Category Archives: NCLB

Random quotes – October, 2014


Eliminate poverty to improve education by Stephen Krashen

Grit and determination, and the best teaching in the world has little effect when students are hungry, ill because of lack of health care, and have low levels of literacy because of lack of access to books.

How to Destroy a Public-School System by Daniel Denvir for The Nation

Pennsylvania is a perfect example of where privatization is taking us…high quality, well funded schools for the wealthy and underfunded schools for those with greater needs.

It’s what scholars have bluntly called an apartheid system: wealthy districts spend more on wealthy students, and poor districts struggle to spend less on the poor students who need the most. According to state data from 2012–13, Philadelphia spent $13,077 per pupil, while Abington spent $15,148—on students in much less need of intensive services and support. Wealthy Lower Merion spent $22,962 per pupil.

Blaming The Teachers

Kaarin Leuck, who wrote a letter titled Kids need in-school advocates for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, blames schools for kids’ failures.

Over the last few years, school districts have established “alternative schools,” which in the law is called a “school flex program” (I.C. 20-30-2-2.2). These school flex programs often offer only three hours of class instruction per day (as allowed by I.C. 20-30-2-2(b))…

Many districts have also encouraged the most challenging kids to enroll in online courses as home schoolers so they can stop coming to school…

At the end of her letter she blames teachers for not teaching all children.

If you are going to choose to be a public school teacher, you should teach all of the children assigned to your classroom. Step up to the plate, learn creative solutions, and help us get these kids through.

She doesn’t think to blame the legislature for

  • not providing adequate funding which would provide small enough class sizes in which teachers could help students with unique and special needs
  • not providing adequate funding for additional and supplemental staff trained to help students with unique and special needs
  • not providing adequate funding for programs designed to meet the needs of hard to educate students.

Instead she, like so many others, blames the people who spend their days with children trying to deal with the serious problems they bring into the classroom while simultaneously being required by the state to do the impossible, with inadequate resources, for too many children.

Can schools improve? Certainly, but they need the tools to operate. Those tools and the trained professionals who use them, cost money. The Indiana General Assembly with direction and support from the governor have chosen to fund more and more charter schools and the nation’s most expansive voucher program to the detriment of traditional public school funding.

Do you want good schools in Indiana and across the nation? Then we’ll have to decide that education is a priority and redirect the money from corporate pockets back into the classroom.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia on the Stephanie Miller Show

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA’s new president, bluntly reminds us that politicians and policy makers are the ones who have neglected the nation’s poverty issue, not educators.

If you see all the needs of public schools — high class sizes, books, technology — all of the things we need, and you have no intention of funding those, wouldn’t it be nice to distract people by going, “Look over here, bad teacher, bad teacher, bad teacher, look over here!” Because if you can say “if we just had better teachers the roof wouldn’t leak, if we just had better teachers those kids wouldn’t come to school hungry,” it gives you an excuse to not do anything for that community, or for what that school needs.


Testing Kindergartners and a Rise in Disabilities: Is There A Connection? by Nancy Bailey

In Indiana, not only do we call children failures if they aren’t reading fluently by the end of third grade, but we refuse to let them move to the next grade. We punish 8 and 9 year olds because they…grew up in a literacy poor environment, are learning disabled, are living with the influences of poverty interfering with their learning, are uninterested in reading, have experienced trauma, or are the survivor of some other problem which prevents them from learning to read according to the state’s timetable.

In Finland, the land school reformers love to praise but never emulate, they introduce children to formal reading when they are in 3rd grade. In 3rd grade our country calls children failures if they are not reading fluently.

Try out new 2015 ISTEP practice questions

The conversation is about prepping students to take a test instead of student learning…

Children across Indiana will take a new, and very different, ISTEP in less than six months but teachers have only recently gotten to look at sample questions to guide them in preparing their students.


Washington State: An Example of NCLB Absurdity by Diane Ravitch

NCLB is a pathetic hoax that was intended to label almost every school in the nation a failing school.


Local school officials oppose non-degree teachers by Rocky Killion

The Indiana State Board of Education, over the objections of Glenda Ritz and two other members, passed REPA III, the rules which define who can and cannot teach in the state. The new rules have a provision allowing anyone with a degree to teach in high school without any pedagogical training.

“This whole idea that someone can just walk in and start teaching is ridiculous,” said Rocky Killion, superintendent of West Lafayette Community School Corp. “It’s as ridiculous as me passing an exam and becoming a brain surgeon.”

Why Good Teachers Quit by Kay Bisaillon

In Indiana we lower standards for entrance into the teaching profession and we make it hard for good teachers to do what they have been trained to do by stripping them of due process, underfunding traditional public schools, inundating the classroom with testing, and incentivizing teaching to the test. The verbiage about wanting a great teacher in every classroom is just so much disingenuous bunk!

She leans on co-workers for support. I know this burnout is a common issue among very good teachers. This is what worries me. There are amazing teachers, young and old, veterans and rookies, who are starting to eye the exit door. These teachers feel overworked, underpaid, undervalued, deflated, and emotionally and physically exhausted.


F For Effort: ‘School Choice’ Group Grades States Based On How Easy It Is To Get A Voucher by Simon Brown for Americans United for Separation of Church and State

The Center For Education Reform, funded by the pro-voucher Walton Family, gives Indiana’s voucher program an -A- because it transfers a huge amount of public funding from public schools to private and parochial schools. There is one things wrong with it, though…the state requires that the private schools be accountable for their money…just like public schools.

The As went to Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. Indiana has the largest voucher program in the country, so that is no surprise. CER heaped praise on the Hoosier State, giddily stating that it “leads the country, with a universal voucher program open to all students across the state and no limit on the number of vouchers that can be awarded.”

However, CER’s remarks were not all positive for Indiana: “The state is the second-worst in the country on infringing on private school autonomy, mandating such things as course content and insisting on allowing government observation of classes,” the report says.

As far as CER is concerned, lawmakers apparently should hand over money to private schools without ever checking in to make sure they get a return on their investment and to ensure that students get a quality education. [emphasis added]


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!

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Filed under NCLB, Privatization, Quotes, Teaching Career, Testing

A Place to Vent

Yesterday was the 8th anniversary of my beginning a blog. This morning, as I was thinking about all I’ve learned over the last 8 years, I reread some old posts and thought about the reasons I wanted a web presence in the first place. My purpose in starting and continuing this blog was and is to provide myself an outlet for the frustrations of teaching and learning under an increasingly damaging set of rules. I had (and still have) no plan for this blog in terms of longevity. I just want to have a place to vent about things such as…


The rules began with No Child Left Behind…and have since spread to Race to the Top, and the Common Core. Locally the rules have been amended by the Daniels/Bennett/Pence plan for education in Indiana which mirrors the national rules. Indiana’s plan includes

  • transferring public money from public schools to privately run charter schools and to parochial schools through vouchers
  • complaining about all the “bad” teachers in our schools, while at the same time lowering the standards for entrance into the teaching profession

Local school boards get less and less of their district’s tax money back from the state — a big chunk of the money now comes in the form of increased costs for tests and test prep materials. They are under more restrictions dealing with the working relationships with teachers, the establishment of school curricula, and the adoption of assessment tools. Local school boards are also now obligated to use those tests to assign grades to schools and evaluate teachers.

“School Choice” apparently doesn’t include public education.

Nationally the attack on public education has been bipartisan. In Indiana it has been led by Republicans like Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, Mike Pence, Bob Behning, and Daniel Elsener. They have been supported by their colleagues in the state legislature and the state board of education (and now in Governor Pence’s expensive duplicate Department of Education, the Center for Education and Career Innovation).

It’s ironic that the removal of local control of education should be led by Republicans, who so frequently decry the intrusion of “government” into our local lives. It’s disheartening that both Democrats and Republicans throughout the nation are buying into the corporate line. “Educational leaders” are no longer educators, but instead are billionaires and their mouthpieces like Bill Gates, the Walton Family, Rupert Murdoch and the biggest cheerleader for the school corporatization/privatization movement in the country, Arne Duncan. None of today’s loudest voices touting the “School Reform Party” line have ever taught in any of America’s public schools. They do, however, control a huge chunk of America’s money.


For the last several decades, the movement to end public education has called all the shots nationally and locally, giving less and less input to those people who actually work with students every day. When those misguided state and national plans for public education fail, the local schools and teachers are blamed.

Publicly, the “reformers” expect teachers, as Bill Moyers put it,

…to staff the permanent emergency rooms of our country’s dysfunctional social order. They are expected to compensate for what families, communities, and culture fail to do. [emphasis added]

Social scientists, politicians, parents, the media, even many educators believe there’s a “crisis” in education – especially in the public schools. That’s only true insofar as schools reflect the world around them. The crisis is in our society and since no one takes responsibility for our nation’s enormous inequities, it is blamed on public schools and public school teachers.


We are obsessed with testing and insist that schools are “accountable” to the greater society. Where, however, is society’s accountability? Why is it that we can spend billions of dollars on a contrived war, and ignore the “economy gap” in our society? Why is it that educators have to accept No Child Left Behind in order to eliminate the “soft bigotry of low expectations” yet local, state and national governments don’t (or won’t) accept their responsibility for the “hard bigotry of urban failure?”

There are achievement gaps in our society, but they are not in schools. The real achievement gaps are:

  • the gap between what our leaders say they will do and what they do
  • the gap between what we as a society value, and what we are willing to spend to get it
  • the gap between what we’re willing to spend to “promote democracy” around the world and what we’re willing to spend to equalize our democracy at home

John Kuhn said it very well

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?

Let us label lawmakers like we label teachers, and we can eliminate 100 percent of poverty, crime, drug abuse, and preventable illness by 2014! It is easy for elected officials to tell teachers to “Race to the top” when no one has a stopwatch on them! Lace up your sneakers, Senators! Come race with us!


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!

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Filed under Achievement Gap, Common Core, John Kuhn, NCLB, Race to the Top, Teaching Career

2014 Medley #19

Good Teachers, Bad Teachers, Blackmail, Democracy, Charters, Literacy


A Dozen Essential Guidelines for Educators

For the last several years Alfie Kohn has been blogging for Psychology Today under the title of The Homework Myth: How to Fix Schools so Kids Really Learn. Last October he wrote a list of “core principles” which he said would help give our children the schools they deserve. Read these two before you read the next article…

11. All learning can be assessed, but the most important kinds of learning are very difficult to measure—and the quality of that learning may diminish if we try to reduce it to numbers.

12. Standardized tests assess the proficiencies that matter least. Such tests serve mostly to make unimpressive forms of instruction appear successful.

Other Data: 20 Signs You’re Actually Making A Difference As A Teacher

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” — Attributed to Albert Einstein (See here)

What do students remember about their teachers?

When I meet students I have had in class over the last 4 decades they invariably bring up one thing — the books I read to them. No one has ever mentioned spelling words, or math problems, or even recess. No one brings up standardized tests, reading vocabulary or subjects and predicates.

Several of my students who have become teachers have written to tell me that they are reading one of the same books I read to their class.

Of course teachers must teach content, how to read and how to add and subtract. But students learn because of who the teacher is…not just because the teacher presents material. How do you know that you’re doing something right as a teacher? Here are a few ways…

1. Your students are asking questions, not just giving answers…
3. You have listened as often as you have lectured. Another lesson in authority…
4. Your shy students start participating more often without being prompted…
5. A student you’ve encouraged creates something new with her talents…
6. You’ve been told by a student that, because of something you showed them, they enjoy learning outside of class…
12. You’ve let your passions show through in your lessons…
16. One of your students becomes an educator…


Ten Reform Claims That Teachers Should Know How to Challenge

What constitutes a “bad teacher?” Arne Duncan, and his host of “reformers” claim that it’s student test scores.

Claim 4: It should be easier to fire bad teachers. Tenure is a problem.

Response: Lots of teachers agree with you. But can you describe your plan for firing bad teachers and not good ones? How will you separate the two groups? How will you make sure that only the bad teachers are impacted by this?

…Claim 10: Teachers only work nine months a year.

Response: Can you tell me how many hours you work in a year? Can you guess how many hours I work in a year? Can you guess three things that I might be doing in the summer to get ready for September?

Harper’s Index

Average number of hours per week U.S. public-school teachers are required to work to receive base pay : 38

Average number they actually work : 52

Source: National Center for Education Statistics (Washington)


Superintendents forced to tell parents their schools are failing, even though they aren’t

Arne Duncan has blackmailed states into accepting his idea of school “reform” — more charter schools and teachers evaluations based on test scores. If states don’t do what he demands they they are thrown back into the pit of No Child Left Behind where everyone fails.

Twenty-eight superintendents from the State of Washington added a cover letter to the required NCLB letter. The NCLB letter tells the parents that their child’s school is a “failure.” The superintendents’ cover letter let’s them know that it’s NCLB and the U.S. DOE which has failed, not their child’s school.

The label of “failing” schools is regressive and punitive, as nearly every Washington school will not meet the NCLB Requirements. Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled “failing” by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials — as well as the U.S. Department of Education — acknowledge isn’t working.

Even Duncan’s own Department of Education understands that NCLB is a punitive, damaging law. That’s why they allowed the waivers in the first place. But, your state can only be excused from the stupidity of NCLB by adopting equally damaging “reforms.” Since the state of Washington hasn’t followed his rules he is forcing them back to the requirements of No Child Left Behind. Duncan’s petulance will punish schools, teachers, and students. Education doesn’t matter. Learning doesn’t matter.

… instead of giving strings-free waivers, the department designed a list of school-reform hoops that states had to promise to jump through in order to receive one. Those included the establishment of assessment systems that link teacher evaluations to student standardized-test scores, a highly controversial practice…

There is a consequence to having an NCLB waiver pulled. It means that the state has to revert back to meeting all of the requirements of the law —even those requirements that Education Secretary Arne Duncan himself had said repeatedly were unattainable.

“We’ve got 60 languages, we’ve got high mobility, we’ve got high poverty,” Frank Hewins, superintendent of the Franklin Pierce School District, said Wednesday. “When you have students with those challenges, the metrics established by this law are nonsensical.”

28 superintendents to parents: Schools are not failing

The additional letter tells parents that nearly every school in Washington won’t meet the No Child Left Behind requirements this year, and that the 28 superintendents are “proud of the significant academic progress our students are making.”

“Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled ‘failing’ by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials – as well as the U.S. Department of Education – acknowledges isn’t working,” the superintendents’ letter says.


The founding fathers understood the importance of an educated populace.

Jefferson said, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people…they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” and “[T]he tax which will be paid for this purpose [education] is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”

Madison wrote, “Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.”

Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

And John Adams plainly agreed that public education was so important that the people ought to pay for it. “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

The government, then, has a vested interest in making sure that everyone has the opportunity to be educated to the extent that they are able (and not, as Mitt Romney said, just to the extent they can afford). It’s the government’s responsibility to see that…

  • all children are afforded an equitable education
  • students are prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship
  • students can grow to be economically self-sufficient
  • tax money used for public education is used responsibly

Home School Upheaval: Texas Court Rules Against Religious Freedom Right To Unregulated Home Education

There’s also a well-established legal right to home school. But that right, like all rights, is subject to certain restrictions. Parents do have the right to home school, but they don’t have the right to provide their children with a substandard education or, like the McIntyres, deny their children an education altogether. The law is clear: You can believe Jesus is coming back at midnight if you want. You can even tell your children that it’s a fact.

But you still have to teach them how to read.


Charter schools claim to be public schools when they want public money, but then they claim they are private entities when they are expected to be responsible with the money.

Lawsuit: Virtual charter school owes $600K for services

Indiana Cyber Charter School, a virtual charter with locations in Fort Wayne and Avon, is accused of not paying Pennsylvania-based National Network of Digital Schools for contracted services and not following through with an additional repayment plan agreement. National Network filed the lawsuit July 25 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.. . . The school listed 200 students enrolled for 2013-14 academic year, according to state data. Passage rate for this spring’s ISTEP exam was 54.4 percent — 20 percentage points lower than the state average.

NJEA decries ‘massive corporate takeover’ of Camden schools

The NJEA supported the original law, passed in 2012, but said the amended bill would allow charter-school expansion that ran counter to the original intent of the legislation.

California state auditor probing LA’s Magnolia charter schools

After sampling transactions from Magnolia campuses in 2012, L.A. Unified found over $43,000 in duplicate payments to vendors, flagging those as potential misuse of funds.

The Los Angeles Unified school board ordered a second audit in 2014, voting to close two of the schools if any fiscal problems arose.


COLUMN: Boosting children’s literacy skills in four easy ways

This is a good list of things everyone should do to increase literacy. I would also add (among other things)…

Parental education is essential…

Challenge yourself to devote 20 to 30 minutes a day to boosting a child’s literacy skills. It could not only change the way that child starts the school year, but it could also change his or her life. 


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!

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Filed under Alfie Kohn, Article Medleys, Charters, Duncan, Evaluations, Literacy, NCLB, Public Ed

From the Bottom of Duncan’s Barrel

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

Why are these people smiling?

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

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


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

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

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

Duncan said,

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Another Duncan Doughnut

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

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

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

Why We Can’t Wait to Close the Achievement Gap

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


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!

Comments Off on From the Bottom of Duncan’s Barrel

Filed under Duncan, NCLB, Race to the Top

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!

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

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – Apr.2013

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

How to Organize a Grass Roots Group

One way to defeat the forces of privatization is with grass roots efforts. Attend this webinar sponsored by The Network for Public Education on April 13, 2013. Click the picture below to register.

April is School Library Month

School libraries are the only source of reading material for some students. Support school libraries in all public schools.

Not Failing, Abandoned

Schools don’t fail. Children don’t fail. They have failure thrust upon them by a society which ignores their needs. Fix our public schools. Don’t privatize.

One Size Does Not Fit All

For more than 2 decades Alfie Kohn has been speaking out against standardized tests. They are, as he says,

…like a creature in one of those old horror movies, [which] now threatens to swallow our schools whole. (Of course, on “The Late, Late Show,” no one ever insists that the monster is really doing us a favor by making its victims more “accountable.”)

It’s not just the tests, though…it’s the standards themselves. In Beware of the Standards, Not Just the Tests (2001) he writes,

…and then there are standards presented as mandates (“Teach this or else”). Virtually all the states have chosen the latter course. The effect has been not only to control teachers, but to usurp the long-established power of local school districts to chart their own course. If there has ever been a more profoundly undemocratic school reform movement in U.S. educational history than what is currently taking place in the name of standards, I haven’t heard of it.

A Way to Increase the Scores

The 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education in, A Nation At Risk, blamed schools for the national economic problems (Did anyone giving schools the credit for the economic boom of the 90s?). The “tougher standards” movement was born, along with the emphasis on standardized tests and ranking schools. We’ve moved on to ranking teachers, privatization and the so-called “reform” movement. Has anything changed? Children from poverty still achieve at lower levels than their wealthier peers. Maybe it’s not a problem with public education at all.

Baseball is like life

…and education. My favorite, of the Nine Principles of Baseball and Life, is number…

8. The Best Players are the Best Learners.

Players who are coachable are always trying to learn more about being successful ballplayers and people. They listen and apply what their coaches and teachers suggest. Are you coachable? If you are, you are a winner. If you are not, you are a loser, regardless of what the scoreboard says.

“I touch the future. I teach”

Occasionally, during the last four decades of my life, I’ve made contact with a former student who has acknowledged my influence on their life. Things like…

“You’re the one who read us all those books.”
“I’ve been reading [enter novel title here] to my [students, own children]…the same book you read to us when I was in your class.”

I received a letter from a former student who was in prison. He specifically remembered the day we made Father’s Day Cards at the end of the year when he was in third grade in my classroom. He told me that his father had recently passed away. The memory of the Father’s Day card came back to him as he thought about his father’s death. He always remembered that card because it was the very last time in his life he had any contact with his father.

Most recently I received a message from a student who was in my third grade class in 1976. He said,

I think back about how you shaped me as a person. You were the first teacher to promote what I look at as free thought.

I’m glad he remembered that I helped him learn to think…rather than multiply, read, spell, or fill in bubbles on a test.

“…and then we’ll go back to learning?”

“Testing is not teaching.”
“A child is more than a test score.”
“One size does not fit all.”
“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

No Child Left…

“Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a diagnosis.” — John Kuhn

“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

For the Children…

How much do the politicians, policy makers and pundits know about how children learn? Why do we accept professional basketball players (and more), attorneys, business magnates, techno-geek billionaires, florists, or professional politicians as experts on public education? Why are the real child learning experts — active and experienced teachers — locked out of education policy making?

When will we start holding politicians accountable for the nearly 25% of our nation’s children who live in poverty?

Stop the Testing Insanity!

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Filed under 1000 Words, Alfie Kohn, Baseball, Corp Interest, library, NCLB, Personal History, poverty, Testing