’s legislative session is past.
Better luck next year.