Category Archives: Gates

Money for Nothin’


For the past two decades Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have been dropping millions of dollars into education schemes the billionaire was sure would transform America’s schools. Gates tried small schools, teacher incentives, and the Common Core to try to influence the achievement of public schools – all to no avail. (Further reading: Anthony Cody’s, The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation)

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has invested millions of dollars into training managers to run school systems like businesses. They’ve put money into large scale teacher merit-pay experiments in school districts. They’ve supported legislation, including the so-called “Parent Trigger” which would allow a majority of a schools current parents to transfer a community owned public school to a for-profit charter company.

The Walton Family Foundation, run by America’s wealthiest family, has invested millions of dollars in the privatization of public education. They have supported the creation and expansion of voucher programs in Indiana and other states.

The attempts to improve America’s education by billionaires, none of whom have any training in education, have several things in common.

First, none of the schemes have been successful enough, or been replicable on a large enough scale to improve the country’s public education system.

Second, the money used to fund the projects hasn’t been sustainable. Some programs have failed when grants ended, because of the inability of the school systems to continue to pay for it.

Third, nearly all attempts to improve schools measure that improvement with standardized test scores which are often inadequate.

Fourth, America’s low international test scores are often cited as the reason for the billionaires’ interference in education. I have explained in detail why our students’ average scores are lower on international tests in The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools.

Finally, none of the attempts by these wealthy families, even if we assume that they are altruistic in their desire to help children succeed, attack the root cause of low achievement in America. Poverty.


The late Gerald Bracey wrote,

When people have said “poverty is no excuse,” my response has been, “Yes, you’re right. Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a condition. It’s like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.”

David C. Berliner, professor and dean of the Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education at Arizona State University, presented a brief titled, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. The report explains how improvements of schools are not enough to overcome the out-of-school factors faced by children who live in high poverty areas.

…the negative effects of many [out-of-school factors] are concentrated in the schools that serve poor and minority children and families. This increases the burden on these schools in such a way as to make broad reductions in the achievement gap nearly impossible.


Silicon valley billionaires are dumping their tax write-offs into America’s schools in the hopes, they say, of increasing test scores…and, if they can get a few bucks themselves in the process, so much the better.

The New York Times has a long article detailing ways that projects from tech entrepreneurs, like Netflix’s Reed Hastings and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, are influencing America’s schools. Once again they aren’t focusing on the real problem.

The influx of money from rich technology-king benefactors has an influence on what teachers are teaching…and how they teach. After all, when a teacher or school gets a grant for a half million dollars in hardware and software they generally don’t turn it down. The students, then, become the “de facto beta testers” for the billionaires’ ideas.

But does it actually help?

The Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools

Tech companies and their founders have been rolling out programs in America’s public schools with relatively few checks and balances, The New York Times found in interviews with more than 100 company executives, government officials, school administrators, researchers, teachers, parents and students.

“They have the power to change policy, but no corresponding check on that power,” said Megan Tompkins-Stange, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. “It does subvert the democratic process.”

Furthermore, there is only limited research into whether the tech giants’ programs have actually improved students’ educational results.

Once again we have billionaires dumping money into schools, and often into privatization schemes, without regard to actual research and often without public oversight.

Technology can be a powerful educational tool, when used correctly. Where did Mark Zuckerberg get his teaching credentials? Who is determining how these programs are used? Who is monitoring them to see if they work? Will the money disappear if the programs fail?


A New Jersey family won a lottery of nearly a half billion dollars…guess where it’s going?

Family in New Jersey Wins $429 Million Lottery, Uses Money to Fight Poverty

Last year, the Smith family in Trenton, New Jersey, won the $429 million Powerball lottery, and they planned to use all that money to help fight poverty. Pearlie Mae Smith and her seven children meant what they said at a press conference when they promised to give that money back to their community.

…They used the money to pay off bills and student loans before they put it back into their community with the Smith Family Foundation. “We want to fund programs that directly affect systems of poverty so we can help change the systems or change the dynamics that are causing people to be in poverty,” Harold Smith told “Rather than just helping them find food or give away food, we can make it so they now have the ability to obtain employment, get their proper education in order to be able to go out and get their own food.”

The foundation will work with the city in order to provide both long- and short-term grants for Trenton. [emphasis added]

Imagine if Gates, Broad, The Waltons, and the rest tried to improve education by donating their billions to help fight poverty, like the Smiths, in cooperation with municipalities and states. If we reduce poverty we can reduce the negative effects of out-of-school factors that get in the way of student achievement.

In his Southern Christian Leadership Conference Presidential Address, on August 16, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said,

…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.


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Filed under Broad, David Berliner, Gates, Gerald Bracey, MLK, technology, WaltonFamilyFoundation

2016 Medley #22

Charters, Why Teachers Quit,
“Failing” Schools, Local Control, Money


In the eyes of the NLRB, charter schools are private, not public

In order to cash in on public money spent on education charter school promoters insist that charters are “public schools.” However, in the eyes of the charter operators themselves, when they are put under pressure by the public to “act” like public schools they become private entities. See here, here, here, and here.

Now, the federal government has gotten into the discussion and has decided, through a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that charter schools are, indeed, private.

In other words, charter schools are just another voucher plan that transfers money intended for public education into private pockets.

A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), concludes that charter schools are private and efforts to start teachers unions in them should fall under their purview, rather than the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) which oversees the public sector.

The decision stemmed from efforts by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to unionize teachers at the Hyde Leadership charter school in Brooklyn.

PERB had asserted jurisdiction over the school, but the union ended up arguing that organizing efforts should be overseen by the NLRB which administers labor law in the private sector.

The NLRB in its decision, concluded that “Hyde was not established by a state or local government, and is not itself a public school.”

Detroit charter school closes just two weeks before first day of class

Local public school systems generally face a significant amount of opposition when they try to close a public school. Public meetings are held, parents argue for keeping their children’s school open, alumni come back to talk about the impact the school had on their lives, and citizens argue that the school is an integral part of the community. Closing a public school is often a time-consuming and traumatic experience for the community and the students (See this article about schools closing in my community).

Free-market proponents want schools to be subject to the whims of the marketplace. In such a system, they believe, “bad” schools will close and “good” schools will be supported. The problem is that school closings hurt children. Two weeks before school started, this charter school in Detroit closed its doors. Parents are left having to frantically search for another school for their children. This, it seems to me, is an important benefit of a public school system under the oversight of an elected school board. Real public schools don’t close two weeks before school starts, or in the middle of the year. School boards generally create a plan for relocating students from schools which are closed.

But for the charter industry…school closing is a feature, not a bug.

Just two weeks before the first day of class, a charter school on Detroit’s west side notified parents and students today that the high school has closed.

Officials for University YES Academy held an impromptu meeting today to tell high school students they needed to find another school to attend. Only parents and students were allowed in the meeting, and they were barred from using recording devices.

How charters became the most segregated schools in Indianapolis

See also The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.

…as charter schools expand their reach across the country and every year educate a larger share of the nation’s children, the issue of racial segregation has raised significant concerns among integration advocates who warn that it can push low-income students into low-achieving schools and reduce the resources going to high-needs schools.

Even at schools like Tindley that are relatively high performing, critics say graduates will be less prepared to interact with people from different backgrounds later in life.


Why Do Teachers Stay? What Makes them Leave?

How do teachers live with the cognitive dissonance inherent in today’s educational environment? How can you justify government sponsored malpractice? Each teacher must decide if they can do enough to overcome the damage done by the test-and-punish education promoted by statehouses and the the US Education Department, or whether they will succumb to that which hurts their students.

Teachers must decide…do they stay or do they go? Either way they choose, teachers usually feel guilty.

There are some who say that teachers who recognize the draconian classroom goals and objectives and their professional emasculation, should all quit. They should announce to the world that they hate high-stakes testing, or Common Core, Competency-Based Education (CBE), or an innumerable array of insidious reforms, and then they should proudly stake their career on their beliefs and walk out the door.

Some do this, and then they go fight like hell for the rights of teachers and students.

Some teachers of like mind, ban together and put up a fight, like the teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School who boycotted testing.

Some teachers cry for awhile, then they turn away. They believe the only thing they can do is work on something else that will bring joy and happiness. They focus on their corner of the world, where they feel they have some control.

Who’s the best kind of teacher? That is not for me to judge, although I wonder about teachers who buy into every school reform that comes their way.

Every teacher must make up their own mind what their career means to them and how to best serve the children in their care. And there are always a whole lot of deeply personal outside factors that enter into the decision.


Grading the schools

Are America’s public schools failing? The latest PDK poll once again reports that people who have children in public schools give their schools a good rating. Approximately two-thirds of public school parents rate their local schools as an A or B. When you add a grade of C, the number increases to 90%. Nationally, schools are rated much lower. Why? Could it be that the media, politicians, pundits, and “reformers” are promoting the myth of America’s “failing public schools?” What do local parents know that the general public doesn’t?

Failing schools or inaccurate reporting?

Stephen Krashen provides an answer to the questions above…

The explanation: Parents have direct information about the school their children attend, but their opinion of American education comes from the media. For decades, the media has been reporting more academic failure than actually exists.


A Simple Solution to Fix the Problem of our Failing Public Education System

No two public schools are alike…

A simple solution infers that a single strategy, or group of strategies, will be sufficient to address problems across a wide variety of settings–in this case, our public schools. As anyone who has ever spent a day teaching in a public school knows, no two public schools are alike, so the notion that any one idea or approach holds the answer to wide-spread, systemic change in an ecosystem as large and diverse as America’s public school system is either naive or disingenuous. And neither of those traits is a good thing when it comes to making suggestions about our nation’s education policy.


Mr. Gates Chats with Mr. Bowling

Bill Gates can’t understand that he’s not an education expert simply because he’s rich. Nate Bowling does his best to explain things.

At the beginning of 2016, Bowling wrote a widely-circulated piece entitled “The Conversation I’m Tired of Not Having” in which he comes down hard on the idea of setting aside questions of education policy until we can honestly grapple with the issues of race and poverty, charging that the powers that be and the folks in the ‘burbs are actually pretty happy with The Way Things Are.

…if the wealthy and super-wealthy had skin in the game, public schools would get the support they need.


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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, Gates, Privatization, Public Ed, WhyTeachersQuit

Gates Gets Schooled

As reported in a Los Angeles Times editorial, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation CEO, Sue Desmond-Hellman, has admitted that…

“It is really tough to create more great public schools.”

Massive wealth doesn’t necessarily equal massive knowledge, and the Gates Foundation has shown over and over again that its knowledge about how to improve America’s education system is anything but massive.

Let’s begin with just three of the assumptions the Gates Foundation used when funding its education ideas.

ASSUMPTION #1 – Small schools are better.

Small schools can work, but it takes money. Lakeside School, Bill Gates’s Alma Mater, for example, has less than 800 students in grades 5 through 12. They also charge $30 thousand dollars a year tuition per child along and have an endowment of $118 million. Even if only half of the students paid the full tuition they would have a working budget of $10 million a year.

How successful would the public schools in Detroit or Chicago be if they had a budget of $10 million a year for each school?

When Bill Gates decided that he didn’t want to experiment with small schools any more he pulled his funding and left the schools in the lurch. Without Gates funding

‘We ran into cash flow problems that were directly related to growth and the speed of growth. It was very, very unfortunate.’

So, small schools might be nice, but billionaires’ contributions are not guaranteed. America needs fully funded, publicly run, public schools which are not dependent on the whims of billionaires or the fluctuations of the “market.”

ASSUMPTION #2 – Teachers aren’t really trying so they need an economic incentive to try harder.

When did it become fashionable to assume that all teachers were lazy and didn’t really want to do the hard work of helping students achieve?

“Reformers” choose to dump all the blame for low student achievement on teachers instead of considering other out-of-school factors. This is convenient for those public servants who are responsible for out-of-school factors influencing achievement. Most teachers are working as hard as they can to help students. Extra money, while it would be welcome, would probably not influence student achievement. Curiously enough, that’s exactly what researchers find when they study financial incentive plans for teachers.

Yet Another Study Shows That Financial Incentives Don’t Work

…it did not improve the achievement of students, to say the least. If anything, such incentive in fact worsened the performance of students….Not only that, but the incentive program had no effect on teachers’ absenteeism, retention in school or district, nor did it affect the teachers’ perception of the learning environment in a school…

Merit Pay Misfires

When asked to take on a merit-pay system, teachers typically point to the fact that they have no control over who is assigned to their classes. Every veteran teacher knows that groups of students will vary in their ability and motivation from year to year. Each class presents its own set of challenges. And this variation exists across schools and districts.

Tying Teacher Salaries to Test Scores Doesn’t Work

Research shows that the carrot of higher pay does not lead to better results. In an authoritative study conducted at Vanderbilt University, for example, teachers who were offered bonuses for improving student test results produced no more improvement than the control group.

Similar studies of teacher merit pay have shown null results in New York City and Chicago. Because of the lack of positive results, a number of pay for performance programs have been abandoned, including programs in New York City and California.

Methods that use test scores to evaluate teachers, including the currently popular “value added” calculations, have also proved highly unreliable. The National Academy of Sciences and experts assembled by the Economic Policy Institute have warned of the potentially damaging consequences of implementing test-based evaluation systems or merit pay based on test scores.

ASSUMPTION #3 – Standards will make schools better

Standards, along with well maintained facilities, a well developed curriculum, and best teaching practices, are all important for student achievement. But even the best standards won’t heal what ails our nation’s public schools if that’s all we have.

Desmond-Hellman admitted this when she wrote,

“Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required for our public education systems to be well-equipped to implement the standards,”

And the Common Core State Standards are not “the best standards” despite the millions that the Gates Foundation dumped into them.

OBVIOUS ASSUMPTION #1 – Teachers Know More About Education than Billionaires

We don’t let billionaires tell firefighters how to fight fires. Billionaires don’t get to decide what books belong in the public library. Billionaires should not make public education policy just because they have a lot of money.

The LA Times said…

Philanthropists are not generally education experts, and even if they hire scholars and experts, public officials shouldn’t be allowing them to set the policy agenda for the nation’s public schools. The Gates experience teaches once again that educational silver bullets are in short supply and that some educational trends live only a little longer than mayflies.

Desmond-Hellman finished her discussion of Gates Foundation education programs with the depressingly obvious comment that

“…the Gates Foundation doesn’t have all the answers.”

It would have been nice if Bill Gates had understood that when he began his foray into influencing public education a decade and a half ago.

Does he understand it now?


For Further Reading:

The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation

Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools


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Filed under Gates, Merit Pay, Public Ed

2016 Medley #11 – Money

Money, Privatization, and Profit


Dear White Educators

An open letter to white educators.

Few bloggers write with the passion, intensity, and insight of James Boutin. In this piece he explores his journey as a white man coming to terms with his own privilege.

At some point in time, all of us have to sit down and take inventory. We have to clear the smoke from the mirror and really look at ourselves. In this difficult process, we come to realize that as we come to accept ourselves, we also must learn to accept that much of who we are is rooted, like it or not, in the roles society has created for us. To deny this is fantasy.

For you see,

“All the world’s a stage,
And all men and all women are merely players:
they have their exits and their entrances;
and one man in his time plays many parts,…”

Nobody else can play your role. I do not get to run from or deny my whiteness. It is one of the many parts of my role for which I am responsible to play in this life. No, I did not have a choice, but that does not alleviate me from facing a socially constructed identity for my public life that history demands I own.


Charitable Plutocracy: Bill Gates, Washington State, and the Nuisance of Democracy

Speaking of privilege…here’s an interesting take on philanthropy.

Many of the “gifts” that the super wealthy give through their foundations are tax-exempt. In that way, the money is partially subsidized by American taxpayers, who make up the difference in the amount of taxes the wealthy don’t have to pay because of such loopholes.

Regardless of political stands or projects, all philanthro-barons with their own foundations are generously subsidized by taxpayers. When a baron says, “It’s my money to use as I please,” he or she is wrong. A substantial portion of every tax-exempt foundation’s wealth—39.6 percent at the top tax bracket for filing in 2016—is diverted each year from the public treasury, where voters would have determined its use.43 Taxpayers subsidize not only the philanthropy of the Koch brothers, Soros, and the others but also their political work. Part of the megaphilanthropist’s wealth goes into a personal cache; part goes into a tax-exempt cache. The money saved by not paying taxes goes wherever the philanthropist wants, including to political work.

American democracy is growing ever more plutocratic—a fact that should worry all admirers of government by the people. Big money rules, but multibillionaires acting as philanthropists aggravate the problem by channeling vast sums into the nation’s immense nonprofit sector. Their top-down modus operandi makes this a powerful tool for shaping public policy according to individual beliefs and whims. And they receive less critical scrutiny than other actors in public life. Most people admire expressions of generosity and selflessness and are loath to find fault. In addition, anyone hoping for a grant—which increasingly includes for-profit as well as nonprofit media—treats donors like unassailable royalty. The emperor is always fully clothed.


Drastic Public School Cuts in Memphis—The New America

In the past, schools closed or opened because of population changes. With the privatization of public education we’ve seen schools closed because of the economic condition of their neighborhood, and then replaced with publicly funded, privately run, charter schools [See Chicago and Boston].

Instead of supporting, improving, and encouraging neighborhood schools, privatizers in board rooms, executive offices and state legislators are closing schools and dumping the students into privatized new schools. The “community school” is disappearing. Those schools were often a central part of a community where teachers spent their careers and taught children and grandchildren of former students. With the loss of community schools a symbol of stability and cohesion has disappeared.

This new wave of cuts in major cities like Memphis is especially troubling. It signals the end of public schooling as we know it.

Is it even legal?

In the meantime, we get to watch little kids who should be home playing or spending time with their families, parading around with signs begging adults to keep their school programs open.

This isn’t just Memphis. It is America. This is what we’ve become.


ALEC Relentlessly Cashes in on Kids and their Public Schools

Public schools are closing, charter schools are opening, and public funds are being diverted to private and parochial schools through vouchers. Why? Mainly because there is a whole s**t-load of money to be made from public tax revenues directed at education.

There are some, of course, for whom the public schools are a danger to their faith. For example, Jerry Falwell famously said, “I hope to live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!” Falwell, his followers, and their political descendants, are against public schools specifically because they don’t teach religion.

There are others who are against public schools because of the teachers unions. They ignore the fact that schools are run by administrations and school boards, and claim, instead, that the unions are the ones making the rules.

There is a substantial amount of overlap among these groups, but the driving force behind the privatization movement is money…and the intensity in which ALEC churns out anti-public-education model legislation is proof. The “non-profit” group is intent on the privatization and profitizing of public education.

“Despite widespread public opposition to the corporate-driven education privatization agenda, at least 172 measures reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bills were introduced in 42 states in 2015… ALEC’s education task force has pushed legislation for decades to privatize public schools, weaken teacher’s unions and lower teaching standards. ALEC’s agenda would transform public education from a public and accountable institution that serves the public into one that serves private, for-profit interests. ALEC model bills divert taxpayer money from public to private schools through a variety of ‘voucher’ and ‘tuition tax credit’ programs. They promote unaccountable charter schools and shift power away from democratically elected local school boards.”


College Debt, Regret, and Readiness

How does the cost of higher education limit and damage the future of today’s young adults? How do young men and women from poor families pay for college? How long do they end up paying for their education after (if) they graduate? How many graduates end up paying for an education in a field in which they can’t find work?

…we have an entire generation of Americans for whom college costs are the biggest problem in their lives. They can’t afford to put money into the economy. They postpone buying homes and having children. They struggle with the stress and strain of living under the shadow of huge debt. How can the fact that some are required to take remedial college courses be a huge issue that must be screamed regularly from the rooftops, but the house of debt that has been dropped on them (amidst promises that college would be their passport to the middle class) merit barely a mention?

How can we pretend to talk about making students college and career ready and not talk about the crushing cost of college?


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Filed under Article Medleys, Gates, poverty

2016 Medley #9

Book Review, Vouchers, Reading Recovery, Reading Instruction, Read-Aloud, Gates, Finland


Russ Walsh’s new book, A Parent’s Guide to Education in the 21st Century: Navigating Education Reform to Get the Best Education for My Child, is now available from and Barnes and Noble.

Walsh is a literacy expert, Coordinator of College Reading at Rider University, and blogger at Russ on Reading.

A Parent’s Guide to Education in the 21st Century isn’t just for parents. It’s for anyone who wants to understand the “reform” agenda and what it has done to American public education. Call it “reform” 101. Walsh clearly outlines the ways that the “reform” movement has damaged the nation’s public education system and harmed the education of children.

It’s not misnamed, however. He includes chapters for parents (of benefit to teachers as well) on identifying a good school, good instruction, and helping children succeed.

The book begins with his Bill of Rights for School Children…which ought to be posted in every public school in the nation…and includes informative chapters on standardized tests, the privatization of public education, and the Common Core. A must read…

For example, from Chapter 3: Readiness For School

It is not your child’s job to be ready for school; it is the school’s job to be ready for your child, and to meet your child’s needs through rich curriculum, highly trained teachers and a system of learning supports.

…and from Chapter 11: School Choice: Charter Schools and Vouchers

In our society we have come to recognize that choice is a good thing as long as it does not interfere with others’ choices. What if an inner-city parent’s choice is to send a child to a clean, safe, well-resourced, professionally staffed, neighborhood public school? By draining away the limited funds available for public education, charter schools and voucher schemes infringe on that parent’s choice. It would be wise to spend our public tax monies on providing good local public schools. In public education, as with smoking and seatbelts and the military, the government must choose to limit our choice in order to provide for, as the Constitution says, “the common good.” Public education is a common good that privatization in the form of charters and vouchers will destroy.


Less-than-full disclosure

The distribution of public tax money ought to be under the watchful eye of the public. Elected school boards, no matter what their limitations, are held accountable to the public through elections. Every penny in every public school in Indiana is accounted for. Why, then, is money awarded to private schools through vouchers or to SGOs to award “scholarships” to private schools, with no public oversight whatsoever?

What happened to the $116 million that Indiana spent on privatization in 2014-2015 (and even more for the current year)? Was it used for instruction? If so, how did the students perform? Was the money used for building additions, church steeples, or CEO salaries?

For taxpayers, however, there’s a gaping hole in accountability. Reports are available for public schools, including charters; not for voucher schools. The state awarded almost $116 million to private and parochial schools in 2014-15, but the General Assembly does not require posting and publication of voucher school performance reports.

After 10-year fight, Md. lawmakers vote to fund private-school scholarships

The Democrats in Maryland have abandoned public education in favor of vouchers. Which of the two main political parties do public educators turn to now?

After years of resisting, and over the objections of the state teachers union, Maryland lawmakers have agreed to state-funded private-school scholarships.

The decision to create a $5 million grant program was part of the negotiations on the state’s $42 billion operating budget, which received final approval in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly on Tuesday.


Robert Slavin on the Success and Promise of Reading Recovery

I was trained in Reading Recovery in 1999 and taught in the program for seven years. I used the techniques and knowledge I gained even after the program was canceled. I still use the skills I learned as a Reading Recovery teacher in my volunteer work with first graders.

Reading Recovery is a one-on-one tutoring program for at-risk first graders. It works, but because it’s a program for individual students, it’s expensive. A Reading Recovery teacher can only work with a few students during the school year. Most school systems in my part of the state have stopped using it because of funding shortages.

Yet, how important is teaching reading to a first grader? How much is it worth? Is it worth the cost of a $2 billion mobile cannon which was never used? Is it worth the tax we ought to be, but aren’t, collecting from GE, CBS, or Mattel? Is it worth the money spent to (over)compensate Wall St. Execs who caused the Great Recession?

Would it be worth it if we could pay the salaries (at @ $90,000 salary and benefits) of more than 2,000 Reading Recovery teachers for the next 10 years with the money we spent on the cannon that was never used? My guess is that the city of Flint, Michigan might need some extra help for the next few years.

Instead we’re spending billions of dollars on standardized tests, vouchers, and charters…as well as cannons, tax write offs, and exorbitant salaries.

Priorities, America. Priorities.

“…in schools throughout the United States and in other countries, there is a well-defined group of struggling readers that can readily be taught to read. The evidence establishes, beyond any doubt, that nothing about these children means they are doomed to fail in reading.”

…“In a country as wealthy as the United States,” he says, “why should every struggling reader not have access to Reading Recovery or a tutoring program with equal evidence of effectiveness? The reading success of first graders is far too important to leave to chance, yet in this as in many other areas of education reform, vulnerable children are left to chance every day. Why can’t educators use what they know to solve the problems they can solve, while working at the same time to expand their knowledge?”

10 Reading Instruction Non-Negotiables

Here’s a second shout-out to Russ Walsh. Along with his Bill of Rights for School Children, this list of non-negotiables for a good reading program ought to be required reading for parents, teachers, and school administrators.

Here he lists components of a true reading program instead of the prepackaged test prep and constant assessment that is strangling the joy of reading in our schools. His list includes things like shared reading, self-selected reading, rereading, and word work, complete with research to back everything up.

Here’s what he says about my favorite part of the teaching day, Reading Aloud…

One of the more disturbing aspects of current trends in literacy education is the reports I keep getting from classroom teachers who tell me that reading aloud is being discouraged because it is not “rigorous” enough or because more time needs to be devoted to test prep. So, let me state this as clearly as I possibly can, read aloud is a central part of effective literacy instruction and should be happening daily in every classroom. This is not open for debate. Don’t take my word for it, here is a list of 13 scientifically based reasons for reading aloud to children. Among these well researched benefits are exposing students to a greater variety of literature, encouraging students to view reading as a part of their daily life, building background knowledge, providing a model of fluent reading, encouraging student talk about text, increasing vocabulary and helping students view reading as a pleasurable activity. Here is another resource on the importance of reading aloud.

When choosing a read aloud, I would encourage teachers to choose the very best that literature and informational text has to offer, whether that be picture books, novels, histories or scientific texts. When reading aloud, we can aim high because kids listening comprehension outpaces their reading comprehension by about two years and because we can easily scaffold their understanding by “thinking aloud” about the text as we read. Read aloud also provides a great opportunity for teachers to model important comprehension strategies. Just do it.

Need more resources for reading aloud?


Hillsborough schools to dismantle Gates-funded system that cost millions to develop

When are we going to stop taking education advice from Bill Gates? When are we going to quit letting him experiment with America’s students?

Just because Bill Gates is rich doesn’t mean he knows anything about the education of children.

[Superintendent] Eakins said he envisions a new program featuring less judgmental “non-evaluative feedback” from colleagues and more “job-embedded professional development,” which is training undertaken in the classroom during the teacher work day rather than in special sessions requiring time away from school. He said in his letter that these elements were supported by “the latest research.”


Why Finnish school students lead the world on Life Matters

Here’s an Australian radio interview with Fulbright Scholar William Doyle about Finnish education. He talks about the strong teaching profession, and the focus on how to help children learn, rather than how to be #1 in educational assessment.

A Finnish teacher quoted by William Doyle

Our job is to protect children from politicians.


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More Random Quotes – November 2015


A letter to the governor: This is what I take personally

A high school teacher, tired of being vilified by politicians who have no idea what it’s like to teach in a public school, responded to the governor of Indiana.

Indiana’s official test, ISTEP, has had a rough time lately. It was invalid, unreliable, poorly administered by the testing company, and then beset with problems during scoring. The test was harder than in previous years because: “rigor.” Once the scoring was finally finished, the government decided that more students had to fail and raised the cut scores. Cut scores, remember, are arbitrary and don’t reflect anything other than the whim of, in this case, the State Board of Education. The governor, Mike Pence, told teachers in Indiana not to take it personally when the scores were low…even though the scores are used to evaluate them, determine their pay, and grade their schools.

When the attacks seem to be aimed at teachers, their public schools, and their students, it’s hard not to take it personally.

From Donna Roof…

When I see individuals with no educational or teaching experience making decisions that affect students and teachers, I take it personally.

When I see teachers not being viewed as the experts of the classroom, I take it personally. [emphasis in original]


Carol Burris: New York’s Teacher Evaluation Crashes and Burns, Again

Since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001, America’s teachers have continued to go to work every day, helping the children of the nation grow and learn. Despite the misinformation, distortions, and outright lies, teachers continue to do their job. Despite the public trashing of teachers, professional educators thicken their skin, close their eyes and ears to the noise from without, and take up the task of educating the next generation of citizens.

From Carol Burris…

Meanwhile, teachers and principals go about their daily responsibilities, trying to educate the state’s children, while the politicians continue to meddle in matters they don’t understand.


Gates Foundation put millions of dollars into new education focus: Teacher preparation

Bill Gates has no idea what public education is. At age 13 he started at Lakeside School, a private preparatory school in Seattle. He never studied education. He never taught in public schools. He dropped out of college and became a billionaire. Money, however, does not qualify one to make educational policy for the nation.

From Valerie Strauss…

There are already excellent working models for just about everything that Gates has funded in public education in the last 15 years — how to design and operate small schools, quality standards, fair and reliable teacher evaluation, and now, teacher prep. How many times do educators need to attempt to reinvent the wheel just because someone with deep pockets wants to try when the money could almost certainly be more usefully spent somewhere else?


Selective outrage about testing

As long as the the schools which were damaged by inadequate, faulty standardized tests weren’t in their systems, local superintendents were free to ignore what was going on. Now, the final attack against Indiana’s public education is underway. The state is poised to claim that half of our schools are “failures” opening the door to opening more privately run charter schools and giving more money to religious groups, sucking the funds meant for real public schools.

Now local superintendents are stepping up and decrying the attack on public education. It’s about time.

From Steve Hinnefeld…

Indiana schools have finally received their preliminary 2015 ISTEP test results, and school officials aren’t happy. Superintendents, especially, are pushing back hard.

In media stories and statements to the public, they have called aspects of this year’s tests “not fair,” “a complete fiasco” and “almost unfathomable.” The setting of grades, they said, was arbitrary and invalid.

On the one hand, good for them. On the other, where were they when test scores and a similarly arbitrary process were being used to label other people’s schools as failing?


NC: Queen of NCLB Takes Over University

Margaret Spellings, the Secretary of Education during Bush II’s second term, had a big part in the NCLB law. Now, as the President of the University of North Carolina system she brings her lack of education expertise to the post secondary level.

Spellings, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science, claimed that she was qualified to be the US Secretary of Education because she was a mom. It was her idea to fail third graders who “didn’t pass the test.” She was stuck in the false dichotomy of retention in grade or social promotion. The truth is Spellings was never qualified to be Secretary of Education. She was never qualified to do anything in the field of education. She’s just one more, in a long line of political hacks, who needed a patronage job and was dumped on the nation’s schools.

On Monday Spellings doubled down on NCLB…despite its widely recognized failure…despite the damage done to America’s public schools by obsessive and punitive testing. She still voices the opinion that schools fail – and by “fail” she means test scores – when the truth, to anyone with the brains to see it, is that society fails. Spellings is still not qualified to pontificate about public education. She’s barely qualified to erase the chalkboards…

From Peter Greene…

…the most troubling part of this is that Spellings was there in Texas and DC with Bush and Rod Paige, which means she had front row seats for the massive fiction that was the Texas Miracle. It was the Texas Miracle that was used to sell us No Child Left Behind, which means that anybody involved in that sales job ends up looking like either a fool or a liar.


When People Say “Just Try Harder” to People with ADHD

…if you would just try harder.” I heard that for most of my student years. My mother always told me that my “I will…” was less than my “I can…”

It wasn’t until I was an adult and learned about ADHD that I realized that it wasn’t a question of me trying harder…it was a question of me not being able to control the distractions that prevented me from learning. It took me until adulthood to realize I wasn’t lazy, stupid, or crazy.

From Dana Rayburn…

The “just try harder” approach touches a nerve in me. Like most adults with ADHD, I have a long, unpleasant history with those words. My elementary school teachers wrote on my report cards, “If only Dana would try harder….” Teachers said the same thing in junior high and high school.


Freedom vs. Fear: Restricting Religious Liberty Isn’t The Answer To Terrorism

From Rob Boston…

…when you hear someone begin a sentence with a phrase like “All Muslims,” “Islam says” or even “Muslims believe,” stop and think. The statement that will flow from that isn’t likely to be accurate. Muslims account for 1.6 billion people in the world. It’s absurd to think a body that large all would believe the same thing. The 2.2 billion Christians in the world certainly don’t.


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!
A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
Click here to sign the petition.

For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.



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Filed under ADHD, Gates, Politics, Public Ed, Quotes, Religion, Spellings, Teaching Career, Testing

NEA: Acting Against Its Own Interest

I’ve never been particularly easy on NEA on this blog…and once again I find myself shaking my head because NEA seems to be acting against its own best interest.


In 2011 I came out against an NEA endorsement of President Obama.

I urge the NEA not to endorse anyone…unless someone comes along who supports public education. As an individual, I will vote for the candidate who, on other issues, most closely fits my beliefs about where the United States should go as a nation, but as an educator I can’t, and won’t, support any of them.

They didn’t listen to me, of course. After the endorsement they came out against Arne Duncan seemingly unaware that Duncan’s work was either directed or approved by the same President Obama they just endorsed for reelection.

The NEA Representative Assembly directs the NEA President to communicate aggressively, forcefully, and immediately to President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that NEA is appalled with Secretary Duncan’s practice of:

…insert a list of things Arne has done such as supporting local decisions to fire all school staff indiscriminately, focusing too heavily on competitive grants that by design leave most students behind, and focusing so heavily on charter schools…


Then, a few months later, I objected to then NEA President Dennis Van Roekel’s op-ed written jointly with TFA’s Wendy Kopp which called for the “best preparation possible” for America’s teachers. Did Van Roekel think that TFA’s 5 week training qualified as “best preparation” for teachers?

The presence of Kopp’s name on the editorial implies acceptance of TFA as one of those “best preparation possible” routes.


In June of this year I was pleased to hear NEA President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia say, at the NPE conference, that NEA would not accept money from the Gates Foundation. The cheers from the NPE attendees was loud and long. A few days later she walked back that affirmation. Mercedes Schneider wrote…

But Lily Eskelsen Garcia is willing to defend NEA’s continued receiving of Gates funding on a technicality:

NEA doesn’t directly receive the Gates funding. The NEA Foundation does.

And she completely glosses over her verbal agreement at the NPE conference to no longer even collaborate with Gates.


Where does Hillary Clinton stand on public education issues? NEA has, with Lily’s approval, already endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination despite her ties to corporate “reformers.” We have learned that she is all for reducing testing…

Reducing the role of testing is something I would like to see, but what about teachers being evaluated by test scores, loss of due process, and loss of collective bargaining rights? What about the connection between poverty and low achievement?

What about Charters? What about Race to the Top, Vouchers, and inequity in funding?

NEA shouldn’t endorse anyone until their positions on public education issues are clear. NEA shouldn’t endorse anyone until the NEA-RA approves. I know that the NEA rules allows the Board to endorse a candidate for a primary…and it’s time to change that. Last election cycle, we endorsed someone whose education policy, Race to the Top, was as destructive to public schools and student learning as was NCLB. Haven’t we learned anything from that?


NEA has joined with other groups to “launch a joint campaign to Elevate Educators.” The fact that Campbell Brown loves it makes me nervous!

I’m also concerned because, aside from NEA and AFT, and a few other groups, the “Partners” in TeachStrong are a collection of “reformers” like

  • Groups such as CCSSO, Deans for Impact, Education Post, TNTP, and others discussed by Peter Greene, in Teach Strong: Real Wrong

It concerns me that NEA has joined with these other groups whose goals include the destruction of public education and the teaching profession.

The Badass Teachers Association had this to say,

A Challenge To The TeachStrong Campaign By: Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director, The Badass Teachers Association

To sum it up the #TeachStrong Campaign is just another corporate education reform coalition that ignores

  • Child poverty
  • Institutional racism
  • Destruction of the local school board
  • Destruction of the teaching profession (specifically targeted at Teachers of Color and Veteran Teachers)
  • Destruction of public education

On its surface, the “campaign” might be something which NEA could, or should support, but when you look who is actually participating it becomes just another group of “reformers” trying to increase their bottom line.

For more on #TeachStrong…


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!
A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
Click here to sign the petition.

For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.



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Filed under BAT, CampbellBrown, Gates, HClinton, NEA, TFA