Posted in ALEC, Article Medleys, Charters, Equity, Finland, kindergarten, poverty, Racism, Teacher Licensing, Teaching Career, Testing

Instead of Equity

Inequity, both economic and racial, in the U.S. is so common, so embedded in our society that no one in America should be surprised to hear what John Green has to say about life expectancy in the video below.

In the doobly doo, below his video, Green links to a study – Inequalities in Life Expectancy Among US Counties, 1980 to 2014, wherein we learn…

Much of the variation in life expectancy among [U.S.] counties can be explained by a combination of socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors.

So, life expectancies, like test scores, are correlated to ZIP codes…


In contrast to the inequity in the U.S., Finland is one of the most equitable societies on the planet. This equity is reflected in Finland’s education system. In his 2015 documentary, Where to Invade Next, Michael Moore asked the Finnish Minister of Education, “If you don’t have standardized tests here in Finland, how do you know which schools are the best?” She responded…

The neighborhood school is the best school. It is not different than the school which can be, for example, situated in the town center, because all the schools in Finland, they are equal.


In Finland, the richest families send their children to the same schools as the poorest families. That means, as Moore says,

…the rich parents have to make sure that the public schools are great. And by making the rich kids go to school with everyone else, they grow up with those other kids as friends. And when they become wealthy adults, they have to think twice before they screw them over.


Equity in the nation yields equity in education. Equity in education yields high achievement and reinforces equity in the nation. If we were actually interested in improving American education we would do what the Finns have done…and, as Moore said elsewhere in the documentary, the Finnish education system is based on ideas from the United States. We just have to do what we already know.

But, whine the contrarians, “Finland is not the U.S. We can’t just import their whole education system. They’re a smaller country…not so diverse!”


In order to do what Finland has done we would have to support and invest in our children, eliminate the inequity in our society, and…

  • end the racism inherent in America. We would have to heal the damage done by Jim Crow and the nation’s slave past. We can’t build an educationally equitable nation until we have a racially equitable nation.
  • stop dismantling our public schools. When a school system, riddled with poverty, inevitably fails, the solution in the United States is to privatize…to close the schools and replace them with charter schools…instead of working to change the environment and support the schools. Charter schools, however, aren’t the cure to low achievement.

See also…

  • quit trying to fund two or three parallel school systems. We need one public school system for all Americans, poor and wealthy, black and white. As long as there are multiple school systems divided and ranked by economic and racial privilege, there will be “haves” and “have nots.” There will be inequity.


A school is not a factory; teaching is a process

Instead of increasing educational equity we point fingers and try to find someone to blame. “Reformers” love to blame teachers.

Instead of giving teachers the professional responsibility of teaching, politicians and policy makers make decisions for public schools. They decide what should be taught and how it should be taught. Then, when their ignorant and inappropriate interference doesn’t result in higher test scores, they blame the teachers.

On every occasion possible, they talk about incompetent and ineffective teachers as if they are the norm instead of the rare exception. They create policies that tie teachers’ hands, making it more and more difficult for them to be effective. They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.


In Arizona, teachers can now be hired with absolutely no training in how to teach

We pass legislation damaging the teaching profession. Then, when fewer young people want to become teachers and a teacher shortage is wreaking havoc on public schools, we claim that “we have to get more ‘good people’ into the classroom,” so we remove licensing restrictions and let anyone teach…

New legislation signed into law in Arizona by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will allow teachers to be hired with no formal teaching training, as long as they have five years of experience in fields “relevant” to the subject they are teaching. What’s “relevant” isn’t clear.

The Arizona law is part of a disturbing trend nationwide to allow teachers without certification or even any teacher preparation to be hired and put immediately to work in the classroom in large part to help close persistent teacher shortages. It plays into a misconception that anyone can teach if they know a particular subject and that it is not really necessary to first learn about curriculum, classroom management and instruction.


ALEC is a voice for lowering standards for teaching. They say, “certification requirements prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession.” That’s true, and that’s as it should be.

They say, “comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals.” What is their definition of “improved teacher quality?” What is their definition of “qualified?”

Teachers need to understand and know their subject area, of course, but they also need to understand educational methods, theory, and style (whatever that means) which ALEC so disrespectfully dismisses.

Why should teachers know anything about education methods, learning theory, classroom management, or child development? If you’re ALEC, the answer is “they don’t.”

Teacher quality is crucial to the improvement of instruction and student performance. However, certification requirements that correspond to state-approved education programs in most states prevent many individuals from entering the teaching profession. To obtain an education degree, students must often complete requirements in educational methods, theory, and style rather than in-depth study in a chosen subject area. Comprehensive alternative certification programs improve teacher quality by opening up the profession to well-educated, qualified, and mature individuals. States should enact alternative teacher certification programs to prepare persons with subject area expertise and life experience to become teachers through a demonstration of competency and a comprehensive mentoring program.

Paul Lauter: Why Do Dentists Need to be Licensed?

In response to ALEC…

I think we should propose doing away with dental licenses. After all, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a piece of string and a door knob.


An advertisement from Facebook.

Is this what we ought to be focusing on…better test-prep? In America the purpose of education has become the tests.

Don’t Use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments for Accountability

I’m afraid we have completely lost any valid use of tests in the U.S. Now there’s a move to use Kindergarten Readiness Assessments (KRAs) in order to grade schools and children.

Tests should only be used for the purpose for which they were developed. Any other use is educational malpractice.

…there are also several tempting ways to misuse the results. The Ounce delves into three potential misuses. First, the results should not be used to keep children from entering kindergarten. Not only were these assessments not designed for this purpose, but researchers have cautioned against this practice as it could be harmful to children’s learning.

Another misuse of KRA results is for school or program accountability. According to the Ounce report, some states have begun using these results to hold early learning providers accountable. One example the report highlights is Florida. While Florida has since made changes, the Florida State Board of Education previously used the results from its Kindergarten Readiness Screener to determine how well a state Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK) provider prepared 4-year-olds for kindergarten…

…Finally, the Ounce report raised issues with using KRA results for pre-K and kindergarten teacher evaluation. Once again, the assessments are not designed for this purpose…[emphasis added]


…of making excuses and blaming school systems, schools, teachers, and students, policy makers should take responsibility for low achievement caused by the nation’s shamefully high rate of child poverty.

…of wasting tax dollars on a second (charters) and third (vouchers) set of schools of dubious quality, trying to duplicate our already neglected public schools, we should invest in our children, in our future, and fully fund a single, free, equitable, public school system.

Posted in Immigrants, Newbery, Personal History, Racism, Trump

Inside Out & Back Again: We’re All Immigrants


We’re all immigrants to North America. If you go back through your ancestry far enough all of us originated in Africa. Early humans are entirely African. Humans living in the western hemisphere sprung from groups who migrated from Africa.

More recently, however, Europeans traveled west across the Atlantic and settled in the western hemisphere, bringing their families with them. The people who were already here, the Native Americans/First People, were in the way of the Europeans, and were moved, subjugated, or eliminated. The United States was founded by Europeans on a land they occupied as conquerers along with slaves brought from Africa. The first census, in 1790, claimed nearly 4 million including almost 700,000 slaves. First People weren’t counted.

Immigration to the United States of America started with its founding and continues to this day.


My family came to America from Eastern Europe…from what was then Czarist Russia (now Latvia and Lithuania). Three of my four grandparents arrived here in 1905-06 during a large migration of Jews from Russia. The fourth grandparent, my maternal grandmother, was born in the U.S. to parents who emigrated from the same area a few years earlier.

Ellis Island Immigration Museum, with the Statue of Liberty in the background

They came through Ellis Island, and were welcomed into New York harbor by the Statue of Liberty, dedicated in October of 1886 – her raised lamp lighting the way to freedom. At her base are the words of Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

My grandparents left Russia because the economic, political, and social strain of a war with Japan had stirred a virulent nationalism resulting in renewed attacks against Jews. The anti-Jewish pogroms in 1905 resulted in thousands of deaths. Yet that same Czar who instigated the attacks on the Jewish people of Russia, conscripted Jewish men to fight his war on the eastern front; i.e. Siberia.

In a family history begun just a few weeks before his death in 1986, my father wrote,

Both of my parents were immigrants to the United States and both came in 1905 from the Baltic region of Czarist Russia. 1905 was a year of great emigration of Russian Jews probably because of the continuing pogroms in Russia as well as the Russo-Japanese war. The latter, in which Russia was badly beaten by the rising Japanese empire, sparked much unrest in Russia, increased drafting of young men into the czarist army, rising revolutionary disorder with subsequent government repression, etc.

My paternal grandfather, who died a year before I was born, was from the Russian province of Courland (aka Kurland and Kurzeme) which is now in western Latvia. According to my father’s history, he “fled to escape service in the czarist army.”

My mother’s father, who was born six months before the Statue of Liberty was dedicated, told me a story about the pogrom which resulted in the death of his grandfather. He recounted how he was hidden away and could hear the noises of the pogrom…the horses riding through the town and the shouts of people. He came out when it was over…and learned that his grandfather had been killed.

He was from the area around Daugavpils, then called Dvinsk, in the southeast of what is now Latvia. His story is interesting because, at the time of his emigration to America, he was already a soldier in the Czar’s army. My mother recounted his escape in a family history she left behind on her computer.

He had been in the Czar’s army in Dvinsk… When he learned that his unit was to be sent to Siberia, he told his father… A family plan was concocted; (1) his mother…bought him the passport of a dead man… (2) [He] told his captain that he had to go into town to mail a letter and to buy cigars (for the captain, to be sure). (3) Always agile, he raced to his parents’ home in Dvinsk where he was secretly sent to Estonia after spending a night in the hayloft of a friendly farmer.

…in the days of pogroms by the army of the Czar, it was not unusual for young men to disappear with the help of their families, emigrating to America…

From Estonia he traveled to western Europe and from there, to the U.S. The family he left behind likely didn’t survive the Nazi occupation which began 35 years later.

An image of a page from my grandfather’s
passport used to escape from Czarist Russia.

Both my grandfathers left their home and emigrated to America.

Like millions of others who came before and since, they came to the U.S. to escape religious oppression. In the U.S. they had the opportunity to raise their families in relative peace and freedom. The fact that anti-semitism was present in the U.S. didn’t dissuade them from coming here.


Nativism and discrimination against minorities and the “other” increases in times of war and economic hardship. The fascist rise in Europe prior to World War II was due, in part, to the economic difficulties of the Great Depression.

The current economic downturn is no different. Hate crimes in the U.S. have continued to increase over the last few years. Most hate crimes in the U.S. are based on race or ethnicity, however, religious-based hate crime has been on the rise with a steady increase of Muslim victims. The chart below, shows the comparison of hate crime victims based on their religion, either Jewish or Muslim. Note that for the last 15 years between 70% and 80% of religious based hate crimes have been against Jews and Muslims. After 9/11, the percentage of Muslim victims grew quickly and continues to increase. There is little doubt that, when data for 2016 is published, the rate of increase of Muslim victims will be even higher.(1)

This discrimination and hatred of the “other” isn’t new. Each new ethnic, religious, or racial group emigrating to America is subjected to similar types of hatred.

The restrictions recently placed on the immigration from seven Muslim majority nations is based on fear of the “other” – in this case, fear of possible terrorist infiltration. The United States has not experienced terrorist activities from citizens of the countries chosen for the restrictions. Other countries, where President Trump has investments, have no such restrictions even though terrorist activities based in those nations have had an impact on Americans. Furthermore, the restrictions will likely hurt Americans by disrupting the economic benefit of immigration.(2)


Of course, the purveyors of the recent upsurge in hate, scapegoating, and discrimination, including the recent immigration policy, are descended from immigrants themselves. President Trump is descended from German and Scottish Europeans. All four of his grandparents (like three of mine) were from Europe and came here as immigrants. During and immediately after World War II, a number of German-Americans were interned in the same way that Japanese Americans were (though not to the same extent or under the same conditions). The last were released from where they were held on Ellis Island in 1948.

Steve Bannon, formerly of the white supremacist site, Breitbart, is descended from Irish-Catholics who were subjected to intense discrimination in the 19th and 20th centuries (see here and here).

Another supporter of racists in the administration (if he’s confirmed) is Jeff Sessions, a mostly “pure” anglo-saxon with ancestry of English and Scots-Irish. His ancestors were possibly among those who were against Bannon’s ancestors (and mine). But even the most “pure” anglo-saxon bigot in America today, has a history which extends back to European immigrants.

In addition to racism, there is, it seems, a long American tradition of bullying newcomers, immigrants, and refugees.

The German transatlantic liner, St. Louis, carrying mostly Jewish passengers from Europe in 1939
was refused refuge in the U.S. The ship returned to Europe where many died in the Holocaust.
January 28, 2017: Demonstrators at JFK International Airport in New York in support of travelers being detained.


The reaction to President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration was swift and clear. It’s unAmerican…unconstitutional…and shameful.

Inside Out and Back Again

This is a children’s book about immigration…because this is an education blog, after all. Inside Out and Back Again is a Newbery Honor Book (2012) about a child who emigrates to America.

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.

President Trump, Meet My Family

Mr. President, please remember: This is a country built by refugees and immigrants, your ancestors and mine. When we bar them and vilify them, we shame our own roots.

Trump’s Shock-and-Awe Campaign—Stand Up and Speak Out

If Trump can do all this and face no opposition, he’ll do more. Silence will not protect you. If you think what is happening to Muslims will never happen to you, you’re mistaken. We will either survive together or perish separately. [emphasis added]

Holocaust Exploitation: When the Analogy Is Wrong

Let’s be clear: President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending refugee admissions into the United States for 120 days and blocking entry to citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days is both a moral outrage and strategically self-defeating. No refugee has committed an act of fatal terrorism in the United States—the specter of which this directive is allegedly intended to prevent—and while applying a higher level of scrutiny to citizens of anarchic or jihad-plagued nations is certainly appropriate, indiscriminately prohibiting those who already hold visas and green cards from entering our country is absurdly overreaching and vindictive.

Everything you need to know about Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’

See also


(1) FBI 2015 Hate Crime Statistics
FBI 2014 Hate Crime Statistics
FBI 2010 Hate Crime Statistics
FBI 2005 Hate Crime Statistics
FBI 2000 Hate Crime Statistics

(2) Terrorism and Immigration: A Risk Analysis

Foreign-born terrorism on U.S. soil is a low-probability event that imposes high costs on its victims despite relatively small risks and low costs on Americans as a whole. From 1975 through 2015, the average chance of dying in an attack by a foreign-born terrorist on U.S. soil was 1 in 3,609,709 a year. For 30 of those 41 years, no Americans were killed on U.S. soil in terrorist attacks caused by foreigners or immigrants. Foreign-born terrorism is a hazard to American life, liberty, and private property, but it is manageable given the huge economic benefits of immigration and the small costs of terrorism. The United States government should continue to devote resources to screening immigrants and foreigners for terrorism or other threats, but large policy changes like an immigration or tourist moratorium would impose far greater costs than benefits.

Posted in Article Medleys, Michelle Rhee, Privatization, Racism, Trump, US DOE

Medley #29: A Preview of Education in the Trump Administration, Part 3

The Education Plan: Teaching Our Children

See Part 1 HERE.
See Part 2 HERE.


The bullying, bigotry, and harassment that permeated the recent campaign season has filtered down into our classrooms. One-fifth of the incidents described by the Southern Poverty Law Center, happened in K-12 settings.

Our children are watching us…

Update: More Than 400 Incidents of Hateful Harassment and Intimidation Since the Election

Between Wednesday, November 9, the day after the presidential election, and the morning of Monday, November 14, the Southern Poverty Law Center collected 437 reports of hateful intimidation and harassment.

…A Gwinnett County high school teacher said she was left a note in class Friday telling her that her Muslim headscarf “isn’t allowed anymore.” “Why don’t you tie it around your neck and hang yourself with it…,” the note said, signed “America!”

Teaching in the Era of Trump

Our kids are going to need a lot of resilience to weather the storm of hate and divisiveness we’re experiencing. This resilience can be cultivated by teachers who celebrate their students. It won’t happen by pretending we don’t see race (or gender or religion) or that everyone’s the same.

But, we don’t just want to build resilient young people, we want to dismantle the harmful forces around them. Anti-bias education teaches students they are powerful. It teaches them they can take action against injustice in their community. If we want to live in a world different than what we’re seeing in the news this week, it’s clear we’ll have to show the next generation another way.

Ultimately, culturally relevant pedagogy is one name for one part of a larger approach to teaching that celebrates diversity. When looking for resources you might also look for “anti-bias education” or “culturally responsive teaching”. These are not interchangeable, but they all work together to help teachers create a classroom environment where all students can succeed.


What Will a Trump Administration Mean for Supporters of Public Education?

Republicans haven’t been friends of public education since before Reagan pushed for both eliminating the US Education Department and private school vouchers. Today’s Republicans are no different. President-elect Trump has bounced the idea of getting rid of the USED and has stumped for “choice” whenever he mentioned K-12 education – which wasn’t very often.

For those of us in Indiana, a Trump Administration, coupled with the continued Republican control of the legislature and governor’s office, will mean more of the same. There will likely be a continued misuse and overuse of testing, more “choice,” more charters, more vouchers, and less for public schools and public school teachers.

One party rule in a two party system is dangerous.

One thing we do know for sure, however, is that every branch of our federal government will be dominated by Republicans—the Presidency, the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court.

A new President whose plans we do not know. The absence of checks and balances. Federal public education policy that has for years been undermining support for the institution of public education. Those of us who believe improving the public schools is important have good reason to be nervous, even afraid.

After all, in 2000 and especially after we were distracted in September of 2001 by the attacks on the World Trade Center, we were unprepared to speak to the federal test-and-punish education law, No Child Left Behind. We failed to connect the dots between an accountability-driven, poorly funded testing mandate and the destruction of respect for school teachers and the drive for school privatization that lurked just under the surface of federal policy. And in 2008, we didn’t anticipate the collusion of government technocrats and philanthro-capitalists that emerged when the federal stimulus gave billions of dollars to the U.S. Department of Education for competitive experiments with top-down turnarounds to close and privatize schools and attack teachers.


Anti-Privatization Education Victories We Can Rally Around

The election was not all bad news for public educators. A few states dodged threats to public education.

First, in Massachusetts, voters rejected a referendum called Question 2 that would have forced the expansion of charter schools in the state. Charter schools, which receive taxpayer money but are privately operated, have come to represent another example of the creeping privatization blob rapidly absorbing public infrastructure – transportation, schools, sanitation, prisons, and other essential services – into business pursuits for the wealthy.

…In Georgia, another progressive victory for public schools shone bright through the cloud of misery up-ballot.

…In the state of Washington, the threat to public schools appeared on the ballot in the form of a race for state Supreme Court.

…In Montana, charter school advocates had targeted Democratic Governor Steve Bullock for defeat. Bullock had the temerity to express, according to a state-based news outlet, “I continue to firmly believe that our public education system is the great equalizer. Anyone who says public schools have failed isn’t seeing what’s happening.”

…Of course, support for public education did not win everywhere. There were bad outcomes in state legislative races in California and New York.


Names Floated for Trump Ed Secretary: Eva Moskowitz and Michelle Rhee

In the “She’s baaaack” department, Michelle Rhee’s name was mentioned in connection with the US Education Department. Of course it was. Former D.C. Chancellor Rhee used the same sort of bullying during her rule as chancellor as has been prevalent during the campaign.

Two of the names in the mix for Trump-nominated US Secretary of Education are Eva Moskowitz and Michelle Rhee.

Moskowitz is the CEO of New York-based Success Academies charter schools. Rhee is the former chancellor of DC Public Schools.

Both are very controlling, with Rhee having a bonus dose of sociopathy.

According to the New York News, a source stated that a Moskowitz appointment “is not going to happen.” This makes sense; in order to become US ed sec, Moskowitz would have to relinquish her tight control over her Success Academies empire– an empire that is heavily dependent upon one person– Eva Moskowitz.

As for Rhee: Congress would have to confirm her appointment, which means Congress would have to dismiss Rhee’s unresolved past regarding the DC cheating scandal as well as a seemingly endless stream of sexual scandal issues related to her husband, Sacramento mayor, Kevin Johnson. Rhee is, however, supposedly a Democrat agreeable to the usually-Republican preference for vouchers.


Lacking Civics Education and School Privatization

Why were so many people ready to believe Candidate Trump when he promised things which a US President cannot do unilaterally? A US President has a lot of power, but it’s not unlimited. He can’t restrict the free press, deny citizens the right to an attorney, mistreat prisoners, or ask the military to engage in torture. Maybe it’s time to increase (or begin) the teaching of civics.

We have just come to the end of a long and contentious political season. Many of us are worried about America’s future. It’s never too late to ask how civics education is being addressed in our public schools.

Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Privatization, Public Ed, Racism, Trump, US DOE, vouchers

Medley #27: A Preview of Education in the Trump Administration, Part 1

The Education Plan,
Helping our Students Understand,
The U.S. Education Department


Donald Trump Releases Education Proposal, Promoting School Choice

President-elect Trump has a school choice plan…to send $20 billion, the source for which is still unknown, to the states as block grants to encourage school choice.

Continuing his efforts to attract minority voters, Donald J. Trump visited an inner-city charter school on Thursday, where he promised to direct $20 billion in federal grants for poor children to attend a school of their family’s choice.

Mr. Trump offered his most detailed education proposal to date, embracing principles that appeal to school reformers on the right as well as to many poor African-American and Hispanic parents, who have helped drive the charter school movement.

“As president, I will establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty,” Mr. Trump said. “If we can put a man on the moon, dig out the Panama Canal and win two world wars, then I have no doubt that we as a nation can provide school choice to every disadvantaged child in America.”

“Choice” means private schools.

Over the last few years, child poverty in the US has decreased. It is, however, still shamefully high. More than 50% of American public school children live in poverty. There are about 50.4 million K-12 public school students in the U.S which means that there are about 25.7 million public school student who live in poverty.

The average cost of a private school in the U.S. is $7,770 per school year for elementary schools, and $13,030 for high schools. Block grants to states don’t divide up evenly among children, but just for fun, let’s see how much $20 billion will buy. If we divide $20 billion by the number of students living in poverty in the U.S. we find that each student would get about $778. That means that those families would have to come up with an additional $6,992 for elementary school or an additional $12252 for high school.

President-elect Trump didn’t say anything about why someone would want to send their children to a private school, but we can assume that one reason someone would make that “choice” would be because private schools are better. But, are private schools actually better than public schools? When one removes the advantages that private schools have of refusing admission to students who are, in some way, difficult to teach (either through academic disability, English language learners, or some other reason), we find that private schools do no better than public schools.

A second reason would be to provide a religious education for their child. Should we allow people to use public tax funds, meant for public schools, to teach religion? No, and here’s why not.

“Choice” means charter schools.

Charter schools won’t cost the family because charter schools are privately run schools paid for with public funds. So, perhaps some of that $20 billion would go to encouraging the growth of the charter school sector. Unfortunately, there’s no “choice” there since, when one balances the demographics, charter schools don’t perform any better than public schools. A recent study (2013) said that charter schools comparisons to public schools had improved since a similar, earlier study (2009), however, the majority of charter schools still performed no better than public schools.

There are other serious problems with charter schools. Some charter schools have learned how to “choose” their own students, restricting their enrollment to students with higher potential, more parental support, or fewer disabilities. Too many charter schools have no public oversight opening the door to frequent financial scandals or schools closing in the middle of the year leaving students without a school to attend (Spoiler Alert: Students abandoned by charter schools return to the public schools). The poster-child for corruption in the charter school movement is Ohio. The president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, Melissa Cropper, comments,

“Unregulated, unaccountable for-profit charter schools — like the one Trump is visiting today — have destabilized our public districts, defrauded taxpayers and left our kids and educators worse off, not better.”

The Trump plan, then, is just to increase the amount of “choice” because “the money should follow the child.” This shortchanges the vast majority of students who attend public schools to subsidize a “choice” plan which often mixes church and state, has no public oversight of public funds spent, and doesn’t do a better job of educating children.

It would be nice to invest some of that $20 billion, once we find a way to raise it, in the public schools in high poverty urban and rural areas. After all, we are still a nation which spends more money to educate its wealthy children, than its poor children.

Donald J. Trump’s *Vision* for Education

From Mercedes Schneider.

Indeed, it is clear that Trump has given no thought to any downside to school choice. A good place to start would be in reality, with the NAACP’s October 15, 2016, charter school moratorium resolution, followed by the details of the attempted purchase of charter school expansion that was voted down in Massachusetts on November 08, 2016. Add to that Georgia voters’ nixing the idea of a state-run school district that would have become a open door for public-school-defunding charter school expansion, also on November 08, 2016.

It seems that Trump is also calling for the dissolution of the US Department of Education (USDOE). This is not a new idea, but it is a Republican idea. (The USDOE came into being in October 1979 under Democratic president, Jimmy Carter.) In 1980, Ronald Reagan called for the then-year-old department’s dissolution as part of his presidential campaign platform. In 1995, then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich wanted to abolish it. Others have followed. However, it would take an act of Congress to abolish the USDOE.

In his Contract with the American Voter, Trump vows to end Common Core. Language is already written into ESSA to prevent Common Core as a federal requirement, and Trump cannot halt Common Core on the state level. So, a Trump vow to end Common Core means nothing.

President Donald Trump: What NOW for Public Schools?

For those of you who are saying, “What should we do instead?” check out Nancy Bailey’s comprehensive list of things to do which would actually help America’s students instead of diverting public funds into private pockets. It’s long, but well worth it.  Here’s a sample…

President-elect Trump should not decrease support when it comes to civil rights issues in our schools. He should reach out and work to bring people together…

He could surprise us by appointing Diane Ravitch or Stephen Krashen to be Secretary of Education. Both have the experience and the know-how to lead America and our schools in a new—better direction…

President Trump could turn troubling education reform upside down by returning to the old Republican notion that he alluded to in the beginning of his candidacy—local control!…

Public schools should be run by real teachers and principals. They should be connected closely to parents and those from the community…

The USDOE ought to be a clearinghouse for good practices—a beacon of hope for education in the rest of the world…

Isn’t it time America gets behind its schools? Shouldn’t we look to countries that succeed with their students, like Finland, and treat children, all children, with kindness and dignity?


Peter Greene and Russ Walsh are not optimistic about the condition of the nation under a Trump presidency. How can we keep our students safe? How can we focus on teaching when the hate and bullying engendered by the Trump campaign permeate the world outside? It’s bound to creep into the classroom…

Teaching in Trump’s America

From Peter Greene

In the meantime, how I do I do my job in this version of America, where might makes right and abuse is a virtue, where folks have really, truly lost sight of what Jesus had to say, who are not even trying to understand then intent of the framers and founders.

In a weird way, I suppose the last fifteen years have been a sort of warmup, a sort of dress rehearsal of that new show, “How To Keep Teaching When A Top-Down Prescriptive Bureaucracy Is Trying To Force You To Commit Malpractice.” We’re teachers, and many of us already know how to defy authority. Maybe we were getting ready for this.

And of course for some folks, literally nothing has changed at all. There is no new ugliness– just the same old ugliness without a pretty mask or snappy suit. Just ugly and vicious like always, but now naked of any pretense. We can probably learn some lessons from those folks.

To my Trump-voting friends and associates, I’m not mad– well, yeah, actually, I am pretty pissed at you right this moment, but it will probably pass. But please– when it turns out he’s lied to you about, well, everything, do not expect me to sympathize. Over the next four years I will have ample opportunity to say I told you so, and it’s unlikely that I’ll hold my tongue. But at the moment, my anger does not run as deep as my heartbreak (which, as I said, has been grinding away for the last two years) and loss and confusion, because I just don’t know what country I live in any more. I don’t know what this country stands for. I don’t know what we value as a nation or a culture.

I don’t know how to teach my students about us. I don’t know how to prepare them to go out into this new, uglier America.

The next days are going to be awful, ugly, just plain bad. Keep your heads down, brothers and sisters. Watch out for each other, and cast an eye toward the future. I don’t know who we are any more, but we have to be better than this.

The Racist Genie is Out of the Bottle (again)

From Russ Walsh

This morning the New York Times published an editorial asking that the President-elect directly and immediately denounce the hate and let his supporters know that this targeting behavior is not OK. But once you let the hate genie out of the bottle, it is devilishly difficult to put it back in. Racism, xenophobia, and misogyny are never far from the surface in this country and when these baser instincts of humans seem to have the imprimatur of the leader of the country, it may take a lifetime to tame them.

As teachers, we need to be on guard and vigilant. We must re-double our efforts to make sure the classroom, the hallways, the cafeteria, the locker room, the campus are safe for all people, including Trump supporters, who will almost certainly be the targets of backlash as well.

In 1992, Rodney King, the African-American victim of a brutal police beating in Los Angeles asked, “Can we all get along?” Apparently not, Rodney. Not yet, anyway. There is still a lot of work to be done.


Finally, there’s the U.S. Secretary of Education. Whoever President-elect Trump chooses, they will more than likely follow in the footsteps of the Duncan/King Education Department (which followed in the footsteps of the Paige/Spellings Department)…encouraging privatization, favoring charter schools over public, and generally following the “reformist” plan to test and punish public school children in order to prove that public schools are “failing.”

One name mentioned is Ben Carson, former candidate for the Republican nomination and someone who, like Trump, has absolutely no experience in public service.

Ben Carson as secretary of education?

Stephen Krashen, who volunteered for the job of Education Secretary, gives his opinion about Carson (which would have worked equally well for nearly all our past Education Secretaries as well)…

Sent to the New York Times
Zapatero a su zapatos

Re: Donald Trump is picking his cabinet: Here’s a short list” (Nov. 12).

If Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon,, is qualified to become US Secretary of Education, I am qualified to be appointed surgeon-general.

Stephen Krashen, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Education
University of Southern California

Note: Zapatero a su zapatos = stick to your area of competence.
Hat tip: Viviana Bonafede

I would agree with Krashen. Ben Carson is a science denier and a creationist who thinks that the pyramids were built to store grain. During the campaign he promised to monitor liberal speech on college campuses. How is this man qualified to be the Secretary of Education? At least Arne Duncan watched his mom teach…

Donald Trump Is Picking His Cabinet: Here’s a Short List

Another choice on President-elect Trump’s short list for Education Secretary is Hoover Institution Fellow, Williamson M. Evers. The NY Times identifies him as an “Education expert.” That means that he has absolutely no education experience at all, although he did, as a member of HOLD (Honest Open Logical Debate) on Math Reform, once ceremoniously flush a math curriculum he didn’t like down the toilet.

Education Secretary
Mr. Trump has said he wants to drastically shrink the Education Department and shift responsibilities for curriculum research, development and education aid to state and local governments.

  • Dr. Ben Carson Former neurosurgeon and 2016 presidential candidate
  • Williamson M. Evers Education expert at the Hoover Institution, a think tank
Posted in JohnKing, Legislatures, poverty, Racism, SchoolsOfEd, Teaching Career, Testing, US DOE

Taking Responsibility for “Failure”


This October, while public school teachers across the country were engaged in the daily work of educating the nation’s children, the U.S. Education Department released new rules governing teacher preparation programs which guarantee to continue the abuse and misuse of those same children’s test scores.

The report on the new rules claims that some teacher preparation programs “report statistically significant differences in the student learning outcomes of their graduates.” “Student learning outcomes” means, of course, standardized test scores. The new regulations, the report says,

…address shortcomings in the current system by defining the indicators of quality that a State must use to assess the performance of its teacher preparation programs, including more meaningful indicators of program inputs and program outcomes, such as the ability of the program’s graduates to produce gains in student learning (understanding that not all students will learn at the same rate) [emphasis added].

How does one measure “gains in student learning?” By standardized tests. The new regulations encourage states to grade teacher preparation programs on the test scores of their student’s students. In other words, for example, Indiana University would have been held responsible for the test scores of my students throughout my 35 year teaching career.


Teachers, and now, the teachers of teachers, are held to a different standard than any other profession. Do Driver Education Schools get blamed for drivers who break traffic laws or have accidents? Do Dental Schools get evaluated on the dental health of their graduate’s patients? Do Business Schools get graded on the number of widgets their graduates sell? Are Harvard and Columbia getting low marks because John King, the U.S. Secretary of Education, is making insane rules for public schools yet has minimal knowledge about teaching and learning in the nation’s public schools?

This doubling down on the standardized testing insanity plaguing our students and schools is partially based on the false assumption that “America’s public schools are failing.” The last 15 years of federal legislation has put the blame for this “failure” on America’s teachers and students through a series of test and punish programs which have destroyed the foundational institution of public schools in municipalities around the country. Only it didn’t work. There are still “failing” schools.

Now, policy makers who have little to no practical experience in public schools, are frantically searching for a new scapegoat and have grabbed on to the teachers of the teachers.

The ultimate result of this will be that those schools of education which send their graduates to public schools filled with low-income students are the preparation programs which will be deemed failures.


There is a direct correlation between family income and student achievement. Students living in poverty come to school with a vastly different background than wealthier students. Economic and racial isolation, lack of resources, and lower parental achievement levels, all contribute to the differences in student achievement levels. No amount of blame assigned to teachers, or teachers of teachers, will change that.

Furthermore, using standardized achievement tests as the basis of grading these professionals – even when other factors are included – is inadequate because the tests themselves are flawed due to cultural and racial biases, and the limitations of the tests to measure that which is immeasurable.

For information about the relationship between poverty and achievement, see the following articles

Where does the poverty, which is the main cause of low student achievement, begin? It stems from the racism and economic polarization which is rampant in American society. “Failing” schools are not the cause of low student achievement, they’re the result of a failing society. Eliminating poverty and inequity will improve education.

“…we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

We are one of only three nations in the O.E.C.D. to spend more money on our wealthy students than on our poor students. In the political arena partisan stubbornness rather than cooperative compromise prevents us from dealing with the poverty which overwhelms nearly one fourth of the nation’s children.

Why isn’t the label of “failure” branded on our legislatures? Legislators have failed to raise employment to 100%. They have failed to provide adequate food, shelter, and health care for all children. They have failed to ensure that all schools have sufficient resources. They send teachers “into congressional districts that are rife with poverty, rife with crime, drug abuse and poor health care,” but never take on the label of “failure” themselves.

Why is the label, “failure,” only reserved for teachers, schools, and now schools of education?

Who has failed to raise the achievement of our lowest achieving public school students? Teachers? Teacher preparation programs? Or policy makers who refuse to accept their own share of responsibility?


Holding Ed Schools Accountable For The Teachers They Teach

by Anya Kamenetz for NPR

…imagine that law schools were rated by states based on the percentage of their graduates’ clients who won their cases in the first three years. Or imagine medical schools required to report the vital statistics of the patients of their newly-minted doctors.

Fed’s Stupid Teacher Prep Program Rules

By Peter Greene

…we could also use test results to evaluate the work of officials who set education policy, and if test results fail to go up annually, we could simply fire all those officials, whether they are officially appointed ones like John King or unofficially self-appointed ones like Bill Gates. But that would just be crazy talk. Almost as crazy as doing an actual evaluation of tests themselves. Those holy instruments may be used to evaluate everything in sight, but the sacred magical tests themselves must never be questioned, remaining in place as the twisted foundation of one wobbly edifice after another.

John King Doubles Down on Importance of Standardized Tests; “Reformers” Cheer

by Diane Ravitch

Secretary of Education John King is releasing regulations that will punish education programs if their graduates teach students whose scores are low. “Reformers” are supposed to be aware of the power of incentives, but not Secretary King. He thinks he can scare education programs to focus more on raising test scores. More likely is that teachers will get the message to avoid teaching in schools that enroll students who are impoverished, and that their preparation programs will encourage them to steer clear of the neediest children.

The big problems with the Obama administration’s new teacher-education regulations

by Valerie Strauss

…the new regulations…require states to issue annual ratings for teacher-prep programs, an effort, supporters say, to separate the successful programs from the failures. They still also require each state to evaluate teacher-training programs based on student learning, but this time leaving it to the states to decide how to measure academic growth and how much it should weigh in an overall rating. That means that the department will permit states to use test scores for evaluation — a method that is not used to evaluate any other professional preparation program…

Posted in Evaluations, Public Ed, Quotes, Racism, reform, retention, Testing, WhyTeachersQuit

Random Quotes – November 2015


A Not Quitting Letter

I post “I’m quitting” letters because I think it’s important to let parents and the public know why the teachers their students learned from (sometimes more than one generation) can’t take the fake-reform that is swallowing public education. It’s important to highlight the reasons teachers are leaving the profession in such great numbers.

However, it’s also important, as Peter Greene shows us, to highlight the fact that millions of teachers are facing the “test and punish” insanity and continue to fight against it while staying in the classroom.

From Peter Greene

So I will stay here, and I will do what I consider– in my professional opinion– to do what is best for my students and my community. When I am told to implement a bad policy, I will circumvent it by any means at my disposal. I will disregard directives to commit malpractice. I will question, I will challenge, and I will push back. I will speak at every board meeting. I will talk to every parent.


Daylight Savings Cut Scores

Time is a social construct. We use clocks and time zones to make our interactions with each other more convenient. The change to and from Daylight Savings time isn’t a natural occurrence.

Neither are cut scores. When it comes to standardized tests, percentiles tell us where someone compares to a national or local norm. Percentages tell us how much material was answered correctly. Cut scores, the point at which a student’s score moves from passing to failing, is, just like Time, an artificial construct. Why was last year’s cut score for the state standardized test set at 50? Why is this year’s cut score set at 80? Peter Greene schools us in how cut scores really work.

From Peter Greene

Many folks make fun of daylight savings time because it doesn’t really change a thing. Sun is still up for the same number of hours, and we stumble around in the dark for the same number of hours. Nothing really changes except the label we install. If I have the authority, I can make this moment 3:00 or 4:00 or 9:00 or 13:00. It won’t change the reality of the moment– just what we call it. Standardized test results, predictably draped across the bell curve, are the same. If I have the authority, I can label the parts of the curve anything I like. But it won’t change reality a bit.


Campbell Brown Calls for Elimination of All Public Schools

“Reformer’s” and their followers frequently claim that our public schools are “failing” so public money ought to go to private and privately-run organizations which, by virtue of “the market” will provide a better education. That belief is based on the assumption that public schools are “failing” and that “the market” makes everything better.

From Diane Ravitch

Our public schools are not failing.

Our society is failing to address the root causes of school performance, which are the conditions in which children and families are living, such as their access to good jobs, medical care, food security, and decent housing.


“How to ruin or Revive Public Education”

A fourth grade teacher asked Diane Ravitch what she could do to help fight so-called “ed reform.” “Join with others,” Ravitch replied, and she added the following.

From Diane Ravitch at Wellesley College

“Keep within yourself the vision of what is right and what is ethical so that no matter what they tell you to do, even if you’re forced to do it, know that it’s wrong and don’t ever forget what’s right.”


Blame the Victim – America’s Favorite Pastime

Steven Singer writes about watching a young girl act like a petulant teenager and get pulled out of her seat and tackled by a police officer. He discusses the fact that different people can see the same thing and come to different conclusions. The child was at fault. The police officer was at fault.

Children should not be manhandled because they act like children. If they pose an actual threat to life and property, then extreme measures might be taken to stop them from acting. However, silly, immature, childish behavior is not sufficient cause for adults to hurt children.

If your daughter mouthed off to adults in school, would you expect her to be pulled out of her chair and thrown to the ground by a police officer?

From Steven Singer

It takes a kind of intellectual and moral honesty to look the world in the face and accept that which is uncomfortable but true. Sometimes those charged with protecting us actually do harm. Sometimes adults know less than children. Sometimes actions are racially motivated.

Because when we watch the world, the world looks back. We reveal ourselves. And sometimes we show the world exactly how ugly and depraved we can be as a nation.


What’s Scary to Kids: Having Dyslexia and Being Held Back in Third Grade!

Children are retained in grade because teachers “don’t know what else to do, but we have to do something.” Yet, more often than not, retention in grade does more harm than good.

Frequently, however, retention in grade is paired with social promotion as the second option of a false dichotomy. We don’t have to do either. Sometimes we are forced to choose because the only other alternatives are expensive. How much are our children’s educations worth? How much is our future worth?

From Nancy Bailey

Retention, making students sit through the same instruction they had the year earlier, is not going to fix reading problems. Moving these students forward, with no consideration, however, won’t help either. These students need special attention for needs that are different from usual readers.


Reading While White is a blog that seeks to understand and call out white privilege in children’s literature. In the blog mission statement, the authors write,

We are White librarians organizing to confront racism in the field of children’s and young adult literature. We are allies in the ongoing struggle for authenticity and visibility in books; for opportunities for people of color and First/Native Nations people in all aspects of the children’s and young adult book world; and for accountability among publishers, book creators, reviewers, librarians, teachers, and others. We are learning, and hold ourselves responsible for understanding how our whiteness impacts our perspectives and our behavior.

Reviewing While White: The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

I remembered seeing comedian Chris Rock break down and cry when he learned that his great-great-grandfather had been elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives during this same era. He explained his emotional reaction:

“If I had known this it would have taken away the inevitability that I was going to be nothing.”


Teachers choose education because they want to teach, not because they needed a job and couldn’t find anything else. Coercive evaluations aren’t applicable.

From Anthony Cody


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.