Posted in Broad, David Berliner, Gates, Gerald Bracey, MLK, technology, WaltonFamilyFoundation

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.

Posted in Article Medleys, David Berliner, Gerald Bracey, Jim Trelease, John Kuhn, Jonathan Kozol, KenRobinson, Public Ed, Quotes, Ravitch, Teaching Career

2013 in Quotes

This is the 151st and last post of 2013 for this blog. Here are some of my favorite quotes from it’s pages during the past year. The quotes are my words, unless otherwise (and often) noted. Go to the links provided for the original context of the quotes.


2013 Medley #2

“I’ll say it until the day I die: I am proud to be an American public school teacher. I am proud of the great kids of this country. I am proud to be a part of a system that produces such fine young men and women.” — Jersey Jazzman


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – Feb.2013

If we privatize public schools now, then the public oversight will be lost and our descendents will have a hard time recovering it. Public schools don’t belong to the parents of children attending them today. They belong to us all…everyone who has ever attended…everyone who has ever paid taxes…everyone who has ever been a part of the community.

Teachers’ Low Job Satisfaction – Let the Bashing Continue

“The American teacher stands on the front lines of poverty and inequity that our fellow Americans refuse to acknowledge, on the front lines of the real social condition of our nation–not the advertised one–and we stand together. When we look over our shoulders, there’s no one there backing us up. The rest of the army is off pretending there is no fight to be had here, no excuses to be made, no hardships to decry, no supply lines to worry about, that things in American society are just hunky-dory outside of the fact that the teachers just don’t care enough…” — John Kuhn, Superintendent of superintendent of Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District, Perrin, Texas


A Superintendent’s Voice

“…History will recognize that the epithets they applied to your schools said more about leaders who refused to confront child poverty than the teachers who tried valiantly to overcome it. History will recognize that teachers in these bleak years stood in desperate need of public policy help that never came. Advocacy for hurting children was ripped from our lips with a shush of “no excuses.” These hateful labels should be hung around the necks of those who have allowed inequitable school funding to persist for decades, those who refuse to tend to the basic needs of our poorest children so that they may come to school ready to learn.” — John Kuhn


Can You Buy Your Way to a Better Education?

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


Myths Taken as Reality

When something is repeated often enough it becomes “common knowledge” even if it’s not completely true. “Reformers” and others who have the destruction of America’s public education system as part of their agenda, repeat the myth that “American schools are failing” over and over again. They have done that so often that it’s accepted as truth. Unfortunately, it’s wrong.

Thank a Teacher

“Bail out the bankers and bankrupt the school teachers — we will still teach…I will never follow the lead of those who exclude the kids who need education the most so that my precious scores will rise. I will never line up with those whose idea of reform is the subtle segregation of the poor and desperate. I want no part of the American caste system.” — John Kuhn


This Just In: New Data Confirms Old Data

“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.'” — Gerald Bracey

An Open Reply to President Obama

…even though you, Mr. President, have said that we have too much testing, your Race to the Top program requires teachers to be evaluated using student test scores. Standardized tests used to evaluate student achievement were not made to evaluated teaching and learning. I don’t know if you learned anything about tests and measurements when you were in law school, but if you did you would know that tests should only be used for that for which they were developed. If you develop a test for use as a measure of student achievement, then that’s what it should be used for…and only that.


Reading Aloud: Still the Most Important Part of Reading Instruction

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children…It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” — from Becoming a Nation of Readers, quoted in The Read Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease

The Schools America’s Children Deserve

Money doesn’t solve all the problems by itself. It must be spent wisely. One of the things about the “increase” in school funding in a lot of places, or the “huge amount of the state budget directed at public education” in some states is that the money is being spent on testing and test prep materials. The students don’t get the full benefits of increased revenues…but the testing industry does.

Talking Education: Educate Yourself

Our teachers are drowning in a sea of standards and testing, scripted curricula and increasing class sizes, accusations and blame. Is it any wonder that many of them have neither the time nor the energy to fight back against the billions of dollars worth of insults and abuse hurled against them as a profession?


Make a Positive Impact on Students

Teachers touch the future by relating to their students. Our students will learn from us and remember us for the kind of people we are, not for the homework we assign, the lectures we give, or the standardized tests we administer. Content knowledge, pedagogy and assessment are important, of course, but in order to make a positive impact on students’ lives, which is after all the main reason we are in this profession, teachers must build positive relationships with them.

Fighting Myths with Facts

Myth #4) Poverty is just an excuse.

False: Poverty matters.

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

Test Scores: Punishing Teachers

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


Share the Responsibility

You can’t make children learn just by raising or changing “standards,” increasing test cut scores, belittling and de-professionalizing teachers, while at the same time ignoring out-of-school factors. Spending millions on test-prep, test administration, and test result analysis is not investing in education. No amount of testing, and union bashing is going to help students who come to school hungry, sick, cold, terrified, and/or homeless.

Retention: Punishing Children

The fact is that as a nation, we don’t really care about student achievement. We care about test scores. If we really cared about student achievement we wouldn’t be closing schools whose students are struggling. We wouldn’t be evaluating teachers using test scores and punishing those teachers who work with the most difficult to educate students. We wouldn’t be rewarding “successful” schools with more funding, and we wouldn’t be replacing experienced educators with trainees.


Duncan Shows His Ignorance – Again

Arne Duncan, remember, has no experience in educating children. His stint as CEO of Chicago Public Schools was focused on closing public schools and opening privately operated charters. Duncan’s college degree is in Sociology, the study of human social behavior, not education. His college and previous professional experience is in basketball. His closest brush with actual teaching was watching his mother tutor students. He never taught in a public school. He never even attended a public school.

It’s therefore understandable that he knows nothing — absolutely nothing — about the process of teaching and about what goes on in the classrooms of America’s public schools. He apparently doesn’t know that teachers are constantly evaluating their students. Standardized tests are, of course, not the only way that student evaluation occurs (and by this statement I am making an unfounded assumption that standardized tests do, indeed, evaluate student learning). Teachers give tests, quizzes and homework, lead discussions and observe student behavior and work…and in doing so, gain an understanding of a student’s progress.

Growing Poverty Affects Schools

“Every dollar that fattens the educational industrial complex–not only the testing industry and the inexperienced, ill-trained Teach for America but the corporations now collecting hundreds of millions of dollars to tell schools what to do–is a dollar diverted from what should be done now to address directly the pressing needs of our nation’s most vulnerable children, whose numbers continue to escalate, demonstrating the utter futility and self-serving nature of what is currently and deceptively called ‘reform.’” — Diane Ravitch


2013 Medley #23

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

Ken Robinson Nails it!

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

Yet Another National Shame

“I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make ‘Adequate Yearly Progress’? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read ‘exemplary’ in the suburbs and ‘unacceptable’ in the slums?” — John Kuhn


2013 Medley #27

Politicians, policy makers and pundits claim that it’s the schools and teachers who are to blame for low achievement. They do this in order to redirect the blame away from themselves and the inadequate safety nets provided for people living in poverty, the loss of jobs, and the inability of our leaders to deal with the effects of poverty.

The facts that nearly 25% of the nation’s children live in poverty and that approximately 50% of all school children are poor, are ignored when talking about academic achievement even though the correlation is clear.

President Bush II referred to the “soft bigotry of low expectations” when he was pushing for passage of No Child Left Behind. What we have now is the “hard bigotry of neglect and denial” towards our children who live in poverty.

2013 Medley #28

The failure of policy makers to deal with the side-effects of poverty (low birthweight of infants, drug and alcohol abuse, toxicity in cities, lack of health care, food insecurity, violence, lack of mental health services, mobility and absenteeism of children in school, lack of high quality preschools, lack of summer programs for children) is the number one problem affecting education in America.


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 Common Core, Gerald Bracey, Jonathan Kozol, NCLB, Politics, Public Ed, Testing

2013 Medley #14

Testing, Politics, Public Education
Books, Common Core


High-stakes tests: bad for students, teachers, and education in general.

The great advantage of public education is also it’s great disadvantage…the public is (or should be) in control. Like democracy itself, public education should be run by the people. This means that it is subject to the errors and foibles of ordinary citizens and their choices. People deserve the government they choose — assuming they have the right to choose — and sometimes that government doesn’t work for their best interests.

School boards, elected by the people, can institute unpopular changes. In the long run, however, public schools can reflect the will of the people who reelect board members or throw them out of office.

Mayoral appointed school boards or school boards installed in some other manner are not answerable to the public. Private and corporate run pubic schools are often not answerable to the people either. Students, parents and teachers, and the school program in general, is often determined by the whims of those in charge…whether it’s “the Mayor” or the corporate CEO.

Current “reformers” want to privatize schools and take the control out of the hands of the voters. The voters are sometimes misinformed or easily swayed, but public education needs to remain public.

The following article from teacherbiz focuses on standardized testing and shows how the lack of public oversight can ultimately harm public education — in this case, for the entire nation.

It’s unfortunate that reformers and profiteering corporations have such damaging influence in public schools.


Senate Education Bill Fails To Reverse “No Child Left Behind” Damage, Ignores Constituents

No Child Left Behind was a disaster from day one. Gerald Bracey published his first anti-no-child-left-behind article on January 28, 2001, before the law was signed by President Bush. Even then he could see that “NCLB would funnel large sums of public funds into the private sector…” He was right.

The bill, finally, is up for review. Fairtest has some fears about what’s going to happen.

  • This bill maintains NCLB’s testing requirements, which have failed to fulfill the law’s fundamental promises of higher overall achievement and smaller gaps between racial groups.
  • Even more testing will be required because states seeking Title II funds will have to include student test scores in teacher evaluation.
  • Focusing sanctions on the lowest-scoring schools will lift the worst punishments from most suburban communities while leaving low-income, minority neighborhoods at continued risk.

…[Monty] Neill concluded, “Instead of pursuing ‘more of the same’ failed policies, policy-makers need to listen to their constituents. It is time to replace high-stakes testing schemes with assessment systems that help improve educational quality and equity.”


Nine Myths About Public Schools

Speaking of Gerald Bracey…here’s an article he wrote in 2009. Not much has changed, has it?

Money doesn’t matter. Tell this to wealthy districts. Money clearly affects changes in achievement although levels of achievement are more influenced by the variables just mentioned. Most studies are short term and look only at test scores, a very foolish mistake. Economists David Card and Alan Krueger also found investments in school show a payoff in terms of long-term earnings of graduates.

The Public Purpose of Public Education

…from earlier this year, Jan Resseger, Minister for Public Education and Witness of the United Church of Christ, makes a strong case for supporting public education.

The politics of public education have turned so ugly that one wakes in the night with anxious questions. In a year when the platform of one Texas political party would ban the teaching of “higher order thinking skills” and “critical thinking,” have we turned against education itself? A decade after the death of Fred Rogers, have we stopped treasuring our children and wanting them to enjoy childhood while they grow? Have our political leaders, many of them one-percenters, so little experience with the public schools that are the quintessential institution of the 99 percent—both the children and their teachers—that our leaders fail to understand the schools’ complex needs?


Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America

Critics claim that Kozol is inflammatory…that he’s too emotional, but I have yet to see any of them spend their lives working among the children and families of the poor like he’s done for nearly 50 years. Fire in the Ashes is a series of short stories about real people who live in unhealthy and horrible circumstances in one of the world’s wealthiest nations.

I’ve asked before…how can we allow nearly 25% of our children to live in poverty? Kozol tries to be the conscience of the nation…if anyone will listen.

From the publisher’s blurb…

…tells the stories of young men and women who have come of age in one of the most destitute communities of the United States. Some of them never do recover from the battering they undergo in their early years, but many more battle back with fierce and, often, jubilant determination to overcome the formidable obstacles they face. As we watch these glorious children grow into the fullness of a healthy and contributive maturity, they ignite a flame of hope, not only for themselves, but for our society.

From the book…

…I had never seen destitution like this in America before. Twenty years earlier, I had taught young children in the black community of Boston and had organized slum tenants there and lived within their neighborhood and had been in many homes where rats cohabited with children in their bedrooms. But sickness, squalor, and immiseration on the scale I was observing now were virtually unknown to me.

Almost every child that I came to know that winter in the Martinique was hungry. On repeated evenings when I went to interview a family I gave up asking questions when a boy or girl would eye the denim shoulder bag I used to carry, in which I often had an apple or some cookies or a box of raisins, and would give them what I had.

The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America

And, as long as we’re on the sujbect of Kozol, this is his best book, in my opinion. It blows the cover off the argument that “you can’t throw money” at education and get results. It covers our lack of commitment to Brown vs. Board of Education, as well as the obvious fact that America doesn’t really care about its children. The low priority given to the nation’s future, especially poor children of color, is a travesty.

From the publisher’s blurb…

…pays tribute to those undefeated educators who persist against the odds, but directly challenges the chilling practices now being forced upon our urban systems. In their place, Kozol offers a humane, dramatic challenge to our nation to fulfill at last the promise made some fifty years ago to all our youngest citizens.

From the book…

By the end of the 1980s, the high hopes that I had briefly sensed a decade earlier were hard to find. Many of the schools I visited during this period seemed every bit as grim as those I’d seen in Boston in the 1960s, sometimes a good deal worse. I visited a high school in East St. Louis, Illinois, where the lab stations in the science rooms had empty holes where pipes were attached. A history teacher who befriended me told me of rooms that were so cold in winter that the students had to wear their coats to class while kids in other classes sweltered in a suffocating heat that could not be turned down. A foul odor filled much of the building because of an overflow of sewage that had forced the city to shut down the school the year before.


Van Roekel asks “What do you want instead (of the common core)?” My response.

Stephen Krashen responds to Dennis van Roekal, current president of the nation’s largest teachers union, and the latter’s collaborations with the corporate enemies.

PREDICTION: You read it here first. When van Roekel finishes his term as NEA President and retires he will go to work for someone like Arne Duncan. The NEA needs to dump him ASAP, before he drags us all down into the mire of corporate education.

Instead of the CCSS, Krashen says,

The question assumes that something is seriously wrong with American schools and that schools need to be fixed. We are always working to improve teaching, but there is no crisis in teaching. The real crisis is poverty.

What I want instead is: (1) dump the CC$$ (for a quick summary of arguments, please see: (2) protect children from the impact of poverty by investing more in food programs, health care, and libraries. (3) pay for (2) by reducing testing. A lot.


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!