Posted in Anthony Cody, Article Medleys, DeVos, John Kuhn, Religion, vouchers

2017 Medley #8 – Vouchers Come Up Short

Vouchers Come Up Short


The latest research on the efficacy of school vouchers shows that receiving a voucher does not guarantee a better education. One wonders, then, why Republicans (and some Democrats) are fighting so hard to impose more vouchers on the public to the detriment of public schools?

The current administration, under Trump, Pence, and DeVos, is pushing vouchers nationwide despite the mediocre showing of private schools compared to their public counterparts (see The Public School Advantage as well as here, herehere, and here). This is not to say that private and parochial schools are all inferior to public schools. On the contrary, some elite private schools have excellent programs unburdened by teach-to-the-test policies. However, when you consider the economic status of the students the advantage disappears.

In Indiana, vouchers began as a way to help high poverty students “escape” from “failing” public schools. The truth is that the “failing” public schools were often struggling due to the state’s neglect of the economic conditions in the school communities. Children in East Chicago, for example, have been combatting the effects of lead poisoning for years. “Failing” schools in Indianapolis are due, at least in part, to a child poverty rate of 33% and an overall poverty rate of 20%, both well above the national average. Vouchers wouldn’t help all those students even if private and parochial schools were “better.” Public schools can and should try to improve, of course, but improvement requires support from the larger community, in this case, the state legislature and governor’s office. Until politicians accept their share of responsibility for the high rate of child poverty, schools – public, charter and private – will continue to “fail.”

The Indiana voucher plan began in 2011 with the promise of saved money and increased achievement. Under the Republican-led legislature and Governors (Daniels and Pence), the program has been expanded significantly. Once it became clear that private and parochial schools can’t overcome the effects of poverty any better or more cheaply than public schools can, the argument has changed from “improved achievement and money saved” to “parental choice.” Should parents have the “choice” to spend public tax dollars, earmarked for a public institution, at a religious or private location?


Vouchers do not improve education

Vouchers in Indiana don’t save money…and don’t improve education. Doug Masson provides three “reasons” for vouchers that hits three nails right on the head.

In Indiana, the motivating impulse for voucher enthusiasts seems to be a combination of: a) undermining the influence of teachers’ unions; b) subsidizing the preferences of those who would want a private religious education; and c) providing access to that sweet, sweet education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher proponents.


Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is getting some very bad news about her favorite thing, school vouchers

The LA Times reports that vouchers and school privatization doesn’t really work. The reporter, a Pulitzer Prize winning business reporter named Michael Hiltzik, apparently needs more education when it comes to education reporting.

…DeVos’s patron, President Trump, proposed during his campaign to shovel $20 billion to the states to support magnet and charter schools in voucher programs.

The sentence should end, “…$20 billion to the states to support magnet, charter schools, and voucher programs.” Do vouchers pay for school system magnet programs and charter schools? I don’t think so, but perhaps I’m wrong. It’s my understanding that vouchers pay for tuition to private schools, while magnet schools are part of public school systems, and charter schools are privately run publicly funded schools. Feel free to correct me on this in the comments.

Hilzik continues, reporting the news that recent research has voucher students scoring lower on standardized tests than public school students. The claim that “education experts” are stunned by the results is, in itself, stunning. Simply changing the venue of a child’s education isn’t sufficient to improve achievement if the child continues to live with the out-of-school-factors related to poverty.

…the latest findings, which emerge from studies of statewide programs in Louisiana, Ohio and Indiana, have left education experts stunned. In a nutshell, they find huge declines of academic achievement among students in voucher programs in those three states.

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins

Kevin Carey in the New York Times, echoes the “surprise” over the results of the studies. The results, he says, are “startling.”

In this piece, “well-regulated charter schools” refers to charters which are “open to all and accountable to public authorities.”

The last sentence is the most important. [emphasis added]

The new voucher studies stand in marked contrast to research findings that well-regulated charter schools in Massachusetts and elsewhere have a strong, positive impact on test scores. But while vouchers and charters are often grouped under the umbrella of “school choice,” the best charters tend to be nonprofit public schools, open to all and accountable to public authorities. The less “private” that school choice programs are, the better they seem to work.


I voted for school vouchers. Now I know I was wrong.

The pro-“reform” Thomas Fordham Institute studied the effectiveness of Ohio’s voucher programs. Just like in Louisiana and Indiana, they don’t help children achieve better than public schools and they strip public education of funding.

In this article a former North Carolina legislator concludes that tax money for vouchers would be better spent on the state’s public schools.

So what did this report say that the Fordham Institute undertook, ostensibly to promote the expansion of vouchers in America? It said that vouchers have failed miserably. That’s right, a pro-voucher group had to put out a report that concluded that vouchers are failing our children. And keep in mind, this isn’t an outlier of empirical studies of vouchers’ effectiveness in educating our children. Two other recent studies (one in Indiana and another in Louisiana) came to the same conclusion.

…North Carolina is scheduled to spend over $1 billion in the next 10 years for a voucher system that simply doesn’t work. It’s time for the General Assembly to recognize this and correct course so that we can reinvest that billion dollars in public schools.


Vouchers a new entitlement to religious education

At first it was for poor kids to escape from “failing” schools. Now it’s a way to provide public funds for religious schools and to increase the segregation of Indiana schools. [emphasis added]

When lawmakers created the program in 2011, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels said it was a way to help children from poor families find a better alternative to failing public schools. But the program has evolved into a new entitlement: state-funded religious education for middle and low-income families.

Some 54 percent of students receiving vouchers this year have no record of having attended an Indiana public school, the report says. Voucher advocates initially insisted the program would save the state money, because it would cost less to subsidize private school tuition than to send a student to a public school. But increasingly vouchers are going to families that never had any intention of sending their kids to public schools; that’s an entirely new cost for the state to take on.

Also, vouchers are more and more going to students who are white, suburban and non-poor. When the program started, more than half of participating students were black or Hispanic. Now over 60 percent are white, and only 12.4 percent are African-American. It’s reasonable to ask if, in some cases, vouchers are a state-funded mechanism for “white flight” from schools that are becoming more diverse.


John Kuhn: Vouchers Serve Adults at Children’s Expense

Anthony Cody wrote this about John Kuhn.

John Kuhn is a Texas school superintendent and long-time advocate for public schooling. His essays have been read hundreds of thousands of times online, videos of his speeches have gone viral, and his book, Fear and Learning in America, has sold thousands of copies. He continues to advocate for teachers and fight for the constitutional promise of free public schools for all American children.

I’ve quoted Superintendent Kuhn quite a few times on this blog and included YouTube videos. He’s an important voice for public education in America…not just Texas.

Superintendent Kuhn presented this speech on March 5 to the Association of Texas Professional Educators, an independent association of educators (i.e. affiliated with neither NEA nor AFT).

The great American experiment of free public schools, open to all children and overseen by locally-elected citizens—this bold vision is being challenged by an army of wealthy and interested parties who are dead set on dismantling the public education system and trading it for a voucher system…

John Kuhn at the Save Texas Schools Rally in 2011

Be sure to read John Kuhn’s Alamo Letter.

Posted in Anthony Cody, Duncan, Testing, Value-Added

Tell Duncan He’s Wrong

Arne Duncan and the Obama Department of Education have redirected their attack on public schools to post-secondary schools of education. Duncan has proposed that colleges be judged based on the test scores of their graduates’ students and the ability of their graduates to get hired. There is simply no research which indicates that this is an accurate measure of the success of a school of education. Simple common sense says that there are other factors which come into play…most notably, the socio-economic status of the children teachers teach. Poverty is the number one factor in student test scores, not their teachers’ SAT scores or school of education.

Of course, it’s important for teachers to be competent at what they do. Good training is vital, and why Duncan is going after schools of education instead of Teach for America is a topic for another post (think $$$).

In the meantime, using VAM to measure the effectiveness of schools of education is no more appropriate as using VAM to measure the effectiveness of classroom teachers. It is simply invalid.

Student achievement test scores should be used for tracking student achievement and determining the instructional needs of students. That is what achievement tests were designed for…and that’s what they should be used for. Anyone who has ever learned anything about standardized tests ought to know that tests should be used only for that which they have been designed. Period.

You have a chance to tell Secretary Duncan how wrong he is.

Anthony Cody, a blogger, public education activist, author, teacher, and founding member of the Network for Public Education, writes…

We have a short window — just until Jan. 2, to submit public comments for consideration by the Department of Ed in response to their proposed new regulations affecting teacher education.

These regulations are aimed at wiping out “ideological resistance” to high stakes tests.

The proposal states that the new regulations will evaluate teacher education programs based on the following criteria:

  • Employment outcomes: New teacher placement and three-year retention rates in high-need schools and in all schools.
  • New teacher and employer feedback: Surveys on the effectiveness of preparation.
  • Student learning outcomes: Impact of new teachers as measured by student growth, teacher evaluation, or both.
  • Assurance of specialized accreditation or evidence that a program produces high-quality candidates.

Please let the US DOE know that VAM is inappropriate for evaluating teachers, schools, school systems, and post secondary teacher training schools. Anthony Cody has all the information in his post, Duncan Brings the Sham of VAM to Teacher Education.

There is a window of opportunity to comment on this proposal. Everyone associated with teacher education ought to comment. Professors – this is a perfect opportunity to acquaint your students with the policies that will impact their careers in the years to come. Student teachers, challenge your professors to take a stand. Comments should be sent to this address: by January 2, 2015.

[UPDATE: The window for making comments on this web site is February 2, 2015, not January 2.]


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 Anthony Cody, Public Ed, REPA, SBOE, Teaching Career

REPA III – Deprofessionalizing Education


This weekend Anthony Cody posted the following video on his new blog site…

The three minute talk by Visiting Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Howard University, Denisha Jones, speaks right to the heart of the matter of allowing (or encouraging) people to walk into public school classrooms unprepared.

Dr. Jones (Ph.D in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana University) focuses her comments on the 5-week TFA (Teach For Awhile?) training program which places minimally trained college graduates in public school classrooms. In its early years, TFA aimed to fill unfilled positions in low income neighborhood schools. Now it’s also being used to replace laid off teachers with cheap temps in school districts around the nation.

On the other hand, REPA III, which was adopted last week by the Indiana State Board or Education, doesn’t even require 5 weeks of pedagogical training before you can be hired to teach in one of Indiana’s high schools. You have to be well trained or experienced in your subject area, but developing the skills needed to transfer knowledge and develop understanding to the students in your classroom is apparently not necessary. If an unlucky high school does hire you to teach, only then do you have to start your training in pedagogy. You can “learn how to teach” from…

…school-based professional development, college or university-based course work or professional development, an entity that is not an institution of higher education, or a professional education organization

This pedagogical training must start within the first month you enter the classroom. The seven members of the State Board of Education who voted for REPA III apparently believe that you can 1) make it through the first month in a high school classroom without any knowledge of how teaching actually works or 2) learn how to teach instantly once you are exposed to “pedagogy training.” [Note how the language in REPA III allows you to get your “training” from virtually anyone…like Pearson, perhaps]


Allowing untrained “experts” to teach on the REPA III plan is simply the logical next step in the privatization of public education and the deprofessionalization of teachers in Indiana and across the nation.

In contrast, Finland has improved its schools and national education, not by testing every child yearly and using tests to punish students, teachers and schools, or by reducing funding for education resulting in lower or frozen teacher salaries. It hasn’t removed collective bargaining rights for teachers, or taken away teachers’ due process rights. What Finland has done, among other things, is to elevate the profession of teaching to such a high level that the “best and the brightest” want to pursue careers in education. The Finns have improved teacher training by increasing, rather than decreasing the requirements needed before one can step in front of a classroom. They require educators to understand their subject area, of course, but they also require them to be well trained in pedagogy. They give their teachers plenty of time to collaborate and plan lessons so their students need less in-school time than their American counterparts. They pay their teachers well, and even pay them during their training.

What does all this investment in teacher training and professional development yield?

Academically, Finland is one of the highest performing nations in the world.


We hear so much about how American schools are failing because our students don’t score high enough on international tests and how we should learn from those successful countries so that our students will be able to “compete in the global marketplace.”

Then we turn around and underfund our schools, overwork our teachers, blame public education for the failure of policy makers to deal with issues surrounding poverty and sell off the education of our children to private and charter schools with little or no public oversight.

The final step in making our public schools as much unlike successful nations’ schools as possible, is to demoralize teachers and deprofessionalize the field of education. Instead of increasing requirements for becoming a teacher, we decrease them. Instead of doing what we need to do to attract the “best and the brightest” to our public school classrooms we make a career in the field of education so difficult and so filled with mind-numbing test-obsessed insanity that fewer and fewer students are going into teaching and older, experienced career teachers are leaving the field in greater and greater numbers.

REPA III requires training in some “related field.” Would any of the seven REPA III supporters on the Indiana State Board of Education want to be treated for an illness by say, an anatomy professor who never attended medical or nursing school, but who promised to learn how to practice medicine within a month? Would any of them go to a former police officer for legal help, for example, if the officer decided that s/he wanted to practice law and would start on her/his law degree during the first month of handling their case?

Do any of them send their own children to schools with untrained teachers?

Dr. Jones said,

…this is what makes one a professional. They have completed a course of education deemed appropriate by the leaders in their field, and they have demonstrated a readiness to enter the profession. [emphasis added]

The seven pro-REPA III members of the Indiana State Board of Education are not leaders in the field of education despite some of their credentials. They have demonstrated that they are unqualified to have anything to do with public education.


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 Anthony Cody, poverty

Anthony Cody: “It’s Poverty Not Bad Teachers”

On June 4, I wrote,

The point is, of course, that the link between achievement and poverty is not in doubt. We know better. The “new data” linking lower achievement with poverty just supports the “old data” linking lower achievement with poverty.


Now, Anthony Cody, author of EdWeek’s Living in Dialogue Blog adds his voice (click the title to read the entire article. You should!).

Poverty is what’s crippling public education in the US—not bad teachers

…reformers [have] advocate[d] that we:

  • Test students more often…
  • Eliminate barriers to firing the “bad teachers”…
  • Create new evaluation plans that give significant weight to “value added” measures…

…new data shows that in the three large urban school districts where these reforms have been given full rein, the results are actually worse than in comparable districts that have not gone this route.

Some of the key findings…

  • Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts.
  • Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.
  • School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.

Most importantly:

  • The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance.

Here are some other people saying the same thing…


…for the politicians and policy makers who have allowed so many of our children to grow up in poverty?

…for the Bush team who saddled us with NCLB based on the falsely named Texas Miracle?

…for the Obama team who saddled us with Race to the Top based on Arne Duncan’s failed Renaissance 2000?

…for the Bloomberg team in New York City and the Emanuel team in Chicago? Close schools, fire teachers, shuffle children around no matter what it does to them?

…for all the “reformers” who are privatizing education and starving the nation’s public schools?


From Susan Ohanian

“We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” -— Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

“There are two major factors preventing teachers from being even more effective: (1) The high level of child poverty in the U.S., 23.1 percent, second among high-income countries; children who are hungry, have poor health care and little access to books will not do well in school regardless of teacher quality. (2) The unreasonable demands of the Common Core: a tight, inflexible curriculum that crushes creativity, designed by elitists with little idea of what goes on in classrooms, and a massive amount of testing, more than we have ever seen on this planet.” -— Stephen Krashen, Seattle Times, Jan. 11, 2013

“16.4 million children living in poverty in this country. Solution: Blame the schools and take away teacher benefits and bargaining rights.” -— Susan Ohanian, Twitter, Sept. 14, 2011

“The relationship between poverty and all kinds of academic achievement is one of the best-established and most replicated results in all of educational research. People keep “rediscovering it” and politicians keep ignoring it, or tell people to ‘stop whining’ (Rod Paige).” —- Stephen Krashen, e-mail, Aug. 10, 2011

“Let’s blame
(1) teachers
(2) schools of education
(3) the decline of the US
(4) lack of a national education program
(5) parents.
But not
the real culprit:
-— Stephen Krashen, March 22, 2011

I mean this with all respect. I’m on my knees here, and there’s a knife in my back, and the prints on it kinda match yours. I think you don’t get it…It’s not bad teaching that got things to the current state of affairs. It’s pure, raw poverty. We don’t teach in failing schools. We teach in failing communities…” —- Paul Karrer, Education Week, Feb. 2, 2011

“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

“For many critics, teachers have become the villains in the wealthy elite’s panic over educational accomplishment and foreign competition. But teachers don’t cause financial meltdowns, home foreclosures, climate change, or hurricanes. And they don’t invade countries or outsource jobs. Teachers don’t cause mind-numbing conditions of poverty that limit children’s ability to learn. However, teachers are the ones asked to cope with the poisonous effects of poverty. Why? Because most of society doesn’t give a damn.” —- Richard Gibboney, in Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality by Bracey


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 Anthony Cody, Bennett, Duncan, Teaching Career

What Does it Mean to be an Educator?

Yesterday Anthony Cody blogged about the drama unfolding in New Mexico where teachers are expressing a desire to have an educator as state Education Secretary. The quote below from Cody’s piece, New Mexico Education Secretary’s Hearings Bring More Light to Corruption in Education Reform, is from Larry Langley, the head of New Mexico’s Business Roundtable.

“Please understand that to be a highly qualified educator doesn’t require you to be in front of a classroom,” Langley said. “Every one of us in this room, I hope, are some kind of qualified educator. I’ve certainly learned things from the chair of this committee. I have learned things from the ranking member of this committee, and from many others. You have been my educators, and you have been qualified educators.”

[UPDATE: Diane Ravitch has some information about Hanna Skandera, the acting secretary of education in New Mexico. You can read it HERE.]

Now, being a former teacher is no guarantee that one will be a good state education leader. Many of us in Indiana (and now Florida) recognize that former Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, who was a career teacher, was not a friend to public education. The same is true on the Federal level. Rod Paige, who was Bush II’s first Secretary of Education was a high school Health and PE teacher for a few years. It was under Paige’s watch, you remember, that No Child Left Behind became the law of the land. Paige is also famous for calling the NEA a “terrorist organization.”

So, while I think it’s important that a state (and federal) education chief be an experienced educator, experience alone is no guarantee that a trained educator will be able to resist the call of politics and work for the benefit of the students under their care. That being said, it’s insulting to have the public school chief of the state or federal administration making policy for public schools when the newest graduate of an accredited education school (note: this does not include TFA) is more experienced in the field.

According to Langley, above, anyone who’s taught something to anyone is an educator. The person who taught me how to use the cash register at Carl Fischer of Chicago when I started working there in 1970 was, by that definition, an educator. Does that mean that since I have bandaged a child’s cut finger I’m a doctor? I’ve removed a splinter using tweezers…does that make me a surgeon? Obviously not…and teaching someone how to be a politician or run a cash register does not make one an educator.

What does it mean to be an educator?

Why is being a “teacher” something that many people consider easy work? Why is education something that you don’t need experience in or background in before you are allowed to make policy for students, teachers and schools? Why do lawmakers in Indiana think that almost anyone can be an educator?

Most Americans have gone or are currently going to school. Teachers are everywhere…and have influenced nearly all of us. Most people, even poor students such as I was, can name a teacher or two who had a positive influence on their lives. Furthermore, most teachers are very good at what they do. They make the job of teaching look easy. It looks easy…so therefore, the conventional wisdom goes, anyone can do it. We’re all, as Langley says, “educators.”

Here’s an example.

Q: Why does Arne Duncan (I’ll use Duncan as an example because, as Secretary of Education he’s the nation’s “top educator.” The same holds true for any non-educator who thinks they know-it-all about education) think he’s qualified to make policy for teachers and public schools?

A: He had good teachers when he was growing up. He went to well resourced schools with well-trained teachers. He learned his lessons, from identifying letters of the alphabet to learning how to “find x” to learning how to write a term paper for his 400 level Sociology class at Harvard. He watched his teachers as they skillfully led him to understanding and knowledge. It’s likely however, that he didn’t see the amount of work they put into their daily lessons or the preparation they needed to deal with the problems children bring to their classrooms every day.

Teaching is not easy, at any level. Teaching a classroom of students is hard, demanding, sometimes grueling, work. It is not, as a parent of one of my students once said to me, “simply a question of telling them” what they need to know. Arne Duncan was never trained in pedagogy, child development, psychology, curriculum development and design or any of the other things a teacher must know in order to be a teacher. Imparting knowledge is just one aspect of teaching…and I would maintain that it’s not the most important.

Duncan doesn’t realize (and neither, obviously, does Langley) that it takes knowledge and skill to be a teacher because his memories of being in a classroom are immature memories. Does he really have any idea what his first grade teacher did to help him learn to read? Does he understand how his fifth grade teacher helped him memorize the Gettysburg Address? Does he really understand how his high school History teacher inspired him? Does he know all the work his English teacher did to prepare a lesson on Shakespeare?

No. He doesn’t. He was a child…and he viewed his teachers through a child’s eyes. To use eduspeak, he didn’t have the “background knowledge” necessary to understand the amount of effort it took to educate him. He still doesn’t and neither do most other “reformers” who are making education policy in America, today.

Teachers need to speak out. What does it mean to be an educator?

Stop the Testing Insanity!