Why The Obama Administration Won’t Back Off Its Disastrous Education Policies

   As I was sitting watching the US Open after a day of preparing for classes, I started thinking of why state after state, with the encouragement of the US Department of Education, keeps subjecting teachers to evaluation systems which are humiliating, time consuming and inaccurate, despite evidence that shows that their main effect is to drive good teachers out and turn teaching into a revolving door profession.

   Why won’t officials pull the plug on  VAM, Marzano, Danielson, and all the other data systems which teachers and administrators hate and which are causing hundreds of thousands of teachers and administrators to retire before their time?  
   And I thought back to some of the frank conversations which our BAT delegation had with representatives of the US Dept of Education Office of Civil Rights right after the BAT March on Washington.
   One of the things that leaped out at me was that several of the people we spoke to basically admitted that they would rather have bad, even abusive evaluation systems mandated by the Federal Government than giving school districts the autonomy to develop their own evaluation  systems.
And the reason they gave was simple: they were convinced that school districts would only make an effort to serve low income students and students of color if their feet were held to the fire through test and data driven evaluation systems monitored by their Department.  They saw these systems, despite the collateral damage they imposed- which they admitted was large- as the only way they knew to insure that teachers put the same effort into teaching students of color and poor students as they did middle class students and white students.
   And this is the response we offered.  The collateral damage, from a Civil Rights standpoint, was worse than the gains. Among the consequences was
   1. Sharply reducing the number of teachers of color in every metropolitan area
   2. Turning instruction into brutal, mind deadening test prep, in schools in low income areas
   3. Driving the best teachers and principals out of the profession, especially in low income communities
   4. Destabilizing communities by closing schools which had served those neighborhoods for generations.
  Strangely enough, they didn’t disagree with any of those four points. But they were terrified that if they let go of their flawed data and evaluation systems, we would go back to a time when students of color and poor students were disgracefully neglected.
   Our response is  was that substituting torture and abuse for neglect does not constitute a net gain.
  And there you have it.  This is why we can’t get the Obama Administration to back off a policy that has been patently disastrous