We often come across some statement or an article that is basically unbelievable Normally I just blow it off by saying, “Who in their right mind would fall for that?”
But sometimes I happen upon something I just can’t put aside. Here is a fine example. A recent article by Trish Crain on AL.com discussing questions by some folks about former state school chief Joe Morton’s role in developing the A-F school report card. Responses by Morton and the Business Council of Alabama are just too flimsy to ignore.
(I like Joe Morton. Have known him for ten years. He was tremendously supportive when I worked on the Lessons Learned from Rural Schools study back in 2008-09. But because someone is a friend doesn’t mean I have to agree with them.)
According to the article, Morton, who was either state superintendent or deputy state superintendent for 16 years, is a consultant to BCA and president of their Business Education Alliance. He works 25 hours a week and is paid $48,000 a year. He is also a paid consultant for the state department of education and is responsible for birthing the first ever A-F school report card.
Here are portions of the article that got my attention:
“BCA CEO president and CEO William Canary defended BEA’s role in education reform efforts, saying BEA is “both pro-business and pro-education” and the organization “provides accurate and unbiased information to leaders in both the public and private sectors so they can better determine and implement the public policy that is best for our state.”
You have to look long and hard to find bona fide real live public educators who think the Business Council of Alabama is their friend. They are big supporters of charter schools and think the Alabama Accountability Act is wonderful. (I sat in a committee hearing earlier this year when Joe Morton testified in favor of AAA.)
In 2016 they gave state school board member Matt Brown nearly $150,000 for his campaign. Remember, Brown is the guy who never attended public school and was appointed by Governor Bentley to the state school board from Baldwin County. He was easily defeated by Jackie Zeigler and, in fact, did not even carry his home county against her.
And when you look at the Business Education Alliance web site you find this goodie:
“Just as competitors force businesses to improve quality, service and products for their customers in order to maintain a share of the market, school choice does the same for education. Failing schools are provided the incentive they need in order to improve or risk losing students to better performing facilities.”
This is the well-worn and discredited mantra that we should run schools like a business. Anyone who truly believes this knows very little about the real world of education.
So while BCA may claim they support public schools, the facts say something very different to me.
Morton told AL.com in a written statement that the only reason questions are being asked about this connection is because he has been charged with issuing letter grades, A through F, for schools and systems. Resistance to publication of those report cards is strong, he said.
Morton is right, resistance from educators to A-F report cards IS strong. And for the simple reason that the whole process is an exercise in futility. The ACT Aspire test is where we are getting data for the report cards. This data basically deals with measuring college readiness, not evaluating student growth and achievement. In addition, we now know ACT Aspire does not align with Alabama standards and is no longer being used.
So we are coming up with report cards based on discredited data being misused and Morton is surprised that there is pushback?
Morton said “resisters” to school report cards are setting up “smokescreens” in an effort to “attack and try to eliminate the person making the enacting of the Report Card law a reality.” He said there are other educators who “view Report Cards as an avenue to demonstrate to their communities where they are on students successes and how they will improve.”
I would love to see Morton’s list of educators who think the report cards have merit. Damned if I can find ANY who think it does.
A final comment from Morton:
“….and make Alabama complaint with a 2012 law passed by the Legislature on Report Cards for schools, which some people have successfully delayed.”
The reason this law was not implemented long ago is because of Representative Terri Collins who sponsored it. For example, a panel of some of the state’s top educators worked as a committee with Collins for two years to develop a grading formula. Finally they realized she could not be pleased and they just threw up their hands. However, they left behind some excellent work they did.
And what happened? Apparently Mike Sentence discarded it. Neither state superintendent Ed Richardson or Morton knew about this effort when they took over.
Joe, this law was bad when it was passed in 2012. I have written about it and the experience of other states with A-F many times, long before you got involved. In spite of what you may think, no one is trying to kill the messenger. It’s just that you have the wrong message.