Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary, thanks his school community. He is a hero of this blog for his fearlessness and dedication.

Hope I am not too late in posting this wonderful piece, which appears on NYC teacher Arthur Goldstein’s blog NYC Educator.


Arthur says the writer of this send-up is anonymous. Credit to him for posting it on this day.


It begins like this:


Ineffective: You don’t know how to cook a turkey. You serve a chicken instead. Half your family doesn’t show because they are unmotivated by your invitation, which was issued at the last minute via facebook. The other half turn on the football game and fall asleep. Your aunt tells your uncle where to stick the drumstick and a brawl erupts. Food is served on paper plates in front of the TV. You watch the game, and root for the Redskins.



A reader writes:



“Cuomo talking about reducing standardized-test-based evaluation of teachers N.Y. State schools has all the credibility of O.J. Simpson talking about his on-going search for “the real killer” while he was golfing several hours a day (prior to O.J.’s imprisonment, of course.)”

A time to laugh and celebrate that the dumb policies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are widely recognized as failures and will soon go into the dustbin of history, where they belong. To make a better world for children and educators, the fight goes on, to replace poor leaders and failed policies, to save public education from privatization, and to make real the elusive promise of equality of educational opportunity: for all, not some.




In a comment on the blog a few weeks ago, there was discussion about how difficult it is to stand up to the powerful. I could not help but think of the resistance group that I most admire: the White Rose Society. This was a group of German youths–young men and women- who actively stood up to Nazi totalitarianism. They wrote leaflets and distributed them; they wrote graffiti in public places. They were passionately opposed to Naziism, and they were determined not to remain silent. They were well aware that if they were caught, they would be killed. They were active for less than a year. They were captured in 1943, tried, found guilty, and most were beheaded. Their cause was hopeless, and they knew it. But they also believed that in time, the scourge of fascism and totalitarianism would be defeated. History has vindicated them. Few will have the strength to do what they did. But they must not be forgotten. Their example should live as an inspiration, reminding us that resistance can wear down the worst of regimes.


You can read more about them here.

Jeff Bryant writes that test-based evaluation of teachers is going, going, and almost dead.


He says that the most interesting thing about Hillary Clinton’s derisive comments about evaluating teachers by test scores is that few, if any, of the reformer crowd rose up to disagree with her.


Hillary said recently that it didn’t make any sense to evaluate teachers by the test scores of their students.


This policy was the jewel in the crown of Arne Duncan and President Obama’s Race to the Top. Duncan even saluted the Los Angeles Times for publishing its own ratings of thousands of teachers based on this fraudulent measure. He was silent when one of those teachers–Rigoberto Ruelas– committed suicide.  (See here and here and here.)


Bryant writes:


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently shook up the education policy world when she challenged one of the pillars of the education establishment for the last 10-15 years, that teachers’ job evaluations and pay should be linked to how students – even students they don’t teach – perform on standardized tests.


In an informal “roundtable” with president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten and a select audience of AFT members, Clinton stated, “I have for a very long time also been against the idea that you tie teacher evaluation and even teacher pay to test outcomes. There’s no evidence. There’s no evidence.”


“This is a direct shot at Obama’s education policy,” reported Vox the next day. “The Education Department pushed states to adopt policies that would link teachers’ professional evaluations in part to their students’ test scores.”


Echoing that accusation, The Washington Post reported Clinton was “dismissing a key feature of education policies promoted by the Obama administration.”


But the important story here isn’t that Clinton’s remark indicates what we can expect from her administration for education policy.


First, her statement wasn’t all that definitive. She followed the remark with a vague comment about linking tests to “school performance,” whatever that means, and she declared, “you’ve got to have something,” presumably meaning she would want to maintain annual testing favored by Obama.


Second, you can disagree with what Clinton said, or argue about the way she said it, but the reality is,  federal pressures to require teacher evaluations to include test score data are likely going away. That’s because in the latest version of new federal policy being negotiated in Congress, “there would be no role for the feds whatsoever in teacher evaluation,” Education Week reports.


But, the important story isn’t as much about what Clinton said as it is about the response it got from the establishment that’s been in charge of education policy for nearly three decades.


The response: Silence.


The Establishment is ready to go to the mat for charter schools, 93% of which are non-union. But, bye-bye, teacher evaluation based on test scores.





Marla Kilfoyle is a teacher on Long Island, executive director of the BATs, and a leader in the Néw York opt out movement. She is also the mother of a child with special needs.

In this post, she writes a letter to her son, who was adopted from Russia when he was nine months old.

Marla writes:

“When we adopted him, we knew that he would come with cognitive delays. We were educated by the adoption agency about possible health issues that he could be born with. He had years of therapy (OT, PT, Sensory Processing Disorder Therapy, Socialization Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy, two eye surgeries to fix his strabismus) to catch him up. He worked so hard!


“He has excelled beyond our wildest dreams, and he is the joy of our lives.


“He is an accomplished trumpet player, he knows the full history of the sinking of the Titanic, he is a lover of animals, and he is an amazing son.”


And she wrote him a letter.



My son,


I adore you more than you will ever know. Having you in my life has been an utter joy and has enriched my life beyond measure. This is a hard letter to write because I have been fighting a battle that began because of you, my love for you, and my want for you to get a great education. As a teacher and a mother, I know that getting a sound education will open so many doors for you. I know that using education to find your passion will make you a happy adult. This is why I fight. This is why I travel and speak; this is why I work on the computer for hours at a time to write, organize, and join coalitions to make sure that you, and all children, have an education that opens doors and allows for discovery of a passion.


There are entities in the country that want to take away your right to a “Free and Appropriate Education.” They want to deny you the rights you are entitled to under IDEA. They want you to work to IEP goals that you could never meet. They want you to take exit assessments that are designed to set you up to fail. They want to create a cookie cutter education system that won’t help you overcome your weaknesses and will not lift your strengths to the surface. I know this, your teachers know this, but the entities that make education policy are not listening.


You are my son. I adore you. I love you and…
I will not be ignored.


So, I need to extend an apology to you.


I am sorry that adults who make education policy are ignorant about the real needs of special education children. I am sorry that adults involved in making education policy continue to marginalize special needs children. I am sorry that adults who make education policy continue to see special needs children, and their parents, as invisible.


The fight we have before us is to tell education policy makers that we will not be marginalized, and we will not be invisible.


So, I continue to fight for you, for all children with special needs, and I hope one day…
You will understand why I fight.

Today is a day to count our blessings and to be grateful for our family, our friends, and our freedoms.

There is so much happening in the world and in our nation that is alarming. There are so many nations and regions where the great majority of people don’t have personal security, where every day is a struggle to survive, where life is cheap, where men with guns threaten everyone daily. We can be grateful to live in a nation where most people most of the time are not in constant danger.

Clearly, we have serious problems to address in our own country, especially the fact that so many live in poverty in a land of abundance. We must commit ourselves to rectifying that terrible wrong so that all can be assured of enough to eat, a good place to live, and appropriate medical care. Or as Franklin D. Roosevelt put it so eloquently in his address to Congress in 1941:

“For there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

“Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.

“Jobs for those who can work.

“Security for those who need it.

“The ending of special privilege for the few. The preservation of civil liberties for all.

“The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.”

This was the speech where he enunciated The Four Freedoms:

“The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.

“The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.

“The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants- everywhere in the world.

“The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

“That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

“To that new order we oppose the greater conception—the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.”

Words spoken 74 years ago, a vision of a world that still eludes us, a vision that we must not abandon.

I am grateful to live in America. I am grateful for my family and friends. I am grateful for life and health.

I am grateful to the educators who dedicate their lives to helping children gain the skills, knowledge, and character to build a better world.

To all of you, parents, teachers, social workers, psychologists, health workers, and political activists who fight for children: Thank you.

In a major story today in the New York Times, Governor Cuomo of New York is said to be backing down from his rigid stance on evaluating teachers by test scores. This represents a huge victory for the parents of the 220,000 students who opted out of state testing last spring.


Kate Taylor, the reporter, says that Cuomo may not only reduce the role of testing in teacher evaluation, but eliminate it altogether, which has been the main demand of parents. Parents have been outraged to see their teachers rated by their children’s test scores, which has made the testing more important than any other aspect of schooling. They are outraged to see their school’s resources diverted to test prep and time stolen from the arts, physical education, and everything but the tested subjects of reading and math.




But beware, parents. This may be a hoax, a temporary moratorium intended to deflate the Opt Out Movement and cause it to disappear. Do not rest until the law is changed to delink testing and teacher-principal evaluations. The new federal law–not yet enacted–eliminates the federal mandate that Duncan imposed without authorization by Congress. New York may now permanently eliminate this punitive, anti-educational requirement.


New York parents: As Ronald Reagan said,  “Trust, but verify.” I suggest turning that saying around: “Verify, then trust.” Meanwhile, to quote an even older saying, keep your troops together and “keep your powder dry.”


The leaders of Long Island Opt Out and the New York State Allies for Public Education have proven to be effective, organized, strategic, and articulate. They have attended every meeting of the Regents, of legislative hearings, of Cuomo’s Common Core task force, and show up wherever they can inform other parents and policymakers. Their dedication and relentlessness made a difference.


I travel the country, and parents everywhere are in awe of the organized parents who opted out in New York. One of every five children did not take the tests, and that number could only go up.


Let’s remain watchful and wait to see what happens. In the meanwhile, this is reason for joy on the day before Thanksgiving.


Democracy works. It can even overcome billionaires when the public is informed, alert, and organized.

I am not sure why one of the largest charter chains in the U.S. is run by foreign nationals. But the Gulen chain has over 100 schools, which operate in many states under different names. One way to tell a Gulen school is that every member of the board is a Turkish man.


How did they proliferate? The old-fashioned way: By making friends in key places.


USA Today reports that Turkish men with modest incomes working for the Gulen chain made donations to members of Congress and Presidential candidates. If USA Today digs deeper, it will find contributions to state legislators as well as free trips to Turkey, all expenses paid.


USA TODAY has identified dozens of large campaign donations attributed to people with modest incomes, or from people who had little knowledge of to whom they had given, or from people who could not be located at all. All the donors appear to have ties to a Turkish religious movement named for its founder, Fethullah Gülen. USA TODAY reported last month that the movement has secretly funded more than 200 foreign trips for members of Congress and their staff.


In response to USA TODAY’s queries about suspicious donations she received on April 30, 2014, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. refunded $43,100 to the donors. “Out of an abundance of caution, the campaign has refunded the contributions in question,” said Ayotte campaign manager Jon Kohan. Ayotte also called on others who have received money from the same donors — including President Obama and Hillary Clinton — to return that money as well.


Some of the 19 Turkish Americans donating to Ayotte that day, who all lived outside New Hampshire, seemed to know little about the first-term senator, who is a woman. “He’s a good guy. He’s doing good so far. … I know him,” said Iman Cesari, a 30-year-old Nassau County employee on New York’s Long Island, who gave Ayotte $1,200.


“I just liked what he said at that time and wanted to make a donation,” said Hayati Camlica, who owns a Long Island auto repair shop and donated $2,400 to Ayotte on the same day.


Five of the Turkish Americans who donated to Ayotte that day could not be located at all, and in some cases, neither could the employer listed in Federal Election Commission records. Others did not return calls and emails seeking comment.


USA Today also reported that more than 200 members of Congress have accepted free trips to Turkey from the Gulenists.


Another article reports that Hillary Clinton has received large donations from Gulenists, as well as major contributions to the Clinton Foundation.


Maybe all this cash is meant to protect the Gulen charters, which have been a major revenue source for the Gulenists. The FBI has raided Gulen charter offices in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and in Louisiana.


Is it even legal for elected officials to accept contributions from foreign nationals?


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