Arkansas Appointee Ray Simon for USDOE Bad Choice
Arkansas Nominee Ray Simon for USDOE Bad Choice
Nominee Urges Government Takeover Of Education
Arkansas Education Department Director Ray Simon was appointed by President Bush September 22, 03, to become assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education. As such, he has been the principal adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Education on matters related to pre-kindergarten, elementary and secondary education. Simon, appointed by Republican Governor Mike Huckabee, served as Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) director from 1997-2003. On April 15, the president nominated Simon to be the deputy director to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Simon awaits Senate confirmation.
After Ray Simons' tenure as Director of Arkansas Department of Education, "Arkansas has some of the highest percentages in the nation of public schools categorized as academically troubled on the basis of student test results, according to a new report compiled for the Education Commission of the States. Twenty percent, or 233, of Arkansas’ 1,159 public schools are classified this year as being in Year 1 of the School Improvement program mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. That puts Arkansas in a tie with Nevada as the fourth worst-performing state in that category. Similarly, 6 percent of Arkansas schools — 69 — are categorized as being in Year 2 of School Improvement, putting the Natural State in a tie with California for the third-worst ranking in the nation." (Quotes from Arkansas Democrat Gazette, entitled, State's School Rank Poorly in National Report, 3-29-05.)
Note that Simon did not leave Arkansas until late 2003, so he was director of ADE for at least 6 years and bears the responsibility for the educational failures listed above. He served as Director for a longer time than any other director has in a very long time in Arkansas.
1. Simon promoted and probably wrote much of Governor Huckabee’s massive autocratic consolidation plan presented to the legislative body January, 03, a plan which Huckabee says in his own words eliminates local control. The lengthy law includes the following;
2. Simon was the leader that rammed ACT 1467 of 2003 through the Legislature the last two days of a turbulent session (the session had to be extended by the Governor to get Act 1467 voted on in the Senate) that probably has more government control in it than any education law in the nation. Act 1467 is far more punitive and gives schools far less time to meet academic, fiscal, and accountability standards than the national NCLB law. The Arkansas Department of Education can take over any school or school district and consolidate it or replace its entire administration and school board ( stripping away the vote of every citizen) the first time the school fails to meet even one standard or criteria set by the State Board. This law says, “Instruction in all public schools shall be based on these academic content standards” set by the State Board. For summary and entire law see: http://www.wpaag.org/Leg%202003.%20-%20Act%201467%20-%20Was%20HB2697.htm
For transcript of Simon’s presentation of this law, which is very enlightening, to State Board see
As a result of this Act 1467, the following was reported in the paper, April 11,05, "The Arkansas Board of Education on Monday classified 11 school districts, including the state’s second-largest system, as "fiscally distressed." Education Department staff members will provide technical assistance to the troubled districts. But if the problems are unresolved after two years, the state Board of Education is required by Act 1467 of 2003, the Omnibus Quality Education Act, [Act 1467 was promoted and steered through the legislative session by Ray Simon] to consolidate or otherwise reconstitute the troubled school district. Even within the two-year time frame for corrections, the state department staff has the authority to intervene in a district to require a superintendent to relinquish authority or suspend a school board or take other steps necessary to keep a school system solvent." (Quote taken from Arkansas Democrat Gazette by Cynthia Howell, April 12, 05)
In April, 05, the interim superintendent appointed to work through the problems at one of these school districts in fiscal distress, Helena-West Helena School District, sent out a letter to approximately 500 employees to inform them they may not have jobs next year. Forty-five certified teachers (20%) and 50% of the central office staff will be cut according to the letter from the interim superintendent. Everyone is terrified, and no one knows whose jobs will be cut. It is the end of the school year, and there is very little time to look for other jobs. (Information taken from article in Arkansas Democrat Gazette by Michelle Hillen, May 4, 05) This is the type of frightening thing that happens when government takes over the schools as Arkansas Act 1467 of 2003 allows and as NCLB will allow in the future. Arkansas is just getting a head start. And it was Ray Simon who probably wrote Act 1467. He definitely promoted it and helped steer it through the legislative session and praised it highly. Governor Huckabee also praised it highly and said it was almost their entire educational legislative package wrapped up in one law.
Ray Simon gave completely false information about scores at two schools in academic distress in Arkansas to the Joint Education committee on October 12, 2003. There was a rather lengthy discussion of these two schools which have been under the ADE supervisory capacity the last six years as legislators tried to pin Simon down as to what was really happening in these schools. Among other things, Simon told legislators, "our work has made a difference in terms of test scores [referring to these two schools] which is the primary measure by which we see whether the children are learning." However, at one of these schools, Altheimer, scores decreased from 19% Proficient to 16% Proficient while the state increased from 31% to 67% on the number of students scoring Proficient on the 4th grade math benchmark exam from 1998 to 2003. The ADE intervened at Altheimer in 1997. The other academic distressed school had similar results. For an article on this matter and the actual transcript, see http://www.wpaag.org/Test%20Scores%20False%20-%20USDOE%20%20Ray%20Simon.htm
3. Under Simon’s administration, an official ADE memo was issued in 1998 saying district personnel [teachers, administrators, counselors, etc.] are not permitted to read test items or student responses. To do so could result in criminal activity. ADE Memo: http://arkedu.state.ar.us/dirmemos/static/fy9899/106.html
4. Nationally normed standardized test scores for the three grade levels in Arkansas that are required to take the test for accountability purposes in 1991 were 67% in 5th grade, 60% in 7th grade, and 57% in 10th grade. The averages for the test scores for the last 7 years during Ray Simon's tenure are drastically lower: 51%, 50%, and 48%, respectively. Also see why these scores dropped at this link http://www.wpaag.org/Test%20Scores%20in%20AR%201984-2003%20-%20Why%20Lower.htm and a table of the scores at http://www.wpaag.org/Test%20Scores%20in%20AR%201984-2003.htm
5. Ray Simon directed the development of state benchmark criterion referenced tests. The president of the inexperienced testing company (chosen by the ADE under Simon's direction) that developed these tests for Arkansas, Advanced System, said, "We couldn’t afford to hire anybody who knew anything about tests, so we hired people who were bright and committed." (Quote from "The Little Firm That Could" by Debra Viadero in Teacher Magazine on the Web.)
This headline, “Benchmarks likely flawed, legislators say” appeared in Jonesboro Sun, Oct. 27, 2002, with this beginning paragraph, “ After hearing five hours of complex testimony over two days, the General Assembly’s education committees have concluded that Arkansas schools and parents should not put much stock in the scores released last month on fourth , sixth, and eight-grade Benchmark tests taken in April.” When the scores were first returned to the Department of Education in 2002, they were extremely low and were sent back for re-evaluation. When they were returned the second time and released publicly, the Governor declared them to be, “progress beyond our wildest dreams.”.
Benchmark criterion referenced tests in Arkansas show a steep slope of improvement, from 35% to 67% in one year, but scores on the nationally normed SAT-9 tests have remained relatively flat. In addition, benchmark scores in 2002 indicate that 65% of students are proficient, but the national NAEP scores indicate 29% are proficient despite the fact that the definition for proficient is verbatim on both NAEP and the state benchmark tests.
Ray Simon was in the process of doing away with nationally normed test in Arkansas. These tests would have been a way to check the accuracy of the miraculously improved Arkansas developed benchmark tests. He praised Act 1467, saying, " it develops a single comprehensive testing, assessment, and accountability assessment - a single system -to replace a multiple system which we had in the past." Some influential people became involved and stopped his efforts to totally do away with the nationally normed test through another law, Act 35. However, the Arkansas Department of Education circumvented most of that law. See http://www.wpaag.org/State%20Board%20Transcript%20-%20Act%2035.htm for the way they circumvented Act 35.
In fact, The Arkansas Department of Education under Ray Simon actually sabotaged the legislative efforts to improve education in Arkansas. Legislators were legislating in one direction, and the Arkansas Department of Education was going another. The ADE was and is actually using staff development and outcome based education experts to circumvent the efforts and goals of legislators. Legislation has moved toward standardized tests and objective, reportable assessment (in particular Act 35); but in staff development there has been a continuous, but sometime subtle, coercive pressure from about 1991 for teachers to do away with traditional objective letter grades and to substitute subjective measurements where students cannot be compared. See http://www.wpaag.org/Stiggins%20-%20Staff%20Development%20-%20No%20Grades.htm for this account.
6. In four different 50-state studies, Arkansas standards (curriculum frameworks) were given an F by Fordham Foundation both in 1998 and in 2000; a D by American Federation of Teachers, and a B- by Council for Basic Education. Only 8 states received below B- (Grade inflation). On Fordham’s study in 2000, Arkansas ranked 7th from the bottom. On Fordham’s 2003 evaluation of history standards, Arkansas received two points out of 30. For evaluation for three organizations, see: http://www.negp.gov/reports/arch2.htm
For Fordham's 2000 Report See: http://www.edexcellence.net/foundation/publication/publication.cfm?id=24
For history standards see: http://www.edexcellence.net/foundation/publication/publication.cfm?id=24
7. Surveys of teachers and superintendents indicate a vote of no confidence in Simon’s leadership. All Arkansas superintendents were surveyed in May, 2003, and twelve hundred teachers were surveyed.
· 32 superintendents said Simon promoted training that encouraged teachers to give bright students enrichment work [busy work] while they concentrated on students at the top of quartiles that could bring the school’s [and state] test scores up a little and to more or less forget about those students who couldn’t make it anyway. 113 superintendents (70%) said they heard this training from ADE or Co-op representatives
· 95% of the superintendents and 96% of teachers said, “The new educational reforms have been a top down approach with educational bureaucrats and/or legislators making most or all the significant decisions.
· 92% percent of teachers said, “The educational reforms are not addressing the real issues needed to provide a better education for students.
· 90% of teachers said, “The Arkansas State Department of Education is placing too much emphasis on test scores and coercing teachers to teach to the test.: There were many more negative ratings in the ninety percentile. For these surveys and a presentation to the Arkansas State Board on these surveys, see:
8. Simon enthusiastically supports the Math Crusades program that undermines basic math education. College textbooks used in Arkansas Math Crusades recommend "decreasing attention to Rote Practice, Memorization, One Answer and One Method, Use of Worksheets, Written Practice and Teaching by Telling." Math Crusades books say, “Grading can be detrimental to student willingness to learn and should be replaced.... In today’s climate, tests are inadequate and misleading as measures of achievement. " ADE Director Ray Simon highly praises math specialists trained by Math Crusades and says math specialists’ philosophy should be institutionalized in our schools.
9. Simon used OBE experts with bizarre philosophies and methods, to oversee staff development and testing. Willard Daggett and Douglas Reeves were two of these experts. Daggett has been advertised in several pamphlets across the nation as an "Eminent Outcome -Based Reformer & Implementer" who is "Shaping America's Future Through OBE Daggett also was hired to head up the Character Education under Governor Huckabee’s Smart Start initiative. In one of his presentations Daggett talks about the real possibility of biotech taking us to the point of “making life or death an option, rather than inevitable.”
Daggett has developed a reputation (reported in several papers) of making up his own research to support his philosophy and fabricating other personal success stories like claiming to be a president of a college when he was just a professor. Yet, thousands of dollars have been used to disseminate his character education material to counselors across the state. For articles on Daggett see
Douglas Reeves was the expert for standards and testing in Arkansas, and his videos were distributed throughout the state for teacher training. Reeves says in his books and writing that, "Competition is not part of the human spirit, but part of modern day psychosis.” Reeves doesn’t believe in nationally normed tests, in comparing different schools’ test scores, and says other forms of assessment are better than number or letter grades. Reflecting Reeves’ views, an Arkansas Smart Start (initiative directed by Simon) pamphlet praised two Arkansas schools for eliminating grades. For more on Reeves see http://www.wpaag.org/education%20alert.htm
A recent headline, April 27, 05, in Arkansas News headline stated "Sixty-four schools now in court over state funding laws." A quote from the article says, "The Sebastian County Circuit Court suit means 64 of the state's 254 districts have gone to court against the state." The foundation for much of the angst involved in these suits was laid when Ray Simon was Director of the Arkansas Department of Education and kept taking local control away from the schools. The schools on the whole felt then and now that the Arkansas State Department of Education is their enemy, not their ally.
Republicans have typically embraced local control. Do they and others who love freedom and democracy really want to endorse an autocrat that would blatantly strip away the parents’ right to control their children’s education? And why would anyone want to elevate to the US Department of Education a man who has this type of record as a Director of Arkansas State Department of Education?
This article can be found at http://www.wpaag.org/Simon%20Appointment%20Cause%20for%20Concern.htm and also on American Family Association website at http://www.afaar.org/Simon%20Appointment%20Cause%20for%20Concern.htm. If you have any trouble opening any of these links, go to www.wpaag.org and from the home page look for New and Featured Articles and most of them will be listed. Or go to www.wpaag.org and go to Educational Issues and you will find them on that page. Most of the links will also be found at American Family Association website, www.afaar.org, The website www.afaar.org is in transition at this time; and some of the punctuation has been corrupted on the www.wpaag.org website, but we hope that will be taken care of shortly. If you have any questions or have any difficulty in accessing the links, e-mail me at email@example.com
Jonesboro, Arkansas 72401