Monthly Archives: January 2014

An Impact on Other Lives

“A life is not important except in the
impact it has on other lives.” — Jackie Robinson

Today, January 31 is Jackie Robinson’s birthday. He was born in Cairo, Georgia in 1919.

Eulogy for Jackie Robinson…by Jesse Jackson. From Ken Burns, Baseball

Jackie Robinson Tribute: Baseball Hall of Fame.

“There’s not an American in this country free until every one of us is free.” — Jackie Robinson


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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2014 Medley #2: School Choice

School Choice: Charters and Vouchers


Indiana has one of the nation’s most extensive voucher plans, along with charter schools popping up everywhere. The privatizers are finding ways to strip more and more tax money out of the hands of public schools and their duly elected school boards. Instead money is being shifted to church coffers or corporate board rooms. The neighborhood schools are disappearing as school districts become overrun with publicly subsidized private “choices” for parents. Schools not in urban areas, where most of the privatizing is taking place, are feeling the pinch, too, having to consolidate and downsize…cutting teachers and programs…in order to keep their schools running.

The concept of America’s public schools as a public responsibility has given way to a short-sighted drive for “my money, my choice” with little regard for the community. The right-wing attack on community membership in the form of taxes has built a selfishness among Americans…as the “no more taxes” crowd screams their mantra, infrastructure crumbles, public sector workers are demonized and the government is run by government-haters. Parents who in the past would have chosen and paid for private schools for their children are now grabbing up vouchers and complaining that they have had to support public schools for years with their tax money. The fact that public schools benefit the entire community, state and nation, doesn’t seem to matter.

When the “choice” crowd first got started it was under the guise of improving education for all. Competition will force public schools to improve they said. Private schools and charter schools are the panacea which would improve education for all. We now know that’s not true, and the privatizers are playing on the selfishness and fears of the public.

School Choice Undermines Urban School Districts

While vouchers are always proposed as so-called solutions for poor children said to be “trapped in failing public schools,” in many states a child is not required even to have attended a public school before receiving a voucher…A new report by StateImpact Indiana documents that during the initial two years of Indiana’s relatively new voucher program, “income-eligible students had to have spent two semesters in public school” to be granted a voucher made up of funds taken from the state’s public school budget. But the rules keep being adjusted and the number of children who previously attended a public school continues to drop. “Indiana will pay an estimated $81 million in private school tuition this year, up from $15.5 million in 2011-12.”

…According to a Washington Post commentary on the Moody’s study: “…some urban districts face a downward spiral driven by population declines. It begins with people leaving the city or districts. Then revenue declines, leading to program and service cuts. The cuts lead parents to seek out alternatives, and charters capture more students. As enrollment shifts to charters, public districts lose more revenue, and that can lead to more cuts. Rinse, repeat….”

What Could Be Wrong With ‘School Choice’?

It’s not about children and improved educational outcomes any more. Now it’s just about doing whatever it takes to bring down the public school system, put more money into church schools and take what little tax money that’s left and put it into the hands of the corporate education reform industry.

Is it just Republicans and conservatives? The Democrats in the Obama DOE are running a privatization plan with Race to the Top as well…

Thomas wrote, “In the 1980s and 1990s, before a substantial body of research had emerged, vouchers were heralded as the panacea for a failing public school system. Once the shine wore off those lofty claims – since research shows little to no academic gains driven by any choice initiatives – school choice advocates began to change claims and approaches, attempting to stay at least one step ahead of the evidence throughout the process.”

…Laura Clawson recently observed, “While Republican politicians don’t see it as a civil right for poor kids to eat or have health care or a place to live, when it comes to charter school expansion or vouchers to attend private schools, suddenly it’s all about civil rights.”

Her conclusion was, “Republicans say ‘school choice’ but they mean privatization.”

So what do Democrats mean? [emphasis added]

The ugly truth about “school choice”

The Koch brothers want you to think the movement’s about racial justice and empowering parents. They’re lying.

…But there are a few serious problems with the school choice movement. Though it attracts mainstream conservatives like [Bill] Cosby, as well as Democrats like President Barack Obama, it is not, at its core, a bipartisan endeavor. Its most important backers are rightwing organizations like the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and other groups supported by billionaire rightwing ideologues like the Koch brothers. They want to dismantle public education altogether and run schools as businesses, judged as “successes” or “failures” based on abstract data taken from high-stakes standardized test scores.


Few charter schools among Indiana’s overachieving schools

Studies nationwide have shown that charters haven’t done better than traditional public schools (TPS). Indiana is no exception.

It’s not just that charter schools got worse overall grades than traditional public schools. That’s not surprising, because many charters enroll disproportionate numbers of kids from low-income families. But even adjusting for poverty, charter schools fared worse.

Thirty-five percent of the state’s high-poverty schools – a total of 162 schools – received grades of A or B. But only three of those 162 were charter schools. Among all charter schools, 21.5 percent got an A or B, and most of those are not high-poverty charters…

School grades don’t prove that charter schools are doing a bad job, of course. There are issues with Indiana’s grading system; and the whole idea is applying a single letter grade to a school seems suspect. But the results do strongly suggest there’s no magic to “charter-ness” – that charter schools don’t have a monopoly on what works.

Diane Ravitch Rebukes Education Activists’ ‘Reign Of Error’

What was the original intent of charter schools?

What’s wrong with charter schools is that they originally were supposed to be created to collaborate with public schools and help them solve common problems. Because they have now been taken over by the idea of competition, they have become part of the movement to turn education into a consumer product rather than a social and a public responsibility. …

What I mean is that you go shopping for a school. I don’t believe in school choice. I believe that every neighborhood should have a good public school. And if the parents don’t want the good local public school and they want to send their child to a private school, they should do so — but they should pay for it.

Why charter schools need better oversight

What’s apparent from all these charter school scandals is that these schools need way more scrutiny and, yes, government regulation. But the charter movement and its ardent backers in state legislatures are adamantly against that. Charters, we’ve been told, “need to be free to innovate.”

Yet for all the “freedom to innovate” that charter schools have, the results of these schools generally fall far short of being, well, innovative.


National School Choice Week: It’s Really About Vouchers

There’s a very strong Culture War factor with privatizing public education. The Religious Right has been “against” public schools for decades (For example, in 1979 Jerry Falwell wrote, “I hope to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we don’t have public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them.”). Now they have political partners in conservatives and the 1% who are anxious to cash in on the public school tax money feeding frenzy.

Vouchers, of course, aren’t really about choice. Oh, there’s choice, all right – for the schools. They get to decide which students they will admit. They get to decide what to teach them. They get to decide who will teach there. They get to decide if they want to impose theology onto students…

So who does support vouchers? These days, it’s a three-headed beast. The leadership of the Roman Catholic Church wants a taxpayer-funded bailout for its flagging private school system. Religious Right activists hate “godless” public education and want tax funding for fundamentalist academies so they can teach things like creationism. Extreme free-market advocates (the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Brothers’ American Legislative Exchange Council, Betsy DeVos’ Americans for School Choice) want to dismantle public education because, well, it’s public – and therefore it must be bad.

This fight long ago stopped being about improving education. We know that vouchers don’t do that. This is all about ideology. Private sectarian groups – churches that raise millions every year tax free – want to pick your pocket to pay for their schools.

How ‘School Choice Week’ Misleads Americans About Vouchers

With the legislative new year in Indiana, privatizers got right to work. One bill going through the Indiana General Assembly currently (SB322) would allow voucher accepting private schools to opt out of the state test, ISTEP, if they took another national standardized test. This would effectively remove state accountability from the school…and prevent the state from awarding a grade using the states privatizer promoted and passed A-F grading system. So much for accountability.

Study after study shows that vouchers do not improve student education or academic achievement, fail to offer families informed school options, lack accountability to taxpayers and deprive students of rights and protections they would otherwise have in public schools. Although states have been successful in passing and expanding voucher programs, the programs themselves still remain unsuccessful education policy.


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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Teaching as a Luxury


A few days ago I posted a video of a 100 year old who was still teaching. She started when she was 81, so at this point, she is really just “mid-career.” I taught for 35 years…if she does the same she’ll retire at age…116.

Most teachers don’t last that long, however. Nearly half of all teachers leave the field within their first 5 years. Many find out the hard way that they aren’t cut out for teaching…or that it’s not as easy as they thought it would be. Many didn’t realize that it’s not a 6 hours a day, 9 months a year job, but one that takes hours and hours of preparation, thought and work. Many can’t handle the emotional investment in the lives of children.

The old adage which states that “those who can’t, teach” has it backwards. Teaching is doing…and it’s those who can’t who must move on to some other, less important line of work.


On January 17, 2014 (Ben Franklin’s 308th birthday), a middle school language arts teacher, Elizabeth Natale, wrote an op-ed piece for the Hartford Courant, titled Why I Want To Give Up Teaching.

Unfortunately, government attempts to improve education are stripping the joy out of teaching and doing nothing to help children.

Over the past few years I’ve posted frequently about why teachers quit. The focus of the answer is almost always something about how No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Common Core, Value Added Measurements on teacher evaluations, firing educators and closing public schools, or other so-called “reform” plan which, without a research base, has devalued the teaching profession or made testing the be-all and end-all of public education.

Natale’s article, however, has the wrong title. Read what she has written and you’ll see that she doesn’t want to “give up teaching.” What she really wants to give up is struggling to be an educator under the current “reform” status quo. Like public school educators all over the nation, she’s struggling to do what’s best for her students while politicians and policy makers transfer public funds to private schools and turn the public schools left standing into under-funded, for-profit, test factories.

Until this year, I was a highly regarded certified teacher. Now, I must prove myself with data that holds little meaning to me. I no longer have the luxury of teaching literature, with all of its life lessons, or teaching writing to students who long to be creative. My success is measured by my ability to bring 85 percent of struggling students to “mastery,” without regard for those with advanced skills. Instead of fostering love of reading and writing, I am killing children’s passions — committing “readicide,” as Kelly Gallagher called it in his book of that title. [emphasis added]

She no longer has the luxury of teaching. Let that thought simmer in your mind for a while…


Are there any other teachers out there who feel like the joy has been sucked out of their classrooms because they’re spending too much time thinking about tests, preparing for tests, administering tests, and analyzing tests?

Are there any other teachers out there who are tired of the corporate education reform industry driving public education policy?

Are there any other teachers out there who would like to go back to focusing on the needs of children?

Teaching is the most difficult — but most rewarding — work I have ever done. It is, however, art, not science. A student’s learning will never be measured by any test, and I do not believe the current trend in education will lead to adults better prepared for the workforce, or to better citizens. For the sake of students, our legislators must reach this same conclusion before good teachers give up the profession — and the children — they love.

How can we improve public education instead of destroying it?

There have always been those who have interrupted the teaching process, but the “reformers” have taken things a step further. They have disrupted the teaching and learning process to the extent that teachers don’t have time to “close their doors and teach” without fear of being pushed out. The insane focus on data and testing has left teachers exhausted and demoralized. Test scores may have risen, but learning has suffered. The “reforms” foisted upon American children and their teachers have not improved real learning. The corporate education reform industry has gotten rich as the combined political force of both major political parties sells off America’s public schools. Teachers struggle to continue real teaching while politicians in statehouses across the country micromanage their every move.

America’s public school educators are nearly three and a half million strong. We need to raise our voices.

Educate yourself and others. Get involved. Write letters. Work for America’s public schools.


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 Corp Interest, Public Ed

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – January, 2014

Here are some graphic images from around the net — plus my own 2 cents worth of comments. Click on any image to see the full sized version.

The Move to Privatization

The Indiana legislature is busy at work trying to privatize public education. Directed by Governor Mike Pence, people like Rep. Robert Behning, a florist who is apparently an expert on education, have done things like expand the nation’s most offensive voucher plan, expand opportunities for charter operators to take over public schools, reduce the ability of local school boards to effect changes in their districts, flunk third graders who can’t pass “the test,” remove collective bargaining for teachers and force schools and school systems to use test scores to evaluate teachers.

What are these fools, their colleagues in the legislature, the high paid lackeys in the Pence run shadow department of education (CECI), and the state school board planning for this year?

This year’s goal is to remove the requirements that teachers need to be educators, that principals have to be master teachers first and that superintendents have any experience in education. The want to take more money from public schools and transfer it to private, mostly religious schools through expanded vouchers. They are offering a bribe bonus for teachers to leave public schools and teach in charter schools. And they are doing everything they can to circumvent the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction because she’s a professional educator and is actually interested in doing what helps children rather than in lining the pockets of political donors.

With all these advantages for charter and private schools, the public schools will continue to be starved for resources and students, teachers, and administrators will be forced to continue the “do more with less” plan. When schools struggle without these resources the governor and his stooges in the legislature, the state school board and his duplicate department of education will claim that public schools are failing and we need to divert more resources to private and charter schools.

It’s a simple plan. 1. Destroy the public schools’ ability to do their job by transferring resources to religious, private and privately run (aka charter) schools. 2. Blame the teachers and their unions for the inability of public schools to perform miracles. 3. Close public schools and divert even more resources to religious, private and privately run (aka charter) schools.

Who Did You Vote For?

How did we get here? In the last election Indiana voters rejected Tony Bennett and his destroy-public-education plan and elected Glenda Ritz as State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

However, those same voters reelected the gubernatorial candidate who supported Bennett and the legislators who put Bennett’s plan into law.

Kruse Wants to Speed Up Privatization

Privatization isn’t going fast enough for Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn). He wants to get help in privatizing Indiana’s public schools from parents, teachers and school boards.

Indiana – Two Different Directions and Public Schools Lose

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

Indiana’s Education Policy — Cognitive Dissonance in Action

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

Aside from getting out the vote we need to make sure people know who they’re voting for. Those who voted for Glenda Ritz have shot themselves in the foot — and seriously hampered Ritz’s ability to do her job — by electing friends of Tony Bennett to the governor’s office and to the legislature. We need to educate the public.

A False Choice

Next week is School Choice Week and the privatizers are out in force touting the benefits of letting the public schools founder for lack of support and transferring public tax money to religious and private schools.

Reframing the Refrain: Choice as a Civil Rights Issue

What is surprising is that unbridled choice proponents harp about the limitations of traditional public schools but rarely discuss the predominance of the peer-reviewed research literature that demonstrates limited or no effect of choice (i.e. vouchers and charters) on student success. Are there examples of student success in charters? Of course, as is there also in public schools. However, the most prominent study of charter schools across the nation showed that nationwide only 15% of charters perform better than traditional public schools.

False Choices

…conservatives are using vouchers and the seductive rhetoric of “choice” to further their goal of privatizing our schools and removing them from public oversight and responsibility.

Raising the Bar Isn’t Education

Testing doesn’t improve learning. Raising the bar doesn’t improve learning. Reducing the effects of poverty and improving instruction will help.

Bill Moyers interviewed Neil DeGrasse Tyson this past week. During their discussion of science literacy they touched on testing. Tyson’s response to Moyer’s comment about the effects of child poverty is great…”so what else is new.” If only the “reformatizers” were statistics literate!

BILL MOYERS: There’s something else to this. And, I mean, some people say this educational stagnation that we are experiencing, it’s because we have one of the highest child poverty rates in the developed world. They point to the fact that high-poverty schools in America posted dismal scores on these tests, whereas wealthy schools did very well. In fact, students in the wealthiest schools scored so highly that if they were treated as a separate jurisdiction, they would have placed second only to Shanghai in science and reading and would have ranked sixth in the world in math. So inequality matters.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Yes. That’s, yeah. And your point is? That’s always been the case.

Here’s to the Crazy Ones

Test — learn only facts — test — drill on nonsense words — test — test — test…

Our international test scores have always been low…but for decades America thrived anyway.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, in the interview above said,

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: –put too much emphasis on what the meaning of the test is. I, test people, it’s a way to find out what you know. But don’t then say, if you don’t know this, therefore the rest of your life is screwed. No, no, because go find people who are successful in this world. Find, you know, talk show hosts and comedians and novelists and attorneys and go get the politicians. Put them in a room, say, how many here got straight As throughout school? None of them are going to raise their hands. By the way, throw in inventors, throw in all these people, none of them are going to raise their hand, okay? Bill Gates dropped out of college. Michael Dell dropped out of college.

Those people are not– the success of those people is not measured by how they performed on the exam that you wrote as professor. Because they’re thinking in ways that you have yet to think, because they’re inventing tomorrow. And the only way you can invent tomorrow is if you break out of the enclosure that the school system has provided for you by the exams written by people who are trained in another generation. [emphasis added]

Steve Jobs also dropped out of college.

By the way, I make it a point to deny the credibility in educational policy of Bill Gates along with Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Barack Obama, Joel Klein, Rahm Emanuel, Margaret Spellings, and any other lawyer, public policy wonk, politician, or professional athlete who thinks just because they have money or a bully pulpit they know what it’s like to be a teacher. None of those people know squat about educating real children.

But that doesn’t mean that Bill Gates, for example, doesn’t now anything about anything. I don’t believe that you have to finish college in order to be a success in life. However, instead of dumping millions to destroy public education, Gates should stick to what he does know…tech stuff. Develop all the technology you want…but let people who know what they’re doing figure out how to use it with children.

Think Different

As long as we’re on the subject of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs…

On January 24, 1984, Apple introduced its first Macintosh computer…the first “windows” machine.


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 1000 Words, Apple, Choice, Politics, Privatization, Public Ed

I Retired Too Soon

I retired in 2010 when I was 62. Old enough to retire, right? Well, here’s a story about a woman who started teaching at age 81…and continues teaching today. She just celebrated her 100th birthday. She’s not teaching a sit-down class, but Home Economics in an age 2 through grade 5 school. The best thing about this story is the effect on the students…listen to what they say…listen to what they have learned. Think about what’s important in the classroom…

Maybe I’ll go back to the classroom in 10 or 20 years…

America’s oldest teacher may also be most beloved


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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From the Bottom of Duncan’s Barrel

It’s 2014…the year in which all the children in America will be proficient in reading and math…and it’s all thanks to The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Why are these people smiling?

Alas, it won’t happen. Over the last dozen years No Child Left Behind and its Democratic twin, Race to the Top have not improved America’s education as promised. Charter schools don’t do better than traditional public schools. Vouchers don’t improve public schools through competition. There’s still an achievement gap. Punishing students, teachers and schools for low test scores hasn’t incentivized higher achievement. Testing, testing, and more testing hasn’t helped anyone except test developers, publishers, distributors and their donations to the campaign coffers of politicians.

The “no-excuses,” pro-privatization, so-called “reformers” easily ignore any actual research and use the power of the media and money from billionaires to lay the blame on parents, educators and their unions, or some vague “education bureaucracy”. These reformatizers (“reformers” + privatizers) are more interested in the corporate bottom line than the academic success of children.


One of their spokesmen, the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, recently told us that we American educators are “bottom of the academic barrel” — in other words, stupid. We are, as the old saying implies, unable to do anything else. See Teachers and Tests.

While teachers in America often come from the bottom of the academic barrel and are disproportionately teaching students from disadvantaged backgrounds, Duncan said, teachers in South Korea are selected from the top of the class and are rewarded for working with low-income students.

It’s interesting that he would say that, given that his administration has 1) participated in punishing teachers and schools who work with low-income students and 2) developed a policy which has encouraged public schools to replace trained, experienced teachers with untrained novices. High achieving nations such as South Korea invest more money where it’s needed. In the US we spend less money on our low income students. We invest less in their materials, their facilities, and their teachers. Much of what we do spend is redirected away from students into the coffers of test manufacturers like Pearson.

Duncan said,

‘Our children who need more get less,’ he told parent leaders from around the nation

Secretary Duncan seems to understand this yet Race to the Top is a competition which delivers much needed funds to “winners” rather than focusing on schools in need, leaving out millions of high-poverty students.

Rather than providing incentives for states and districts to close schools which are struggling — almost exclusively schools with high numbers of students living in poverty — Race to the Top might work better if it encouraged states to provide more resources to those same schools. Instead, the money is used to close schools filled with low achieving students, fire teachers and administrators, open charter schools lacking public oversight and shuffle students into other schools…which then became low achieving schools.


Secretary Duncan doesn’t stop with educators, however. It seems that American parents just don’t care about their children’s education.

Parents in the United States do not demand the same kind of educational excellence as those in other countries, he said.

Parents do demand educational excellence, of course. What Duncan means to say is that parents in the United States are so confused by the education debate that they don’t always know what educational excellence is. Is it what their children’s teachers are doing on a day to day basis — and they approve of their children’s teachers in overwhelming numbers, or is it what the corporate education reform industry and their employees in the media are saying about America’s public education? The latter plays upon the well-established American tradition of mistrust of high achievement.


Despite No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top, despite A Nation at Risk, and the response to the Soviet threat of Sputnik, despite the fact that Americans talk self-righteously about improving education and use our children as a political tool, the fact is that the United States, as a nation, hasn’t really valued education. In his 1962 work, Anti-intellectualism in American Life, Richard Hofstadter wrote…

Americans would create a common-school system, but would balk at giving it adequate support. They would stand close to the vanguard among the countries of the world in an attempt to diffuse knowledge among the people, and then engage drifters and misfits as teachers and offer them wages of draymen.

Today, the corporate education reform industry is pushing the same thing. Rather than respecting educators and improving teacher preparation the reformatizers whine about the imaginary plague of “bad teachers” and then dump untrained, cheap labor into positions in the classroom and administrative offices. See here and here.

Parents, educators and many of America’s students themselves undoubtedly do care about education. I’ll even go so far as to give the benefit of the doubt to some politicians and policy makers, at least when it comes to their own children. However, as a nation we have not invested wisely in education and it’s because, as a nation, we’re not really serious about educating our children. We’re much more interested in which teams will play in the Superbowl, who’s on Dancing With the Stars, or the newest smart-phone app.

The corporate education reform industry is after the money we spend on public education, not improved education. If they can get more profits by hiring temps to fill the classroom so much the better. If they can make money by writing the standards, then monopolizing the test-prep and tests of those standards then so much the better. The corporate bottom line is not the same as the needs of children.

Blogger Peter Greene offers this proof of America’s lack of serious concern for public education…

If we were serious about education, we would not allow our public school system to be hijacked and dismantled by rich and powerful amateurs.

If we were serious about education, our media would direct its questions about education to teachers. We would all know the names and faces of the best teachers in this country, and they would be the ones being offered 50K a pop to talk about schools.

If we were serious about education, we would not stand for having it “measured” by means as frivolous and meaningless as the barrage of high stakes tests we subject students to.

If we were serious about education, we would fight like hell to keep the federal government’s grubby grabby hands out of our state and local systems.

If we were serious about education, we would make heroes out of the people who provide it and protect them from the attacks of people who didn’t know what the heck they were talking about.

If we were serious about education, we would make sure that schools had the top funding no matter what, even if that meant that other segments of government had to hold bake sales.

If we were serious about education, we would treat as a bad joke the notion that well-meaning untrained rich kids had any business spending a year or two in a classroom for resume building.

If we were serious about education, we would laugh the Common Core out of the room. Hell, if we were serious about education, we would never have proposed the Common Core in the first place.

If we were serious about education, we would never entrust our nations [sic] educational leadership to men who have no training or experience in education at all and who only listened to other men with no training or experience in education at all. If we were serious about education, we would demand leadership by people who were also serious about education, and we would demand leadership based on proven principles and techniques developed by people who truly cared about the education of America’s students.

The last point is important. Secretary Duncan, like most of the Secretaries of Education before him, is not an educator. He is supposedly in charge of America’s K-12 public schools, yet he has never taught in a public school, he has never even attended a public school. He has no educational training other than watching his mother tutor struggling students.

He doesn’t know anything about teaching. He doesn’t know anything about public education students. In his 5 years in office he hasn’t taken the time to learn. He’s a sociology major and a professional basketball player. He has no business leading the nation’s public schools. If we were serious about education we’d fire Arne Duncan.


Comments on “Arne Duncan: School Expectations Are Too Low in the United States”

When researchers control for poverty, the US ranks near the top of the world on international tests: (Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012.

Another Duncan Doughnut

To Duncan, the top of the “barrel” would probably mean the Ivy Leaguers like himself, who become the 5-week TFA wonders; the ones who, on average, flounder through their first 2 years in inner-city schools before fleeing for greener pastures.

Towards the Privatization of Public Education in America. Imposing a Corporate Culture

Students will not become genuine learners unless they are imbued with a love of learning, meaning they regard learning as an end in itself, an asset not easily measured. Every teacher is fully aware that in competitive environments students will concentrate their efforts on achieving a high grade, not on truly understanding the material. They will memorize for tests and then forget everything. They will take great pains to hide their ignorance, not raise critical questions, let alone questions about material they do not understand. We know that in moments of desperation the vast majority of high school students at one time or another will cheat, which is hardly one of the skills we want them to acquire.

Why We Can’t Wait to Close the Achievement Gap

…schools and children don’t exist in a vacuum. We must intensify our efforts to improve the environments in which our children live — providing access to healthcare, including mental health treatment and reducing violence in our communities and increasing parental involvement are just a few such ways.


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, NCLB, Race to the Top

REPA Redux


The Indiana State Board of Education is once again looking at the qualifications for educators and are examining the proposed changes described in REPA III (Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability) this week.

In 2012, the Tony Bennett-run school board tried to force REPA II through in Bennett’s last days in office. Bennett was apparently trying to get them approved before then Superintendent-elect Glenda Ritz could take office. Because of procedural problems, however, the state attorney general prevented implementation. Vic Smith reports.

When the Attorney General’s office reviewed what the State Board had changed in the published rules, they halted implementation of the rules based on procedural problems in the rule-making process. The Attorney General’s ruling meant clarifications had to be drafted and additional public hearings had to be scheduled. State Board member Tony Walker, apparently eager to implement REPA 2, expressed great frustration about the delay during one State Board meeting. Teacher educators, in contrast, were pleased by the Attorney General’s ruling and hoped it would mean the end of REPA 2.

I made some comments at the time because REPA II called for lowering standards for teacher, principal and superintendent licensing.

Now, REPA III has brought the same thing back again. Vic Smith wrote

REPA 2 was Dr. Bennett’s parting shot to try to lower standards for getting teacher and administrator licenses. He asked the State Board to pass the revised rules in December of 2012 after his election defeat. They were passed but with so many amendments that the Attorney General ruled that the rules could not be finalized until they were clarified and given another round of public hearings.

The CECI has now picked up the ball and is calling them REPA 3. They contain at least four really bad ideas:

1) Individuals with any four year degree can get a 5-year “Adjunct” teaching license.

2) Training required to get a principal’s license would be reduced.

3) Training required to get a superintendent’s license would be reduced.

4) Administrative certification can be offered by non-higher education organizations. Whether for-profit private organizations can become training sites for administrators and adjunct teachers is not clear but remains a possibility that should be clarified before the hearings.

and later

…[The] problem is the assumption that pedagogical training is a trivial part of becoming a teacher. Why would anyone bother to look into a School of Education teacher training program, especially a rigorous one, if they know they can teach with any bachelor’s degree after passing a content area test? Has the Governor concluded that to know something is to be able to teach it to students? We know better.

A couple of years ago I read a prediction by Stephen Krashen. He predicted that Arne Duncan would eventually claim that

…teachers don’t need any kind of degree in education or any course work in education.

Duncan hasn’t said that yet…Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the CECI (his shadow department of education) and supporters of REPA III have beaten him to it.


Does teacher quality, including pedagogical training, actually matter?

In her book, The Flat World and Education, Linda Darling-Hammond discussed just this issue.

Ronald Fersuson demonstrated that…that the single most important measurable cause of increased student learning was teacher expertise, measured by teacher performance on a statewide certification exam measuring academic skills and teaching knowledge, along with teacher experience, and master’s degrees. The effects were so strong, and the variations in teacher expertise so great, that after controlling for socioeconomic status the large disparities in achievement between Black and White students were almost entirely accounted for by differences in the qualifications of their teachers. [emphasis added]

There are two important things to note in that paragraph. First, the teacher expertise included teaching knowledge. Knowledge about teaching is important…not just content knowledge! Second, just to make sure that we’re clear on the issue of poverty, this study was done “after controlling for socioeconomic status” (Teachers are the most important IN-SCHOOL factor in student learning. Out of school factors play a much bigger role. See Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success by Berliner, et al).

Other pertinent comments from Darling-Hammond

The strongest predictors of student failure were the proportion of teachers without any training or certification…

Among the school resource measures, the level of teacher experience and a related measure — the percentage of teachers without a full credential — are the variables most strongly related to student achievement.

[NOTE: These are all referring to the effect on student achievement after controlling for socioeconomic status.]

Would any members of the school board continue to go to a dentist who allowed an untrained person to work with patients in his/her office even if that person knew a lot about teeth? Would any members of the school board use an attorney who allowed an untrained person to speak for his/her firm in court, even if that person knew a lot about the law? Would any member of the school board got on board a plane flown by an untrained person, even if that person knew a lot about aerodynamics?

Professional work needs to be done by professionals.


To read Vic Smith’s discussion of the REPA III language click here.

If you’d like to tell the School Board how you feel about REPA III, public comments on the proposed language will be accepted until January 31, 2014. Go the SBOE website at to enter your comments. The proposed rule language can be found here.


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!

Comments Off on REPA Redux

Filed under CECI, Darling-Hammond, REPA, SBOE