Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Phony school reform leads to phony teacher education reform

We have experienced over twenty years of corporate driven “school reform”. Usually the administrators in charge have adopted an accountability model and relied upon test scores as a primary measure of progress. The accountability model has been successfully promoted by business interests notably the Business Roundtable.
Administrators seeking change have focused on implementing a common curriculum. Given the short comings of measurement, they have focused on an easy to measure curriculum leading to the choice of reductionist and behaviorist curriculum such as Open Court. In math they have focused on the drill and drill approaches of Saxon Math.
School reform from these efforts has been largely confined to press releases. When you look at drop out rates, or national tests such as NAEP, there has been little substantive progress. However administrators come and go and consultants make their careers from these efforts.
Let us be clear. One activist teacher in a school is not school reform. Two activists are not school reform. One progressive principal is not school reform. Few, or none of the superintendents of major school systems – and their staffs- have reformed their schools to produce equal opportunity. Reform will occur when groups of teachers work together to create a new, more democratic school system.
In the prior article from the New York Times (see below) this situation was summarized as:
Across California, however, achievement gaps have not narrowed, and in some cases they have widened since 2001, according to a study of California test results released last week by Policy Analysis for California Education, a research center run jointly by the University of California and Stanford.

“Not only have all boats stopped rising, but the boats that are under water are sinking further down,” said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who contributed to the study.”
The study is,
Is the No Child Left Behind Act Working?
The Reliability of How States Track Achievement
Working paper 06-01. PACE. 2006.
Bruce Fuller, Kathryn Gesicki , Erin Kang ,Joseph Wright

In summary, in spite of over 10 years of implementation, we do not yet have evidence that the performance measurement driven school reform has improved achievement; particularly in California. And, we have significant evidence that the data is being manipulated and slanted by state departments of education and others to serve their own ends of increased funding. That is, increased funding for their test driven, accountability form of school “reform’.
Lacking evidence for their change, this ideologically driven project also seeks to impose their ( as of yet un proven) model on teacher preparation in the state. A new system of teacher assessment is being imposed on our teacher preparation institutions. Ironically the data driven form of school improvement does not have data to demonstrate its success.

The faculty are being told to revise their programs to significantly increase the amount of measurement and evaluation, perhaps at the cost of teaching time and practice in the schools. Here is a description from the Teacher Education Caucus of the California Faculty Association:

California Faculty Association.
Teacher Education caucus.

As part of a massive movement by the State Commission on Teacher Credentialing to reform credential programs in California (SB2042, 2000), new accountability measures have been implemented, some without financial funding. As part of these mandates, the State of California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing has mandated that all teacher education programs implement Teacher Performance Assessments for credentialing candidates (TPA) by July, 2008.
The TPA as an assessment tool is based on reductive, corporate-driven teacher performance expectations (TPEs). As an assessment tool, it is even more simplistic and rigid than these expectations, requiring the development of lower-level teaching skills needed to teach the scripted curriculum regulated by the high stakes tests required under No Child Left Behind. It may be inferred from the content of the TPA that programs employing this tool will lose quality in terms of equity and social justice as well as critical thinking, creativity, and the holistic growth of all participants: faculty, student teachers and teachers. These requirements imposed upon teacher education are only the beginning of state and national efforts that are currently referred to as student learning outcomes, assessment and accountability. These efforts are directed towards corporate control and standardization of all disciplines of higher education.

See the entire resolution at

So, we have an ideologically driven school reform system that has failed to demonstrate progress on its own terms ( measured student achievement) being extended to an ideologically driven reform of teacher preparation without data to support its mandates. That is what presently passes for school reform in California.
For more on the ideology behind this movement see Kathy Emory’s pages Education and Democracy at http://www.educationanddemocracy.org/

Duane Campbell
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