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Part XVII– Grading the NCTQ Advisory Board

February 20, 2013

UPDATE 06-20-13:  Nine of the advisory board members listed below have been removed from the NCTQ website list of advisory board members. However, one member whose name was removed from the NCTQ website, Stefanie Sanford (as in Gates Foundation right-hand who is now with College Board), is listed as a board member on the recently-released sham report for grading teacher prep programs.

The other seven names removed are Adamowski, Barnes, Hill, Keating, Koldyke, McGriff, Moir, and Rhee.

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I would like to dedicate this post to NCTQ President Kate Walsh, who wrote the following words for the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2011: “…Too many states still does not require annual evaluations of all veteran teachers….” [Verbatim.]

Let it be known that here, in this post, we have the first ever evaluation of the evaluators, so to speak.

Ms. Walsh, thank you for your inspiring words.

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The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) takes its job very seriously. According to its website, NCTQ believes that “formal teacher preparation can and should add value.”  They want to “bring transparency to teacher prep” and are willing to publish the “top ten most secretive institutions.” NCTQ believes it has a right to evaluate teacher training programs, and closed doors must be evidence of some ill practice kept hidden.

NCTQ is transparent. It isn’t difficult to know what this organization truly represents.  For example, the mission statement notes,

The National Council on Teacher Quality is a non-profit, nonpartisan research and policy group committed to restructuring the teaching profession, led by our vision that every child deserves effective teachers. [Emphasis added.]

Remember that word “restructure” as a school’s punishment for not reaching AYP in NCLB? As such, “restructure” likely does not evoke warm feelings in the hearts of scores of teachers.  Yet this is the word NCTQ chooses for its mission.

“Restructure” is a corporate reformer word. More on the reformers soon.

According to NCTQ President Kate Walsh, The NCTQ mission “is to provide an alternative national voice to existing teacher organizations and build the case for a comprehensive reform agenda that would challenge the current structure and regulation of the teaching profession.” [Emphasis added.]

Wow.  How “transparent” is that?

And yet NCTQ wonders why traditional teacher training programs do not open their doors and unreservedly welcome the NCTQ invasion. “Yes, we’ve come to ‘build the case’ against you, traditional teacher prep.”

I’ll give it this: NCTQ is transparent in its publicizing what it truly thinks of the teaching profession. Consider this cartoon on its webpage: The caption beneath the cartoon reads, “Can a profession which values a teacher’s ‘niceness’ above all else ever come to embrace mere competency?” The cartoon includes a pig teacher standing in front of a desk where a man is seated. The front of the desk has a sign, “Teacher Evaluation.”  The man, who is apparently evaluating this pig teacher, is speaking.  The words are really small,  but I can read them: “Your students all failed basic math, but you seem very nice.”

Once this post is ended, I will still be called a teacher, and some reading this post might dare to call me a failure, but NCTQ would hardly call me “nice.”

Let’s talk more about transparency, shall we?

How about transparency in NCTQ funders?

I found two different links. Both are dated 2010, and both link to the current advisory board.

NCTQ is funded by the Bradley, Broad, Dell, Gates, Joyce, and Rodel Foundations and by Carnegie Corporation. A corporate reformer smogasbord.

NCTQ likes to assign letter grades, another trademark of the corporate reformer, straight from Florida and ALEC.

Not this time, though. This time, the letter grades are on me.

I am going to grade each member of the NCTQ advisory board using the traditional, quality-point system whereby an A = 4 points; B = 3 points; C = 2 points (and is not failing), D = 1 point (still not failing), and F, well, no points, and is truly failing.

Then, I will average the points for the entire board and assign an overall advisory board grade.

How swell is that?

Like NCTQ, I come uninvited.  I come intrusively, expecting that I should have the right to grade this board.  Unlike most members of the advisory board, I am a certified classroom teacher.  I own no education business.  I invest in no education companies.  And most importantly, I have no foundations financing any effort associated with this review, or with any other aspect of my life, for that matter.  I have no conflict of interest– other than that I see corporate reform for the money-making sham that it is.

So, let’s get to it, shall we?

My grading system includes a “rule out,” a condition that immediately will fail a number of board members regardless of any other criteria.  It’s like the system that boards like this one have pushed to put me under as a classroom teacher.  I am a Louisiana teacher.  I am to be evaluated using my students’ test scores.  I have been told that test scores count for 50% of my evaluation– unless the scores declare me “ineffective.”  Then the scores are everything, all 100% of my evaluation.  Nothing else matters. That’s the “rule out.”

In my grading of the NCTQ advisory board, my “rule out” involves board members 1) who have a clear corporate reform agenda coupled with no teaching certificate earned from the type of teacher prep program this board evaluates, and/or 2) some unseemly conduct that arguably reflects poorly on the teaching profession, including ethical violations related to student well being, and potential or realized financial gain associated with a conflict of interest.  These result in an automatic F.  If this seems unfair, advisory board members are encouraged to plead their cases with the local school boards corporate reformers are attempting to castrate.

Based upon my reviews in Parts III through XVI, the following advisory board members receive an F given some combination of the criteria set forth above.  (I will include a link and post number for each so that those who wish might make an educational game of rereading the posts to determine why each board member listed below earned an F.  Some could have earned multiple Fs, so the challenge may not be nearly as stimulating.):

Steven Adamowski (III)

Michael Barber (III)

Roy Barnes (III)

Cynthia Brown (IV)

Celine Collins (IV)

Michael Feinberg (V)

Michael Goldstein (V)

Erik Hanushek (V)

Frederick Hess (VI)

Paul Hill (VI)

Michael Johnston (X)

Frank Keating (XIII)

Joel Klein (IX)

Martin Koldyke (XIII)

Wendy Kopp (VII)

Jim Larson (XIII)

Deborah McGriff (XI)

Ellen Moir (XV)

Robert Pasternack (XVI)

Michael Podgursky (XII)

Michelle Rhee (VIII)

Stefanie Sanford (XIV)

Wow. That sure is a lot of Fs:  22 out of 33 members. Two-thirds of the advisory board right there.  So many Fs.  It must mean I am a bad grader.  I should demand higher standards then secretly lower the bar so that I can declare this program a success before I dismantle it, reshape it with a new, exciting name, shake hands with new, exciting financial backers who don’t normally frequent this side of town, then hold a press conference with my Blackberry discretely concealed so that my Fellows in the audience can feed me some smooth, dynamic talking points.

Can you tell I have been eating and sleeping reform rhetoric these past several months?

Perhaps those traditional training programs could offer an add-on certification in reformerwrite and -speak.

But I digress.  I have 11 more board members to grade.  Let’s just move up to the D category.

Four advisory board members earned a D.  And a D means “needs improvement.” It is not failing, but it is not solidly passing, either. It is worth one quality point. Those in the D category have either no classroom experience or the potential to be biased against traditional teacher training programs because of their business involvements/ associations.  These folks may have dabbled with but have not sold out to the reform agenda. They do not have overt, obscene financial conflicts of interest. They may be drawn to the reformer agenda but also have extensive classroom experience that could serve as a conscience check. And none have physically harmed children.

Again, I have included post numbers for extended review:

David Chard (IV)

Andrew Chen (IV)

E.D. Hirsch (VI)**  Socially promoted to C.  Will receive two quality points.***

Daniel Willingham (XII)** Socially promoted to B.  Will receive three quality points.***

** In my estimation, Willingham and Hirsch should be categorized as D based upon my defining of the category.  Hirsch signed the 2003 Broad Foundation manifesto, and I have found no evidence to suggest any change of perspective.  Moreover, Hirsch is openly disdainful of traditional teacher prep programs. Willingham is a man of integrity who is not trained as a classroom teacher, period.  However, I have elected to defer based upon solicited expert advice.

*** I thought it important to include this comment regarding the Willingham and Hirsch “social promotion” here; I want future readers of this post to have this information as a part of their assessment of the influence of the people placed on “boards of education.” The short of it is that their opinions carry weight, and unless there is an obvious and declared change of position (such as that demonstrated by Diane Ravitch), then the harm they do can continue even beyond their time:

I have to say that I really don’t think that Willingham deserves the three social promotion points, because his declaration against developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) has unduly influenced rogue leadership and policy decisions in Early Childhood Education (ECE). This is likely to worsen, as we have already seen a pushed down curriculum in Kindergarten with the Common Core and, with the new federal call for universal preschool, the zeitgeist is set for a further push of academics into preschool.

DAP is based on the whole child, not just on cognitive development, so I don’t think Willingham should be seen as the final authority in determining what’s DAP –any more than Hirsch was when he spoke against DAP as an English Professor years ago. As an Early Childhood Teacher Educator, the influence of both of these men on ECE concerns me greatly.

Back to my original grading:

In my grading, C is passing. In order to earn a C or higher, advisory board members must hold traditional teaching credentials and have experience in classroom teaching.  The two board members earning a C have associated with reform but demonstrated no solid, established reformer tendencies, including the signing of no manifestos. They have the potential to “turn reformer”; however, I believe that their traditional teaching backgrounds are strong enough and their reformer tendencies weak enough to make for a definite and true reckoning of the conscience.

Pattie Davis (V)

Tom Lasley (XIV)

In order to earn a B, board members must have a solid teaching career and only peripheral involvement with reform. I perceive these individuals as much more likely than others previously rated to remain unbiased in the rating of traditional teacher prep programs even though reform is around them.  I have found no evidence that the individuals themselves espouse the reform:

McKinley Broome (III)

Joseph Hawkins (VI)

The final category, the A category, represents the professionals of whom an advisory board associated with rating teacher training programs should be comprised:  Persons who completed training in programs like those they are rating and who have experience as classroom teachers; who evidence no connection to corporate reform, especially no connection to reformer money (I excuse these folks for the unavoidable fact that NCTQ itself accepts reformer money); in matters ethical, without blemish.

I am happy to have found such people on the NCTQ advisory board.  I am sad that out of 33 members, only 3 (under 10%) fit this category:

Barry Kaufman (XIII)

Amy Jo Leonard  (XII)

Suzanne Wilson  (XII)

Now, to grading the board as a whole.  Given that an A = 4 points; B = 3 points; C = 2 points, and D = 1 point. The NCTQ advisory board as a whole has earned 29 quality points across its 33 members.  That means that the NCTQ advisory board GPA = 29/33 = .88.  An F.  Embarrassingly low for a GPA, no doubt.  It reminds me of the letter grades earned by Louisiana’s state-run Recovery School District (RSD). Corporate reform failure in all of its nakedness.

Given that NCTQ President Kate Walsh has declared the mission of NCTQ to “build the case for a comprehensive reform agenda,” and given that the financial backing of NCTQ is clearly and obviously corporate-reform friendly, this board letter grade of F should come as no surprise. After all, I did declare my thoughts on corporate reform both from the outset of this post and in every one of the other 16 posts in this advisory board series.

Notice I did not write “NCTQ series.”

I am not finished with NCTQ just yet.  It has a board of directors, including a president.

11 Comments
  1. Terrific. Time we turn the tables on these people.

  2. Charles Barone permalink

    I’m pretty sure the correct spelling is “smorgasboard.”

  3. Many thanks to Mercedes for her diligence in researching and writing these informative, comprehensive reviews!

    One question: Why were HIrsch and Willingham socially promoted? (I have very serious concerns about both of them.)

    • Hi, Prof W. As to the social promotions: I had a trusted colleague who reviewed my work offer to vouch for Hirsch and Willingham, and whereas I did not agree, I was compelled by the force of my colleague’s argument. Thus, the medium I chose to strike was to show that I would have classed these two as a D but that they had been “vouched for,” so to speak, and thus raised by influences outside of myself. My feelings are similar regarding the concept of social promotion in general.

      –Mercedes

      • Thanks for the clarification, Mercedes. I have to say that I really don’t think that Willingham deserves the three social promotion points, because his declaration against developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) has unduly influenced rogue leadership and policy decisions in Early Childhood Education (ECE). This is likely to worsen, as we have already seen a pushed down curriculum in Kindergarten with the Common Core and, with the new federal call for universal preschool, the zeitgeist is set for a further push of academics into preschool.

        DAP is based on the whole child, not just on cognitive development, so I don’t think Willingham should be seen as the final authority in determining what’s DAP –any more than Hirsch was when he spoke against DAP as an English Professor years ago. As an Early Childhood Teacher Educator, the influence of both of these men on ECE concerns me greatly.

      • Prof W, I appreciate your input and have added your comment to my original post for future readers to consider.

        Thank you.

        –Mercedes

      • Mercedes, thank you! (I probably should have explicitly stated that I don’t think Hirsch deserves the social promotion points either.)

      • You’re welcome, Prof. What you wrote deserved publicity.

        –Mercedes

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Schneider: Evaluating the Evaluators « Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. National Council on Teacher Quality Gets Caught in a Data Collecting Lie - Dr. Rich Swier

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