Saturday, November 17, 2018

Linda Darling-Hammond vs. Linda-Darling Hammond – How a Once Great Educator Got Lost Among the Corporate Stooges by Steven Singer


Linda Darling-Hammond is one of my education heroes.

Perhaps that’s why her recent article in the Washington Post hurts so much.

In it, she and her think tank buddies slam education advocates Diane Ravitch and Carrol Burris for worrying about who governs schools – as if governance had nothing to do with quality education for children.

I’d expect something like that from Bill Gates.



But not Hammond!

She’s not a know-nothing privatization flunky. She’s not a billionaire who thinks hording a bunch of money makes him an authority on every kind of human endeavor.

She’s a bona fide expert on teacher preparation and equity.

She founded the Center for Opportunity Policy in Education at Stanford University, where she is professor emeritus.

And she was the head of Barrack Obama’s education policy working group in 2008 when he was running for President.

In fact, she was the reasons many educators thought Obama was going to be a breath of fresh air for our schools and students. Everyone thought she was a lock for Education Secretary should Hope and Change win the day. But when he won, he threw her aside for people like Arne Duncan and John King who favored school privatization and high stakes standardized testing.


It’s a “nonprofit” think tank whose self-described mission is “to conduct independent, high-quality research to improve education policy and practice.”


The report basically conflates all types of choice within the public school system.

On the one hand, it’s refreshing to have policy analysts admit that there AREalternatives within the public school system above and beyond charter and voucher schools.


Hammond and her colleagues Peter Cookson, Bob Rothman and Patrick Shields talk about magnet and theme schools.

They talk about open enrollment schools – where districts in 25 states allow students who live outside their borders to apply.

They talk about math and science academies, schools focusing on careers in health sciences and the arts, schools centered on community service and social justice, international schools focused on global issues and world languages, and schools designed for new English language learners.

They talk about schools organized around pedagogical models like Montessori, Waldorf and International Baccalaureate programs.

And these are all options within the public school system, itself.



Unlike the other educational institutions mentioned above, charter schools are publicly funded but privately run.


Though Hammond admits this model often runs into problems, she refuses to dismiss it based on the few instances where it seems to be working.

Despite concerns from education advocates, fiscal watchdogs and civil rights warrior across the country, Hammond and co. just can’t get up the nerve to take a stand.

The NAACP and Black Lives Matter have called for a moratorium on all new charter schools in the country. Journey for Justice has requested a focus on community schools over privatization. But Hammond – a once great advocate for equity – can’t get up the moral courage to stand with these real agents of school reform.

She stands with the corporate school reformers – the agents of privatization and profit.

“School choice is a means that can lead to different ends depending on how it is designed and managed…” write Hammond and her colleagues.

In other words, if charters result in greater quality and access for all students, they are preferable to traditional public schools.


She notes that 33% of all charters opened in 2000 were closed 10 years later. Moreover, by year 13, that number jumped to 40%. When it comes to stability, charter schools are often much worse than traditional public schools.

And virtual charter schools – most of which are for-profit – are even worse. They “…have strong negative effects on achievement almost everywhere and graduate fewer than half as many of their students as public schools generally.”

However, after noting these negatives, Hammond and co. go on to provide wiggle room for privatization. They discuss how state governments can do better making sure charter schools don’t go off the rails. They can provide more transparency and accountability. They can outlaw for-profit charters and put caps on the number of charters allowed in given districts and states, set rules on staffing and curriculum – all the kinds of measures already required at traditional public schools.

But the crux of their objection is here:

“In a recent commentary in this column, authors Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris erroneously asserted that our report aims to promote unbridled alternatives to publicly funded and publicly operated school districts. Quite the opposite is true.”

In other words, they continue to lump privatized schools like charters in with fully public schools.

They refuse to make the essential distinction between how a school is governed and what it does. So long as it is funded with public tax dollars, it is a public school.

That’s like refusing to admit there is any difference in the manner in which states are governed. Both democracies and tyrannies are funded by the people living in those societies. It does not then follow that both types of government are essentially the same.

But they go on:

“The report aims to help states and districts consider how to manage the broad tapestry of choices available in public schools in ways that create quality schools with equitable access and integrative outcomes.”

Most tellingly, the authors admonish us to, “Focus on educational opportunities for children, not governance structures for adults” (Emphasis mine).

The way a school is governed is not FOR ADULTS. It is FOR CHILDREN. That is how we do all the other things Hammond and co. suggest.

“Work to ensure equity and access for all.”

That doesn’t just happen. You have to MAKE it happen through laws and regulations. That’s called governance.

“Create transparency at every stage about outcomes, opportunities and resources.”

That’s governance. That’s bureaucracy. It’s hierarchy. It’s one system overlooking another system with a series of checks and balances.

“Build a system of schools that meets all students’ needs.”

Again, that doesn’t just happen. We have to write rules and systems to make it happen.


And even in the few cases where charter schools don’t give all the decisions to unelected boards or voluntarily agree to transparency, the charter laws still allow them to do this. They could change at any time.

It’s like building a school on a cliff. It may be fine today, but one day it will inevitably fall.


It’s sad that Hammond refuses to understand this.

I say “refuse” because there’s no way she doesn’t get it. This is a conscious – perhaps political – decision on her part.

Consider how it stacks up against some of the most salient points she written previously.

For instance:

“A democratic education means that we educate people in a way that ensures they can think independently, that they can use information, knowledge, and technology, among other things, to draw their own conclusions.”

Now that’s a Linda Darling-Hammond who knows the manner in which something (a state) is governed matters. It’s not just funding. It’s democratic principles – principles that are absent at privatized schools.

“Bureaucratic solutions to problems of practice will always fail because effective teaching is not routine, students are not passive, and questions of practice are not simple, predictable, or standardized. Consequently, instructional decisions cannot be formulated on high then packaged and handed down to teachers.”

This Linda Darling-Hammond is a fighter for teacher autonomy – a practice you’ll find increasingly constrained at privatized schools. In fact, charter schools are infamous for scripted education, endless test prep and everything Hammond used to rail against.

“In 1970 the top three skills required by the Fortune 500 were the three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic. In 1999 the top three skills in demand were teamwork, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. We need schools that are developing these skills.”

I wonder what this Linda Darling-Hammond would say to the present variety. Privatized schools are most often test prep factories. They do none of what Hammond used to advocate for. But today she’s emphatically arguing for exactly the kind of school she used to criticize.

“If we taught babies to talk as most skills are taught in school, they would memorize lists of sounds in a predetermined order and practice them alone in a closet.”

Isn’t this how they routinely teach at charter schools? Memorize this. Practice it only in relation to how it will appear on the standardized test. And somehow real life, authentic learning will follow.

“Students learn as much for a teacher as from a teacher.”

Too true, Linda Darling-Hammond. How much learning do you think there is at privatized schools with much higher turnover rates, schools that transform teachers into glorified Walmart greeters? How many interpersonal relationships at privatized institutions replacing teachers with iPads?

“Life doesn’t come with four choices.”

Yes, but the schools today’s Linda Darling-Hammond are advocating for will boil learning down to just that – A,B,C or D.

“We can’t fire our way to Finland.”

Yet today’s Linda Darling-Hammond is fighting for schools that work teachers to the bone for less pay and benefits and then fire them at the slightest pretense.

In short, I’m sick of this new Linda Darling-Hammond. And I miss the old Linda Darling-Hammond.

Perhaps she’s learned a political lesson from the Obama administration.

If she wants a place at the neoliberal table, it’s not enough to actually know stuff and have the respect of the people in her profession.

She needs to support the corporate policies of the day. She needs to give the moneymen what they want – and that’s school privatization.

This new approach allows her to have her cake and eat it, too.

She can criticize all the evils of actual charter schools while pretending that there is some middle ground that allows both the monied interests and the students to BOTHget what they want.

It’s shrewd political gamesmanship perhaps.

But it’s bad for children, parents and teachers.


Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!
cropped-book-1.jpg

Why is There a Racial Achievement Gap? by Steven Singer


Sometimes the most racist aspects of a society are right there in front of you, but no one seems to notice.


It’s a term used to describe the fact that black and Latino students don’t do as well academically as white students.

Why does it even exist?

Why do students of color in the United States achieve less than their white peers?


As of 2018, they had the lowest mean score of any racial group on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

And it’s been like that for more than half a century.

In 1964, a Department of Education report found that the average black high school senior scored below 87% of white seniors (in the 13 percentile). Fifty years later, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that black seniors had narrowed the gap until they were merely behind 81% of white seniors (scoring in the 19th percentile).

So what does that mean?

It’s a question that has haunted our education system for more than a century.

And the various answers that have been offered to explain it often reveal more about our society than they do about black and Latino children.

CLAIM 1: People of color are just genetically inferior



I know. This sounds glaringly racist.

And it is.

Yet this was the favorite answer for the achievement gap at the start of the 20thCentury (More on that later).

However, it has been espoused as recently as 1995 by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein in The Bell Curve where the authors attributed relative black failure and low socio-economic status to biological inadequacy.

Murray and Herrnstein sparked such an intense academic debate at the time that the American Psychological Association (APA) convened a Task Force on Intelligence. Instead of soundly disproving this theory, the resulting APA report could come to no definite conclusion: “At this time, no one knows what is responsible for the differential,” the authors wrote.

Today the idea that people of color are genetically inferior has been soundly defeated.

There is simply no evidence that racial characteristics are strongly correlated with intelligence.

If it were true, for example, you’d expect to see the same achievement gap from native born Africans immigrating to this country as those who are born in the US. But that is not the case. In fact, we see just the opposite effect – a sizable percentage of African immigrants earn some of the best grades, have some of the highest test scores, and disproportionately graduate from high school and achieve advanced degrees.

This is something that distinguishes foreign-born Africans – especially those from Sub-Saharan Africa – even from other immigrants. African immigrants sit near the top of the scale of so-called model minorities.

If the problem was mere genes, this wouldn’t be so.

CLAIM 2: America’s people of color are culturally inferior


You’d think it would be obvious how racist such a claim is, but it is an increasingly popular explanation of the achievement gap.

In The End of Racism, popular conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza blamed the racial accomplishment gap on black cultural defects. “[T]he old discrimination” has declined and been replaced by “rational discrimination” based “on accurate group generalizations,” wrote D’Souza.

In other words, it’s not genes, but pathological community values that keep many people of color at the bottom. Black and brown students would do better in school if their culture fostered hard work, determination, grit and valued learning. They’d learn more if their parents weren’t always in jail or having innumerable children to increase their food stamp benefits.

From a purely ideological standpoint, this is textbook racism – the belief that some racially defined groups are in some sense better or worse than others.

It’s the minstrel show as case study. It boils down the attributes of 40 million people to mere stereotypes and pretends that they’re real.

The truth is most people of color don’t fit the corny clich├ęs. In the real world, most black folks do not commit crime, only about 6 percent of unmarried black women give birth each year, and most black people are not recipients of welfare benefits. Indeed, fewer than 200,000 black adults in the entire US currently receive cash welfare benefits from the government. That’s out of about 30 million black adults in all. So these are not cultural norms.

Furthermore, black crime rates, out-of-wedlock birthrates, and welfare dependence have gone down in recent years, while white rates have increased.

Such claims show more about those making them than the people the claims are supposed to be about. When a black person struggles, the cause is assumed to be a deeply ingrained cultural attribute. When the same happens to white people, it’s an anomaly.

For instance, in the 80’s and 90’s the media blamed black culture and black communities for the crack epidemic. But today those same talking heads excuse the mostly white and rural opioid crisis as an aberration. No one seems to claim that it is because the white family is breaking down or white culture is in decline.

Black families are disproportionately poor and thus suffer higher rates of everything that comes with it.

But this is not an artifact of their culture anymore than it is for poor whites.

CLAIM 3: People of color experience higher rates of poverty and thus struggle more academically.


Finally we have a claim based in fact and not racial stereotypes!

When we look at test scores, like those on the NAEP, we see that state racial achievement gaps are strongly correlated with state racial socioeconomic disparities.

Poor people achieve worse academic outcomes than wealthier people. And this is true across race and ethnicity.

It just makes sense. Living in poverty means less access to healthcare, neonatal care, pre-kindergarten, and fewer books in the home. It often means fewer educated family members to serve as a model. And it often means suffering from malnutrition and psychological trauma. Impoverished parents usually have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet and thus have less time to help with homework or see to their children. All of this has a direct impact on education.

The fact that a larger percentage of people of color are poor, helps explain the disparity of achievement between races.

The fact that achievement gaps tend to be largest in places where racial socioeconomic disparities are largest, supports this theory. Moreover, in neighborhoods with greater socioeconomic equality, the racial achievement gap is likewise smaller or nonexistent.

Achievement gaps are strongly correlated with racial gaps in income, poverty rates, unemployment rates, and educational attainment.

However, poverty, alone, does not explain away the problem.

Even when racial disparities are few and far between (typically in states with small black and/or Hispanic populations), the gap can persist.

We shouldn’t discount poverty. It goes a long way to explaining the problem. It just doesn’t go all the way.

CLAIM 4: Racist policies and bias widen the achievement gap


There are numerous factors that can adversely affect achievement for children of color above and beyond poverty. These include the availability and quality of early childhood education, the quality of public schools, patterns of residential and school segregation, and state educational and social policies.


According to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, from 2000 to 2014, school segregation has more than doubled nationwide. That’s twice the number of schools comprised almost entirely of students living in high poverty and/or students of color.

The number went from 7,009 to 15,089 schools. And that’s just the worst offenders – schools with more than three quarters of students from only one race or class. Throughout the country there are thousands more schools not as extreme but still serving mostly poor and/or minority students, and thus receiving fewer resources, more teacher layoffs, dealing with larger classes and crumbling infrastructure.

Even where segregation isn’t a problem, racist policies can creep into the academic culture.

report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that black students in K-12 schools are far more likely to be disciplined — whether through suspension or referral to law enforcement — than their racial counterparts.

A 2014 study found that people generally view black boys as older and less innocent starting at the age of 10. Another study released in 2017 produced similar results, finding that Americans overall view black girls as less innocent and more mature for their age, from ages 5 to 14.

These have real world consequences for children’s academic development. If even well-meaning (and mostly white) teachers are more likely to see children of color as potential trouble makers, that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And kids who are in trouble often have more difficulty making the grade.

Finally, there is the influence of charter and voucher schools, many of which target their enrollment at students of color.

These are schools that are (at least in part) publicly funded but privately managed. They are not required to have nearly the same transparency as traditional public schools, don’t have to be democratically controlled and can often be run for a profit.

They can cut services to students on a whim and if students struggle, they can give them the boot forcing them to try to catch up at the local public school.

These practices are so worrying that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Black Lives Matter have both called for a moratorium on all new charter schools. Journey for Justice has gone even further with a call for more community schools.

Bias and policies like these can have a big impact on students, but we haven’t even discussed the largest culprit.

CLAIM 5: The standardized testing industry is essentially biased


We’ve talked a lot about why there’s a racial achievement gap.

We haven’t talked that much about if.

You have to admit, it’s counterintuitive to think that there should be academic hierarchies based on race. One race is better than others at school? Really? Isn’t that, itself, a racist assumption?

If there is no evidence for genetic or social differences along racial lines, can we explain everything else by way of socioeconomics and racist policies?

Perhaps. But even more so, we need to question the mechanism that started this whole debate in the first place – standardized testing.


That is the primary mechanism used to determine if there is a racial achievement gap at all.

If that mechanism is biased, so is the result.

This is particularly troubling for an industry that was built on the eugenicist premises with which we started this article.

Standardized testing, as we know it, originates from the work of Francis Galton – Charles Darwin’s cousin and an English statistician. In 1869, he wrote in Hereditary Genius that “[t]he average intellectual standard of the negro race is some two grades below our own.” Galton nearly invented the western eugenics movement, but couldn’t find a method to test his theories.

Enter France’s Alfred Binet and Thodore Simon. In 1905 they developed an IQ test that 11 years later was revised by Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman for use in America.

In his book, The Measurement of IntelligenceTerman wrote that these “experimental” tests will show “enormously significant racial differences in general intelligence, differences which cannot be wiped out by any scheme of mental culture.”

For Terman, the achievement gap wasn’t a problem. It was a feature he was actively trying to prove, and he thought he had done so with his experiments on 1.7 million U.S. servicemen in World War I.

His deeply biased work convinced a generation of scholars. Princeton University psychologist Carl C. Brigham presented the results as evidence of genetic racial hierarchy in A Study of American Intelligence – merely three years before he used these same ideas to craft the SAT test in 1926.

Though that same SAT test has been revised since Brigham’s time, the fundamental principals behind it remain the same. Along with the PSAT, it was taken by more than 6.7 million students in the 2015-16 school year.

The ideals of the eugenicists lost popularity after World War II, but they were by no means finished. Famed physicist William Shockley and educational psychologist Arthur Jensen carried these concepts into the 1960s before they were revived again in The Bell Curve in the ‘90s.

These are not just bugs in the system. They are what the system was meant to prove in the first place.


By defining academic success or failure primarily as success or failure on standardized tests, we’ve effectively barred generations of children of color from the benefits of an education. And in using these same tests for “accountability” purposes to reward or punish their schools by granting or denying resources, high stakes testing has become the academic gatekeeper. Biased assessments have been used to grant real world opportunity.

How many opportunities have been denied because of them? How many black and brown children have been denied entry to college, professions, graduate schools, jobs, places at the highest ranked schools?

How many young black and brown children have been convinced of their own ignorance because of a test score of dubious quality?

CONCLUSIONS


So we return to the question with which we began this article:

Why is there a racial achievement gap?

The answer is NOT because of genetic or cultural deficiencies in children of color.

The gap stems from a combination of disproportionate levels of poverty among black and brown people, racist bias and policies embedded in our public school system and – more than anything else – reliance on a flawed assessment system.

If we want to really close the achievement gap, we must do several things. First, we must continually discredit and criticize the genetic and social critique of racial minorities at the heart of the conservative movement.

Next, we must create a more just and equitable education system. This means fairly funding our schools. We must increase integration. We must halt the spread of charter and voucher schools. We need to make sure all our teachers and principals have cultural sensitivity training and increase the numbers of teachers of color in our school system.

And we must get rid of our system of standardized testing.

It’s a tall order, but that’s the only way to close an even more pressing gap – the gap between our reality and our ideals.



Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!
book-4