Jeff Bryant of the Education Opportunity Network notes that the charter industry has launched an advertising campaign to sell the charter idea to the public. But, writes Bryant, there have been so many revelations of corruption, self-dealing, and rogiterring by charter schools in recent months that the public should be wary of their self-promotion. What’s needed now, he says, is state regulation of charters to protect children and taxpayers.

Bryant says that the more that the public learned about Common Core, the less they supported it. He sees the same phenomenon happening with charters.

“A similar evolution may be occurring with charter schools. Because only about 6 percent of school children are enrolled in charters, the vast majority of Americans have had virtually no actual experiences with these schools. But in communities where charters are more prevalent, public opinion is more starkly divided. In school systems such as Philadelphia, Bridgeport, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, where charter schools are major providers, parents and local officials have increasingly opposed charter takeovers of their neighborhood schools.

“Probably even more concerning to charter school advocates is the news that credit rating agency Standards & Poor’s recently down-rated the nation’s charter sector to a “negative” outlook.”

When the public sees charter operators taking money away from their local public school, and when they see them enriching themselves at taxpayers’ expense, not even a slick ad campaign can wipe away the negative reaction.

Can you believe this?

Out of the 180-day academic year, Miami-Dade County schools will administer standardized tests on every day but eight.”

“Though not every student will take every test, the number and consequences of testing are facing a growing backlash from parents, teachers and even some district officials…..

The Miami Dade School Board on Wednesday will approve its assessment schedule for the next school year — a calendar with dozens of different exams that start at preschool and even eat into summer vacation….”

““Florida has gone test-crazy. Whatever you may think about the value of some standardized testing, it’s clear we have gone way overboard. And the reaction that we’re seeing . . . is people saying, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” said Bob Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, an organization that opposes what it sees as the misuse of standardized tests….”

“Miami-Dade’s testing calendar includes 18 exams required exclusively by the state, two by the federal government and five by the district. An additional 21 assessments are mandatory under a mix of district, state and federal guidelines, or are standard for getting into college — or for getting credit for advanced-curriculum studies. Those are in addition to any classroom tests an individual teacher may give.

Miami-Dade’s chief academic officer acknowledged the calendar can look alarming at first glance, but highlighted that no single student sits for every exam listed. For example, a high school senior won’t take the Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener, just as a kindergartener won’t take the Advanced Placement exams for college credit.”

Read more here:

This is a column that will raise the rafters, curl your hair, or make you shake with rage. It should.

Bob Braun, who started his own blog after writing for New Jersey’s largest newspaper, “The Star-Ledger,” for 50 years, is furious. This week, when schools start in New Jersey, the children of Newark will get on buses and be distributed to schools across the district. This is Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” plan, and Braun is fearful that children will be lost or harmed. He calls on the ministers (this was published on Saturday) to pray for the safety of the children.

Cami Anderson wants Newark to look like New Orleans, so she must break up any attachments to neighborhood schools, destroy the idea that the school has anything to do with the community. So the children must be dispersed, far from home.

This is Braun’s message to the ministers, to Governor Christie, to Cami Anderson, and to Tom Moran, the chief editorial writer of “The Star-Ledger,” who thinks Cami walks on water. Braun writes:

“While I am not a religious person, I will take a lesson from one of the readings scheduled for services tomorrow, at least in Catholic churches, the denomination in which I was raised. The first reading comes from Jeremiah 20:7-9:

“Whenever I speak, I must cry out…outrage is my message.”

“So where is the outrage in the face of the mistreatment of thousands of Newark children who will be transported all over the city in a transportation plan that won’t be implemented until the first day it will be used? No feasibility tests. No dry runs. No studies to determine whether it will work. Every first day of school in every community is chaotic under the best of circumstances–imagine what it will be like Thursday.

“Where is the outrage? For The Star-Ledger, I wrote about education for nearly 30 years. When some suburban school superintendent tried to alter the district lines of one school to adjust for enrollment changes, the community would rise in anger and often block the plan. In Newark, massive changes and disruptions are about to occur–and, yes, there has been anger and there has been outrage, but no one is listening. No one outside the city cares….

“Let us hope nothing happens to the children of Newark. But also pray for justice if harm does befall even just one of these precious young people. Justice for people like Gov. Chris Christie, who knows how to buy friends, even among clergy, but who does not know how to feel for the city’s children. Justice for people like Cami Anderson who, by my measure of thinking, somehow managed to lose her soul in her strivings for personal ambition. For David Hespe, the education commissioner who, like Pontius Pilate, washed his hands of the problem….

“We know what is about to happen is only happening because the residents of the city are poor, powerless and possess a skin color darker than that of Christie, Hespe, and Anderson. We know this would never happen in a predominantly white suburb.

“I am sorry to have to say this to the people of Newark: To many of your brothers and sisters in New Jersey, you–and your children–simply don’t count very much. They blame you for taxes. They blame you for school failure.

“Christie has all but said that the education of Newark children is not a moral obligation or a civic challenge. Rather he believes it is an expense that he would rather not have the rest of the state pay. He would be just as happy to see everyone in Newark disappear and just leave the gleaming towers owned by his friends standing.

“The “One Newark” plan is a slow means of doing just that. The poor and the needy will be isolated and driven from the city. A chain of privately operated charter schools will be made available for the eventual gentrification of the city. The powerful will allow a small percentage of people of color to attain success but there will be no effort to save the rest from poverty. Their children will be warehoused.”

Here are his words for the chief editorial writer of the state’s largest newspaper:

“I know of at least one colleague who is so blinded in his worship of Cami Anderson that he cannot see she is inept and arrogant and consistently unable to make wise choices. I don’t know why he believes that but, God forgive me, I do resent that he believes I will have contributed to the travesty when “One Newark” fails.

“This colleague, a columnist and chief editorial writer for The Star-Ledger (a newspaper I served for nearly 50 years and deeply loved), contends those who oppose what he admits is an “untested” plan “don’t seem to give a damn about the children.”

“Who would want their own children subjected to an “untested” plan? Why is it okay for Newark children to be used as guinea pigs, but not Montclair or Scotch Plains children? How can someone be so unforgivably blind and indifferent to others? How can a major metropolitan daily print such offensive rot? Where are the editors who exercise reasonable restraint on this man’s hero worship?

“How can a sentient being write such incredibly stupid words? I guess I have to hold with Friedrich Schiller that “Against stupidity, even the gods are invictorious.” Those opponents are parents. If he–or Star-Ledger reporters–would bother to look into what’s happening, they would see the opposition is run, not by unions, not by politicians, but by moms and dads, by people who care about their children.

“Yes, Mr. Editorial Writer, black mothers and fathers proud are about their kids, worried about them, wanting the best for them, working in ways you could never understand to help them. Just because they don’t live in the suburbs where you live, just because they don’t look like you, just because they can’t live on one job but need two or three to survive, doesn’t mean they d0n’t love their children. Please, you and your newspaper are abandoning the city and you haven’t cared about it for decades anyway (I know, I was there)–so why don’t you just shut up?

“Please, just shut up.”

Bob Braun is New Jersey’s Jeremiah. Outrage is his message. He will not be silent in the face of injustice. He will not curry favor with the powerful. He is angry. And, unlike those who are playing games with the lives of the children of Newark, his conscience is clear.

To those of you who regularly read the comments on this blog, you will frequently encounter pithy, funny, learned comments by reader KrazyTA. He is as likely to quote a Greek philosopher as to quote Groucho Marx. And he constantly reminds us to laugh.

Here is his latest, in which he explains the mysterious acronym TAGO, first written here by Señor Swacker. .

“Special Educator NY: all credit to Duane Swacker—



And to the most esteemed SomeDAM Poet:

I am surprised that you don’t seem to know the Secretary of Education’s favorite song.

According to the usual unconfirmed rumors, it is pasted on the ceiling of his DOE office. So on those frequent occasions when he is resting from his tiresome toiling on behalf of “the kids” he can recite the “Song of Myself.” [Note: he, er, “borrowed” without attribution the title—as educrats are wont to do with many things on their resumés—from Walt Whitman, just as he, er, borrowed the words and tune to the song. But let’s leave that for another occasion…]

“I could wile away the hours

Conferrin’ with the flowers

Consultin’ with the rain

And my head I’d be scratchin’

While my thoughts were busy hatchin’

If I only had a brain.”

Wow! Talk about not seeking refuge in the unexamined life! Socrates—we’ve got a live one!


The only catch: he hasn’t told his speechwriters.

*But not to worry: they already know. That’s why in his speeches over the last two years he is steadfastly for & steadfastly against & steadfastly somewhat for/somewhat against high-stakes standardized testing.

Rheeally! In a Johnsonally sort of way…*


Jersey Jazzman quotes Frank Sinatra and George Carlin to mark Labor Day. Sinatra made more sense than our Harvard-educated pundits.

Sinatra said:

“All I know is that a nation with our standard of living, with our Social Security system, TVA, farm parity, health plans and unemployment insurance can afford to address itself to the cancers of starvation, substandard housing, educational voids and second-class citizenship that still exist in many backsliding areas of our own country. When we’ve cleaned up these blemishes, then we can go out with a clean conscience to see where else in the world we can help. Hunger is inexcusable in a world where grain rots in silos and butter turns rancid while being held for favorable commodity indices. “

JJ commented:

“That was more than 50 years ago, and what has happened since? We’ve actually gone backwards: a 40-year slump in which the working American has seen his or her wages and benefits decrease, while nearly all of the productivity gains in this country have gone to the very, very wealthiest among us……

“One of the central theses of this blog is that the education “reform” project is largely a distraction designed to keep America’s eyes off our predestined inequity. An entire industry has sprung up, using education policy to conflate the issues of social mobility and inequity, to support the tenets of reforminess. The pundit class, largely not our best-and-brightest, has so little historical perspective and so little command of basics in mathematics and logic that they eat this conflation up like it’s ice cream…..

“Which brings us to the true threat of a progressive education: the only hope the American middle class has at this point is for our nation to foster enough critical thinkers who can see through the blizzard of crap that large swaths of our feckless media spew at us daily. Teachers have the power to cultivate such thinkers — and that may well be why some short-sighted plutocrats are spending large amounts of money to de-professionalize us, and why they are pushing to make our teaching increasingly standardized. Divergent thinking is being replaced by “close reading,” which is great for the ruling classes, because they get to determine what exactly is being read closely.

A regular reader, Laura H. Chapmam, curriculum consultant in the arts, asks: Who speaks for teachers? And, who is paid to appear to speak for teachers?

Chapman writes:

A collective teacher voice has depended on unions. The billionaires are recruiting teachers who are not friendly to unions, with the blessing of PR firms that USDE put in charge of helping states and districts comply with RttT requirements, including pay-for-performance.

The PR initiative, funded at $43 million, is dubbed the Reform Support Network (RSN). A 2012 publication from the PR writers working for RSN suggested that districts enlist teacher SWAT teams to head off criticism of the draconian federal requirements, in addition, a recent publication (May, 2014) offers states and districts over 35 other “messaging” strategies.

One of the “other” strategies is enlisting “teacher voice groups.” A “teacher voice group” is RSNs name for a non-union advocacy collective that depends on funding from private foundations favoring pay-for-performance.

Five voice groups are mentioned by name.

All have received major funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Teach Plus ($9.5 million), Center for Teacher Quality ($6.3 million), Hope Street Group ($4.7 million), Educators for Excellence ($3.9 million), and Teachers United ($942, 000). Other foundations are supporting these groups.

For example, Teach Plus receives “partner” grants from eight other foundations (including the Broad, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Joyce) and several major investment firms.

These groups are building out, state-by-state, in an effort to control conversations about “what teachers want. They are amplifiers of the wishes of the billionaires who fund them.

One of the major subcontracts for the USDE marketing campaign for $6.3 million, went to Education First. The founding partner is Jennifer Vranek, a former advocacy expert with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She and others working for Education First helped a number of states apply for the RttT competition. They have fashioned PR campaigns for the Common Core State Standards in many states. The firm’s website includes a sample of its communication and advocacy services: “Outreach and public-engagement strategies and activities; strategic communications planning; reports, white papers and articles designed to synthesize, explain and persuade; development of communications tools, including marketing materials, web copy, press releases, and social media content.”

All this is just more evidence that the question is not just about who speaks for teachers, but who pays teachers to be spokespersons for union-hating billionaires, and why do these teachers have so little respect for due-process rights, including contracts that are not entirely dependent on the pathology of testing promoted in federal and state policies?

Ken Previti explains Governor Rick Scott’s Dilemma: he wants to denounce Obama and disassociate from the Common Core, but he wants to keep everything about the Common Core because his mento Jeb Bush loves it.

So what does he do? He rebrands Common Core and calls it something else. But everything remains “aligned” with Common Core.

To avoid offending my sensibilities, Ken referred to “poo-poo” rather than use that familiar four-letter word, which is derived from Old English and Middle English.

The Lee County school board will meet tomorrow at 8:30 am, a time that will exclude many parents, students, and educators. Public meetings should be scheduled when the public is not at work or in class.

This letter was written by a parent and teacher who can’t attend the meeting because she will be working. It is a plea to the board not to back down.

Regarding Lee County School Board decision to opt out of high stakes, state tests:

I am the parent of a fifth grader in Lee County. I am also an 8th grade Language Arts teacher for the district.

During public comments at the Wednesday night’s Lee County School Board Meeting, a speaker said, “Seize the day.” I agree.

We have waited long for this day. We have fought long and hard to end the over testing of our kids. This was not a rushed decision. Parents from every walk of life, every political group, have been going to school board meetings for years.

Two years ago, Lee County School Board was one of the first in the nation to sign onto a resolution opposing high stakes testing. Mrs. Dozier, among others, carried the resolution to our state school board and fought for its passing. She was successful and we thank her. Our parent groups, locally and statewide, have tried with our representatives and senators. We have lobbied, written emails, called, tweeted, even created meme … with no response.

I myself traveled to the Network for Public Education National Conference. I was there when Diane Ravitch called for congressional hearings. We have tried. But, our leaders in Tallahassee and DC. refuse to listen.

So now it is our time to refuse. It is our obligation as parents and caretakers to refuse these toxic tests. The is no more time to wait. It is time to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Lee County School Board and Superintendent Graham, we are here to support you as you do what is right for our children. We are here to say we need you. You are our hard hitters. We elected you. You are our last line of defense in defending our children and it is your moral imperative to do so.

You made the decision to opt us out of state high stakes assessments. That was the right choice. Now, let’s get proactive in creating a program of portfolio assessments. Let’s outline the possibilities of using concordant scores.

Let’s give our Lee County families and employees a sense of hope not gloom. The whole world is watching. Here is your chance to be world class.

After all, it is what the parents want. Ask them, most will tell you they were planning to opt out anyway. Why make it be our parents and our children who have to take a stand. Why force an opting out child to sit, humiliated, through a five hour test, day after day, during test month? Let’s stand up for them.

So, no more waiting, please. No more waffling back and forth wondering. No more hoping someone else will fix this. Let’s find a way. No amount of money is worth this. Our children are not numbers and education is not about property values. This is not about ‘Flipping Lee’… This is about the kids. Focus on our kids.

Bonnie Cunard Margolin, parent & teacher, Wear Red for Ed

Peg Robertson, a mother and teacher, responds to those who tell the Lee County Board of Education to be reasonable and to rescind their historic vote to opt out of testing. Peg wants them to stand strong and defend the children. She is one of the founders of United Opt Out.

She writes:

“As this common core and high stakes testing war comes to a head I am watching lots of folks trying to mediate and ask folks to be reasonable. They want to talk about all the harm that could come to our schools should we refuse these tests or refuse test prep common core curriculum. When I hear this my hair stands on end. Number one. Don’t flipping tell me to be reasonable. Don’t insult me – as a professional – my first job is to do NO HARM. THAT IS REASONABLE.

“Two. Speaking of harm – what harm do you think is going to come to our communities? Our children? Let’s see, they’ve stripped our schools of all funding for small class size, librarians, nurses, counselors, art, music programs, sports programs, REAL teachers, books, building repairs, classroom supplies and more. They’ve stripped our schools of democracy. They’ve stripped our schools of trust, and respect and safety – there is NOTHING safe for children in a high stakes environment. Countless communities have been destroyed and children no longer can go to their neighborhood schools. THEY REFUSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE POVERTY AND FEED OUR CHILDREN TESTS INSTEAD.

“So tell me again – hurt our schools? How?? Be careful around these reasonable folks who want you to adhere to mandates in order to avoid “hurting” your schools – they have something personal to gain or they are simply sheeple.”

Mercedes Schneider, high school teacher, debates Common Core with a state representative and a representative of the pro-voucher group Black Alliance for Educational Options. Mercedes explains who BAEO is, then engages in 6 minutes of debate in which the two men were pro-Common Core and Mercedes was critical. Does 2 vs. 1 sound unbalanced? At least there was some disagreement. A few days ago, there was a well-publicized forum on Common Core that included Merryl Tisch, chair of the Board of Regents; John King, state commissioner; Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers; Carmen Farina, Chancellor of the New York City public schools; and one or two others. Every member of the panel supported Common Core. Some debate.


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