Carole Marshall is a retired teacher who taught in the schools of Providence, Rhode Island. She was invited to participate in shaping Rhode Island “strategic plan” for 2015-2020, but soon became disillusioned when she realized that the designers of the strategic plan were going through the motions, pretending to listen to the public. Before they even started the process, they knew exactly what they wanted. They surveyed parents but ignored their strong wishes for schools that emphasized student creativity and self-motivation. The ultimate plan proclaimed what the planners wanted all along: blended learning, where students spend hours on a computer and fewer teachers are needed.

The strategic plan was produced by a California organization called “the Learning Accelerator.” The leaders wrote recently that the state’s plan for 2015-2020 was created by thousands of Rhode Islanders “through a process that is built upon the principles of transparency, engagement, empowerment and respect.” But in reality the public has been kept in the dark about what is really happening and why. The process was not at all transparent, and what looked like engagement was really a dog and pony show with a completely different agenda.

The “sole method” of this organization, Marshall writes, is to sell blended learning through disruptive innovation.

Marshall warns that the plan sounds good but it is not. Who will benefit? Not teachers or students, but venture capitalists and vendors of technology products.

In recent weeks, as Congress debated different issues in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a dozen or more of the national civil rights organizations issued statements supporting annual testing and opposing opting out of the tests.

But some city and state locals disagree with their national representatives. In Seattle, the NAACP local took issue with the pro-testing statement and issued its own strongly critical statement about the damage done by standardized testing. The Seattle chapter opposes high-stakes testing and supports opting out.

In Texas, the largest group affiliated with LULAC, the Latino organization, opposed the national organization’s stance.

The national League of United Latin American Citizens supports high-stakes testing, but their Texas chapter does not.

“LULAC began in Texas, and Texas LULAC has consistently been against high-stakes testing,” says University of Texas professor Angela Valenzuela. “The national organizations do not at all reflect the studied opinion of LULAC in our state.”

Valenzuela is a former education committee chair for the group’s Texas chapter and was also part of the Latino-led resistance to standardized testing in the 1990s, when the state first began denying high school diplomas to students for failing state tests. That policy prompted a lawsuit from Dr. Hector P. Garcia’s American GI Forum on behalf of poor students of color almost 20 years before affluent Anglo parents rallied state lawmakers to their cause.

Valenzuela’s own children opted out of tests in the early 2000s, and she knows of other Latino students who avoided the tests out of protest, without a large movement behind them, and graduated anyway. But challenging schools and facing threats from officials is a lot to ask of parents who may be poor or don’t speak English.

Anecdotally, opt-out activists say their growing movement is getting less white, but it will always be easier for affluent parents to take part.

[Ruth] Kravetz, who helped organize this year’s opt-out drive in Houston, says black or Latino parents account for about 70 percent of those she knows opted out this year. It’s “crazy talk,” she says, to call the testing in Houston’s schools today a civil right; she expects next year’s opt-out effort will draw even more working-class parents as more people realize it’s their best chance at change.

In June, Community Voices for Public Education joined dozens of civil rights and education groups in a letter highlighting the broad local support for opting out. “High-stakes standardized tests, rather than reducing the opportunity gap, have been used to rank, sort, label, and punish Black and Latino students, and recent immigrants to this country,” they wrote.

“Had you talked to me three years ago, I would’ve said there’s no way that opting out is something that can make things better. I would say we have to change minds and change laws. But at this point, it looks like they’re going to be over-testing our children until all our schools are closed,” Kravetz says. “You can’t operate like testing people is going to make them not be poor.”

Our regular reader and contributor Laura H. Chapman researched No Nonsense Nurturing pedagogy and shares what she found:


“Here are some noteworthy facts about the Lawrence MA school district as of the 2014-2015 school year, where the No-Nonsense-Nurture program and methodology from the Center for Transformative Teacher Training is being used to control teacher and student performance in the service of raising test scores and graduation rates.


“LPS serves roughly 13,900 students and their families. The demographic breakdown is as follows:


1.5% African American
1.6% Asian
91.3% Hispanic
5.2% White
0.4% Multi-racial, Non-Hispanic


“English Language Learners:
70.0% First language not English
29.9% English Language Learners (ELLs)


“Special Education:
16.9% Students with Disabilities


“Low Income:
88.9% Qualify for free lunch
3.5% Qualify for reduced-price lunch
91.3% Total low-income


“So in Lawrence, MA this is a program of choice for poor Hispanic kids, many still learning English.


“The current marketers of NNN is CTTT or C3T short for the Center for Transformative Teacher Training. The website lists as CLIENTS a curious list of large metro school districts, many charter franchise schools, TFA and really weird—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a CLIENT. Here is the sales pitch information:


“Our work has had a transformative impact on educators from a wide range of school districts, CMO’s, and educational organizations, including:
Achievement First Achievement School District
 Alain Locke Project 
Apple Academy Public Charter Schools 
Aspire Public Schools
 Academy for Urban School Leadership- Chicago
 Beecher Community School District 
Center City Public Charter Schools 
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
 Chicago International Charters Cleveland Metropolitan School District 
DC Bilingual Charter School 
Denver Public Schools
 Alice Deal Middle School
 Friendship Public Schools
 KIPP Schools 
Leadership Public Schools 
Lighthouse Potomac Charter School 
MATCH Schools 
Mastery Schools
 NewSchools Venture Fund
 New Schools for New Orleans 
New Teacher Center
 Princeton City Schools 
Rocketship Public Schools
 Roosevelt School District San Francisco Unified School District
 St. Hope Leadership Academy 
Success Academy Charter Schools
 Syracuse City Schools
 Teach for America
 Uncommon Schools
 Urban Teacher Center
 Winton Woods Schools


“Also listed as clients with logos attached are :The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Selby County Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools


“So, Bill and Melinda Gates are CLIENTS?


“I snooped around on the Internet. The general method of Assertive Discipline has been around since 1976 marketed by Lee Canter and Associates (Lee is one of the originators). That work was purchased by Sylvan in 1998 and resurrected in 2009 as CTT with NNN as one of the products. The co-founders, include Lee Canter and Kristyn Klei Borrero, who completed an ED.D in 2008 (educational administration). Prior to that Kristyn was CEO of Aspire charter schools, and key leader in developing the Reading Partner’s program with community volunteers paired with students. Her bio says she received a $60 million grant from the Gates Foundation but what that was for is not clear.


“The website has a brief on “research.” It cites one study of NNN arranged by New Schools Venture Fund. The claim is that NNN was implemented in grades 3-12, with “urban students, 99.1% African Americans, 83% qualified for free/reduce priced lunches.


“Result: “reduced off task behavior up to 55%.” This not a peer reviewed study. I have requested a copy of the study per the website invitation.


“I have concluded that the promoters of this program think that “urban” schools should function as boot camps where strict compliance with rules is job one, along with on-task and on-time compliance with assigned tasks. The school has one major purpose–transmitting text-based knowledge with teachers functioning as task-masters.


“The program assumes that teachers are incompetent, even if well-intentioned. Precisely because teachers are most likely to be white, female, from suburban and privileged backgrounds, they need to learn how to treat students who attend schools in urban settings where self-discipline is in short supply, and students must be told what to do, when, how, and so on.


“The stereotyping is thick and deep. The “nurture” in this program is designed to make critical and independent thinking unlikely. It is perfect prep for troop training. The teacher training program is bizarre but attractive to TFA amateurs.”

Peter Goodman is a close observer of city and state education policy in Néw York. In this post, he describes how Governor Andrew Cuomo bypassed the state Constitution to impose his own ideas on nearly 200 struggling schools across the state.

Since the state Constitution gives the governor no role in education policy, Cuomo used the budget process for his coup.

“True to his word the Governor attached a number of proposals to the budget: extending tenure for new teachers from three to four years, another principal-teacher evaluation plan (the third in four years) and receivership, a system to deal with low performing schools.

“From April through June the Board of Regents grappled with the dense, new, teacher evaluation law: an Education Learning Summit, two lengthy and contentious public Regents meetings, thousands upon thousands of emails, faxes, letters and phone calls to the Governor and Regents members all protesting elements of the new law. Eventually the Regents approved a set of regulations that will require the 700 school districts in New York State to negotiate the implementation of the new law.

“What received virtually no discussion was receivership – a system by which “struggling” schools are given two years to improve before they are removed from their school district and placed under the supervision of a receiver, who has sweeping powers including the ability to change sections of collective bargaining agreements. The Lawrence Massachusetts receivership district is frequently referenced as a successful example of the receivership model (See discussion here and the Mt Holyoke School District is in the process of entering receivership, with strong opposition from the community and teachers (Read discussion here).

“The New York State model is directed at schools rather than school districts.

[The new law says:] “In a district with a “Persistently Struggling School,” the superintendent is given an initial one-year period to use the enhanced authority of a Receiver to make demonstrable improvement in student performance or the Commissioner will direct that the school board appoint an Independent Receiver and submit the appointment for approval by the Commissioner. Additionally, the school will be eligible for a portion of $75 million in state aid to support and implement its turnaround efforts over a two-year period.”

“In the first year the superintendent, with “enhanced authority” has to show that the school has made “demonstrable improvement in student performance” or the school board, with the approval of the Commissioner will appoint an Independent Receiver.”

New York City recently started a 3-year turnaround program, but most of them are now targeted for receivership.

What is receivership? It means the school is handed over to an outsider with sweeping powers, “including requiring that all teachers reapply for their positions.”

Cuomo has no experience or knowledge about schools, other than having gone to schools. But he is threatening scores of schools either to improve or get taken over. This is a continuation of his vendetta against public schools and their teachers. In his way of thinking, the best way to bring about change is by threatening to beat up the other. Improve or die.

Regular readers may have noticed a flurry–one might say–a deluge of comments by a reader who signs as “Virginiasgp.” SGP stands for “student growth percentiles.” He believes with a religious fervor in student growth measures for evaluating teachers. He also says that he has worked in the U.S. Navy on a submarine. Another reader who signs as “NY Teacher” offered Virginiasgp some ideas about the deficiencies of test scores for teacher evaluation:


Apparently you think it’s a great idea to run public schools like the Navy runs its nuclear submarine fleet. Well thanks for the inspiration man. You really are a hoot-n-a-half on this. Shear genius. Now let’s take your fantabulous idea and put it to work for the Navy.
Don’t worry, I am highly qualified to help the US Navy mainly because I have zero experience with nuclear submarines. At least we’re square on the experience piece. Well, here goes – my suggestion . . . no, make that my insistence!


We must run the Navy’s nuclear submarine fleet just like a high needs, impoverished urban, Title 1 public school. As chief submarine Officer, please understand that there will be a few simple changes to protocol.


1) Your evaluation will be based on the ability of you and your crew to navigate a detailed, three dimensional attack course. You evaluation will be based on precision of tracking , speed and acceleration control, and stealth. Numerical data will be assigned to each of these three variables. I’ll even give you one of the newly commissioned, Virginia class ( SSN-774) nuclear-powered fast attack submarines. Seems appropriate Virginia.


2) Your crew will consist, instead of the usual adult Navy volunteers, 7th and 8th grade students from the worst performing middle school in the Bronx. Don’t worry, we will give them the same 5 week crash course that a TFAer would get and – you get to teach them! The U.S. Naval Submarine School New London in Groton CT works for me.
As the chief submarine Officer you must ensure that all systems run smoothly. That means you are responsible for your crew of youngsters and their jobs:


1) Operating a nuclear reactor and nuclear propulsion system
2) Maintaining on board weapons systems
3) Managing atmosphere control and fire control
4) Driving the vessel and charting its position
5) Operating communications and intelligence equipment


FYI/Heads Up:
On any given day or at any given moment, any one or more of your teenage crew may . . .
Be highly distracted and completely inattentive
Refuse to follow orders
Give you the one finger salute
Text and snap chat incessantly while on duty
Be very loud and boisterous
Ask permission to go to the bathroom – every 40 min.
Fight and argue with each other
Argue with you
Sleep on the job
Be absent from duty – some chronically
Disrupt crew meetings
Report for duty under the influence of illegal substances
Express their inner drama queen
Hang out in small groups and completely ignore you
Frequently exhibit silly, irrational, or bizarre behaviors
Forget most of what you taught them in the 5 week’r
Laugh when you yell at them
Stick chewing gum into electronic ports
Complain incessantly


Kind of tickles your innards knowing that your Naval career rests on the whims of a crew of mostly dysfunctional adolescents, doesn’t it?

From a reader:

“Florida VAM formula … from the DOE website. This is a terrible joke.

y_i=μ+∑_(g=1)^M▒〖δ_g x_g 〗+∑_(j=1)^K▒〖β_j x_j+θ_(k)i+ω_(mk)i+ε_i; 〗

“VAM is a SCAM and my children will be no part of it.”

The new British secretary of state for education has learned something very silly by reading about the “reform movement” in the United States. She now wants Britain to be first in the world in teaching grit. Truly! No, not the grit that gets stuck between your teeth. Not the grit that collects on the soles of your shoes. No, she means character!

This post was written earlier this year, so I don’t know how the contest ended up, but get this, as reported by Robin Alexander of the Cambridge Primary Review:

Those who thought that the departure of Michael Gove might give schools a breather before the 2015 election, liberating them from the weekly explosion of initiatives and insults, reckoned without the ambition of his successor. These days, few education secretaries of state are content to do a good job, deeming it more important to leave an indelible mark in the name of ‘reform’. To this lamppost tendency Nicky Morgan appears to be no exception.

Her wheeze, and it’s a biggish one, is to make Britain ‘a global leader in teaching character and resilience … ensuring that young people not only grow academically, but also build character, resilience and grit.’ To that end, DfE has invited bids for projects showing how ‘character’ can be built, and on 16 March there’ll be a grand ceremony at which the 2015 Character Awards of £15,000 each will be presented to 27 schools, with a £20,000 prize for the best of the best. Morgan modestly defines her chosen legacy as ‘a landmark step for our education system.’

In the same way that New Labour claimed, witheringly but inaccurately, that before the imposition of its national literacy and numeracy strategies England’s primary teachers were ‘professionally uninformed’, so Nicky Morgan’s happy discovery of something called ‘character’ implies that schools have hitherto ignored everything except children’s academic development; and that creativity, PSHE, moral education, religious education and citizenship, not to mention those values that loom large in school prospectuses, websites and assemblies and above all in teachers’ daily dealings with their pupils, were to do with something else entirely. Remember the not-so-hidden ‘hidden curriculum’? If there is a ‘landmark step’ then, it is not character education but its political appropriation and repackaging.

So what, in Morgan’s book, constitutes ‘character’? Its main ingredients, as listed in the guidance to applicants for the DfE grants and character awards, are ‘perseverance, resilience and grit, confidence and optimism, motivation, drive and ambition.’ (Readers will recognize ‘resilience’ as one of the most overused words of 2014). Rather lower down the list come ‘neighbourliness’, ‘community spirit’, ‘tolerance’ and ‘respect.’

Like so much in recent English education policy, this account of character is imported from the United States. The Morgan character attributes are almost identical to those in the eponymous Paul Tough’s book How Children Succeed: grit, curiosity and the hidden power of character, and in Dave Levin’s evangelising Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). Here, then, we have a melding of the no-holds-barred values of corporate America with that fabled frontier spirit portrayed by John Wayne. ‘Grit’ anchors the education of character in both worlds….

If character is important, which it surely is, is such an idiosyncratic and unreconstructedly male account of it good enough, and is it for government to impose this or any other notion of character on every child in the land, of whatever inclination, personality, gender or culture? In one of two excellent blogs on this subject that I urge prospective applicants for the DfE awards to read, John White thinks not. He says: ‘Nicky Morgan is not wrong to focus on personal qualities, only about the set she advocates. This is tied to an ideology of winners and losers.’ (As, appropriately, is DfE’s Character Awards scheme itself). He reminds us of the considerably more rounded values framework appended to the version of the national curriculum that was introduced in 2000 and superseded last September, and he argues that ‘no politician has the right to steer a whole education system in this or any other partisan direction.’ For White, Morgan’s foray into character education is further confirmation of the need for curriculum decisions to be taken out of the hands of politicians and given to a body which is more representative, more knowledgeable and culturally more sensitive.

The other recent must-read blog on character education is by Jeffrey Snyder in the United States. He cites evidence that ‘character’ is more likely to be determined by genetically-determined personality traits than the efforts of teachers, and indeed he argues that anyway nobody really knows how to teach it. In this context it’s worth asking what those pupils subjected to 1850s/1950s character-building really learned, and whether there is indeed a correspondence between success on the playing field, in work and in adult life. And since you ask, did fagging and flogging really make for manliness (whatever that is) or were they merely perversions by another name?

Snyder argues, too, that the ‘perseverence, resilience and grit’ account of character ‘promotes an amoral and careerist “looking out for number one” point of view’ adding, tellingly: ‘Never has character education been so completely untethered from morals, values and ethics.’ As a result, ‘character’ is as likely to be harnessed to the pursuit of ends that are evil as to those that are good. ‘Gone’, adds Snyder, ‘is the impetus to bring youngsters into a fold of community that is larger than themselves … When character education fails to distinguish doctors and terrorists, heroes and villains, it would appear to have a basic flaw.’

Do read the embedded links. They connect to some very interesting articles by White and Snyder.

As you will note, this is an older post. I don’t know who won the national competition for teaching grit. When I find out, I will let you know.

Fairtest reports that George Washington University has grown the long list of universities that no longer require students to take the SAT or ACT for admission. These universities recognize that students’ grade-point-average over four years is more predictive of college success than any standardized test.

Today’s announcement by George Washington University that it will no longer require most applicants to submit ACT or SAT test scores is the latest example of a surge of schools dropping admissions testing requirements. According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), 40 colleges and universities have adopted test-optional policies since spring 2013.
Like George Washington, many of the institutions going test-optional in the past two years are among the most competitive in the U.S. The list includes Beloit, Brandeis, Bryn Mawr, Drake, Hood, Kalamazoo, Sienna and Wesleyan. A growing number of public universities, such as Eastern Connecticut, Monmouth State, Old Dominion, Plymouth State, Rowan, Temple, and Virginia Commonwealth, have also eliminated ACT or SAT score requirements for all or many applicants
FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer explained, “The test-optional surge recognizes that no test—not the SAT, old or new, nor the ACT – is needed for high-quality admissions. Many independent studies and practical experiences have shown that test-optional admission enhances both academic excellence and diversity.”
FairTest’s list of ACT/SAT-optional schools (at now includes more than 180 schools ranked in the top tiers of their respective categories. More than one-third of top-ranked national liberal arts colleges have test-optional policies.
– regular updates for FairTest’s chronology of test-optional adoptions and list of top-tier schools with test-optional or test-flexible policies are online at

Jeannie Kaplan decides it is time to rename “reform.” She thinks it should be called “Dataism,” as in a religious faith or political ideology connected to the worship of Data. She lives in Denver, where she served on the school board for two terse. She has seen corporate reform up close, and it was not pretty. It smelled of Data-ism.

She writes:

We all know education reform is all about DATA. Data is used to fire employees, data is used to rank and rate schools, data is used to close schools, data is used to open charter schools and other non-union schools, data is used to make budgetary decisions, data is used to produce chaos and churn, data is used to outsource and privatize. Data is everywhere. Education reform is all about DATA. DATA is the driving force of education “reform.” It has become the be-all and end-all of public education, the king and queen, prince and princess of public education. DATA and education “reform” are often synonymous but only when the actual DATA can be Ignored, Spun, Manipulated if it doesn’t show “reform” success (which is most of the time). DATAISM: where data is IGNORED, SPUN, or MANIPULATED to give false results to the public. DATAISM. What do you think?

Open the post to see which terms are highlighted or linked.

Edward Placke is Superintendent of the Greenburgh-North Castle Unified School District, which serves students from urban areas who are primarily of African, Caribbean and Spanish heritage. All students are eligible for the federal free lunch program and are identified as disabled, primarily emotionally disabled. He wants the public to know that these students have been shamefully neglected in the state budget, for years.

This is his message:


Shame on New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. Shame on New York state’s legislators.
Once again the children with the most significant disabilities who live in our most impoverished communities throughout New York are totally ignored by our representatives. These are the students who their respective community school
districts have been unable to educate due to their significant academic and behavioral challenges. I use this term representatives lightly in that our elected officials only represent major contributors, special interest groups and benefactors; donors who ensure their reelection; contributors who unashamedly advocate for privatization of our public schools, contributors who advocate the dismantling of our unions; public rhetoric that demeans our public school teachers and administrators ;contributors who have little or no training in education and; representatives who support an educational reform movement that is ill conceived and will prove ineffective for students of all abilities.
The New York State assembly, senate and the Governor’s office represent all that is insensitive, corrupt and self-serving in our state and country, particularly around the students we are blessed to serve; those with significant disabilities.
Their latest demonstration of the aforementioned disturbing variables is their inability to pass a law this session that would provide alternative educational programs, which include the 853 schools and the public special act school districts (and I underscore the public nature of the public special act school districts), with a minimal annual increase in funding. Unlike other public school districts in New York, these vital educational programs as of this time will be funded at prior year rates for current year costs. The sustainability of these programs that consistently produce outstanding outcomes are in jeopardy of continuing to educate New York’s most vulnerable students. It should be noted that historically funding for these educational programs have at times been frozen which has caused enormous fiscal stress.
Shame on our so called representatives. Despite their outright disregard for our student bodies my advocacy and the advocacy of those with like minds will not rest until the education we offer is comparable to community public schools. Our mission to ensure our students successfully cross “The Bridge To Adulthood” and overcome the many societal obstacles they had no part in creating. I urge our representatives to rethink their position on this bill and join me in advocating for this highly deserving population of students.
Ed Placke,Ed.D.
Greenburgh North Castle UFSD


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