Monthly Archives: January 2013

Baseball Interlude: A Thoroughly Decent Human Being

Earlier this month baseball lost one of its best. Stan Musial died at age 92.

Musial was one of those players who transcended team. He played on the Cardinals for all of his 22 years in baseball, but was universally respected. Like Christy Mathewson, Lou Gehrig, and Henry Aaron, Musial was one of the good guys…a great player and a great human being. ABC wrote

No last name necessary.
A slew of batting titles. Corkscrew stance. Humble. A gentleman. All-around good guy.
Stan the Man.

Musial’s friend Bob Costas gave the eulogy at his funeral. He said,

“What was the hook with Stan Musial other than the distinctive stance and the role of one of baseball’s best hitters?” Costas said. “It seems that all Stan had going for him was more than two decades of sustained excellence as a ballplayer and more than nine decades as a thoroughly decent human being.”

Costas went on to tell about the two aspects of Musial’s life…his baseball and his decency.

I remember watching Musial play against the Cubs in the 50s and early 60s. I remember my dad (a Cub fan) talking about “Stan the Man” and how good he was: 3630 lifetime hits, a lifetime .331 batting average, 475 home runs, and a .989 fielding average. Musial was a great ballplayer…7 batting titles, 3-time National League MVP and 24 all star games.

The eulogy linked below is about 20 minutes long and is a great tribute to a great ball player. If that’s too long for non-baseball fans among you then skip to the second video below where Costas, a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, tells a story that epitomizes the kind of person Musial was.

Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.” — Quote inscribed on the base of Musial’s statue, attributed to former commissioner Ford Frick.

Costas Eulogy for Stan Musial

Costas, a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Costas on the Daily Show

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Not Everything that Counts can be Counted

Standardized tests do not and cannot measure everything which is important in school. The practice of using tests to evaluate schools, school districts and teachers is a misuse of testing. In their book Reducing the Risk, Increasing the Promise authors Sherrel Bergmann and Judith Allen Brough detail six skills which students, especially at risk students, require to be successful:

  • Resilience
  • Resourcefulness
  • Responsibility
  • Relationships
  • Respect
  • Reading

Of the six listed, only Reading is tested. Imagine trying to reduce the personal traits of resilience or respect to a series of multiple choice questions…obviously it can’t be done.

Yet these skills are essential if at risk students are to be successful in life. The overuse and misuse of standardized tests squeezes out essential experiences which help children develop these skills. The assumed purpose of the increased focus on testing is to improve the education of children. However, the unintended consequence of our nation’s testing obsession is that the damage to our children most at risk for failure is increased, not decreased.

The overview below is from Eye on Education. View the infographic on their page.

Infographic: Six Skills to Reduce the Risk and Increase the Promise of Your Students

In Reducing the Risk, Increasing the Promise: Strategies for Student Success, Sherrel Bergmann and Judith Allen Brough provide a clear path to follow for helping your at-risk students achieve success in and out of the classroom. Packed with actionable items for school leaders, teachers, and parents, this book provides a basis for effective communication between school and home, and important piece of the puzzle often overlooked.

This infographic outlines six skills students need to be successful in school, and in everyday life.

It’s way past time to find a way to educate our children to be more than just reading and math test takers.

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Indiana’s Education Policy — Cognitive Dissonance in Action

Indiana’s new governor, Mike Pence is picking up right where Mitch Daniels left off. In his State of the State address Pence described his education plan clearly…continue the privatization and destruction of Indiana’s public schools.

  1. He pledged not to restore the bulk of the $300 million that Daniels stripped from public school budgets over the last few years.
  2. He has promised an increase in public money going to private schools in the form of vouchers.
  3. He has offered to increase spending for those schools which are “successful” (read: high income) instead of increasing funding to schools which need it the most.

Teresa Meridith, ISTA Vice President said,

“He wants that funding to go to the highest performing schools and what he considers the best teachers,” said Meredith. “Once again, the programs and the opportunities that need to be there for our most impoverished children and our most challenged schools, he’s not looking at ways to support those schools or those students in any way.”

He’s also leading the charge to strip power from newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, who, it ought to be noted, received more votes than he did.

Dan Carpenter of wrote,

Expansion of vouchers whereby tax dollars are diverted from public schools to (predominantly religious) private schools. Could he not wait until the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled on the issue?

Bonuses to the “best-performing” schools and teachers, an unsavory concept that presumes educators work for financial incentives and threatens to make life worse for those who need the most help.

Partnerships between schools and business on the vocational level, an eminently good idea that already is in application and would be more widely so if it weren’t for budget cuts necessitated by those do-or-die standardized tests.

Oh, and lest we forget, Pence already had sent a clear message to his colleague [newly elected State Superintendent] Ritz on his first day in office when he signed an executive order shifting from her jurisdiction to his the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board, which oversees what’s left of teacher collective bargaining.

The cognitive dissonance which Indiana voters thrust upon themselves continues. Pence and the supermajorities in both houses of the state General Assembly are bent on starving public education while feeding private schools with taxpayer money. The denial of resources to the schools most in need will create a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. The state is abandoning the children who need the most help…and, once their failure is assured, the “reformers” will use that as an excuse for more privatization.

The basis which the “reformers” publicly use for privatization are wrong…public schools are not failing, standardized test scores are not valid instruments to evaluate schools and/or teachers, vouchers do take money away from the public schools, private schools and charter schools are not better than public schools, and poverty does matter.

Meanwhile Glenda Ritz, by her victory in November, has a mandate from the voters of Indiana to stop the attack on public schools.

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Just Let Me Teach

Mrs. H. is a teacher in the elementary school in which I volunteer. A dozen or so years ago we were Reading Recovery colleagues. We attended the same meetings, observed each other teaching and assessed each other’s students. Her advice to me during those years was valuable and insightful.

Reading Recovery is all but gone in our school system and we’ve both moved on…she has gone back to the classroom and I’ve retired.

I arrived at school yesterday ready to work with my students only to find that Mrs. H was using “my room” to test several of her students.

Focus on Testing

When I was teaching as a reading specialist/Reading Recovery teacher, I was already fighting the overemphasis on testing and the (IMHO) pedagogically poor practice of teaching to the test and obsessing over standards. General education classroom teachers were being forced into the “teach to the test” mode. My classroom had no such restrictions since I was pulling students out to remediate them. I could focus on “good teaching,” “best practices” and “authentic learning.” During staff meetings, and frankly, any time I had the chance, I argued against the move towards a “testing culture” in our school. Our principal became tired of my complaining and eventually told me to keep it to myself. He was correct only because I was directing my complaints to the wrong people. He had no control over what was coming from the Central Office, the State Department of Education and the Federal Department of Education.

As the years went on, and the “testing culture” grew I brought my argument to the central administration. I was no more successful in changing things, but I did at least, direct my arguments at the people in our system who could make a difference.

Just like in other school systems around the country, there have been significant changes in our local school district since I did my student teaching in one of our schools almost 40 years ago. When I started teaching I learned from other teachers that testing had a purpose…which was the diagnosis of student learning needs and the analysis of the effectiveness of my instruction. The content of a test must be aligned with the content of the curriculum, but I have learned that the written curriculum is only a small, albeit important, part of what goes on in elementary schools. Watching excellent teachers go from educating our children to “teaching the tested standards” has been frustrating, knowing that children are being denied important social and personal skills — as well as content not found in the singular attention to Literacy and Math instruction.

Eventually, even in my “protected” classroom position, “The Test” became all important. I was charged with coordinating the annual testing (along with our Guidance Counselor), analyzing the data and guiding the curriculum towards the tested standards. The timing worked out well for me. After a few years of having to focus on the tests my job was eliminated. There wasn’t enough money to afford the luxury of having support specialists in schools to help struggling students.

Freedom to Teach

When I retired I discovered that volunteering has a freedom I hadn’t experienced for a long time. The teachers I volunteer for know me and know that I have the skills to help their students so they allow me to use those skills. They let me teach.

Fast forward (do today’s children know what that phrase means?) to yesterday…

When Mrs. H was done with her testing and I moved back into “my room” we talked for a few minutes.

She asked me how “retirement” was and I talked about how nice it was to be able to teach…to focus on the needs of the students with whom I work, rather than the standards…to focus on trying to help children learn to read, instead of how far they need to be in order to pass the test.

She went back to her job…and I went to get my next student.

While I was helping the student — a first grader — it occurred to me that I was teaching. I wasn’t “working on skills,” “prepping for assessment,” or “teaching standards.” I had no such restrictions…just some time to help a 6 year old understand the reading process and learn to grow intellectually.

When my student went back to her classroom I reached into my bag and pulled out a wristband which I had ordered from a group on Facebook. The wristbands are popping up all over the country…and I bought a number of them to share with other teachers.

They say, simply, Just Let Me Teach.

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Leading Educators Support Teacher Test Boycott


Date: January 21, 2013

Brian Jones, Teacher and Doctoral Student,
Wayne Au, Professor of Education,


In a public statement released today, more than sixty educators and researchers, including some of the most well-respected figures in the field of education, pledged support for the boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test initiated by the teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, calling the action a “blow against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.” Among the signers of the statement are former US Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, author Jonathan Kozol and professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige. While the MAP test is used exclusively for rating teachers, “the test’s developers (the Northwest Evaluation Association) have noted the inappropriateness of using tests for such evaluations” the educators wrote.

“We’ve had more than a decade of standardized testing,” Ravitch said, “and now we need to admit that it’s not helping.” She added: “By signing this statement, I hope to amplify the voices of teachers who are saying ‘enough is enough’.”

“On Martin Luther King Day, we celebrate people who are willing to take personal risks to act according to their conscience,” Lewis said. “The teachers at Garfield High School are taking a stand for all of us.”

New York City public school teacher and doctoral student Brian Jones drafted the statement last week and received help with revisions and outreach from University of Washington professor Wayne Au. “I’m overwhelmed by the response to this statement,” Jones said, “I feel like this is the beginning of a real movement to challenge high stakes standardized testing.”

“We contacted leading scholars in the field of education,” Au said, “and nearly every single one said ‘Yes, I’ll sign.’ The emerging consensus among researchers is clear: high stakes standardized tests are highly problematic, to say the least.”

“When I look at this list of names, I see the people whose work helped to make me the teacher I am today,” Jesse Hagopian, a teacher at Garfield High School said. “Their support really means a lot to me, and I know that many teachers at Garfield High School feel the same way.”



To fulfill the requirements of the No Child Left Behind legislation, schools in all 50 states administer standardized tests to students, often beginning in third grade, in reading and math. Now, in response to the demands of Race to the Top and the trend toward greater “accountability” in education, states are developing even more tests for more subjects. Standardized tests, once used primarily to assess student learning, have now become the main instrument for the high-stakes evaluation of teachers, administrators, and even entire schools and school systems.

Standardized testing is consuming an ever-growing proportion of education budgets nationwide. The total price tag may be nearly two billion dollars (1). Texas alone spent, last year, $90 million on standardized testing (2). These tests are not a one hour or one day affair, but now can swallow up whole weeks of classroom time (3). In Chicago, some students must complete 13 standardized tests each year (4).

In the name of “raising standards” the growth of high stakes standardized testing has effectively lowered them. As the stakes for standardized tests are raised higher and higher, administrators and teachers have been forced to spend less time on arts, sciences, social studies, and physical education, and more time on tested subjects. The pressure to prepare students for standardized exams forces teachers to narrow instruction to only that material which will be tested (5). With the fate of whole schools and school systems at stake, cheating scandals have flourished, exposing many reform “miracles” in the process (6). Worse, focusing so much energy on testing undermines the intrinsic value of teaching and learning, and makes it more difficult for teachers and students to pursue authentic teaching and learning experiences.

As a means of assessing student learning, standardized tests are limited. No student’s intellectual process can be reduced to a single number. As a means of assessing teachers, these results are even more problematic. Research suggests that much of the variability in standardized test results is attributable to factors OTHER than the teacher (7). So-called “value-added” models for teacher evaluation have a large margin of error, and are not reliable measures of teacher performance (8).

In a nearly unanimous vote, the staff at Garfield High school in Seattle decided to refuse to administer the district’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. Research has shown that this test has no significant impact on reading scores (9). While serving other low-stakes district purposes in the Seattle Public Schools, it is only used as a high-stakes measure for teachers, even though the test’s developers (the Northwest Evaluation Association) have noted the inappropriateness of using tests for such evaluations. In taking this action, the educators at Garfield High School have struck a blow against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests, and deserve support. We, the undersigned (10), stand with these brave teachers and against the growing standardized testing industrial complex.


Jean Anyon
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Wayne Au
University of Washington, Bothell
Rethinking Schools

Bill Ayers
University of Illinois, Chicago

Jeff Bale
Michigan State University
Kenneth Bernstein
Maya Angelou Public Charter Middle School

Bill Bigelow
Rethinking Schools

Steve Brier
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Anthony Brown
University of Texas, Austin

Nancy Carlsson-Paige
Lesley University

Noam Chomsky
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Linda Christensen
Rethinking Schools

Anthony Cody
Education Week Teacher Magazine

Antonia Darder
Loyola Marymount University

Noah DeLissovoy
University of Texas, Austin

Michelle Fine
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Nancy Flanagan
Education Week Teacher Magazine

Ofelia Garcia
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Alice Ginsburg

Gene Glass
University of Colorado, Boulder

Paul Gorski
George Mason University

Rico Gutstein
University of Illinois, Chicago

Helen Gym
Asian American United
Rethinking Schools

Leonie Haimson
Class Size Matters

Brian Jones
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Stan Karp
Rethinking Schools

Jonathan Kozol

Kevin Kumashiro
University of Illinois, Chicago
National Association for Multicultural Education

Zeus Leonardo
California State University, Long Beach

Karen Lewis
Chicago Teachers Union

Pauline Lipman
University of Illinois, Chicago

Barbara Madeloni
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Nicholas Michelli
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Alex Molnar
University of Colorado, Boulder
National Education Policy Center

National Association for Multicultural Education

Sonia Nieto
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Pedro Noguera
New York University

Edward Olivos
University of Oregon

Celia Oyler
Teachers College, Columbia University

Thomas Pedroni
Wayne State University

Emery Petchauer
Oakland University

Bob Peterson
Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association
Rethinking Schools

Anthony Picciano
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Bree Picower
Montclair State University

Thomas S. Poetter
Miami University

Diane Ravitch
New York University

Kristen A. Renn
Michigan State University

Rethinking Schools

John Rogers
University of California, Los Angeles

Kenneth J. Saltman
DePaul University, Chicago

Nancy Schniedewind
State University of New York, New Paltz

Ira Shor
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Timothy D. Slekar
Penn State University, Altoona

Christine Sleeter
California State University, Monterey Bay

Jody Sokolower
Rethinking Schools

Joel Spring
Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York

David Stovall
University of Illinois, Chicago

Katy Swalwell
George Mason University

Melissa Bollow Tempel
Milwaukee Public Schools
Rethinking Schools

Paul Thomas
Furman University

Wayne Urban
University of Alabama

Angela Valenzuela
University of Texas, Austin

Stephanie Walters
Rethinking Schools

Kathleen Weiler
Tufts University

Lois Weiner
New Jersey City University

Kevin Welner
University of Colorado, Boulder
National Education Policy Center

Kathy Xiong
Milwaukee Public Schools
Rethinking Schools

Yong Zhao
Author and Scholar


1. Chingos, M. M. (2012). Strength in Numbers: State Spending on K-12 Assessment Systems. Brookings Institution.
2. Cargile, E. (May 3, 2012). “Tests’ price tag $90 million this year”. Kxan Investigates, (NBC).
3. Dawer, D. (December 29, 2012) “Standardized Testing is Completely Out of Control”.
4. Vevea, B. (November 26, 2012) “More standardized tests, more Chicago parents looking for ways out”.
5. Au, W. (2007). High-stakes testing and curricular control: A qualitative metasynthesis. Educational Researcher, 36(5), 258-267.
6. Pell, M.B. (September 30, 2012). “More cheating scandals inevitable, as states can’t ensure test integrity”. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
7. Baker, E. L., Barton, P. E., Darling-Hammond, L., Haertel, E., Ladd, H. F., Linn, R. L., … & Shepard, L. A. (2010). Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute. See also: DiCarlo, M. (July 14, 2010). “Teachers Matter, But So Do Words”. Shanker Blog, The Voice of the Albert Shanker Institute.
8. Schafer, W. D., Lissitz, R. W., Zhu, X., Zhang, Y., Hou, X., & Li, Y. Evaluating Teachers and Schools Using Student Growth Models. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 17(17), 2.
9. Cordray, D., Pion, G., Brandt, C., Molefe, A., & Toby, M. (2012). The Impact of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Program on Student Reading Achievement. Final Report. NCEE 2013-4000. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.
10. All signatures represent individual opinions, not institutional endorsements, unless specified. To add your signature to this statement, send an email with your name and affiliation(s) to:

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Indiana – Two Different Directions and Public Schools Lose

In Indiana’s last election, Glenda Ritz defeated incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett. Bennett is a nationally known “reformer” who was instrumental in bringing vouchers and corporate charters to Indiana. (After he lost his job in Indiana, Florida hired him to be their Commissioner of Education.)

Ritz, a national board certified teacher, ran on a campaign of more teaching and less testing, more local control for implementing standards, safe and respectful schools, high standards for educators, improved vocational education, and reserving public dollars for public schools.

When the votes were counted Glenda Ritz had received 1.3 million of them and had beaten Bennett.

Unfortunately for the voters of Indiana, Newly elected Superintendent Ritz is being stifled in her desire to implement some of the changes which they, the voters, approved by her election…even before she begins.

One of Bennett’s last acts as outgoing superintendent was to lead the State Board of Education in the adoption of REPA 2, a plan which actually lowers requirements and qualifications by which someone becomes a teacher or school administrator in Indiana.

So much for high standards for educators.

In addition, the people who, through their votes, spoke loudly their objection to the Bennett-led education initiatives (apparently) didn’t stop to think that the laws weren’t made by Bennett…but by the legislative and executive branch of the state government. Not only did Indiana voters elect an anti-public education governor, not only did they return the anti-public education majority to both houses of the legislature, but they increased the number of those legislators who now have a super-majority in both houses. In other words, voters elected Ritz based on education issues, but failed to support those same issues in other election races. In that way, Tony Bennett may have lost in Indiana, but his policies won a clear and powerful victory.

Now that her opponents have a super-majority in the legislature and continued occupation of the governor’s office, Superintendent Ritz is feeling the push back directed at her for defeating Bennett.

House majority party members wasted no time in introducing bills which would reduce the strength of the office of Superintendent.

House Bill 1251, which would remove the requirement that at least four members of the State Board of Education be actively employed in Indiana schools and hold a teaching license.

Another bill, HB 1309, looks like a clear effort to marginalize Ritz. Sponsored by House Education Committee Chairman Robert Behning, an Indianapolis florist, it requires the State Board to elect a vice chairman who:

1. Presides over meetings in the absence of the state superintendent of public instruction; and

2. May call meetings, set and amend agendas, arrange for witnesses, and carry out other administrative functions related to the meetings of the state board.

…Handing the authority to call meetings, set and amend agendas, arrange for witnesses and carry out other administrative functions to one of his appointees is clearly an end-run around the Nov. 6 election results.

The Poor Get Poorer

The budget from the governor’s office offers an increase in education funding…for those schools which “show improvement.” Here, the phrase, “show improvement,” means nothing more than increasing test scores. The idea of rewarding schools which improve test scores will increase gaming the system and outright cheating. It denies the fact that outside forces have any impact on the educational achievement of children. It is the exact opposite of what needs to be done…which is to provide more resources to help schools where children are struggling. Instead, the Governor is choosing to punish those schools and children.

Anyone who read Governor Pence’s stance on education would have realized that this would be his direction. His campaign web site and information about education clearly implies more reliance on testing (“Improving the math and reading skills of elementary students”), using test scores to evaluate teachers and schools (“increasing rewards for great schools and great teachers”), and more money for corporate charter schools and vouchers (“Support expanded choice”). This was no stealth campaign. His position was clearly to continue the legacy of Tony Bennett.

So much for more teaching and less testing.

Indeed, one of the first things on the legislative majority’s agenda was to increase the amount of public money spent on private schools by changing the rules about vouchers. Glenda Ritz may have been elected by voters who wanted to “reserve public dollars for public schools,” but those same voters elected a super-majority of legislators who want to fund private and parochial schools with public dollars.

Pence’s platform included more “choice” — the buzz word for giving public money to private corporations through charters and parochial schools through vouchers. So did his party’s platform which applauded the previous legislature’s success in passing (Bennett’s package of) “opportunity scholarships for thousands of Hoosier school children, teacher merit pay and accountability; and the expansion of charter schools.” The current platform calls for more of the same.

So much for reserving public money for public schools.

A Pyrrhic Victory

One the one hand, Indiana voters elected Glenda Ritz to end the Bennett program of privatization and testing, but on the other hand, they elected Mike Pence and a super-majority of legislators to continue the Bennett program of privatization and testing.

Superintendent Ritz can’t change the laws. She can’t fight the governor and the legislature alone. She can’t fulfill her campaign promises which the voters approved, when those same voters slammed the door in her face through their choices for legislators and executives.

Which way does Indiana want to go? We won’t know until the next election. In the meantime, Bennett’s policies are alive and well in Indiana.

!! Attention Ritz Supporters !!

If you live in Indiana follow what the legislature is doing on education issues and contact your legislator regularly. Let them know that you want

  • more teaching and less testing
  • more local control for implementing standards
  • safe and respectful schools
  • high standards for educators
  • improved vocational education
  • and public dollars for public schools.
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Filed under Corporate Charters, Pence, Ritz, Tony Bennett, vouchers

Indiana Legislators

The webmaster of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (me!) just posted three important resources on the NEIFPE web site.

Use these when it’s time to write to Indiana Representatives and Senators.

Indiana House Members

Indiana Senate Members

Indiana Legislative Education Committees

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