Monthly Archives: November 2013

Teach Your Children

Think about the meaning of the word and phrase “Thanksgiving” and “Christmas Spirit.”

Black Friday 2013

Black Friday 2012

Black Friday 2011

Black Friday 2010

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Filed under Holidays, Shopping, Trolls

Time to Dump Duncan


Teach for America started out as a kind of Peace Corps for Education where high achieving college graduates volunteered to spend two years in hard to staff schools. Lately, though, it’s become a source of temporary workers replacing laid off veterans in order to save money for cash-strapped school systems.

No longer are TFA corps members only filling spots that would otherwise go to long-term subs. In some districts TFAers are replacing veteran teachers who have been let go.

With school systems turning to Teach for America for cheap labor, and states passing anti-teacher legislation such as curtailing teachers’ collective bargaining rights (Indiana, Wisconsin), and due process rights (North Carolina, Indiana), is it any wonder that the prospect of a teacher shortage has the nation’s public schools worried?


Hoping to encourage young people to become teachers the US Department of Education has partnered with

the Advertising Council, Microsoft, State Farm Insurance, Teach for America, the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions and several other educational groups

…to help recruit new career teachers.

Yes, this is Arne Duncan’s US Department of Education…the same Arne Duncan who cheered when an entire school teaching staff was fired.

It’s the same Arne Duncan whose “Race to the Top” coerces states to use test scores for teacher evaluations, promote charter schools, excessive testing, testing and still more testing…none of which actually improve education or help public school teachers teach better.

Arne Duncan doesn’t believe that advanced training in education matters. Perhaps he realizes that if advanced degrees in education meant something then his own qualifications would be suspect. He has no educational training. He has never taught in a public school…has never worked in a public school…has never even attended a public school. It’s in his best interest to imply that teachers with education and advanced education degrees don’t know any more than he does with his bachelors degree in Sociology.

Campaign Seeks to Recruit Top Students to Become Teachers

According to the Department of Education, as many as one million teachers could retire in the next four to six years. Hoping to attract young, high-achieving college graduates — particularly in science, math and engineering — the campaign, called Teach, uses video spots and radio announcements that portray teaching as creative, invigorating and meaningful, and as compelling a career as medicine, acting or engineering.

Does Duncan actually understand what he and his Department have done to the teaching profession? His policies have contributed to the declining morale among the nation’s public school teachers. The creativity is being phased out. That which makes teaching meaningful is disappearing. Teaching to tests does not make for a compelling career. To try to convince young people that working conditions are anything but incredibly difficult and demoralizing is disingenuous.

Citing the model of several countries where students regularly score high on standardized tests, Mr. Duncan said that they pull their teaching corps from the top tenth to top third of college graduates. He said he wanted to persuade “very, very high caliber college graduates to come and work in our nation’s schools.”

Does Duncan expect us to believe that after supporting union busting state legislatures and governors, and eagerly participating in the privatization of America’s public schools, the Department of Education is now working hard to get more young people to become public school teachers?

I agree we need to recruit good young people to become life-long educators, but we also need to support public schools instead of closing them. We need to support public school educators instead of blaming them for not solving the country’s economic and poverty problems. Pardon me for being cynical, but I don’t believe that Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education are serious about improving schools or providing a professional education force.

Arne Duncan’s tenure as Secretary of Education has been a disaster for America’s Public Schools. He needs to be fired.

See also:


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!

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Filed under Duncan, Teaching Career, US DOE

Ken Robinson Nails it!

Ken Robinson’s TED talks are popular with teachers…this one shows why!

“What all the high performing systems in the world do is, currently what is not evident, sadly, across the systems in America…One is this — they individualize teaching and learning…the second is that they attribute a very high status to the teaching profession…investing in professional development is not a cost, it’s an investment…and the third is, they devolve responsibility to the school level for getting the job done.”

“Education doesn’t go on in the committee rooms of our legislative buildings. It happens in classrooms and schools. And the people who do it are the teachers and the students and if you remove their discretion it stops working…”


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!

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Filed under KenRobinson, Public Ed

Education is More Than Bubbling the Right Answer

Arthur Costa is Emeritus Professor at California State University, and Author of “Habits of Mind”. Drawing on his substantial experience as an educator, Costa speaks about self-evaluation, the construction of meaning and preparing for the 21st and 22nd centuries (see

On Finding the Right Answer:

One of the biggest mind-shifts that educators have to engage in is to give up the notion of simply knowing right answers. And you know, today, in education, we’re very right-answer oriented…knowing right answers is very important, but we also need to teach students how to behave when they don’t know an answer.

…preparing students for the dilemma, the enigma, the paradoxes, the problems, the answers to which are not immediately known…knowing how to persist when an answer is not immediately known instead of just giving up, for example. Knowing how to turn to other people and to think interdependently and as you consider the future…most of the problems are going to be solved…by groups of people who are working interdependently around the globe to solve problems.

“Intelligence is not what you know, but what you do when you don’t know.” – Piaget.

More from Arthur Costa…


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!

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Filed under Costa, Testing

Did Bennett Really Lose in Indiana? — Redux

I don’t do this often, but I’m reposting what I wrote a year ago (11/9/12). It is worth another look given the current conflict between Glenda Ritz, Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Governor Mike Pence, the Indiana General Assembly and the Indiana State Board of Education.

Indiana voters take note. You can’t have it both ways. Either the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction is allowed to do the job for which she was elected, or the Supermajority on the State Board of Education, in the Indiana General Assembly and in the Governor’s office will control education in the state.

It’s time to write to the above officials in support of Superintendent Ritz. Next November will be the time to contact them via the ballot box!

Did Bennett Really Lose in Indiana

Tony Bennett and the state Republican leaders are full of excuses as to why Glenda Ritz pulled off the upset of the billionaire-backed Superintendent of Public Instruction. Ritz raised less than $400,000 in her quest for office, while Bennett raked in over $1.5 million from rich, out of state “reformers” like the Walton family and New York Mayor and public education privatizer, Michael Bloomberg. While Bennett was schmoozing the rich and raising money, Ritz was talking to teachers, parents and concerned citizens about the corporate takeover of public education in Indiana.

Now Bennett claims that the Common Core standards are in jeopardy of being lost in Indiana…and it was the fault of the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) that he lost.

Tony Bennett Says Common Core in Jeopardy in Indiana

The reason, Bennett said, is that he knew the Indiana teachers’ unions would be “formidable foes” in any election fight, and that his policy initiatives in the last four years would generate strong opposition from some in the state education establishment. Bennett is a big national voice on issues prioritized by so-called “education reform” advocates, but his education stardom wasn’t enough to satisfy Hoosier voters, who gave Ritz 52 percent of the vote and Bennett 48 percent…

Notice the subtle language choices…”opposition from some in the state education establishment.” He’s referring to the ISTA, even though the state education establishment has been the forces of “reform” (including his DOE, the charter board, and the Indiana State Legislature) for the entire time he’s been in office.

Fellow blogger, A Huntington Teacher responded with another view…

…Indiana teacher unions were not, in entirety, his foes. Yes, it was a union per se; a union of teachers, parents, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and everyone who knew what was really happening in education under Bennett.

…Bennett thinks Common Core’s survival in Indiana, and also that privatization and vochers are in jeopardy in Indiana. That we can agree on. The difference – I’m not worried about it. I’m hopeful for it.

Ritz’s supporters (and I’m one of them) have said that Bennett’s claim that the ISTA beat him is wrong and, in truth, he beat himself. He, along with the legislature and governor, spent his term of office working to make teachers lives harder and public education weaker by supporting unproven “reforms” like vouchers, teacher evaluations based on the test, the end of collective bargaining, a state based teachers contract (as opposed to locally developed contracts), high stakes consequences for third graders and extensive support for charter schools at the expense of support for regular public schools. The reforms were popular with the billionaires who financed his campaign, but with the average teacher…and the average parent who appreciated their children’s teachers…the average public school advocate…not so much.

But is that true? Is it true that Ritz was elected on a referendum on Bennett’s policies?

The incoming Superintendent of Public Instruction will have a tough time changing things. The Republican leadership in the state is excusing Bennett’s loss as due to his personality rather than his policies.

GOP firm despite education coup

Top Republican officials, including the current and future governor, argued vehemently Wednesday that their education reform mandate is intact despite the defeat of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.

“The consensus and the momentum for reform and change in Indiana is rock solid,” Gov. Mitch Daniels said.

“Every other factor that matters is aligned in this state in the direction of progress and change and reform, of teacher accountability, of more choices for families, more ability for school leadership to lead.”

Gov.-elect Mike Pence said his election on an agenda of education change, as well as the House’s picking up a supermajority of members, points to Hoosiers supporting continued progress in the area…

“This is not an indictment in any way of reforms,” [GOP House Speaker] Bosma said. “Some of the education reform controversy deals with the tone and presentation of the reforms and how it’s explained. Occasionally the discussion moved into arenas that teachers found offensive.”

Electorally, they are correct. Those who voted against Bennett blamed him for all the losses felt by the public schools in Indiana…the difficulties at the local school level of finding enough money to keep programs alive and schools open…the takeover of local public schools by corporate charters…the loss of money to public schools due to vouchers…the pressure to adopt the Common Core. Nevertheless the people of Indiana voted the politicians who legislated the destruction of our public schools into law right back into office.

The voters in Indiana, while scapegoating Bennett for the attacks on public education which he articulated and represented, ignored the legislators who also made it happen. The GOP leadership is right to believe that “Hoosiers [support] continued progress in [education]” — meaning that by our votes, we’ve agreed that everything Bennett did should continue.

The legislature passed Indiana’s voucher program.
The legislature gutted the collective bargaining law for teachers.
The legislature established the Indiana Charter School Board.
The legislature voted into law teacher evaluation and performance based on test scores.

The legislative agenda of Tony Bennett and his Department of Public Instruction was upheld and approved by the voters in the last election.

Glenda Ritz may have been elected because people didn’t like Tony Bennett. I know she wants to change those policies he put in place…but it’s going to be tough for her to change the ones which have already been turned into law, because the voters spoke clearly on November 6th. School “reform” in Indiana got the go-ahead at the ballot box.

I would love to be proven wrong. I would love to see Superintendent-elect Ritz give us real school reform…more support for struggling schools instead of closures and punishments…real teacher evaluations based on professional development and “best practices” instead of student test scores…smaller class sizes…local control of schools and finally, less testing and more teaching. But I doubt that she can do it alone…with the Governor and a Supermajority in the legislature bound to stick to the status quo.

Her campaign literature emphasized things like…

  • more control to local school districts
  • stopping the flow of public money to private companies
  • preventing the lowering of standards for teachers
  • improving career and technical education

Those of you who voted for Ritz…but then voted for your legislator who did exactly the opposite of what she wants…it’s time to start writing to your state senators and representatives. Tony Bennett’s agenda is alive and well in the state legislature.


…and just for the record…

vouchers don’t help public schools improve by creating competition.
teachers unions and contracts don’t lower student achievement.
a charter school is not a guarantee of better performance.*
using test scores to evaluate teachers is invalid, inappropriate, and scientifically without basis.

Other articles about the Indiana Election

Bad losers in Tuesday’s election

Don’t Count Your Chickens Before Elections: Tony Bennett’s Defeat in Indiana

Major school reformer ousted by teacher as Indiana schools superintendent

The Most Important Education Vote Yesterday

A call for Obama to change course on ed reform


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!

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Filed under Charters, Election, IN Gen.Assembly, Ritz, SBOE, Tony Bennett, vouchers

2013 Medley #23

Public Education, Poverty, Irony,
Elementary Teachers, Politicians.


TN Student Speaks Out About Common Core, Teacher Evaluations, and Educational Data

Ethan Young defends public education with reason and intelligence. Too bad he’s not a multi-billionaire…


Teachers Were Never The Problem

David Sirota has emerged as a welcome voice for public education. Here he again debunks the “reform” claims that 1) schools are failing and 2) it’s the fault of the teachers unions. It’s poverty…and it’s getting worse.

As I’ve reported before, we know that American public school students from wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. This proves that the education system’s problems are not universal–the crisis is isolated primarily in the parts of the system that operate in high poverty areas. It also proves that while the structure of the traditional public school system is hardly perfect, it is not the big problem in America’s K-12 education system. If it was the problem, then traditional public schools in rich neighborhoods would not perform as well as they do.

Similarly, we know that many of the high-performing public schools in America’s wealthy locales are unionized. We also know that one of the best school systems in the world—Finland’s—is fully unionized. These facts prove that teachers’ unions are not the root cause of the education problem, either. After all, if unions were the problem, then unionized public schools in wealthy areas and Finland would be failing.

So what is the problem? That brings us to the new study from the Southern Education Foundation. Cross-referencing and education data, researchers found that that a majority of all public school students in one third of America’s states now come from low-income families.


Union-Hating Steve Perry Is Coming To Rutgers!

Steve Perry, friend to Michelle Rhee, continues the lie that there are such things as “failed schools.” The failure is much more expansive than that. Yes, there are teachers, administrators and school systems with problems which need to be solved, however, many of the problems are due to lack of funding and lack of resources needed to deal with the failed communities in which they are located. Failing bureaucrats, failing politicians, failing policy makers all deserve a share the blame when children are placed in a school unable to meet their academic and social needs.

I wonder: did the organizers of this conference chose Dr. Perry because of his judicious use of social media to engage in a civil conversation about education?

America has a long and ugly history of groups like the teachers’ unions fighting to keep minority kids from getting out of failed schools.


In Public Education, Edge Still Goes to Rich

Wealthier schools get more money and more resources and the students achieve at a higher level than schools with high poverty. Is this surprising? Jonathan Kozol responds in two different ways…

…when my wealthy friends say to me, Jonathan, does class size really matter for kids like Pineapple, I’ll just say, I don’t know. It seems to work for your children, doesn’t it?

People agree with everything I say,” Kozol continued. “They say, ‘Yes, it is unfair they don’t get as much per pupil as our children.’ Then they say, ‘Tell me one thing. Can you really solve this kind of problem by throwing money at it?’ And I say, ‘You mean, can you really buy your way to a better education? It seems to work for your children.’

Remember this when politicians blame teachers and their unions for “failed” schools.

The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.


4 Corporate Education Reform Talking Points That Are Flat-Out Lies

We don’t provide the same resources for students in poverty and then politicians, pundits and policy makers blame teachers, teachers unions and schools when those students don’t achieve at the same level as the wealthy.

#1 A college and career-ready education is the path out of poverty.

This talking point was made up out of thin air. It was sold as a solution to a problem that no one has the political or economic will to fix. The plan was to put the schools on the spot, with the responsibility of fixing our poverty problem. When they failed, we adopted a new corporate model, with corporate standards, objective measure, and a birth-to-career program. Now, we can make sure our children fit into a guaranteed job track. It won’t (it can’t) fix poverty, but at least those kids will be working for the corporate dominance of their beloved country.

Lies of Plutocracy: Exploding Five Myths that Dehumanize the Poor

For those politicians who think that underfunded and under-resourced schools can relieve the fact that nearly one-fourth of our children live in poverty…

5. Education Necessarily Remedies Poverty

Another plutocratic myth suggests that a lack of education is the root of poverty, and that education is the answer to poor people’s plight. This is also an assertion many liberals like President Obama regularly make. Joining them are conservatives like Newt Gingrich who, in the lead-up to the South Carolina primaries, defended his earlier remarks about the poor and food stamps, stating: “I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job.”[17]

These ways of thinking legitimize the plight of the poor, effectively blaming victims of exploitation: blaming low-income workers’ conditions on their failure to possess a real job, which means a job that requires a degree.


Five Things Most People Don’t Know About Poverty and Student Achievement

Jenson brings incorrect assumptions to this article (see below).

For example, he says that

the classroom teacher is still the single most significant contributor to student achievement; the effect is greater than that of parents, peers, schools or poverty…

The truth is that research has shown that the classroom teacher is the single most significant IN-SCHOOL contributor to student achievement. The teacher’s influence can’t counteract poor prenatal care, alcoholism, toxic air in our cities, lack of medical, dental and mental health care, food insecurity, family and community violence, and family mobility.

Jensen insults teachers with statements like, “most teachers simply don’t know how be a high-performer and others have lost hope and don’t try any more.” and “teachers at the high-performing schools didn’t complain about kids not “being smart” or being unmotivated.” The implication is that teachers who work in high-poverty schools don’t care, spend their days complaining and are incompetent.

Finally, he writes about “effective teachers” and how they “raise student achievement.” This is clearly his way of saying “test scores.” We know that test scores don’t reflect knowledge or real learning…any more than “Google provide[s] knowledge.” Facts, resources and information are important, but they aren’t the whole of education.

Poverty is a cause of low achievement, not the other way around.

  1. Teachers often come into the profession as a chance to “make a difference.” But making a difference can go both ways. If students achieve well, the difference is positive. If students struggle, our nation struggles. If teachers raised student achievement by 10%, the U.S. schools would not only rank among the top 5 in the world, it would also raise gross domestic product by 1% a year. Over the next two generations, this would boost the economy by 112 trillion (not a typo). The government has tried for 50 years and failed; but educators can erase poverty in our own lifetime.
  2. Here’s what we do know, as of today: a) the classroom teacher is still the single most significant contributor to student achievement; the effect is greater than that of parents, peers, schools or poverty, b) the effectiveness of classroom teachers varies dramatically, especially within schools, c) research shows teachers in the top 20%, based on year-on-year progress with their students, will completely erase the academic effects of poverty in five years, d) most teachers simply don’t know how be a high-performer and others have lost hope and don’t try any more.


Why ‘Bad’ U.S. Schools Attract Students

The Chinese are paying thousands to send their children to American schools because of our ability to promote problem solving and independent thinking and in order to escape the test-crazed Chinese system. Irony anyone?

What is most interesting to note is that Chinese parents, who are known for their reverence for education, have a high regard for American public schools. If they are as bad as reformers assert, why do these parents send their children here for their education? The facile answer is that they do so because it allows their children to escape the pressure of preparing for China’s college entrance exam.

But I think there’s more to the story than that. Our entire public educational system tries to promote independent thinking and self-expression. These are the antithesis of the goals of schools in China. Further evidence of the esteem that China has for American education is seen in the number of its educators observing schools here (“Bowie school gives tips to visiting Chinese educators,”, Oct. 24). We must be doing something right. Yet don’t expect to hear a word about any of this from critics.


In Praise of Elementary School Teachers

A second post from Walt Gardner…only because I was an elementary teacher and I like the kudos!

In light of the unique responsibilities that elementary school teachers shoulder on a daily basis, I take my hat off to them for what they manage to accomplish. I couldn’t do their job. I wish others would pay them the same respect.


Finally, a public response to a personal email.

Here in Indiana we’re watching the Governor and his appointed State Board of Education (along with the help of the supermajority legislature) wrest power over public education from the elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Glenda Ritz defeated Tony Bennett in last year’s election with more votes than the governor received. Since then the majority party has done everything but stand in the schoolhouse doorway to keep Ritz from doing what the people elected her to do. For details see (among dozens of other examples) the following.

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #154
Vic’s Statehouse Notes #155
Vic’s Statehouse Notes #156
Vic’s Statehouse Notes #157
Vic’s Statehouse Notes #158

Recently I got an email from a friend who sent me the link to the video at the top of this blog entry. In it she wrote about the conflict between the Superintendent and the State Board of Education.

PS–In an effort to share information…I sent this video to all of our State Board members–with a short grandmotherly admonition about my disappointment with the on going contentiousness between the Board and Glenda Ritz. (As an unrelated side note, the newest appointee to the Board–who is a Democrat and DFER guy–is as bad as the others…) How in the world did we ever end up in this state?

This got me thinking…it’s not just “the majority party” which, in this state, is Republican. There are Democrats here in Indiana (as well as in D.C.) who have taken hold of the corporate bag of test, punish, and privatize.

DFER, Democrats for Education Reform, is the Democratic arm of the privatization movement.

Public school educators and public school supporters must acknowledge that the problem is not one political party or the other, it’s the corporate tail wagging the education dog. The Gates, Broads and Waltons of the world are buying the politicians and the politicians in turn, in order to keep their power in legislatures and executive offices (state and federal), are sucking up to them.

The reason Superintendent Ritz’s law suit was dismissed — the reason the school board dismisses her election mandate — the reason the legislature passes anti-union, anti-public education legislation, is simply that there’s a lot of money to be made by privatizing public education. We’re in an era in American Education of “I’ve got mine, and it’s tough sh*t if you don’t have yours.”

It’s never been about education. It’s never even been about teachers (other than as a political force). It’s about money. Those that “have” are doing everything they can to buy more and to hell with anyone who gets in their way.


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!

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Filed under Politics, poverty, Public Ed, Teaching Career

Michigan Jumps on the Third Grade Retention Wagon

The state of Michigan is considering making third graders repeat the school year if they don’t pass “the test.”

Bill would hold back third-graders if they don’t pass MEAP reading test (October 2013)

Christy Hovanetz, a senior policy fellow at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a Florida-based nonprofit focused on what she described as innovative education reform, said 32 other states already have some sort of K-3 reading promotion policy in place. But she said some states have provisions that allow more flexibility than what the Michigan bill is considering.

In some states, for instance, third-graders who fail the state exam can demonstrate proficiency in other ways. Students in year one or two of learning English also aren’t held to the same rules as native speakers, she said. And some states limit how many years a student can be held back, over concerns that students “will end up driving to third grade,” Hovanetz said.

Unfortunately, retention in grade generally doesn’t work as a remediation plan.


Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, said there should be no question that students should be able to read by the end of third grade.

“I’m just amazed that this could be so controversial,” Lund said.

Lund is amazed…perhaps because he knows nothing about education (Representative Lund has degrees in Economics and Political Science as well as an M.B.A.). Not all students learn at the same rate. Not everyone learns to walk at the same point in their lives. Not everyone learns to talk at the same point in their lives. Human beings are not automatons, programmed to respond the same way at any given time. Some children learn to read when they’re 4 years old. Others still struggle with reading into their teen years and even as adults. For the latter students, retention doesn’t help.

Perhaps Lund is amazed because he hasn’t read the research on retention in grade. Holding students back is a failed attempt at remediation. Intense intervention works, but Lund, and legislators around the nation don’t seem to be interested in that. It’s expensive to hire and train educational specialists.

Rep. Thomas Stallworth, D-Detroit, described the debate as “provocative, but critical,” saying it’s particularly so for him because of the high rate of functional illiteracy in his district.

“We’re graduating kids that can’t read. I don’t know what the answer is. But I know it’s a problem,” Stallworth said.

The answer, Representative Stallworth, is to educate legislators on the relationship between poverty and achievement.


New research indicates that not only is retention damaging to students who are retained…but to their classmates as well.

Retained Students and Classmates’ Absences in Urban Schools (August 2013)

Research in grade retention has predominantly focused on the effect of this practice on the retained student. This study contributes to the limited body of research examining the effect of retained classmates on the outcomes of other students in the same classroom…this study evaluates how the percentage of retained classmates affects other students’ absence patterns, both unexcused and excused. Focusing on absences as an outcome is key, as they signal educational disengagement and highly correlate with schooling and lifelong success…the results indicate that a greater percentage of retained classmates increases other students’ absences. The effect is only present on unexcused absences, not excused absences, hence signaling an increase in disengagement in other students. Individual- and classroom-level moderating effects are evaluated, and policy implications for classroom assignment are discussed. [emphasis added]

Legislators ought to get out of the education business. They can help by reducing inequity in our economy, but they should leave the task of teaching our children to professionals. [Note: While the video linked in this paragraph is about 8 years old — 2005 — the trends have not changed.]

(More about the effects of retention in grade here and here.)


It’s not just Michigan…other locations in the US have passed, or are considering, legislation which would retain third graders who can’t pass “the test.”

D.C., Indiana, Virginia

States draw a hard line on third-graders, holding some back over reading (March 2013)

A researcher comments…

“This is completely unsettling. I’m concerned about a number of those legislative initiatives,” said Shane Jimerson, a University of California at Santa Barbara professor who has studied retention for 20 years and found that, from a child’s perspective, being held back is as stressful as losing a parent.

“This is deleterious to hundreds of thousands of students,” he said. “But children don’t have a voice. If you were doing this to any group that had representation, it would not be happening.”

In Indiana, the last election for the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction was between Tony Bennett who favored third grade retention and Glenda Ritz, who did not.

Tony Bennett, Indiana schools superintendent, lost his elected position in November to Glenda Ritz, a teacher who ran because she was angered by Bennett’s third-grade retention policy.

“It was the final straw,” said Ritz, adding that her state should emphasize reading as early as kindergarten and help struggling readers well before third grade. She wants to stop retaining children based on standardized test scores.


Florida is the new model for those favoring retention. According to the research there is evidence that retention worked in Florida. However, retention was not the only variable. Students who were retained in grade were the beneficiaries of smaller class sizes and universal preschool along with other additional interventions. Was it retention which helped the students or the literacy coaches and smaller class sizes? The promoted comparison group received no additional special help.

Does Retention (repeating a grade) Help Struggling Learners?

Although some test score gains in Florida are held up as a model, any such gains were achieved by much more than just accountability reforms. Florida also has universal preschool, class size limits, and guaranteed high-quality literacy coaches, among other well- financed innovations.

…It is no wonder that both the promoted children in Florida and retained children in Chicago did poorly compared to their peers. Both groups of struggling students did not receive any guaranteed special help during the studied year.


All About the Third Grade Reading Guarantee (Various: April 2012-May 2012)

Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee says that starting with students entering third grade in 2013-14, schools cannot promote to fourth grade students who score below a certain level on the state reading test. That level is slightly below the actual passing score on the state reading test, the Ohio Achievement Assessment.


No free pass for 3rd-graders (October 2013)

Move On When Reading, a law passed in 2010 that goes into effect this year, mandates that schools hold back third-graders who score in the lowest category of the reading portion of the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards, known as AIMS.

The law exempts English-language learners and students in reading and language special-education programs. But it makes no exception for students who perform well in all areas except reading.


Diane Ravitch wrote, Is School Retention Child Abuse?

Ultimately, holding kids back does not get them the social and emotional support they need. Instead, it aggravates the very conditions that led to their original failure…“Ending social promotion,” it turns out, is just another slogan that politicians like to bandy about. It makes them feel strong; it makes them look tough; it wins plaudits from the hard-hearted tabloids; it allows the politicians to call themselves “reformers.” But it hurts children.

And this, from the National Association of School Psychologists

Grade Retention: Achievement and Mental Health Outcomes

When weighing the pros and cons of a decision to retain or promote a student, it is critical to emphasize to educators and parents that a century of research has failed to demonstrate the benefits of grade retention over promotion to the next grade for any group of students. Instead, we must focus on implementing evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies to promote social and cognitive competence and facilitate the academic success of all students.

There is no research based reason to claim that retaining students who are struggling academically will improve their achievement. On the contrary, the research on retention in grade over the last century indicates exactly the opposite. We should reject plans which call for mandatory retention of students based on test scores.


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!

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