Thursday, July 23, 2015

Just How Bad is Arne Duncan's Department of Ed Reform? Bad. Really, Really Bad.

A lot of Us Already Assumed this Arne, it's Pretty Obvious

As a public school teacher in Buffalo for nearly 3 decades now it's rare that I agree with Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch on anything related to education. You'll recall that Tisch toured the state with the petulant and tone deaf NYSED Commissioner John King attempting to shut parents and teachers up with their complaints about high stakes testing and other matters. When the parent and teacher mutiny reached its apogee King found himself being told to shut up and get off the stage. His fragile ego shattered, King tried to cancel the "Listening Tour" accusing parents and teachers of being Special Interests who disrupted his soliloquy. It was suggested the Governor or Tisch told him that wasn't going to work and he was forced to continue albeit in a highly protected and moderated variation of the earlier meetings which exposed his flank to heavy fire from actual citizens whose kids and livelihoods were suffering the effects of King's ridiculous testing regimen.

The point being of course that Tisch has always been a staunch and inflexible advocate of the Test and Punish paradigm put forth by the well funded corporate ed reform lobby and touted by minions like King as the only path to a public education in New York. So when I read the other day where Meryl Tisch admitted if she were the parent of a special needs child she'd think twice about allowing that child to submit to New York State Testing I had to look again. Here is what Tisch offered the other day:

Personally, I would say that if I was the mother of a student with a certain type of disability, I would think twice before I allowed my child to sit through an exam that was incomprehensible to them,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in Albany.

If you think this sounds a little like Saul on the Road to Damascus I'd have to agree. And I guess the larger question remaining is what on earth could ever push Meryl Tisch to encourage a parent to embrace the Opt Out Movement which has dogged her every step as Chancellor? What divine or diabolical power could possibly cause Chancellor Tisch to embrace the Opt Out movement? 

Enter Arne Duncan, Chief Executive Orifice and Non Educator entrusted with Barack Obama's Department of Education Reform:

Tisch’s remarks came after federal education officials rejected New York’s request to loosen testing requirements for some high-needs students in June. The waiver would have exempted English language learners who have attended U.S. schools for less than two years from taking the tests, and assessed students with severe disabilities based on their instructional level, rather than their age-based grade.

As RBE at Perdido St has duly noted, what on earth would make Madame Tisch think for a minute that the Fuds would ever cave an inch on their Test and Punish protocol? Maybe she thought coming from her station with her connections they'd throw her a bone with a wink and a nod and a Cape Codder at the Club next time the boys are in town. But New York got the same treatment Tennessee would get and Madame Tisch was reminded that at the Federal level as LBJ aptly stated there are only elephants and pissants. As unbearable as it may be for her, Tisch falls with the rest of us in the latter category.

It generally takes a person about 6 or 7 years to acquire the full grasp of a new language plus or minus a year or two depending who you're listening to. ESL folks feel free to jump in here. Along with  language acquisition many of the kids coming here from other places face cultural adjustments, housing issues and PTSD depending on their experiences. Yet in the face of all of these factors and the simple documented reality that it takes years to acquire sufficient facility in a new language to pass a test, President Obama and Arne Duncan insist that no kid will be allowed any more than two years before they are held accountable for, say, an Earth Science Regents or Global 10 which requires two full length essays. By Grade 11 they will be responsible for more essays on American History and still more on their English Regents. 

I know a fair handful of adults working and paying their bills who couldn't write any of these essays and these are people who've grown up speaking English. That the so called Department of Education could be so out of touch, so ridiculously inflexible and such complete assholes in their insistence that test taking is the ultimate culmination of the educational; experience should come as a surprise to nobody. I have to admit though, I am still amazed. Even Meryl Tisch is amazed.

The other group who were told by Secretary Duncan and President Obama to toughen up, shut up and take their testing medicine are students with severe disabilities. When you hear that term it sounds serious. Severe Disabilities. Yeah, because it is. We're not talking about kids with hearing aids or orthotic shoes. Severely Disabled kids are likey non verbal. Some of them have to wear protective helmets because they experience seizures randomly and may fall and injure themselves. These are the kids with the language boards they use to communicate their needs to their caretakers and teachers. There's a good chance they are completely non ambulatory and they are likely to require special medical treatment and medications throughout the day. If you were born in 2003 but your instructional level is that of a 5 year old you are taking the state exams with all of the other kids your age and we don't care what your problems are. That's the loving response from our Department of Education. You don't wonder why a yahoo like Rick Perry gets a standing ovation when he suggests as President he'd do away with it when you hear things like this. 

Next time you hear and ed reformer blithely explaining how educational administrators really don't require an educational background to do the job remind them of the shitty job their boy Arne Duncan and his enabler Barack Obama are doing. They are so far out of bounds they made an Opt Out Mom out of Meryl Tisch. Maybe if Arne had ever spent a day with a kid who escaped Iraq or Somalia or a kid who has to be suctioned so he doesn't choke on his own fluids he might actually grasp that these kids don't need standardized testing. But this is what you end up with when politicians bring their basketball buddies with them on the road and hand them education jobs because after all, who can't do that right? 

Well, I can name one guy so far...

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