President Obama’s Failure of Leadership

08 May

Recently, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing reported on the release of a dozen years of 12th grade NAEP scores revealing the test-based accountability era of G. W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race to the Top with its seriously flawed and Machiavellian Common Core Standards has had no discernible effect on the test scores of seniors.

“How much more evidence do federal and state policy-makers need that driving schooling through standardized exams does not increase educational quality?” asked Fair Test Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “It is time to abandon failed test-and-punish policies and adopt assessments that have been shown to improve teaching and learning.”

Second, I read What, Me Worry? By Kristin Sainani writing for a Publication of the Stanford Alumni Association.  The Stanford piece discussed two kinds of stress:  Good Stress vs. Bad Stress, and how chronic stress shrinks the hippocampus (one of the brain’s key memory centers), impairs cognitive function and increases risk of mental illness.

Sainani quotes Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a health psychologist, author and Stanford Lecturer who says, “I’ve become even more convinced that the type of ‘stress’ that is toxic has more to do with social status, social isolation and social rejections. It’s not just having a hard life that seems to be toxic, but it’s some of the social poisons that can go alone with stigma or poverty.”

Echoing McGonigal, Robert Sapolsky—the Stanford John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences and of Neurosurgery—adds: “I’d say that, overall, the most corrosive type of social stress in our Western world is low socioeconomic status—i.e., poverty.”

At this point, you might be scratching your head wondering what Sainani’s Stanford piece has to do with President Obama’s “Failure of Leadership”.  For an answer, I’ll refer you to Chapter 10 in Diane Ravitch’s “Reign of Error”. The title of that chapter is: How Poverty Affects Academic Achievement.

Ravitch’s chapter starts with: “Reformers often say that poverty is an excuse for ‘bad teachers.’ If all teachers were great, then all children would score well on tests, and there would be no achievement gaps between children of different groups.”

Sainani’s Stanford piece based on highly reputable scientific studies of stress and its effects on the brain proves beyond a doubt that Ravitch was right and the fake education reformers were wrong.  Children who live in poverty are already under “Bad Stress” and long days of test prep followed by flawed and stressful Common Core testing only adds more stress to children living in poverty and there are 16 million of them in the United States.

Third: there is a popular myth—due to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the fake education reformers promoting the Charter school sector with (cherry picked) misleading facts—that Charter schools are superior to public schools, but the second study out of Stanford (the 1st was in 2009) proved that myth wrong. Stanford’s Credo Center for Research and Education Outcomes National Charter School Study of 2013 revealed that for reading, 19% of Charters were worse than the public schools; 56% were no different and only 25% were better. For math, 31% were worse; 40% were no different and only 29% were better. It was mentioned that this was an improvement over the 2009 study but that improvement was—in part—because of the bad Charters that were closed after the results of the 2009 Stanford study was released.

How long has this Charter movement been with us?  longer than twenty years

In addition, The Public School Advantage Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools by Christopher A. Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski published by University of Chicago Press (2013) used sophisticated analytical tools to discover that even though private school children arrive in kindergarten a little bit more academically prepared than their public school peers, public school students make up the difference over the course of elementary school.” The Lubienskis also revealed that traditional public schools hold a slight edge over the Charter sector.

Last, there’s the fact that private sector Charter schools supported by the same tax revenue used to support the public schools may be opaque with their finances while public schools must be transparent with every penny spent, and Bill Moyers and Company reported Charter Schools Gone Wild: Study Finds Widespread Fraud, Mismanagement and Waste.

Sabrina Joy Stevens, executive director of Integrity in Education, told, “Our report shows that over $100 million has been lost to fraud and abuse in the charter industry, because there is virtually no proactive oversight system in place to thwart unscrupulous or incompetent charter operators before they cheat the public.” The actual amount of fraud and abuse the report uncovered totaled $136 million, and that was just in the 15 states they studied.

In addition, an NBC4 investigation reported: “In 2013, 17 charter schools in Columbus (Ohio) closed, joining 150 other charter schools around Ohio. It’s a failure rate of 29 percent. $1.4 billion has been spent since 2005 through school year 2012-2013 on charter schools that have never gotten any higher grade than an F or a D.”

What does all this show us?  It reveals that both Presidents G. W. Bush and Barack Obama’s fake education reform movement through No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and the Common Core Standards have failed miserably, but President Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, continue to ignore the mountain of growing evidence while promoting the corporate, for profit Charter school sector.

In conclusion, this is more than a failure of leadership. It’s a Constitutional crime.

The oath of office of the President of the United States: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The White House is not a platform for pushing the agenda of a few powerful and wealthy oligarchs while ignoring overwhelming evidence that proves that agenda wrong. The President’s job is to serve all the people by defending the Constitution and not ignoring it.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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8 responses to “President Obama’s Failure of Leadership

  1. Lloyd Lofthouse

    May 9, 2014 at 19:14

    Reblogged this on Lloyd Lofthouse.

  2. Marilyn Armstrong

    May 9, 2014 at 19:20

    Reblogged this on SERENDIPITY and commented:
    I am so glad I went to school before this horrible reign of terror –“standardized” testing that exchanges “test preparation” for real knowledge. Every parent and grandparent should read it.

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      May 9, 2014 at 19:24

      Thank you. Too bad many will never read it. It’s extremely difficult to get anything to go viral unless it’s Miley Cyrus swinging naked on a wrecking ball. Now if Miley came out with a video that supported the public schools and bashed the profit-driven Charter schools, hundreds of millions of people would pay attention.

  3. disappearingwoman

    May 10, 2014 at 05:22

    A well-researched and thought-provoking post. I taught third grade in the public school system for 16 years. I lived though the joke that was NCLB. I remember the day that we sent lovely government printed pamphlets home to parents explaining how NCLB was going to get their child on track and reform the educational system. Oddly, the same year, our funding was cut and we had to do so much more with so much less. Teachers are resilient little suckers and we worked our butts off, often using our own money and resources, trying to make sure that our school met standards. We taught for a test and along the way school stopped being fun. I had to drop creative science and social studies units that children had once clamored to be in my class for. Recess was cut to make room for more academia, thus decreasing social interaction and teachable social skill moments. Art was cut from the curriculum in our district, and PE was reduced to one class per week. I stopped teaching before Obama became president, so I can comment on his Race to the Top program, but NCLB was certainly an ineffective fun-suck.

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      May 10, 2014 at 08:33

      I retired from teaching in 2005 so I was still in the classroom when this insanity was getting started. Even then before all the damage its caused, we knew it was wrong—a colossal mistake.

      But I was long gone by the time Obama moved into the White House, fired his first Secretary of Education and hired Arne Duncan, who hates teachers, parents and kids. It’s almost as if Obama started out to destroy America’s democracy and to do this he had to destroy its public schools first, because putting Arne Duncan in charge of the Department of Education was similar to Hitler putting Eichmann, Heydrich and Himmler in charge of getting rid of the Jews.

      The truth that it seems everyone in the United States ignores except for teachers who work with at risk kids is that the reason kids don’t learn has nothing to do with teaching but with kids who don’t want to do the reading and work that it takes to learn.

      The fact is that there are kids who hate to read because they grew up in homes where no one reads and the first six years of a child’s life are the most important years for developing a respect and love of reading and learning which explains why Asians are always number one in every academic measurement (Unlike the West, respect for learning is instilled in Asian cultures from birth due to more than two thousand years of Confucian influence throughout that region). By the time the most at risk kids (mostly kids who are black or Hispanic and live in poverty) start school, in many cases it’s too late and if any of those kids end up learning it’s probably because of a teacher who somehow motivated them to take education seriously.

      If a child spend their first six years hanging out with kids in street gangs or doing nothing but eating fast food, drinking sodas, watching several hours of TV daily or playing endless video games and then one day they walk into a classroom for the first time and are asked to work at learning, there is no secret formula that teachers can use to force those kids to love reading, doing class work or doing homework. And for sure, few if any teachers have the magical power to force kids to read at home—for fun because sitting for hours turning pages in a book can’t compare to watching TV or playing video games when that’s all you’ve done since you were born.

  4. lsanson

    May 23, 2014 at 19:06

    Reblogged this on TN BATs BlOG.

  5. TF

    February 5, 2015 at 12:39

    3 things obuma did presuded me not to revote for him
    1) Keeping our soldiers in Iraqi for a whole year to support a non-support puppet govt
    2) Keeping out soldiers in Afgahanston to support a non support puppet govt.
    3) THE WORST OF THEM ALL-giving out notices that his Adminstartion would restart talks with North Korea over our MIAS THAT ARE STILL IN North KOREA. JPAC WAS ALL SET TO GO in the spring of 2012; when on MArch 21, 2012 this administration did a about TURN and SUSPENDED talks with NORTH KOREA. AND OUR MISSING SONS ARE STILL IN NORTH KOREA.

    An American Citizen

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      February 5, 2015 at 12:47

      My list not to vote for him again might be longer.


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