From our friend Robert Shepherd, who may have watched the famous video in which David Coleman–architect of the Commin Core standards, now President of the College Board, which administers the SAT, original treasurer if Muchelle Rrhee’s StudentsFirst–uttered his immortal line about how no one “gives a &@(@” what you feel or think. This was his strong denunciation of personal expository writing. One of the best responses was written by Rebecca Wallace-Segall, a teacher of creative writing, who explained how important it is to allow and encourage young people to find and use their own voices. She wrote: “And where will we be as a nation if we graduate a generation of young people who can write an academic paper on the Civil War but have no power to convey the human experience?”

For David Coleman, in Honor of Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday

The very talented Peter Greene recently posted a humorous piece comparing Rheeformish language to a poop sandwich–nastiness wrapped in glowing phrases (e.g., “higher standards”). I generally love Peter’s writing, but I’ve never been fond of scatological humor. I’m not sure why I have this distaste (other than for the obvious reasons), since I consider swearing one of the most useful and engaging of the many boons conferred upon us by speech.

I once read, in “The American Scholar,” I think, or perhaps it was in “Verbatim,” a tragic report on the paucity of dedicated swear words in classical Latin. The Romans were always envious of the subtlety of the Greek tongue, of its rich resources for philosophical and literary purposes, but the Greeks were even less well endowed with profanities than the Romans were. The poor Romans had to result to graffiti, which they did with wild and glorious abandon, while the Greeks stuck to salacious decoration of vases.

I have a nice little collection of books on cursing in various languages. French, Spanish, German, Italian–the modern European languages, generally–are rich mines of lively expressions. But our language, which has been so promiscuous through the centuries, has to be the finest for cursing that we apes have yet developed. We English speakers are blessed with borrowed riches, there, that speakers of other tongues can only dream of.

So, when I watch a David Coleman video, there’s a lot for me to say, and a lot of choice language to say it with.

Those of you who are English teachers will be familiar with the Homeric catalog. It’s a literary technique that is basically a list. The simple list isn’t much to write home about, you might think, but this humble trope can be extraordinarily effective. Consider the following trove of treasures. What are these all names of? (Take a guess. Don’t cheat. The answer is below.)

Green Darner
Roseate Skimmer
Great Pondhawk
Ringed Cascader
Comet Darner
Banded Pennant
Orange Emperor
Banded Groundling
Black Percher
Little Scarlet
Tau Emerald
Southern Yellowjack
Vagrant Darter
Beautiful Demoiselle
Large Red
Mercury Bluet
Eastern Spectre
Somber Goldenring

Back to my dreams of properly cursing Coleman and the Core, of dumping the full Homeric catalog of English invective on them.

I have wanted to do so on Diane Ravitch’s blog, but Diane doesn’t allow such language in her living room, and I respect that. So I am sending this post, re Coleman and the Core, thinking that perhaps Diane won’t mind a little Shakespeare. (After all, it’s almost Shakespeare’s birthday. His 450th. Happy birthday, Willie!)

Let’s begin with some adjectives:

Artless, beslubbering, bootless, churlish, craven, dissembling, errant, fawning, forward, gleeking, impertinent, loggerheaded, mammering, merkin-faced, mewling, qualling, rank, reeky, rougish, pleeny, scurvie, venomed, villainous, warped and weedy,

And then add some compound participles:

beef-witted, boil-brained, dismal-dreaming, earth-vexing, fen-sucked, folly-fallen, idle-headed, rude-growing, spur-galled, . . .
And round it all off with a noun (pick any one that you please):


Or, if you want whole statements from the Bard himself:

“Thy tongue outvenoms all the worms of the Nile.” (worms = snakes)

“Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.”

“You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!”

“You starvelling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish–O for breath to utter what is like thee!-you tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck!”

“Thou sycophantic, merkin-faced varlet.”

“Thou cream-faced loon!”

There. Glad I got that out of my system.

BTW. Those are names of dragonflies, above. Beautiful, aren’t they? Shakespeare loved odd names of things. Scholars have shown that he used in writing a wider vocabulary than any other author who has ever wrote in our glorious tongue. Again, happy birthday, Willie. What fools those Ed Deformers be!

Award-winning high school principal Carol Burris reports here on Arne Duncan’s latest foray into New York, where he highly praised the state’s controversial Commissioner of Education John King, disparaged disgruntled educators and parents as a mere distraction, and urged the state to “stay the course.”

Burris, a leader in the effort to expose and reverse some of the worst aspects of Race to the Top, explains why it is important not to stay the course, when the course is leading in the wrong direction.

She writes:

” There is no empirical evidence that rigorous state or national standards will result in higher student achievement or greater college readiness.

“Those who created the Common Core assumed that if we established rigorous standards, student achievement and economic competitiveness would increase. Duncan said, in his remarks at New York University, that it is common sense. Prior to the 15th century, common sense said the world was flat, but that did not make it true.”

She cites research to demonstrate that rigorous standards and high-stakes tests o not produce better education:

“This is not an argument for low standards or no standards—it is an argument that standards reform is not an effective driver of school improvement. Keep in mind that all state standards had high-stakes state tests associated with them. The more rigorous the standards, the more difficult the tests are. As high-stakes tests become more difficult, the curriculum becomes narrower and narrower. The tests soon drive teaching and learning.

“When I hear “I am for the Common Core standards, I am just not for the tests”, I cringe. While thoughtful educators look at the standards through their prism of good practice, test makers look at the standards as the basis for creating “items” that discriminate the learning of one child from another. In the end, the test maker calls the shots. It is no coincidence that the Common Core Standards, PARCC and Smarter Balanced were all born at the same time. In his remarks, Duncan referred to PARCC and Smarter Balanced as the “national tests.”

“The destination of school reform—ensuring that all students have the skills, content and habits needed for college and career success—is the right destination. The challenge is choosing the pathway that gets us there. Good intentions are not enough. If we continue to put our tax dollars and our efforts into “standards reform” because Mr. Duncan and his followers believe it is common sense, we will waste time and treasure.”

Bottom line: Race to the Top is no better than No Child Left Behind. It has no research to support its premises and will come to an ignominious end like its predecessor. Burris hopes that Duncan will change course but his bad ideas seem impervious to evidence.

Perhaps someday historians will figure out how the Obama administration pulled the wool over the eyes of so many people about its plans for urban schools. As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama named Professor Linda Darling-Hammond as his senior education advisor. She went on national television to describe the progressive policies he would pursue if elected.

Soon after the election, President-elect Obama dropped Darling-Hammond and selected his basketball buddy Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. He introduced Duncan as someone who had enjoyed remarkable success in turning around the Chicago public schools. We now know that Duncan did not enjoy remarkable success, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is applying a wrecking ball to the Chicago public school system.

What went wrong? How did Obama fool us? Once he was elected, why did he choose as Secretary a non-educator who was determined to make standardized testing the centerpiece of his program, to advance the privatization of America’s public schools, to demoralize teachers, and to make common cause with the nation’s most rightwing governors? Why does Duncan never speak out against segregation? Why does he pretend that poverty doesn’t matter so long as poor kids have “great” teachers? Why does he never speak out against vouchers? What will historians say about Race to the Top, which turns out to have as much evidence as No Child Left Behind?


The Obama Administration’s “Scorched Earth Policy” for Urban Schools

By Dr. Mark Naison

The Obama Administration, in the five years it has been in office, has pursued an Education “Scorched Earth” policy in major urban centers, closing public schools en masse and replacing them with charter schools. And for the most part, Democratic Mayors have enthusiastically supported this policy. Only in the last year, there has been finally been some resistance to this policy, by newly elected Mayors in New York and Pittsburgh. That resistance must spread if public education is to survive and be revitalized in Urban America. Electing anti-testing, anti-charter school and pro public school Mayors in big cities should be a major priority of activists in the last three years of the Obama Presidency, along with building the multi-partisan movement against the Common Core Standards. That is the only way we can build public schools into strong community institutions where creative teaching and learning is practiced and honored.


Dr. Mark Naison is one of the Co-founders of BATs with Priscilla Sanstead

The pundits of the New York Times are united in their love of the Common Core standards, and none seem to understand why anyone questions the standards. In order to explain a point of view, one must make the effort to hear the voices of critics without caricaturing them.

Unfortunately, David Brooks has no idea why anyone would not embrace the Common Core standards. All he knows is what Arne Duncan says about them.

He actually believes that CCSS was a response to some sort of economic crisis (surely not the one where financial institutions nearly collapsed our economy in 2008, a catastrophe that was not caused by the schools or their standards). He is under the impression that having a diversity of state standards causes low academic performance, despite the lack of evidence for that assertion.

He does not understand how the standards were written or funded or quickly adopted.

He writes:

“This was a state-led effort, supported by employers and financed by private foundations. This was not a federal effort, though the Obama administration did encourage states to embrace the new standards.”

The standards were in fact written behind closed doors by a group of 27 people, a group that included a large number of people from the testing industry but not a single classroom teacher, not a single person knowledgeable about early childhood education or children with special needs or English language learners. The writing, development, evaluation and everything else was financed by the Gates Foundation. The Obama administration did not just “encourage states,” but told states they would not be eligible to compete for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funding unless they adopted “college-and-career-ready standards,” which everyone understood to mean Common Core. Why else would 45 states suddenly adopt these unknown standards? why else would Massachusetts drop its own proven standards for untried new standards?

Brooks, like Duncan, ridicules those who are skeptical about the CCSS. He scorns them as clowns of the right and the left.

Aaron Barlow, an English professor at the City University of New York, wrote the best critique of Brooks’ naïveté. Writing on the blog of “Academe,” Barlow describes Brooks’ column as “backseat driving in the clown car.”

Barlow writes that Brooks believes that

“….those who disagree with him…have the red noses and squeeze horns. He mounts a defense of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) based on the idea that those he shills for are the wise and considerate and caring–and that everyone else is either raw material or the lunatic fringe (both left and right).

“Education, to Brooks, “is to get students competitive with their international peers.” What the students need in their personal lives, or want, these don’t matter. What communities need, in terms of citizens and contributing members, doesn’t matter. And anyone who disagrees with Brooks and those he advocates for is a nut. A clown.

“As he does with his own person, Brooks does a good job of dressing CCSS in gowns of gravitas, covering the pretense and parody at its heart, hiding the large, floppy shoes and bulging, striped pants.

“If it weren’t the result of clowning, CCSS would have been developed in an entirely different way. As it is supposed to prepare students to be “college ready” and as potential employees, creation should have been in the hands of college professors and representatives from business–as well as public-school teachers and administrators, providing both understanding of needs and goals and of the practical aspects of education. Parents should be consulted, as well. As it is, CCSS was the creation of politicians and their lackeys, as even Brooks describes it:

“The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers set out to draft clearer, consistent and more rigorous standards.

“Politicians and their top appointees: that’s who created CCSS. These aren’t people who understand either the needs of education, its goals, or the ways students learn as they grow. And… ha, ha, ha… “consistent and rigorous standards”? That’s like calling a clown’s yardstick adequate measurement. Only a clown can tout “standards” developed by people with no knowledge of the subject matter as “consistent and rigorous,” at least not with a straight face. The rest of us should simply laugh–and would, if this weren’t so deadly serious.”

He adds:

“The tragedy of all of this is that Brooks actually believes what he is writing. He has no idea that it is he who is the real clown. And not even a significant one. He’s simply another red nose crammed into the back seat.

“This is too bad. Education should not be a circus.”

Read it all. It is a terrific column.

The Los Angeles Times tells us what we should already know: The higher the stakes on exams, the more bad consequences will follow.

In India, there are crucial exams, and cheating is a persistent problem. Ingenious students us their ingenuity not to answer the questions, but to find ways to get the right answer, either electronically by remote device or by sneaking in old-fashioned crib sheets.

In the United States, we have seen numerous examples of cheating by administrators and teachers, as in El Paso, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. We have also seen narrowing of the curriculum to make time for more test preparation and loss of the arts, libraries, physical education, and even recess. We have seen teaching to the test, a practice once considered unprofessional. We have seen states game the system, dropping the pass score to artificially boost the passing rate.

The story in the L.A. Times describes a business that sells electronic devices to text exam questions to someone outside who responds with the correct answer. Officials are aware of the problem:

“At a test center in northern India’s Bareilly district, state-appointed inspectors making a surprise visit last month found school staff members writing answers to a Hindi exam on the blackboard. When the inspectors arrived, the staff members tried to throw the evidence out the window.

“Sometimes the stories are horrifying. A 10th-grader in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, accused his principal last month of allowing students to cheat if they each paid about $100. The student’s impoverished family could barely manage half the bribe. Distraught, he doused himself with kerosene and set himself on fire in the family kitchen. He died the next day.

“At the well-regarded Balmohan Vidyamandir school in central Mumbai, 10th-grade teacher Shubhada Nigudkar didn’t notice the math formulas written on the wall in the back of the classroom in a neat, tiny script until days after the exams concluded.
“There is nothing we can do at that point,” the matronly, bespectacled English teacher said. “I can’t prove anything. So we move on.”

“The problems have prompted education officials to take preventive measures that at first blush might seem worthy of a minimum-security prison. Some schools installed closed-circuit cameras to monitor testing rooms. Others posted armed police officers at entrances or employed jamming devices to block the use of cellphones to trade answers.”

The problem is high-stakes testing. Our own officials in the United States can’t get enough.

The best antidote would be to require them to take the exams they mandate. If they can’t pass them, they should resign.

Someday, in the not distant future, when the history of this era is recorded, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top will be recalled among the biggest policy failures of our times. They will be remembered as policies that undermined the quality of education, demoralized educators, promoted the privatization of schools, and destroyed children’s love of learning.,0,165573.htmlstory#ixzz2z3whGNKt

Laura H. Chapman left the following comment. The word “desperate” to describe this quest for a scientific, data-based means of judging teachers is mine. Something about it smacks of anti-intellectualism, the kind of busywork exercise that an engineer would design, especially if he had never taught K-12. This is the sort of made-up activity that steals time from teaching and ultimately consumes a lot of time with minimal rewards.

Chapman writes:

Please give at least equal attention to the 70% of teachers who have job assignments without VAMs (no state-wide tests). For this majority, USDE promotes Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) or Student Growth Objectives (SGOs), a version of 1950s management-by-objectives on steroids.

Teachers who have job-alike assignments fill in a template to describe an extended unit or course they will teach. A trained evaluator rates the SLO/SGO (e.g. “high quality” to “unacceptable” or “incomplete”).

The template requires the teacher to meet about 25 criteria, including a prediction of the pre-test to post-test gains in test scores of their students on an approved district-wide test. Districts may specify a minimum threshold for these gains.

Teachers use the same template to enter the pre-and post-test scores. An algorithm determines if the gain meets the district threshold for expectations, then stack ranks teachers as average, above or below average, or exceeding expectations.

1. The Denver SLO/SGO template is used in many states. This example is for art teachers—-Denver Public Schools. (2013). Welcome to student growth objectives: New rubrics with ratings.
2. One of the first attempts to justify the use of SLOs/SGOs for RttT—-Southwest Comprehensive Center at WestEd (n.d.). Measuring student growth in non-tested grades and subjects: A primer. Phoenix, AZ: Author.

3. This USDE review shows that SLOs/SGOs have no solid research to support their use—-Gill, B., Bruch, J., & Booker, K. (2013). Using alternative student growth measures for evaluating teacher performance: What the literature says. (REL 2013–002). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic.

4. The USDE marketing program on behalf of SLOs/SGOs—-Reform Support Network. (2012, December). A quality control toolkit for student learning objectives.

5. The USDE marketing campaign for RttT teacher evaluation and need for district “communication SWAT teams” (p. 9) —- Reform Support Network. (2012, December). Engaging educators, Toward a New grammar and framework for educator engagement. Author.

6. Current uses of SLOs/SGOs by state—-Lacireno-Paquet, N., Morgan, C., & Mello, D. (2014). How states use student learning objectives in teacher evaluation systems: a review of state websites. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.

7. Flaws in the concepts of “grade-level expectation” and “a year’s worth of growth” —-Ligon, G. D. (2009). The optimal reference guide: Performing on grade level and making a year’s growth: Muddled definitions and expectations, growth model series, Part III. Austin, TX: ESP Solutions

Here is a guide to setting yourself up as a pundit who writes for major newspapers and is called for quotes by reporters:

Robert Shepherd writes:


Becoming an “EdDeform” EduPundit Made EZ

The nineteenth century was the era of the traveling medicine show. Grifters slithered from town to town in rural parts of the country, peddling magical elixirs. John D. Rockefeller’s father was one such. He would show up in a town, put on a little spectacle, sell some bottled cures for cancer and lameness, and then skeddadle off just ahead of the law.

Today, in place of the Snake Oil Salesman, we have the EduPundit.

The EduPundit doesn’t sell magic elixirs. He or she sells Magic Formulas for learning. Now, how does the Aspiring EduPundit come up with a Magic Formula to sell? Well, that’s the easy part. Magic Formulas are lying around all over the place.

The secret to becoming a well-remunerated Edupundit is to take a blindingly obvious idea and make it into a Magic Formula by giving it a Brand Name. Or, if you are in a hurry, start with the Brand Name and then come up with the Magic Formula based on that. I’ve done some of this work for you. Just choose items from the following lists. Note: The Brand Name for your Magic Formula doesn’t have to have an item from List Three. Those are optional. And it can have an item from List Four OR List Five OR both.

List one:

List two:

List three:

List four:

List five:

If you would like the complete Aspiring EduPundit iPhone App for Choosing Your Aspiring EduPundit Brand, which includes many more lists like the one above (Jump Starting Formative Engagement! Engaging Formative Jump Starting!) just sign up at our website or write your name on a stack of hundred dollar bills and send them to yours truly.

Of course, in addition to the Brand Name, you will need a “Key Graphic” or “Concept Map.” This you can very easily create yourself using Smart Art in Microsoft Word. A circle made of three arrows, an idea pyramid, a web—these are all standard. You know the shtick. Remember: In presentations, you must always unveil your inane graphic with great drama, as though it were the Holy of Holies. It is THE REVELATION.

2014 update: Be aware that the great river of Edupundit green is now running almost exclusively from the bank accounts of a few Ed Deform Plutocrats and from the coffers of those Plutocrats’ wind-up toys in foundations, think tanks, state departments of education, and the USDE. So, if YOU want to be a big barker on the educational midway this carnival season, if you want to be invited to speak at conferences, to write professional books for teachers, to be invited to chair committees, and to get paid for putting your name on textbooks you didn’t actually write or edit—if you want to be a PLAYAH—you will have to PRACTICE YOUR EQUIVOCATION. Hold your nose and learn to collaborate with Ed Deform, but do so with sufficient finesse that you can deny your collaboration when actual classroom teachers seem ready to identify you as Vichy swine.

For a copy of Equivocating on the Common Core and Standardized Testing for Aspiring EduPundits, sign up for my course at Anyone Can Be an InstaEdupundit dot com.

Chiara Duggan, a teacher in Ohio and regular contributor to our blog’s discussion, writes the following, which is a great example of educating the public:


I did two full days of community discussion on our local schools this week. It’s amazing how many new ed reform mandates they have, just this year.

School grading system, A-F (replaces the old grading system) teacher grading system, Third Grade Reading Guarantee and of course the CC.

That’s with millions of cuts in state funding. Next year they lose state (personal) property tax funding, because it’s been zeroed.

No one could do all these things (well) with less funding at the same time. No one. They’re drowning. My sense was they’ve been in this reform system for so long (more than a decade now) that they don’t even recognize how ludicrous the demands sound to an “outsider”.

They need more forums to explain this to the public. The members of the “business community” who were in attendance got it immediately.

Professor Jack Hassard of Georgia State University concludes, after reviewing Tom Loveless’s report for Brookings, that the Common Core Standards have had little or no effect on NAEP math scores, as Loveles predicted a few years ago.


The states most aligned with CCSS had the smallest gains.


Overall, eighth grade math scores show very little improvement since the Common Core was rolled out in 2010.


He writes:


Between 1990 – 2013 there was a 22 point increase in 8th grade math. Over the 23 years this amounts to about a 1 point increase per year. However, the average score increase from 2009 – 2013, the years the Common Core has been used, has only increased 0.30 points per year, much less than before the roll out of the Common Core.


Well, four years is too soon to see the radical improvements that Bill Gates and others have promised. Maybe we will have to wait a full decade to know whether the billions spent on CCSS were well spent.



Peter Greene nails it with this post.


Students are not assets. Students are not
global competitors. Students are… well, children? People? On a
Gates Foundation website, seeking to persuade bussinesses how much
America needs the Common Core–even though it has never been
field-tested to gauge its real-world consequences–Alan Golston
wrote this execrable sentence: “Businesses are the primary
consumers of the output of our schools, so it’s a natural


Greene almost jumps through the page–or, the
Internet–shouting NO!


He writes: “Output of our schools. Students
are not output. They are not throughput. They are not toasters on
an assembly line. They are not a manufactured product, and a school
is not a factory. In fact, a school does not create “output” at
all. Talking about the “output” of a school is like talking about
the “output” of a hospital or a counseling center or a summer camp
or a marriage. When talking about interactions between live
carbon-based life forms (as in “That girl you’ve been dating is
cute, but how’s the output of the relationship?”), talking about
output is generally not a good thing. Primary consumers. Here’s
another thing that students are not– students are not consumer
goods. Businesses do not purchase them and then use them until they
are discarded or replaced. Students are not a good whose value is
measured strictly in its utility to the business that purchased


How to say it nicely: the utilitarian view of education is
getting out of control, warping the ability of intelligent people
to see students as humans like themselves, not as economic goods
for the marketplace. Corporations are not people, but students are.
Each one is unique.


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