Posted in Article Medleys, Gates, GradingSchools, Jonathan Kozol, poverty, Public Ed, reading, Segregation

2013 Medley #18

Public Education, Bill Gates,
Grading Schools, Segregation, Reading


Deck Chairs on the Titanic Failure of American Education

We’re doing the opposite of what our children need and deserve.

Stress inhibits learning, so we design stressful expectations; dopamine (from pleasurable activities) enhances learning, so we remove joy from schools; homework has very limited usefulness with negative returns after an hour or so (for elementary age kids), so we demand more hours of work; the importance of exercise in brain development is inarguable, so we eliminate recess and gym; the arts are central to human understanding, but we don’t have time.

I have been accused of complaining but not offering solutions, so here’s a solution: Properly fund schools and allow good teachers to select the materials and pedagogy that serve the actual students in their care. The rest will take care of itself.

And we can take the billions we’re wasting on NCLB, RTTT, Common Core and other nonsense and spend it to improve the lives of the shameful number of children who live in poverty in the “richest nation on Earth.”


Will Indiana schools reject grades?

Fort Wayne school board and South Bend school board have both rejected the state’s A-F grading system after the former state school chief Tony Bennett was caught manipulating school grades to benefit one of his supporter’s charter school.

Let’s hope that other Indiana school systems follow suit. A full scale A-F rejection by the state’s school boards would send a strong message to the legislature.

But celebrating “A schools” suggests the grades were earned. If those schools deserved their As, does it mean other schools in the district deserved the D and F grades they received? Is that really the message that school officials want to send to students, teachers and the public?

Retired Indiana educator speaks out against A-F grading system

NEIFPE co-founder Phyllis Bush has written a letter describing the weakness of the A-F grading system for schools.

While our legislators assume that the reason a family would choose a school is because of a dubious letter grade, I would counter that people choose schools for a variety of reasons, the least of which is an arbitrary grade. Perhaps, many people choose their schools because they want their children to attend neighborhood schools within walking distance from home. Some choose schools because of programs like Montessori or New Tech or IB. Some choose schools because of music or arts programs. Some choose schools because they have talked to friends and neighbors and church members and found that a particular school seems like a good fit for their child. I have never heard anyone say that their kids are going to this or that school because of the State letter grade any more than I remember any kid ever coming back years later to walk down memory lane to remember some awesome test I gave.


Breaking News: School Segregation Study Strikes A Nerve

This article is about Texas, but it applies to the entire nation. Schools are more segregated today than ever…segregated by economic status, race and language.

Read Jonathan Kozol’s The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America (2006)

Every educator knows that a child’s performance in school has more to do with what happens in their home than with their teachers. A child who doesn’t speak English at home or whose parents are not educated will not do as well on tests. A child who has to work to support their family has less time to study.

…In the past, schools and districts received ratings based on solely on how well the children scored on standardized tests. If a school or district failed to meet state expectations after three years, parents could pull their kids out and the state could shut the schools down.

That led to high turnover in struggling schools, where principals and teachers complained that they could only accomplish so much in a such a short period of time. Educators felt punished for agreeing to teach the state’s most difficult pupils.

[NOTE: For those interested in The Shame of the Nation here’s an interesting blog in which four students read, discuss and analyze the book. Start with the oldest entry and work up.]


How the ‘reading wars’ are being reignited

The NCTQ so-called “ratings” of teacher education programs was a farce. They never visited any schools choosing instead to simply look at syllabi and course titles.

They claimed to use scientific based criteria for evaluation, however, when it came to the “requirements” that NCTQ demanded for Reading instruction…

…NCTQ claims the panel was sorting based on the presence of a “scientific basis,” to each textbook, their ratings prove them wrong. For example, Marie Clay, the founder of Reading Recovery and godmother of emergent literacy, is listed eight times, and each time deemed either unacceptable or irrelevant to the study of early literacy. Reading Recovery is the only reading program that has received the highest rating for evidence of positive effects from the Institute for Education Science’s What Works Clearinghouse.


‘Teachers’ Letters To Bill Gates’ Website Reveals 7 Major Things Educators Want The Mogul To Know

Bill Gates needs to listen to teachers…they obviously know more about education than he does. If he wants to spend his money to improve education he ought to donate it for jobs and health care.

7. Schools should teach children things that can’t be tested, too.
6. One size does not fit all in education.
5. Teacher evaluations should not be heavily tied to test scores.
4. Not all reformers have it right.
3. Give education professionals a seat at the table.
2. No Child Left Behind was bad.
1. Implementing Common Core standards will not fix things.


Christie mocks educators and the people of Camden. Who cares?

Governor Christie in New Jersey is like Mayor Emanuel in Chicago. Neither would accept for their own children the kind of education they demand for the poor…untrained teachers and administrators, large class sizes, lack of support personnel, lack of fine arts, inadequate resources…

Christie has appointed someone with minimal experience to lead the Camden NJ schools. He doesn’t believe that experience in the field of education matters, at least not in schools where ‘other’ children attend.

On Monday morning, an obedient state school board will kick dirt in the faces of public school employees who cherished educational leadership as a profession. The tools of the rich will once again be used against the poor.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!

Article Medleys, Gates, GradingSchools, Jonathan Kozol, poverty, Public Ed, reading, Segregation

Posted in Teacher Licensing, Teaching Career, Testing

Test Scores: Punishing Teachers

Teaching Credentials

There’s one simple reason that “reformers” don’t respect teacher training and experience, education degrees and teachers’ credentials in general — most “reformers” don’t have any. Take a look at this short list of some of the loudest voices in “reform.”

  • Michael Bloomberg (Mayor of NYC, Billionaire) – Johns Hopkins, Electrical Engineering – Harvard, MBA
  • Eli Broad (Billionaire) – Michigan State, Accounting
  • George W. Bush (President when NCLB was passed) – Yale, History
  • Jeb Bush (Former Governor of Florida, Presidential Hopeful) – University of Texas (Austin), Latin American Studies
  • Arne Duncan (US Secretary of Education) – Harvard, Sociology (See information on previous US Secretaries of Education here)
  • Rahm Emanuel (Mayor of Chicago) – Sara Lawrence, Liberal Arts – Northwestern University, Speech and Communications
  • Bill Gates (Billionaire) – Harvard, did not graduate
  • Joel Klein (Former Chancellor, NYC Public Schools) – Harvard, JD Law
  • Barack Obama (Current President, RttT Era) – Occidental College/Columbia, Political Science – Harvard, JD Law  
  • Michelle Rhee (Students First, former TFA teacher) – Cornell, Government – Harvard, Masters Public Policy
  • Alice Walton (Billionaire) – Trinity University (San Antonio), Economics and Finance

This is by no means a complete list, and there are some “reformers” — notably (at least for us in Indiana) Tony Bennett, the former state superintendent of education in Indiana and Florida — who were, at one time, actual teachers.

If you don’t have any education credentials and want to challenge or affect national education policy it’s important that you give yourself the appearance of competence. The people in the above list have chosen to do that, at least in part, by attempting to reduce the value of education licenses, degrees and experience.

In order to promote the lie that “the problem with America’s public education is bad teachers” the credibility of teachers, their training, degrees and experience must be denied and destroyed. The value, then, of advanced degrees is denied, requirements for teaching in public schools, for becoming a principal or superintendent are lowered, and teachers unions are blamed for “protecting bad teachers.” The common refrain from “reformers” is that anyone who knows a particular subject area can teach better than someone who goes through a four year teacher training program. Politicians give lip service to how difficult teaching is and how important it is to have excellent teachers in the classroom, but the actions of politicians, pundits and policy makers contradicts those statements.

The myth of the bad teacher resonates with the general public in part because nearly everyone has been to school and has seen teachers teach. Everyone remembers a “bad” teacher — often defined as “a teacher my parents or I didn’t like” (This is not to deny that “bad” teachers exist, but many, if not most, are weeded out in the first 5 years of their career where nearly 50% quit or are “counseled” out). The memories of their childhood and/or young adulthood in school leads people to believe that teaching is simply providing information and being nice to children. The problem with this is that the memories are distorted by the fact that they are childhood memories complete with the lack of judgment and experience that comes with childhood.

Those of us who have spent any substantial length of time in public school classrooms know how hard it is…we know the obstacles that exist to learning — lack of administrative and/or parental support, lack of materials, childhood poverty, poor facilities, and a myriad of other daily troubles that interfere with teaching and learning. Our opinion, however, like our credentials, is ignored or marginalized.

All over the country teachers are being evaluated with student test scores. The practice is invalid and unreliable, but “reformers” can use low test scores in high poverty areas as “proof” that

  • schools are failing
  • failing schools are fill with bad teachers
  • bad teachers and schools must be replaced with charter schools or voucher supported private schools.

It comes as no surprise then that the next step in the defamation of professional educators is the denial of teachers’ ability to teach by using student test scores as a weapon…and here it is.

Draconian Policy for Weak Teachers

It had to happen eventually. Tennessee will revoke the licenses of teachers whose students fail to post progress on standardized tests (“Teachers Face License Loss,” The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 17). Evidently it isn’t enough to fire these teachers. They have to be punished, and what better way to do so than preventing them from ever teaching again.

Although Rhode Island, Louisiana and Delaware are also considering pulling the licenses of teachers whose students consistently fail to improve test scores, Tennessee is the predictable center of the strategy. It was at the University of Tennessee in 1992 that William Sanders constructed the controversial value-added model being used to evaluate teachers. The state has already abolished collective bargaining for teachers and made it harder for them to earn tenure.

I expect to see other states joining this Draconian movement. I don’t know of any other way to describe it. If the ostensible goal is to improve instruction for students, then why not provide underperforming teachers with help? If they don’t improve after a reasonable period of time, then more drastic action is warranted.

Student test scores now linked to teachers’ licenses

…in a handful of states — Tennessee being the newest, joining Louisiana, Delaware and Rhode Island — some teachers seeking to renew their teaching licenses have to meet certain test-score standards.

Never mind that the standardized tests weren’t designed to evaluate teachers, and that testing experts have warned against using these scores for high-stakes decisions.

The test score madness grows.

“Reformers” are understandably excited about this. Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education with no qualifications, is effusive in his praise for this insane policy. Now we can get rid of trained, licensed teachers if they can’t single-handedly overcome the effects of poverty or cure learning disabilities in their classrooms.

Duncan Hails Tennessee for Tying Teacher Licenses to Test scores

“I want to praise Tennessee’s continuing effort to improve support and evaluation for teachers. For too long, in too many places, schools systems have hurt students by treating every teacher the same – failing to identify those who need support and those whose work deserves particular recognition. Tennessee has been a leader in developing systems that do better—and that have earned the support of a growing number of teachers. Tennessee’s new teacher licensure rules continue that effort, by ensuring that decisions on licensure are informed by multiple measures of their effectiveness in the classroom, including measures of student learning. The new system also adds reasonable safeguards to make sure any judgment about teacher performance is fair.”

This is a death sentence for the teaching profession.

The Beat Goes On

In order to continue the destruction of public education and the profession of teaching, new “reformers,” who also have little or no education qualifications, must be appointed to run school systems.

Christie Appoints Very Young Former Wall St. Analyst as Camden Superintendent

Rouhanifard has, at best, six years of experience in the education sector. We’ll find out soon where he did his TFA stint, but I’d lay even odds it was at a charter school*. And it looks like his administrative experience was solely in the front office: he hasn’t run a school, written curriculum, overseen district-level finance, worked in student services…

Look, a LinkedIn resume sometimes masks important work experience. I’ll wait until we know more, but for now: no degrees in education, no experience running a district or even being second- or even third-in-command, no principal experince, very limited teaching experience… and, I’m sorry to say this but it’s true, limited life experience.

Connecticut Commissioner Puts Uncertified Charter Leader in Charge of Turnarounds

Stefan Pryor was named state commissioner of education in Connecticut two years ago.

He was a co-founder of the Achievement First charter chain, which has achieved a certain notoriety for its sky-high suspension rates (even in kindergarten), inflated graduation rates, and its very low numbers of English language learners (or none at all).

…Many “reformers” see certification as an unnecessary hoop or hurdle through which talented people must jump. But every profession has some form of qualifying process, by examination or course-taking or something.

Hairdressers need to be licensed by the state. So do morticians.

Should education function without any qualifications for those who would teach or administer schools?

Career teachers have been systematically left out of the nation’s public education policy making. Their qualifications have been called into question. They are being blamed for all the ills affecting public schools and if any dare to raise a hand in objection they are silenced.

The movement to privatize public education and reduce America’s teaching force to untrained temps is continuing without pause.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!
Posted in Finland, Public Ed, Ravitch

We Cannot Be Ignored


I waver back and forth between feeling DESPAIR and thinking we can’t possibly compete with the billions and billions of dollars being poured into school “reform” by the foundations of Bill Gates, Eli Broad and Alice Walton…and thinking that we do have HOPE that somehow we’ll get our message across that school “reform” is actually a thinly-veiled movement to privatize public education. It’s true we have numbers — very likely a majority of the 3+ million public school teachers in the country — a large number of parents who are aware of what’s going on, and social media to connect us all. The “reformers” on the other hand, have both major political parties and the media.

On the HOPE side are people who are spreading the word.

This morning I watched a presentation at Vanderbilt University by Finnish Educator, Pasi Sahlberg, author of Finnish Lessons. In the two hour presentation he talked about the differences between the countries who are now under the status quo of GERM, the Global Education Reform Movement, and Finland. He listed 5 differences…and the Finnish alternative to each. It’s his contention that these, along with other changes made to their education system (especially changes in teacher training) has made the Finnish public school system one of the best in the world. In a nutshell, then, here’s what he said (for a more in depth look, see his book, Finnish Lessons),

  1. Instead of academics, focus on the whole child. Take a holistic approach to education.
  2. Instead of standardization, move towards personalization.
  3. Instead of competition, build community. He said that there is a lot of competition in Finnish society, but not in education.
  4. Instead of choices for different schools, establish equity. Give the schools what they need to do the job no matter where they are.
  5. Instead of accountability develop responsibility, and trust.

At the end of the 11 minute clip below he said, “Don’t try this at home” meaning that we can’t just transplant the “Finnish Model” in the US and expect it to work the same way. At the end of the talk he said that instead we should use Finland as an example of hope…that change is at least possible.

In order to change our direction in education and adapt some of the things that have worked in places like Finland we would, he said, have to work together in a unified way…something not likely to happen in the US right now.

How can we, supporters of public education, overcome the damage and misinformation coming from the corporate offices of the Gates, Broad and Walton Foundations, groups like Stand For Children and Students First, governor’s offices and statehouses across the country, and the US Department of Education?


Another voice on the HOPE side is Diane Ravitch, one of the nations most vocal supporters of public education. She has a new book coming out in a little less than a month (pre-order here). Yet, before the book has even been released, the privatizers and “reformers” are attacking it. After accusing Ravitch of making straw man arguments and ad hominem attacks on “reformers”, Peter Cunningham does exactly the same thing in attacking a book he hasn’t even read yet.

Monitored and Ignored: Ravitch and the Rest of Us

Discussing Cunningham’s article, Anthony Cody wrote that that we have to present facts in such a way as to make it impossible to ignore.

…Unless we actually connect in such a compelling way that we cannot be ignored. That is what happened when I pointed out that President’s off the cuff comments at a town hall meeting were actually a devastating critique of his own administration’s policies. That earned me an email from one of Peter Cunningham’s staff, Justin Hamilton, with the subject line “correction to your post,” offering to “clarify any confusion” over the administration’s position. This was the most substantive exchange, as he had put himself in a position where I could ask him some real questions in order to clear up all this confusion. This exchange even made it into the New York Times.

And it is about to happen again, in spades, when Diane Ravitch releases her new book. That book will be the best rebuttal to Cunningham that we could wish for. It is packed with evidence of the failure of the phony reform project led by Duncan and Gates. And solid proposals to improve education for all children.

I have two thoughts about the fact that critics are trashing Dr. Ravitch’s book even before it’s published. On one hand, they are not going to let her get away with telling the truth without a fight. This “review” by Cunningham is, I’m afraid, just the beginning of an all-out attack by “reformers.” On the other hand, and more important, if “reformers” are attacking her book before it’s published, then they know that it is now impossible to ignore her.


I’m reminded of the words of Randy Olson, a marine biologist and filmmaker whose 2006 film, A Flock of Dodos highlighted the debate between proponents of Intelligent Design and the scientific consensus that supports evolution (Actually I was reminded of the film just last week when it was mentioned in another blog somewhere which I can’t remember).

He talked about getting the message out…and I think his words have some meaning for public education supporters in our current situation. To paraphrase his words from the end of the film so they reflect our topic here…

So in America today we now have two voices for public education. The first voice, that of supporters of public education, is handicapped by its blind obsession with the truth. The second voice, emerging from corporate board rooms, hedge fund operators, politicians, and billionaire philanthropists, understands the need to tell simple, clean stories not constrained by the truth.

There’s a famous quote that nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolution. We can modify this quote to account for our situation now by saying that nothing in our society today makes sense, except in the light of the information explosion.

Our cultural environment has changed drastically over the past 50 years as we’ve witnessed our knowledge and information increase exponentially. The result of this changed environment is a general public that is less interested in processing the surpluses of information they’re handed. And this has led to new techniques for mass communication.

Privatizers and “reformers” have figured out the need for simple slogans, and instead of wasting time explaining entire stories to the general public, they know how to jump to the conclusions and provide followers with what have come to be known as the talking points…

  • public schools are failing
  • the problem is bad teachers
  • the problem is bad schools of education
  • testing will solve everything
  • poverty is just an excuse to fail
  • …and on and on and on…

And so we’re faced with a question of who will dictate public education policy for our society. Will it be the supporters of public schools? Or will it be the privatizing “reformers?”

Will public school advocates adapt to this new communication environment, or will they go the way of species who failed to change along with their environment?

We have to “connect in such a compelling way that we cannot be ignored”. Our voices must be heard above the money…


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!
Posted in Chicago, library, Public Ed

A School Loses its Library

Can you remember the school library in your elementary school? Csn you remember the rows and rows of books…the tables and chairs…the check-out desk…the card catalog (if you’re old enough!) and computers?

What would you do if your child’s school had no library? Imagine, if you can, an elementary school without a library. Imagine a school where the only books for students were the ones in their classrooms.

Imagine no shelves full of picture books for kindergartners and first graders, no fiction section filled with Beverly Cleary or Roald Dahl, no poetry corner with Jack Prelutsky or Shel Silverstein, no baseball or football books, no books about dinosaurs, space and animals, no biographies or atlases.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a school without a library…

…yet there are over 150 such elementary schools in Chicago.

At one of them, Whittier Elementary School, parents, teachers and community members used an old fieldhouse near the school as a library. Over the past few years they took donations of books from all over the world so that their children would have a school library. In 2010, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) claimed that the building was unsafe and wanted it demolished. Parents camped in the building and fought to save it until CPS finally agreed to renovate the building so it would be safe.

The renovation never happened.

The parents at Whittier Elementary School may not have been aware of research which shows that access to books is one of the most important factors in a child’s achievement level. They may not have been aware that access to books is one of the most important ways to fight the effects of poverty. They just knew that books were important at school…and that CPS didn’t care enough to provide their school with a school library. So they fought for and built one themselves.

On Friday evening, August 16, 2013, CPS brought in bulldozers to destroy the building. Since the school system reneged on its promise to renovate the building, it was still unsafe.

A handful of protesters blocked the demolition until they were arrested on Saturday morning. [Read about it here, here, here and here. See videos of the arrests and demolition here.]

Can you imagine an elementary school without a school library?

Can you imagine a public school system destroying a school’s library instead of repairing it?

What if this school had been in a wealthy, white neighborhood? What if this was a school that Mayor Emanuel’s children attended…or a school that a school board member’s child attended?

[UPDATE: CPS skips permit in demolition of Whittier school fieldhouse.]


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!
Posted in Article Medleys, Chicago, Common Core, Gates, JimHorn, poverty, reading

2013 Medley #17

Bill Gates, Reading Wars, Poverty,
Chicago, Common Core,
Jim Horn


Gates pours millions in new grants to change teaching profession

Bill Gates is still meddling with public education…throwing his money around (“but you can’t solve problems by throwing money at them”), damaging the American public school system in the process, and NEA is buying right into it. What strings are attached to the more than $6 million in grants for the NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education? The NEA leadership team has already caved on Common Core (in fact almost $4 million is for common core lessons)…what next?

Take a look a where else money is going…aside from a few school systems, Gates is giving money to “reformers” like Stand on for Children and Educators for Excellence.

Valerie Strauss had this to say,

Harvard University got $1.6 million to “test a new model of teacher evaluation that increases teacher ownership and buy-in, reduces administrative burden, and provides an auditable artifact to ensure and maintain reliable scoring.”

…After already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the subject of teacher evaluation, it is interesting that the foundation seems to think teachers need to have more ownership and buy-in of the assessment process. Really now, it didn’t have to take hundreds of millions of dollars to learn that, of course, and it doesn’t take $1.6 million to Harvard either; the model has long existed in, for example, Montgomery County, Md., where teachers lead the successful evaluation system (without the high-stakes use of standardized test scores). Any good teacher in any school could have told the Gates folks that for free.

I think it would be nice if Gates changed his plan…start giving his millions in grants to local public schools so they could stay open and improve…like in Philadelphia or Chicago…you know, where real children live and real public school systems are in trouble because of “reformer” meddling.

In the meantime, I’m going to write to my friends in NEA and let them know how disappointed I am that they have sold out…

The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education
Date: July 2013
Purpose: to support a cohort of National Education Association Master Teachers in the development of Common Core-aligned lessons in K-5 mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts
Amount: $3,882,600
Term: 20
Topic: College-Ready
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia

The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education
Date: July 2013
Purpose: to support the capacity of state NEA affiliates to advance teaching and learning issues and student success in collaboration with local affiliates
Amount: $2,426,500
Term: 26
Topic: College-Ready
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia

Danny Westneat: Bill Gates, have I got a deal for you!

Maybe this will work for Bill. Here’s a suggestion that he put “his money where his mouth is.” Danny Westneat has suggested that Bill send his own children to a school that is built on “reforms” he approves of…specifically, larger class sizes. Westneat wonders if Gates is willing to try it with his own kids. I’d add a few other things, as well…aside from larger class sizes, maybe Bill would send his own kids to a school with…

  • hours of the day spent in front of online learning programs
  • beginning teachers who haven’t wasted their time getting education credentials — a five week summer course is good enough
  • focus on reading and math…no need for the arts or physical education
  • testing, testing and more testing

Right. I didn’t think so. “Large classes, poorly trained teachers…good for other (aka poor) children…not mine.”

Smaller classes just haven’t worked, he said.

“U.S. schools have almost twice as many teachers per student as they did in 1960,” he said. “Yet achievement is roughly the same.”

Gates called for an end to state caps on how many kids can be in each classroom.

Now let me clarify: Gates is suggesting larger classes in public schools. Not private schools such as Lakeside or the ones his own kids attend today.


Literacy experts say reformers reviving ‘reading wars’

We’ve been using the “reformers” reading programs for more than a decade. You would think that we would have seen some progress by now.

So with one stroke NCTQ limits the teaching of reading to teaching the “scientific“ reading program, the same one which failed for 13 years in NCLB and it limits teacher education programs to training teachers in this one true method. And who needs reading research if the fundamental questions are already answered?


California test scores: the real problem and the real solution

“Reformers” complain that we spend so much money on our schools…more than other countries (which is false), and we get poor results. Maybe if we didn’t spend so much money on testing we’d have enough money to offset the effects of poverty.

…let’s attack the real problem: Poverty. Nearly 25% of students in school in the US live in poverty, which means inadequate diet, lack of health care, and little or no access to books. The best teaching in the world is of little help when students are hungry, ill, and have nothing to read.


Byrd-Bennett’s sleight-of-hand on charter schools?

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett (another Bennett?!) said that closing the 50 schools in Chicago was not being done to make more room for charters…

Barbara Byrd-Bennett has promised that no school closed this year will be handed over to a charter. — Chicago Tribune (April 23, 2013)


Even while some 30,000 students, most in African-American communities,were being targeted for ejection from their so-called “underutilized” schools, and even while neighborhood schools were facing draconian budget cuts, the plans were already being laid to open dozens of new privately-run, non-union schools, Most of the new charters will open on the northwest and southwest sides, but many will be put in the very same neighborhood as closed schools.


Why Common Core Standards Will Succeed

Actual results don’t matter. All that matters is that public schools are shamed and then privatized.

Even though there is little evidence that state standards have increased student academic achievement…

Even though there is little evidence that countries with national standards do not necessarily score higher on international tests than nations without national standards…

Even though there is little evidence Common Core standards will produce the skilled and knowledgeable graduates that employers and college teachers have demanded of public schools…

Even though there is little evidence that state and national officials have resolved tough issues in the past when it came to curriculum standards…

With all of these “even thoughs” (and there are more), Common Core standards will succeed. How can that be?

The short answer is that evidence of success doesn’t matter much to those who make policy decisions.


Jim Horn, of Schools Matter @ The Chalk Face, and Professor of Educational Leadership at Cambridge College, in Massachussets, has a new book. Check out the reviews below…high praise from some good people.

The Mismeasure of Education

Publisher’s information:

With new student assessments and teacher evaluation schemes in the planning or early implementation phases, this book takes a step back to examine the ideological and historical grounding, potential benefits, scholarly evidence, and ethical basis for the new generation of test based accountability measures. After providing the political and cultural contexts for the rise of the testing accountability movement in the 1960s that culminated almost forty years later in No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, this book then moves on to provide a policy history and social policy analysis of value-added testing in Tennessee that is framed around questions of power relations, winners, and losers.

In examining the issues and exercise of power that are sustained in the long-standing policy of standardized testing in schools, this work provides a big picture perspective on assessment practices over time in the U. S.; by examining the rise of value-added assessment in Tennessee, a fine-grained and contemporary case is provided within that larger context. The last half of the book provides a detailed survey of the research based critiques of value-added methodology, while detailing an aggressive marketing campaign to make value-added modeling (VAM) a central component of reform strategies following NCLB. The last chapter and epilogue place the continuation of test-based accountability practices within the context of an emerging pushback against privatization, high stakes testing, and other education reforms.

This book will be useful to a wide audience, including teachers, parents, school leaders, policymakers, researchers, and students of educational history, policy, and politics.


“When the Obama Administration decided to spend the billions it got for schools as part of the stimulus package to launch the Race to the Top program and the NCLB waivers, forcing many states to adopt teacher evaluation based on changes in student test scores, leading experts warned that this “value added” system did not have a reliable scientific basis and would often lead to false conclusions. This sobering and important study of the long experience with this system in Tennessee (where it was invented) shows that it did not work, was unfair, and took attention away from other more fundamental issues.” Gary Orfield Distinguished Research Professor, UCLA, Co-Director, Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, UCLA

“If The Mismeasure of Education offered only its penetrating new look at Conant and Coleman, it would be worth the price. But that’s just the beginning. Horn and Wilburn uncover the obsessive instrumentalist quantification and apocalyptic rhetoric soapboxed by both liberal and conservative political elites. Their autopsy of value-added accountability reveals the pathology of ed reform’s claim about teachers not being good enough for the global economy.” Susan Ohanian Educator, Author, Activist

“A well-researched (and frightening) look at examples of shameful pseudoscience in America, the latest manifestation of which is value-added assessment for determining teacher competency… A well-documented and thorough analysis, inescapably leading to the conclusion that student test data cannot be used to determine teacher effectiveness. A must read for policy makers enamored of the idea that value added assessments will do what is claimed for them. They do not!….An excellent and scholarly history of how we got to an educational-testing/industrial complex, now promoting invalid assessment strategies that are transforming education, but not for the better. A scary book that should be thoughtfully read by those who value America’s greatest invention, the public schools.” David Berliner Regents’ Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University

The Mismeasure of Education is a magnificent work, an elegantly written, brilliantly argued and erudite exposition on why the “what,” “how” and “why” of effective teaching cannot be adequately demonstrated by sets of algorithms spawned in the ideological laboratories of scientific management at the behest of billionaire investors… This book will serve as a sword of Damocles, hanging over the head of the nation’s educational tribunals and their adsentatores, ingratiators and sycophants in the business community… The Mismeasure of Education will have a profound resonance with those who are fed up with the hijacking of our nation’s education system. This is a book that must be read by everyone interested in the future of our schools. It is a book that advocates real educational justice, for student, teachers, administrators and the public; it is informed by impressive scholarship and compelling argument. It is surely to become a classic work.” Peter McLarenProfessor, GSEIS, University of California, Los Angeles, Distinguished Fellow in Critical Studies, Chapman University


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!
Posted in Chicago, CTU, Emanuel, JebBush, Privatization

Hypocrisy in Action


Florida Republican Jeb Bush defended the Common Core standards to ALEC with the usual lies such as,

[The US] has become a global leader in education spending while also becoming a global lagger in math and science.

[See Fighting Myths with Facts]

Bush’s ignorance about the field of education provides us a lesson in why he, and others like him, should not be allowed to participate in forming public education policy.

Bush called for state policies holding back third-graders who cannot read well and ending tenure systems that employ and pay teachers based on experience rather than student performance.

[See Articles Labeled: Retention –Nearly a hundred years of research has provided us with enough information so that we know retention-in-grade (aka flunking) is not an effective remediation technique. The research consistently shows that, with few exceptions, long-term success of students is not improved using grade retention.]

At the same time, protesters outside the Palmer House in Chicago where ALEC was holding its meeting, were demonstrating against the wholesale privatization of public education sponsored by ALEC and selected billionaires.


The backdrop for this battle among Common Core advocates, privatizers and pro-public education forces is the city of Chicago where Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel has overseen the closing of dozens of public schools, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs for public education employees, and the disruption of the education of thousands of Chicago school children, all in the name of saving money (while still finding enough taxpayer cash to pay for a new arena for a private university).

Now, quietly, and entirely without a trace of irony, Emanuel’s (appointed) board of education puppets have decided to open new schools.

“Wait,” you ask, “they just closed 50 schools and now they’re going to open new ones?”

I understand your confusion, but I think I can explain it in a way that will make everything clear.

CPS has issued a “Request for Proposals for New Schools” — new charter schools!

Yes. You read that right…after closing 50 public schools because of “underutilization” the mayor and his rich friends want to open charter schools to relieve — you guessed it — overcrowding.

Despite closings and budget cuts, CPS calls for new charter schools

As Chicago Public Schools officials finish shuttering a record number of schools and leave many neighborhood schools to open their doors in two weeks with diminished budgets, the district has quietly issued a call for new charter schools.

In a 52-page PDF posted without fanfare on the district’s website, CPS is asking for new charter operators and campuses for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years mainly — but not only — in 11 so-called “priority communities” on the Northwest and Southwest Sides where district-run schools have been complaining of overcrowding. [emphasis added]

Apparently, closing 50 schools, laying off thousands of education professionals and support personnel, and disrupting the education and lives of students (as well as placing them in danger as they walk to school across gang boundaries) isn’t enough punishment for the mayor to heap upon the Chicago Teachers Union for having the audacity to strike last year. The Mayor needs to punish the CTU further by moving more and more children into privately run charter schools with apparent disregard for the safety and education of the children living in his city.

Make no mistake: this is a blatant move designed to further the privatization of public education in Chicago.

…and there’s little doubt that he feels a zing of pleasure by turning the knife on the CTU.

Just months after closing 50 schools, Chicago issues RFP for more charter schools

The Chicago Teachers Union and others have argued for years that school closures are about making way for charters and weakening the union.

“We are not surprised at all by this,” said union president Karen Lewis . “We were called conspiracy theorists, and then here is the absolute proof of what the intentions are…. The district has clearly made a decision that they want to push privatization of our public schools.”

The district has been slowly shifting students to charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. Around 13 percent of district students—and more than 20 percent of the district’s high school students— are educated in charter schools. Teachers at charters cannot be represented by the Chicago Teachers Union.

Only half of the teachers in the charter schools need to be certified…and the charter teachers are not covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between CPS and CTU.

There’s no longer any pretense of “improving public education” on the part of the privatizers. There’s no difference between Republicans and Democrats. The goal is the destruction of America’s public education system.

Fact: Charters are not better than public schools. Charters not outperforming nation’s traditional public schools, report says
Fact: Mass closings of schools causes damage to communities.


So-called “reformers” like Bush and Emanuel know what good education is. They are the products of elite private schools and have purchased an elite private school education for their children.

  • They know that small class size is important.
  • They know that trained, certified and experienced educators are important.
  • They don’t send their children to schools filled with uncertified teachers with 5 weeks of “education training.”
  • They don’t send their children to schools where test prep takes up the first 2 hours of the day and the content of “the test” is the only curriculum guide.

They know what good education is and they make sure they have it for themselves and their children…everyone else be damned.

While Bush tries to bring the tea-party back to the Common Core, Rahm Emanuel is quietly going about the business of killing public education in Chicago.

[UPDATE: from Mike Klonsky “For those of you who miss the distinction between handing closed schools over to charter operators and opening new charters around the corner — so do I.”]


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!
Posted in poverty, Privatization, Public Ed, teacher morale

Fighting Myths with Facts


In the next few weeks the vast majority of America’s school-aged children will return to their public schools ready to start a new school year under the guidance of their public school teachers, who, for the most part, begin the year with the same mixture of excitement and anticipation that the students do.

Unfortunately, during the past 3 decades the declining morale of public school teachers has made the beginning of the school year much more difficult. Valerie Strauss, reporting on the 9th annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher wrote

Half of America’s public school teachers say they feel great stress several days a week and are so demoralized that their level of satisfaction has dropped 23 percentage points since 2008 and is at its lowest in 25 years, according to an annual survey of educators.

Morale is likely lower in some public school locations — Chicago and Philadelphia, for example — than others, but throughout the country teachers feel the pressure from years of attacks, blame and test-and-punish policies. This is the real status quo of public education.

The so-called “reformers” whose reform consists of a barely veiled attempt to privatize public education through the perpetuation of myths, favoritism towards private and privately owned schools, public sector union busting, anti-worker legislation, the demonization of professional educators and using billionaires, billionaires, billionairesbillionaires and taxpayers to foot the bill, have perpetuated myths about public education.


The myths that public schools are failing, that teachers are the problem, and that privatization will solve all our problems are coupled with billions of dollars in political pocket-stuffing, private school investments and media blitz campaigns designed to mislead the American public. Parents are, by a large majority, happy with the public schools their children attend. 77% grade their own child’s public schools an A or a B. The largest percentage in 20 years…

Yet, most of what we hear from the daily news and commentary is that American schools are failing, teachers are greedy, and private/charter schools are the only hope for the future of our nation.

So, just in time for the start of a new school year, it’s time (yet again) to dispel some of the myths that the “reformers” have foisted on the American people…and there are many. I’ve only chosen a few and instead of providing references for each myth response, I’ve provided a bibliography (a “baker’s dozen” research and opinion articles) at the end. The information is widely available, yet rarely discussed.

Myth #1) American Schools are failing.

False: American students from low poverty schools score at the top of the world. The problem with our average scores is that we have many more students living in poverty than most advanced nations and there is a direct correlation between achievement and poverty.

Myth #2) Bad, lazy teachers abound and are the cause of school failure. Good teachers can overcome the effects of poverty. Teachers unions protect bad teachers and tenure means that a teacher can never be fired. Teachers are only in it for the money.

False: Most American public school teachers are well-trained professionals, but even the best teacher in the world can’t overcome the effects of hunger, violence, lack of health care, lack of access to reading materials, and other effects of poverty. Children must be well cared for, safe, and healthy to achieve.

States with strong teachers unions do not perform worse than states without strong teachers unions, and in fact are often better. Tenure, which is more correctly defined as “due-process” for K-12 teachers does not protect bad teachers. It simply means that schools must provide a legitimate reason for firing a teacher.

American educators spend more time in actual teaching than those in other advanced nations.

Instead of blaming educated and licensed teachers with average salaries of between $50 and $60,000 a year, ask the following people why they, and others like them, are meddling in public education without any credentials or experience: Bill Gates (Net Worth $72.7 billion), Eli Broad ($6.3 billion), Michael Bloomberg ($19.5 billion), Rupert Murdoch ($11.2 billion), and Alice Walton ($26.3 billion).

Instead of blaming trained educators for what amounts to a national epidemic of poverty, ask the following people where they got their education experience and/or expertise: Arne Duncan (B.A. Sociology), Michelle Rhee (B.A. Government, Masters of Public Policy), Jeb Bush (B.A. Latin American Studies), Rahm Emanuel (B.A. Liberal Arts, M.A. Speech and Communication), Eli Broad (Accounting), Bill Gates (No college degree), Michael Bloomberg (B.S. Electrical Engineering, MBA), and Alice Walton (B.A. Economics and Finance).

Money doesn’t make you an expert.

Myth #3) Charter schools are better than public schools.

False: According to the latest studies, charter schools are improving, but the differences are insignificant. Some charters do better than traditional public schools. Others do worse.

Myth #4) Poverty is just an excuse.

False: Poverty matters.

“Thousands of studies have linked poverty to academic achievement. The relationship is every bit as strong as the connection between cigarettes and cancer.” —- David Berliner, Our Impoverished View of Ed. Reform, Aug. 2005

Myth #5) We spend more money on education than anyone else in the world and our results are worse. Our kids can’t read. Our teachers can’t teach.

False: The amount we spend on education, as a percentage of our GDP, varies, but overall, we’re about average for advanced nations.

As a percentage of GDP, public and private spending on education in the U.S. is slightly below the OECD average for early childhood education (U.S. 0.4%; OECD 0.5%), significantly above average for primary and lower secondary education (U.S. 3.2%; OECD 2.6%), and below average for upper secondary education (U.S. 1.1%, OECD 1.3%). …

However, more money in the US comes from private sources. In other words, we are not spending the same amount of public money as other nations.

For all levels of education combined, public sources account for 72% of all expenditures on education in the U.S., while private sources account for 28%. By comparison, across all OECD countries, 84% of education expenditures are from public sources, and 16% of expenditures are from private sources.

Where do the private sources of money go? Does it go to schools with the most pressing academic needs? Our low poverty public schools generally get more money than our high poverty public schools.

How much of our money is spent on testing? In the US our costs for education are slightly higher than Finland’s, for example, but we spend billions on testing. The Finns, who have among the highest scores in the world, don’t subject their students to constant standardized testing. Money goes to the schools…not to test publishers.

Our results aren’t worse. Our students from low poverty schools score higher than any most other students in the world.


In 1999 public school champion Frosty Troy wrote

Name one other institution that flings open itself to all comers — a perfect microcosm of our nation. Every autumn the miracle of America takes place when the doors of those 87,000 schools are thrown open, welcoming the genius and slow learner, rich and poor, average and developmentally disabled. Among them are the loved and unloved, the washed and unwashed.

Those who savage the public schools tear at the heart of this country. Everything America is or ever hopes to be depends upon what happens to those 46.3 million students in public school classrooms.

His article, The Myth Of Our Failed Public School System (yes…the same lies are still alive) included a simple and effective tool for debunking myths.

Fight back with facts. Challenge the mistaken, the misinformed and the outright prevaricator while acknowledging honest criticism.

That’s still good advice.


1. Serviceable Myths about School Reform: Second Time Around
2. New Data Shows School ‘Reformers’ Are Getting it Wrong
3. Myths About Public Education in Indiana
4. Myths and Realities in Public Education
5. 5 Biggest Lies About America’s Public Schools — Debunked
6. Myths vs. Facts about America’s Public Education
7. Myths Taken as Reality
8. From School Grades to Common Core: Debunking the Accountability Scam
9. PISA: It’s Poverty Not Stupid
10. Charter schools that start bad stay bad, study finds
11. Number of the Week: U.S. Teachers’ Hours Among World’s Longest
12. Teachers: Will We Ever Learn?
13. Anthony Cody: “It’s Poverty Not Bad Teachers”


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!