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We have our trolls, we have our regular sage commentators, we have a wealth of knowledge contributed by teachers and parents from across the nation and even from other parts of the world, we have our own poet, we have our wit who quotes the dead Greek guys, we have a community who cares about better education for all. Thank you for joining the conversation.

Two Tulsa teachers risked their jobs by refusing to administer state tests to their first grade students, reports John Thompson.

He writes:

“These first grade teachers, Miss Karen Hendren and Mrs. Nikki Jones were featured in a front page Tulsa World and the United Opt Out web site. They wrote an open letter to parents documenting the damage being done by testing and the new value-added evaluation system being implemented by the Tulsa schools under the guidance of the Gates Foundation.

“Miss Hendren and Mrs. Jones explain how this obsession with testing “has robbed us of our ethics. They are robbing children of their educational liberties.” Our poorest kids are falling further behind because they are being robbed of reading instruction. By Hendren’s and Jones’ estimate, their students lose 288 hours or 72 days of school to testing!

“They inventory the logistics of administering five sets of first grade tests, as classes are prepared for high-stakes third grade reading tests. More importantly, they described the brutality of the process.

“Miss Hendren and Mrs. Jones recount the strengths of four students who are victims of the testing mania. One pulls his hair, two cry, one throws his chair, and the fourth, who could be categorized as gifted and talented, is dismayed that his scores are low, despite his mastery of so many subjects. Particularly interesting was the way that “adaptive” testing, which is supposed to be a more constructive, individualized assessment, inevitably results in students reaching their failure level, often prompting discouragement or, even, despair….”

Their superintendent Keith Ballard is no fan of high-stakes testing. But he has a problem: he accepted Gates money:

“Tulsa has an otherwise excellent superintendent, Keith Ballard, who has opposed state level testing abuses. He has invested in high-quality early education and full-service community schools. Ballard also deserves credit for investing in the socio-emotional. I doubt he would be perpetuating this bubble-in outrage if he had a choice. But Tulsa accepted the Gates Foundation’s grant money. So, Ballard is threatening the teachers’ jobs.”

Will Superintendent Ballard listen to his professional ethics or to the Gates Foundation?

Ted Morris, Jr., resigned his post as leader of the newly authorized charter school called “Greater Works Charter School,” after numerous revelations about discrepancies in his resume. The charter board still plans to open the school in September 2015.

 

Peter Greene reviews the accumulation of new details about the young man, age 22, who was granted a charter by the New York State Board of Regents and has a question: If he and other bloggers and one reporter were able to determine in only 24 hours of Internet searching that this young man did not graduate from the Rochester high school that he claimed on his resume, that it was uncertain whether he had earned a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree or a doctorate, why didn’t the New York State Board of Regents know these things before handing out a charter to someone who had never taught or run a school?

 

Mercedes Schneider wonders too about the vetting process of the New York State Board of Regents. Do the Regents care about the experience of qualifications of those who are granted a charter to run a school with public funds?

 

She writes:

 

The short of it: This guy is lying about his credentials, and NY Regents just approved him to run a NY charter school at $12,340 per student for the life of the charter (see page 56 of 2014 application), with 96 students approved for 2015-16. Morris admits in the second D&C article seeking his charter board “through posts on Craigslist, Linkedin, and websites for nonprofits” and has used their credentials to help dress up what is an impressive charter operation on paper.

D&C could not reach either of two NY Regents members for comment on Morris’ application approval.

If NY Regents really has students’ best interests in mind, it would seem that thorough checks on the references of charter applicants would be in order.

 

The Perdido Street Blogger reports that the young entrepreneur has resigned from the board of the charter school that he was supposed to lead, and asks the logical question:

 

Now comes the work of holding the Board of Regents accountable for giving approval to this fraud’s charter school and using this fiasco as Exhibit A when Cuomo, King and Tisch look to raise or eliminate the charter cap in New York State.

If Dr Ted Morris Jr, huckster extraordinaire, could get a charter in New York State now before the cap is lifted or eliminated, just wait and see what happens after the cap is increased or ended completely.

 

Chancellor Merryl Tisch has admitted that she hopes to spread charters across the state, and Commissioner John King is a charter school founder from a “no-excuses” charter school with the highest suspension rate in Massachusetts.

 

A sign of coming attractions: Jonathan Pelto has sent a request to state and city officials in New York asking for a formal investigation of Steve Perry’s recently approved charter school in New York City. Pelto writes that Perry, an employee of the Hartford, Connecticut, public schools, is planning to use copyrighted material for the benefit of his private charter company:

 

Either the Commissioner, staff and Regent’s Committee were unaware that Mr. Perry and his fellow charter school applicants do not own the concepts, materials or intellectual property that they claim or the Commissioner, staff and Committee was aware of this issue and are intentionally engaging in what appear to be Mr, Perry’s criminal violation of copyrighted material owned by the Hartford, Connecticut Board of Education…

 

Throughout the application, and in the hearings, meetings and communications associated with his attempt to get garner approval from the New York Board of Regents for his Harlem charter school application, Mr. Perry consistently claimed that he and his company own the concepts, materials and intellectual property associated with the Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford and have the legal right to “replicate” that school in New York using materials created for the Connecticut public school.

 

However, neither Steve Perry nor his private company has any legal right to those concepts, materials or intellectual property.

 

Since Steve Perry and his associates are full-time employees of the Hartford Board of Education, the copyright laws are extremely clear. Concepts, materials and intellectual property created by employees of a school district are the sole property of the school district….

 

Mr. Perry and his company are seeking to use copyrighted materials for personal gain, which of course, is an extremely serious and potentially criminal offense. According to federal law, “A commercially motivated infringer can receive up to a five-year federal prison term and $250,000 in fines. (17 U.S.C. § 506(a)), 18 U.S.C. § 2319)

 

Mr. Perry’s application to open a charter school in Harlem contains numerous claims that he is basing his work plan on concepts, materials and intellectual property that he does not own or have the right to utilize.

 

Someone at the New York State Board of Regents should take note and pay attention to due diligence.

 

 

 

 

 

In a new report from the National Education Policy Center, Professor Noel Enyedy urges school leaders to be cautious in accepting claims that technology can “personalize instruction” or lead to transformational changes. The full report can be found here.

 

The use of computers in the classroom – or even instead of classrooms – has generated renewed enthusiasm in influential circles. Advocates of significantly advancing the practice often refer to greater reliance on computer-based learning as “Personalized Instruction.”

 

Yet while its potential merits thoughtful small-scale adoption, there is little evidence that marrying digital technology to education has changed schooling for the better, according to a new policy brief published today by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC).

 

The reasons for such lackluster results are many, according to the report’s author, Noel Enyedy, associate professor of education and information studies at the University of California-Los Angeles. Chief among them is the absence of a clear model for what actually constitutes “Personalized Instruction”; advocates of the practice apply the term to a wide range of approaches to teaching that rely heavily on online or other digital resources.

 

“Computers are now commonplace in the classroom, but teaching practices often look similar, as do learning outcomes,” Enyedy writes in his policy brief, Personalized Instruction: New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results, and the Need for a New Direction for Computer-Mediated Learning. The brief is published today by the NEPC, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

 

“After more than 30 years, Personalized Instruction is still producing incremental change,” Enyedy writes. Large-scale studies, including meta-analyses, of Personalized Instruction programs “show mixed results ranging from modest impacts to no impact.”

 

Additionally, Enyedy points out, the highest potential for benefits appears to reside principally with so-called blended instruction programs, which make use of traditional classroom teaching in close alignment with elements that might be delivered via computer, including online. Blended learning done well, he notes, is more expensive than traditional education – undermining the frequent claim that computerized instruction can help achieve significant fiscal savings.

 

In light of the growing interest – yet lack of evidence to support – sweeping changes in schooling that would rely on digital media, Enyedy offers a series of recommendations for policymakers and researchers:

 

While continuing to invest in technology, policymakers should do so incrementally. They should view skeptically claims and promotion of computerized learning that oversteps what can be concluded from available research evidence.
Policymakers and researchers should clearly distinguish among the key features of technologies being used in education so that research and discussions can revolve around shared ideas and concretely defined practices.
Much more research is needed in the K-12 education context, because the evidence primarily cited is extrapolated from research involving undergraduate students and in the professions, “where developmental and motivational factors differ,” Enyedy observes.
Policymakers should encourage developers of educational technologies to work with researchers and teachers in testing and validating particular software and hardware tools: “We cannot trust market forces alone to sort out which systems are effective.”
When investing in technology to be used in education, school administrators must ensure that there is “substantial professional development for teachers” to go with it.
Everyone involved with schools must understand that Personalized Instruction is just one of several models for using computers in the classroom, and all need to be open to considering alternative approaches to making greater use of technology in the learning process.

In his weekly report on testing reform and resistance, Bob Schaeffer of FairTest finds widespread sentiment to reduce the time devoted to testing, the frequency of tests, and the high stakes attached to them.

Here is his summary of the testing and anti-testing activities:

Want more proof that the assessment reform movement is exploding across the nation? Check out this week’s stories from 22 (!) states along with several great commentaries.

As always, let FairTest know how we can help you keep the heat on at the grassroots.

Arizona District Seeks Exemption From New State Test

http://www.abc15.com/news/region-northern-az/lake-havasu/havasu-schools-seek-to-exempt-some-from-new-test

Education Groups Seek Delay of California Test-Based School Ratings

http://edsource.org/2014/school-groups-ask-to-delay-api-scores-another-year/70029#.VGuAZnvvcZy

Thousands of Colorado High School Students Refuse to Take State Tests

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/14/us-usa-colorado-education-idUSKCN0IY2HO20141114

Is Colorado Student Opt-Out a Harbinger of Broader Protests?

http://takingnote.learningmatters.tv/?p=7361

Coloradans Launch Petition to Overturn Test-Based Teacher Evaluation

https://www.change.org/p/the-colorado-legislature-repeal-senate-bill-191-linking-standardized-test-scores-to-teacher-pay-and-performance

High-Stakes Testing Pressure Drives Experienced Teachers Out of Florida Classrooms

http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20141108/ARTICLE/141109731

More Central Florida Families Consider Opting Out of State Exams

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/story/27387181/opting-out-becoming-more-popular-option-for-central-florida-families

Florida Teachers Consider Civil Disobedience to Say “No” to Testing

http://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/2014/11/17/florida-teachers-consider-civil-disobedience-to-say-no-to-testing/

The Problems With Using Tests to Rate Georgia Art, Gym and Music Teachers

http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local-education/the-problem-with-using-tests-to-rate-music-art-and/nh3bP/

Why One Illinois Parent Opted Her Children Out of State Exams

http://realchicagomama.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/standardized-testing-redux/

Film Premiere Sparks Indiana Opt-Out Movement

http://in.chalkbeat.org/2014/11/16/testing-foes-call-for-change-after-films-premiere/#.VGn5EnvvcZw

Indiana Panel Asks Whether Testing Has Gone Too Far

http://in.chalkbeat.org/2014/11/17/teachers-students-community-members-debate-merits-of-testing/#.VGtGQnvvcZw

Iowa Parents Should Stand Up to Claims They Have No Opt-Out Rights

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/abetteriowa/2014/11/13/amy-moore-school-testing-opt-out/18969065/

How Frequently Should Kansas School Children Be Tested?

http://www.thekansan.com/article/20141111/NEWS/141119984/-1/Sports

Debate Ranges About How Much Time Maryland Students Should Spend Testing

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/education/bs-md-testing-investigation-20141115-story.html#page=1

Minnesota Legislators Plan Bills to Cut Back Testing

http://forestlaketimes.com/2014/11/12/education-issues-on-the-docket-for-2015-house-republicans/

No Quick Fix for Minnesota Achievement Gap

http://www.sctimes.com/story/opinion/2014/11/14/turn-quick-answer-achievement-gap/19048273/

Parents Push Back Against New Jersey’s Latest Standardized Exam

http://www.app.com/story/news/education/education-trends/2014/11/13/parents-try-opt-parcc-test/18982547/

Local New Jersey Education Ass’n Adopts Strong Position on High-Stakes Testing

http://teacherbiz.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/the-delran-education-associations-position-on-high-stakes-standardized-testing/

Teachers Add Critical Voice to New Jersey Commission Investigating Testing

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/11/11/teachers-add-critical-voice-to-newly-named-testing-commission/

New Mexico Teachers Say Testing Overkill is Undermining Education

http://www.koat.com/news/teachers-standardized-testing-is-taking-away-from-education/29710982

Common Core Tests Prompt New Mexico Backlash

http://www.taosnews.com/news/article_dc24c53c-6c4b-11e4-ae30-a38a2d5729ca.html

New York Regents Try to Make Field Tests “Mandatory” to Combat Exam Boycotts

http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2014/11/8556878/faced-opposition-regents-move-bolster-field-testing

Local North Carolina School Boards Seek End of State-Mandated, Test-Based School Grades

http://www.statesville.com/news/school-board-voices-disagreement-with-state-policies/article_658f6090-6a8d-11e4-a9e3-47ed378d838e.html

Ohio Legislative Committee Approves Limits on Testing Time

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/11/limit_on_state_testing_of_stud.html

Oklahoma First Grade Teachers Explain Why They Won’t Administer Standardized Test

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/11/18/your-kids-deserve-better-than-this-first-grade-teachers-tell-parents/

Oregon Educators Offer Advice on Aiding Families Who Want to Opt Out of Testing

http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-32442-permalink.html

Pennsylvania School Ratings Not Accurate Measure of Educational Effectiveness

http://standardspeaker.com/news/professor-scores-not-true-measure-of-school-districts-1.1786040

Local Super Blasts Pennsylvania’s Biased School Grades for Ignoring Poverty

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/11/central_dauphin_superintendent_1.html

Resignation of Tennessee Ed. Commissioner Creates Opening for Testing Overhaul

http://wgnsradio.com/rep-womick-applauds-education-commissioner-leaving-and-hopes-common-core-exits-too–cms-23466

Virginia Test-Review Commission Prepares Recommendations

http://www.dailyprogress.com/newsvirginian/news/local/sol-committee-member-offers-update-on-work/article_0bef57a6-6a11-11e4-91e3-43c9050fee0f.html

Washington State Super Seeks State Grad Test Repeal

http://www.theolympian.com/2014/11/15/3425844_state-schools-chief-no-more-tests.html?sp=/99/101/112/&rh=1

Q & A With FairTest on Assessment Reform
http://www.asbj.com/HomePageCategory/Online-Features/FiveQuestions

FairTest on Education Town Hall Radio

http://educationtownhall.org/2014/11/16/fairtest-joins-bus/

“Smarter Balanced” Tests Not Ready for Prime Time

http://edsource.org/2014/smarter-balanced-tests-are-still-a-work-in-progress/69828#.VGoPr3vvcZx

Can We Stop Relying on Standardized Tests to Drive Education Reform

http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/can-we-stop-using-tests-to-drive-education-reform/

Making Ed Reform a True Civil Rights Movement By Overhauling Test-Based Accountability

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-thompson/making-school-reform-a-tr_b_6090204.html

Is Common Core Testing “A Cash-Grabbing Hoax?”

http://www.reviewjournal.com/opinion/common-core-must-prove-it-s-not-cash-grabbing-hoax

“This is Not a Test” — Review of Jose Luis Vilson’s New Book by Diane Ravitch

http://dianeravitch.net/2014/11/13/my-review-of-jose-luis-vilson-this-is-not-a-test/

Don’t Copy China’s Test-Prep Culture

http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/17/opinion/zhao-common-core-testing/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org

In a shocking decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the state has no legal responsibility to provide a quality education to every child. The case centered on the Highland Park school district, where achievement was lagging; the state turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter operator that had no track record of improving low-performng schools. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed the suit.

 

In a blow to schoolchildren statewide, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 7 the State of Michigan has no legal obligation to provide a quality public education to students in the struggling Highland Park School District.
A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.” The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality. Waving off decades of historic judicial impact on educational reform, the majority opinion also contends that “judges are not equipped to decide educational policy.”

 

“This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”

 

The decision dismisses an unprecedented “right-to-read” lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Michigan in July 2012 on behalf of eight students of nearly 1,000 children attending K-12 public schools in Highland Park, Mich. The suit, which named as defendants the State of Michigan, its agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District, maintained that the state failed to take effective steps to ensure that students are reading at grade level.

 

“Let’s remember it was the state that turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter management company with no track record of success with low performing schools,” said Moss. “It is the state that has not enforced the law that requires literacy intervention to children not reading at grade level. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure and maintain a system of education that serves all children.”

 

In a dissenting opinion, appellate court judge Douglas Shapiro accused the court of “abandonment of our essential judicial roles, that of enforcement of the rule of law even where the defendants are governmental entities, and of protecting the rights of all who live within Michigan’s borders, particularly those, like children, who do not have a voice in the political process.”

 

MEAP test results from 2012 painted a bleak picture for Highland Park students and parents. In the 2013-14 year, no fewer than 78.9 percent of current fourth graders and 73 percent of current seventh graders will require the special intervention mandated by statute. By contrast, 65 percent of then-fourth graders and 75 percent of then-seventh graders required statutory intervention entering the 2012-13 school year.

 

At the time the state of Michigan decided to privatize the Highland Park schools and turn them over to the Leona Group, some saw it as a last-ditch effort to save the district from its debt. 

 

The Wall Street Journal wrote in 2012:

 

Phoenix-based Leona will receive $7,110 per pupil in state funding, plus an as-yet-undetermined amount of federal funds for low-income and special education students. In addition, the Highland Park district will pay Leona a $780,000 annual management fee.

 

Unions have been sidelined after the district’s entire professional staff was laid off, as allowed by the state emergency law, but teachers can apply for jobs with Leona. Leona has budgeted about $36,000 a year for Highland Park teachers on average, the company said—compared with almost $65,000 a year the teachers received in the 2010-11 school year.

 

In a typical school it takes over, Leona has hired back about 70% of the teachers, the company said. Leona also will lease the Highland Park district’s buildings.

 

Under the five-year contract with Leona, the new city charter board will monitor the company’s progress in improving student performance.

 

Leona runs 54 schools in five states. Students in almost half of them fail state academic benchmarks. But of its 22 Michigan schools, 19 meet the mark, Leona officials said.

 

Leona Chief Executive William Coats said the company had no incentive to cut corners in Highland Park. “As we build equity, we give that back to the schools,” he said during Wednesday’s meeting when an audience member raised doubts about the for-profit approach. “We’re trying to manage this so you [the district] stay in business.”

 

Highland Park is where Henry Ford opened his first assembly line and Chrysler Corp. built its original headquarters. It has suffered the same ills as Detroit, its larger neighbor: an exodus of auto jobs, depressed housing stock and a surge in crime.

 

The city, which spreads across three square miles, lost nearly 30% of its population from 2000 to 2010, according to the latest U.S. Census. Nearly half of the 11,776 residents live below the poverty line.

 

Students and parents complain of dirty classrooms, exposed wiring in the schools, rationed textbook and swimming pools—once used by powerhouse swim teams—that now sit drained of water.

 

John Holloway, the school board president, said the problems became a “runaway train that we could not stop.”

 

As the situation worsened, the state gave the district a $4 million loan in July 2011 and advanced it $450,000 more earlier this year just to meet its payroll.

 

A union-backed initiative that could go to voters statewide in November seeks to repeal the emergency-manager law under which Ms. Parker was appointed to run the district. The law had been strengthened in 2011 by the governor.

 

Glenda McDonald, a Highland Park resident and laid-off teacher, said that the problem was not entirely the fault of the community. “The disinvestment in our communities led to the disinvestment in our schools, and that’s why people left,” she said. “We had nothing to offer them.”

 

After Leona took over, things did not go well. Enrollment dropped sharply. The company closed the district’s high school. It agreed to waive its fee for one year because of a lingering deficit.

 

 

Colorado has one of the very worst, most punitive educator evaluation laws in the nation, called SB 191. It was written by ex-TFA member State Senator Michael Johnston.

Please sign this petition to repeal 191.

In typical corporate reform fashion, the bill has a deceptive title,”like “Great Schools, Great Teachers,” but the mechanism of “greatness” is to tie 50% of teachers’ evaluations to student test scores. In 2010, when the bill was passed, value-added-assessment was new and promising. The Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education promoted it. To be eligible for Race to the Top funding or for a waiver from the impossible mandates of No Child Left Behind, starred were required to evaluate teachers by their students’ scores.

Now we know that VAM doesn’t work. It is inaccurate , unreliable, and demoralizing. It says more about who is in the class than teacher quality.

It is time to get rid of VAM.

David Brennan, Akron industrialist, operates Ohio’s largest charter chain. Most are low-performing. But Brennan donates generously to key politicians, and his schools are rewarded, not closed down.

Bill Phillis of Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy writes:

“Brennan strikes again: More money proposed for the drop-out recovery schools

The billion dollar charter school operator, David Brennan, is about to get a huge early Christmas gift. His charter school empire includes dropout recovery charter schools. One of his dropout recovery charter schools graduated 2 out of 155 students in four years. A provision in HB 343, which is currently sailing through the House, will allow drop-out recovery charter schools to enroll students up to 29 years old for GED or diploma programs at a cost of $5,000 per student.

This provision in HB 343 exacerbates the transfer of tax money to private hands. For decades, Ohio public schools have provided adult basic education programs with remarkable results. The Johnny-come-lately state officials may be unaware of this.

Ohio taxpayers need to be informed about this, yet another example of inefficient use of tax money in charterland.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

When the grand jury was convened, I thought sure there would be an indictment. There was not. Obviously, I did not hear the evidence, but this much is clear: Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth, was shot dead by a police officer.

 

Nothing that Michael did or said on that fateful day could justify his death. I look at events like this and feel that the young man got a death sentence. No matter what the grand jury heard, Michael didn’t do anything that deserved a death sentence.

 

Having lost a child myself, I grieve for his parents. I grieve for our country.

 

I grieve even more for Michael, who lost his life in an altercation with a police officer. Does it seem too much to expect the police to protect us, not to harm us? Michael was owed as much protection as I hope for and expect. The police should be our guardians. I don’t have any answers. Just a deep sense that a terrible injustice was done.

The 22-year-old who received a charter from the New York Board of Regents said he graduated Rochester’s School Without Walls when he was 16, received an online bachelor’s degree at 18, then earned a master’s and doctorate in four years.

The following email just arrived:

Hi Diane.

I was the principal of Rochester, New York’s School Without Walls from 1987 to 2010. Ted Morris, the young man awarded permission to open a charter school in Rochester, NY, and claiming to be a graduate of School Without Walls in 2008, attended SWW for less than a year and then voluntarily left to be home schooled. He never graduated nor received a diploma from School Without Walls.

Dan Drmacich

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