This blog will take a three-week, late summer break after today. Look for a new post on Monday, September 8. Enjoy the rest of your summer!
Randy Hoover is a recently retired professor of education at Youngstown State University, right here in rust-belt Ohio, where he has learned from experience about the challenges facing teachers in an economically distressed urban area. Diane Ravitch recently posted Hoover’s introduction to a new website he is launching to expose the misconceptions, fallacies, and lies of today’s school “reform” movement.
Hoover’s description of the experiences of his former students—now teachers—perfectly depicts what teachers here in Cleveland tell me: “With every new semester, my students expressed greater concern and more confusion about what was happening to them. They wanted to know why their professional worlds were being so drastically altered for the worse, why they were being singled out as a profession for demonization and ridicule by the media, the public, and both major political parties. Indeed, some of my students were even beginning to believe the rhetoric of reform. Sadly, the only explanations they had were the fragmented, shallow propaganda slogans the reformists were peddling in the media…. There was simply no reflective critique, no voices challenging No Child Left Behind and the cascading, anti-teacher, anti-public school mandates gushing from the Ohio legislature and the Ohio Department of Education that were inundating them.”
Hoover captures both the irony and tragedy of how standardized testing and the rating of school districts is playing out in metropolitan areas across the United States these days: “For my students working in high-poverty schools, the isolation and alienation was palpable, with very good, dedicated teachers feeling demoralized and abandoned amid the very public, state-mandated accountability reports showing them to be professionally incompetent. Equally disturbing were those in the wealthier schools who were starting to become a bit smug because these same accountability reports portrayed them to be professionally excellent. Neither group understood that teachers in low-performing schools were no more the cause of low performance than those in high-performing schools were of performance success.”
Hoover’s says his new website—teacher-advocate.com—will help school teachers, and others who want to become informed, connect the dots. He believes neither the teachers unions nor the colleges of education have adequately framed public policy to help teachers grasp how public policy is affecting their professional lives. “The resources available in the project enable the reader to deconstruct the language, slogans, and especially the contrived metrics to show how the accountability systems violate both established scientific principles of psychometrics and nationally-accepted ethical standards for educational assessment and evaluation.” “The site is unique in that it is a one-stop source for acquiring most, if not all, the concepts and ideas needed to expose the pseudo accountability of the system and to expose the special interests that pseudo acountability serves.”
I have subscribed for updates from teacher-advocate.com and added it to my on-line “favorites.” Hoover’s style and his insight is refreshing. Here is how he introduces a section on Basic Problems with the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System:
“The Ohio Teacher Evaluation System… represents another waypoint in Ohio’s march toward mesmerizing us into believing that school reform is going to create effective schools and effective educators to the benefit of all Ohioans. No matter that the entire accountability system has been carefully contrived to build political careers by funneling billions from public funds built by Ohio taxpayers into for-profit corporations through vouchers, charter schools, curriculum packages, standardized tests, and test materials. Everywhere, school reform is bully politics but nowhere more than in Ohio, as hardworking and dedicated teachers now stand defenseless in front of the firing squad of the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System.”