Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Suburbia Is Where Education Reform Comes To Die

There has been a huge backlash come Arne Duncan's way for a speech he gave to a group of state superintendents in which he blamed recent Common Core criticism on white suburban moms who find their child "isn’t as brilliant as they thought."

Duncan has faced a storm of criticism on Twitter over the comments, with Carol Burris summing up many of the attacks with her own criticism of Duncan:

While there is a lot of outrage over Duncan's comments, he's simply voicing thoughts many education reformers are having these days.

As I pointed out in this post yesterday, what Arne Duncan told this group of state superintendents comes straight from the Ed Deform Shock And Awe Playbook as given to us by AEI fellow and Education Week blogger Rick Hess.

The plan was always to try and shock suburbanites into believing that their kids' schools were terrible, as bad as the urban schools deformers have already targeted for reforms, and create a clamor for the same kinds of reforms in suburban schools.

Hess dubbed this plan the "Common Core Kool-Aid," and wrote that he was dubious that it would work:

After failing miserably to convince suburban and middle-class voters that reforms designed for dysfunctional urban systems and at-risk kids are good for their children and their schools, Common Core advocates now evince an eerie confidence that they can scare these voters into embracing the "reform" agenda. And this conviction has become the happy Kool-Aid that allows would-be reformers to ignore the fact that they're not actually offering to tackle the things (like access to exam-style schools, world language mastery, music and arts instruction, and so on) that suburban parents are passionate about.

Hess raises some salient points for why the Ed Deform Shock And Awe Playbook would not work the way deformers thought it would in the suburbs.

After all, parents can see the quality of their kids' schools and teachers and while neither are perfect they are in no way "dysfunctional" or failing.

Also, suburban parents are less likely to get on board the No Excuses Charter Express and push for suburban schools to turn into test prep factories like Eva Moskowitz's Success Academies or the KIPP schools.

The linchpin for convincing suburban moms and dads that their kids' schools and teachers suck and radical reform was needed to right things was always the Common Core test scores.

New York was the second state to roll out the Common Core tests (rolled out even before the Common Core curriculum was fully developed) and the state education commissioner and Regents chancellor both evinced an eerie confidence that kids were going to fail these tests in large numbers long before the tests were even given.

It was as if they knew large numbers of kids would fail because they planned to set the cut scores to a level that would ensure large-scale failure.

And last summer, sure enough, NYSED Commissioner King and Regents Chancellor Tisch happily announced that 70% of children around the state had failed to reach proficiency on the state tests and radical reform was needed to right the public education ship.

Luckily for all of us, they had rolled out a reform agenda that included more testing, teacher evaluations tied to testing, a sped-up Common Core implementation and possible state takeover of failing schools and even districts, so all would be well if we would all just jump on board the SED/Regents Reform Express.

The only problem was, suburban moms and dads were not only not convinced by the Common Core test scores that their children weren't reading or doing math at or above grade level, they weren't convinced that their children's schools were failing or their teachers were ineffective either.

The Common Core test scores underscored the uneasiness about the Common Core standards many parents were feeling, as their children came home with math homework that parents couldn't help them with because they could understand it or hid under the bed and feigned illness because they didn't want to go to school anymore and do the drudgery of the Common Core lessons.

The uneasiness over the Common Core standards, coupled with the anger over the Common Core cut scores, exploded into mass protests in NY State that finally made headlines in the media when NYSED Commissioner King got verbally abused in Poughkeepsie last month at a Common Core town hall meeting.

King canceled future town halls after the Poughkeepsie mess, but was forced to add additional town halls when the furor over the Common Core grew.

Since then, King and Regents Chancellor Tisch have met criticism over the Common Core standards, the Common Core tests, the state teacher evaluation system that mandates so much of this testing, and the state data collection project that will hand student information over to Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch whether parents want that to happen or not.

King and Tisch have said repeatedly that they are listening to the criticism, hearing what parents are saying, but that nothing will change in the way the state implements the Common Core or pushes "full speed ahead" with the SED/Regents reform agenda.

Deformers got little resistance to their reform agenda so long as it was aimed at black and brown children in urban districts.  But once they set their sights on suburban districts, on children in schools in places like Scarsdale and Great Neck, East Setauket and Mineola, the deformer assault on public education met resistance.

It seems deformers did not envision that the challenges would be as tough and resistant to their propaganda as they have turned out to be.

Every meme the deformers churn out, from the "Schools are failing and your kids cannot compete in a 21st century global economy" to "The Common Core tests demonstrate just how bad your schools are and how ineffective your children's teachers are," has failed to convince parents in the suburbs that they need the No Excuses Charter Express to roll into their town and take out the schools and teachers on a fast track to oblivion.

In fact, the more Duncan, King, Tisch and their fellow reformers try and convince suburban parents here in NY State and around the country that the Common Core standards are good for their children, the Common Core tests are reliable measures of what students should know, teachers should be evaluated based upon these test scores and fired if found wanting, and all this data needs to be collected and collated and handed over to third party vendors for the improvement of future instruction, the larger the movement against the reforms grows.

In the end, the eerie confidence Rick Hess described deformers demonstrating as they talked about their plans to prove to suburban parents that their children's schools were failing and radical reform was needed to improve the system turned out to be delusional.

The reactions we are seeing from deformers - Arne Duncan insulting "white suburban moms" or John King getting shrill in the face of criticism in Poughkeepsie - is symptomatic of a reform movement that until now has had everything go their way but now that challenges to their success have arisen, they have no back-up plan to sell their agenda.

I wrote yesterday that

the evidence is in already as the anti-Common Core movement grows and grows by the month - parents aren't buying the ed deform snake oil Uncle Arne and his fellow corporate ed deformers are selling and I just don't think insulting "white suburban moms" to get on board with the Core is going to save the sinking ed deform ship.

Let me double down on that statement from yesterday.

Arne's criticism of white suburban moms stems from frustration over the challenges he and his deform movement are now facing as they attempt to do to the rest of the country what they have down to D.C., New Orleans, Detroit and other inner cities.

It is also evidence that Duncan and the deform movement are flailing and have no idea what to do to put their reform movement back on the fast track to success.

Taking the deform movement to the suburbs, deformers have met their matches in suburban moms and dads who see through the snake oil the deform movement has been trying to sell them.

In short, the Shock And Awe that the reformers planned for the suburbs has been turned back on them.


  1. Arne Duncan is playing the race card. Is he not implying that Black mothers think there children are not smart and that Black mothers have only low expectations and aspirations for their kids?

    1. Good point. Given how he said Katrina was the best thing ever to happen to New Orleans because it washed away the old school system, I guess we shouldn't be surprised about his playing the race card.

  2. Point blank. The only reason that Arne Duncan is on the Obama cabinet is because Arne Duncan plays basketball. Arne is part of the Obama cabinet fantasy basketball league. Basketball has Belen's who never made it to the NBA. If Duncan could not play basketball, he would never have been considered for secretary of education. Anyone who could not play basketball , was kept off of Obama's short list for Secretary of Education.

    1. He was good at reading cue cards on morning TV as well. Plus the DFER's liked him and Obama was of course a founding DFER. And yeah, he plays basketball with Obama. That didn't hurt his chances. But I think even if Linda Darling Hammond had a mean jump shot and played shooting guard, Obama wouldn't have tapped her for the DOE. It was all about pushing through Shock Doctrine Ed Deform.

  3. Puppets like Duncan are the lowest form of humans. Still it is surprising that the people funding ed deform are dumb enough to use buffoons like King and Duncan as their mouth pieces. Literally one of my fifth grade students could figure out that insulting "special interests" as King did, and "white suburban moms" as Duncan did will only add fuel to the fire. Chapter One in the "How to Destroy Public Ed Playbook" should say in big, bold letters, "DO NOT PISS OFF THE PARENTS" yet these fools go and incite the parents by calling them names. This is what happens when puppets and mouth pieces try to open their mouths and share something other than their rehearsed talking points. The best thing to happen to supporters of public ed is that the deformers trusted their agenda with stooges like King and Duncan. This will ultimately be their undoing.

    1. They've had their way so long, Brian, that I think they truly are shocked they're getting any pushback. Think how much Duncan has been feted in the media, on Morning Joe, in David Brooks' and Tom Friedman's columns. He's not used to having to defend his policies from parents and the public. He's used to the kid glove treatment from Joe Scarborough and Mark Halperin. King's used to kid glove treatment too. But these parents are not fooled by the media's propaganda over the test scores or CCSS and they are not fooled by the b.s. Duncan or King sling around. So really, I think they're flailing. They see their whole reform movement sinking fast and they just don't know what to do about it. So they attack - making things worse, as you note.

  4. It really highlights their arrogance, that they really couldn't see this coming at all. They really believed that parents would go along willingly with a reform agenda that is literally abusive to students.

    All that being said I am surprised at how some of the media has begun to be swung. Newsday, in particular, has offered some coverage recently that has been much fairer than in past years. Typically they just like to complain about how overpaid we are. But seeing so many parents behind this agenda has changed their coverage, at least for now.

    1. Newsday has been very, very good in it's coverage. LoHud and the Times-Union have had their moments of fair coverage as well. The Times, the Daily News and Post have either ignored the whole thing or written editorials backing King up. But even the DN editors waited over a week after Poughkeepsie to finally defend King.

      As to your first point, yes, I think they are very arrogant and they never envisioned that suburban parents wouldn't roll over when they said so. They really seem shocked that they're getting pushback, parents are calling them on their hypocrisy (like King w/ the Montessori school) or their incompetence (Pineapple and the Hare.)

      To be fair to the deformers, this really has turned fast. There were pockets of resistance before, but these past few months it;s really taken off, especially since you folks in Port Jefferson Station had the protest over the Common Core.

    2. I see the NYT has a hatchet job in today's paper (p. A22) in which they manage to make King a sympathetic figure and hint at racism as the reason King is being yelled at. The story includes this gem from Merryl: "John is doing a yeoman's job, staying cool, focusing on policy issues. People are asking complicated questions but I haven't seen him miss a beat."

  5. Why should I be fair to deformers? When was the last time they were fair to me? I am tired of listening to people who make zillions of dollars begrudging me my salary. I work in dangerous neighborhoods where I have yet to run into any of them. My work is endless between lesson plans, grading and mindless professional development. I am constantly being sheparded into new unproven, uncharted waters. Fiction is out. Thinking is passé. Creativity does not fit into test modules. Oh that's right! Teaching should be populated by young, enthusiastic, temporary novices!

  6. Shepherded


    My phone corrected me.