Monday, July 30, 2012

What Have We Done?

I was at a political event last Saturday in my little rural town.  Bernie Sanders came and spoke.  Nothing about education, even though he is on HELP and has a brilliant education aide in Jessica Cardichon.
I was volunteering (my daughter organized the event.)  I was tempted to stand up and ask a question about Vermont rejecting the NCLB waiver process, or maybe something about our failure to resource Common Core implementation, but I didn't.  First of all I was sick and exhausted (no brain cells left.)  

Second, I realized if I asked questions of this sort none of my neighbors would know what the hell I was talking about.

What have we done?  Have we made education policy so arcane that the average citizen cannot meaningfully participate?  Has it become a forest of acronyms and a minefield of political relationships that play out behind closed doors?

Does this all provide cover for ostensibly progressive leaders to unleash their inner tea partier?

The evil genius of NCLB was its simplicity.  You don't need to understand the subtleties of VAM formulas, or navigate the bloated world of "multiple measures" to understand 100% proficiency.  Unfortunately that particular deal with the devil was made a decade ago.....and he's back to demand payment.


  1. I've often wondered how we can effectively connect with the public. I'm not sure that physicians or attorneys do it, but their professions are not in the same position as teachers'. In any case, we've got to change the narrative.

    I'd love to see the NBPTS become the professional licensing organization and ooordinate publicity efforts that manage teachers' messages. AFT and NEA could come along for the ride.

    I think we also HAVE TO design and support hybrid positions so that teachers can be in the classroom and still have the time/energy to advocate for education and the profession, connect with parents & policy centers, reflect on their practice, etc.

    1. Gamal - interesting idea about NBPTS. Perhaps state level licenses could continue to exist (local control is a big deal in this country), but achieving National Board Certification could give one portability across state lines. A big problem is that the patchwork of state licensing requirements impairs the flow of labor to places of shortage.

      Add to this the problem that people usually leave seniority, just cause rights, and pensions behind and you end up with a static labor market in education, one in which it is easier to change careers rather than jobs. I suspect this contributes to our appalling attrition rate - attrition which randomly removes from the profession both the strong and the weak.

      Like the image of NEA and AFT "coming along for the ride." The failure of national leaders to effectively connect with change agent members at the local level means that there's a lot of respects in which the unions are already "along for the ride" policy-wise.

  2. NBPTS does provide portability across state lines--in some states. In fact, when NBPTS was founded, license reciprocity was one of its early goals--and one of the easiest things to convince legislators to do, because it was free and scientifically vetted.

    At one time, about 40 states had full certification/licensing portability for teachers with National Board Certification. Some states actually rescinded portability rules when they began offering state-based stipends for NB Cert--Wisconsin, for example, rescinded portability, fearing that those greedy NBCTs from Minnesota would start crossing the border to get the extra $2500 a year. Which seemed absurd to me--isn't the goal building a high-quality teaching profession? Wasn't the annual stipend supposed to be an incentive?--but in the end, most policy rises or falls on cost. Follow the you-know-what.

    I don't believe ed policy is too arcane or difficult for the average parent or citizen to understand, except in areas where economic conditions and mismanagement render a citizenry focused on other things. In Muskegon Heights, MI, which just sold its entire public school district and all its capital to a charter management organization, they held a parent meeting to explain what would change. The CMO, Mosaic, did their song and dance about the great teachers they would hire (since all the old ones were let go) and the great curriculum they were imposing. Following the prez, there were two questions: #1) Will sports stay the same? and #2) Was Mosaic going to do something about saggy pants? And that was it.

    I wish I lived in a state where the ED rejected NCLB waivers and wasn't dumping all its resources into rejecting good work done before in favor of the Common Core everything.

    1. Nancy, a consensus is gathering here in VT that NBCTs achievement is not always reflected in practice - a worrying trend that may impact portability.

      The problem with rejecting waivers is that the state is still subject to NCLB - its damned if you do, damned if you don't. I can see two ways forward - do what NM and ID did and dictate key conditions under threat of revolt, or actually revolt and reject the 8 cents on the dollar that the feds provide on the premise that capturing this federal money has more compliance costs than the money is worth. I don't see our state taking this course because even policy makers don't seem to understand the implications of what is going on - hence my post.

      As for resourcing the CCSS, our state board adopted them seemingly without considering the costs of implementation (or any sort of planning.) I estimate these costs to be conservatively to be between 15 and 25 million dollars. Had a request for an appropriation been made to the legislature for the necessary funding prior to adoption, we may not have jumped aboard the CCSS band wagon - that's a big chunk of change in a little state like ours.

      So now because we have no plan and no funds, CCSS implementation is falling on the backs of individual teachers to do in their "spare" time. There's a smattering of consultants running about, but that's band-aids at best.

      Even with political and policy leaders in VT you have to start by explaining NCLB, waivers and CCSS. That's hard to do in an elevator speech and still make your point.