Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ed Deform House Of Cards Falling - Ed Deformers Whining About It

There have been two instances of major whining by education deform proponents in the past couple of weeks.

The first was at Pearson booster David Steiner's CUNY Institute for Education Policy panel, when Common Core Federal Standards architect David "No One Gives A Shit What You Think Or Feel!" Coleman whined about the following:

“These are hard times for New York City and New York State,” Coleman said. “The vultures are out. There is a culture in our city and state right now of trying to take people down, including the commissioner to my left.”

Coleman then implored the mostly friendly audience, which included former superintendents Harold Levy and Jean-Claude Brizard, “to stand up for this man for his courage in not backing down.”

That man to his left, NYSED Commissioner John King, then offered a vintage whine of his own on why the public isn't buying the reform agenda he's selling:

“One of the challenges is that the media conversation about education always boils down to black hats and white hats,” King said, referring to the polarized sides of the education debate. As an example, he pointed to a recent New York Post story about a reading passage in the state’s curriculum that contained criticism of the passage’s content but little recognition of its value as a challenging text that reflects real-world issues.

“That may be all that space allows, but I think ultimately our challenge is to have a deeper conversation of what it would really take to change student outcomes,” King added.

Fellow ed deformer Paul Vallas responded to the King whine like this:

“We’re losing the communications game because we don’t have a good message to communicate,” he said. In separate comments, Vallas criticized evaluations as a “testing industrial complex” and “a system where you literally have binders on individual teachers with rubrics that are so complicated … that they’ll just make you suicidal.”


The Bridgeport, Conn. superintendent — who has served stints in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans and earned a reputation as a turnaround consultant for struggling districts with big budget gaps — said reforms he backed were at risk of collapsing “under the weight of how complicated we’re making it.”

“We’re working on the evaluation system right now,” Vallas said of Bridgeport. “And I’ll tell you, it is a nightmare.”

Has it not occurred to the ed deform proponents that by making these new teacher evaluation and school accountability systems so complex, convoluted and unworkable, they have sowed the seeds of destruction of the systems right into the DNA?

I can only think that these so-called "Best and Brightest" like Coleman and King are so blinded by their own genius that they have failed to see that by arrogantly shoving these reforms down people's throats, untested and unpiloted, and by refusing to assuage concerns over the changes and instead attacking critics with straw man arguments about the status quo, they will be bring about the destruction of their own reforms.

Or perhaps they thought a propaganda campaign beating up on teachers and schools and promoting the new changes would dazzle the public into blindly following along with them on the ed deform trail.

In any case, they were wrong about that, and you can see just how wrong in all the revolts that are spreading all across the country against Common Core, against high stakes testing, against data-driven education.

The second Great Whine Moment came yesterday when Chancellor Walcott used a meeting with principals at Brooklyn Tech to defend the Bloomberg education reform agenda and attack prospective mayoral candidates for not sticking with it 100%.

The NY Times reported that the principals were wholly uninterested in Walcott's whining speech and some were outright hostile to it.

But Norm Scott wrote that the Times article didn't quite accurately get the frustration and hostility some principals felt at being Walcott's captive audience for his ed deform defense:

The political agenda was primary as Walcott hosted what some say was an anti-UFT union bashing-Fest disguised as principal conference. There's some irony in that while most principals, especially Leadership Academy types, agree with the anti-union agenda, many principals also despise the Tweedies with a passion and are not unhappy to see them go. Do you think principals of NYC public schools are actually happy to see their space given away to charters which get favored treatment?

One attendee said:

The chancellor made a big political speech about why the next mayor can not be allowed to do anything against the reform agenda and how the UFT can not rule education and teachers should not be protected. Some of the newbie knuckleheads laughed, not realizing the very same system will be used to fire them.

Apparently Walcott brought in Mike Johnston, Colorado State Senator,  "another dirtbag to bring up Memphis spirituality and quotes the bible in rationalizing education reform," said one attendee. "He wrapped these policies around Martin Luther King and the bible story of the good Samaritan," outraging one principal who challenged Johnston by saying King was in Memphis to support union workers for a contract not education reform and Jesus was a carpenter so would be a union man.

Johnston also talked about firing the weakest teachers using basketball as an analogy.  One questioner reminded him that we can accurately assess how many baskets players score while tests are always full of errors so we don't this need junk science..

A veteran principal said he has "fired teachers and doesn't need 10000 rubrics and data to get rid of bad teachers."

Norm goes on to write that this Great Whinery Movement from New York State officials, educrats and functionaries isn't just about New York:

While Walcott tries to stave off total irrelevancy, what is going on is the fast and furious fall of ed deform. Think of the Mad Men opening of the guy falling out of a building. Ed deform is being dashed on the rocks below and they are getting very nervous.

Let me use another TV moment, one that is now cliche but quite accurately captures where we are in the ed deform movement.

It has jumped the shark.

It's best days are behind it, as cheating scandals reveal data-driven miracles in Atlanta and Washington D.C. to be mirages, as Common Core implementation meets obstacles in Indiana and other states, as many conservatives across the country turn on the movement as federal overreach (Obamacore), as the two national testing consortia have problems rolling out their so-called state of the art assessments, as Bloomberg rides off into the Bermudan sunset and his successors vow to undo many of his most odious reforms.

You can tell which side is winning this battle by which side is doing the most whining.

The oh so arrogant education reformers, blinded by their own hubris, still haven't awakened to the fact that the public has not turned against reform because they are not adequately communicating the complexity of it to them.

They have turned against reform because education reform proponents do not, as Paul Vallas told his education reform audience at David Steiner's ed deform panel, "have a good message to communicate."

In other words, the public doesn't want what Coleman, King, Walcott and the other deformers are selling.

Whine all you want, fellas.

That won't change anything.


  1. I never thought I would say this, but I really felt sorry for the majority of those principals who you know didn't want to be there. Maybe they can get a taste of what it's like to go to useless staff conferences.

    1. I felt the same way until I remembered the PD meetings they make me sit through while they pontificate about the latest flavor of the day edu-b.s. that is around just as long as the outside consulting contract remains in effect.

  2. Don't leave out the connection to the Chicago 80% victory by Karen who is leading the battle against ed deform while Randi once again defends Common core in the NY Times. The AFT I believe gave the CTU money to support the CC or something like that. But from what I hear they are ready to take on that battle. At the AFT convention in LA in July 2014 many of these issues will be fought out with the local 800 Unity slugs just elected will still be pulling back from the battle.
    Ed deform will not fall until we drag the UFT/AFT into the battle. The Chicago election was a referendum on the Randi collaboration strategy and that took a beating.
    And good you mention Vallas who was the first mayoral king of ed deform in Chicago -- he fired and banned George Schmidt after George published and ridiculed the tests being used back in 2001. Vallas went on to ruin school systems in Philly and New Orleans and now in Connecticut.
    These guys are like the civil war northern generals.

    1. Norm,

      I am using some of this comment for a piece on Weingarten.

  3. Great observations.
    Is a transcript or video of the Steiner conference available?
    Interesting that it was "invitation only."

    1. Susan,

      I have not seen a video or transcript. I did not see either at Steiner's CUNY Institute for Educational Policy website. I was working off the Gotham Schools story. I will keep looking and send you a link if I find it.

  4. Good signs, I just wish I shared your optimism!

    If you haven't already read it, I strongly recommend "When Can You Trust the Experts" by Dr. Willingham!


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