Okay, I am late to the party on this one, but glad to discover and report that Megan Barry was elected Mayor of Nashville in mid-September. Her opponent, David Fox, was a former hedge funder who favored charter schools. Barry is not only Nashville’s first female mayor, but also a Democrat and a progressive in a state where Democrats have been struggling to win elections.

Since Tennessee has been one of the Race to the Top’s poster children, it will be interesting to see what happens with Megan Barry as Mayor. The failed Achievement School District has thus far concentrated on Memphis, but has expanded into Nashville.

Keep your eye on Tennessee. And on Megan Barry.

If you live in Ohio, or nearby, you should attend this meeting and learn how to resist the political forces that are harming children and public education.

Whether you’re a veteran organizer, board member, educator, student, or community member who believes that PUBLIC EDUCATION MATTERS, Public Education Partners (PEP) is presenting a statewide summit that will have practical and informative sessions that provide opportunities to connect, engage, and collaborate.

If you haven’t signed up for the 2015 PEP summit, PUBLIC EDUCATION MATTERS, please register soon.

This pro-public education event will be on Saturday, October 17th from 9:30am-2:30pm at John Sells Middle School, 150 W. Bridge Street, Dublin, Ohio 43017.

Open to all, but space is limited. Registration costs $15 and includes lunch.

Register Here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/public-education-matters-tickets-18465904016?utm_source=eb_email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=new_event_email&utm_term=viewmyevent_buttonInline image 1

The format will include a keynote presentation by Innovation Ohio’s education policy fellow Stephen Dyer, choices for two breakout sessions, and closing remarks by Ohio school superintendent Tom Dunn.

Box lunches will be provided.


Breakout sessions will run twice, and registrants choose one before lunch and one after lunch.

• Parents’ Rights – Legislative Options for Testing
• How to Organize a Community Event – Engaging the Public
• BATs – Efforts for Positive Change in Education
• Speak Up! Speak Out – Building Coalitions of Public Ed Activists
• Parent Power – Advocating for Your Public Schools
• Know Your Charter – Understanding How Charter Schools Work
• The Youngstown Plan – It Could Happen to You!

• 9:30 – 10:00am: Registration
• 10:00 – 11:00am: Introduction and Keynote with Stephen Dyer
• 11:10 – Noon: Breakout Session I
• 12:00 – 1:00pm: Lunch and Networking
• 1:00 – 1:50pm: Breakout Session II
• 2:00 – 2:30pm: “Connecting the Dots” with Tom Dunn

Please share the news about this upcoming event with others who also believe that PUBLIC EDUCATION MATTERS.

Hope to see you on October 17th!

Our mailing address is:

Public Education Partners
866 Beech Drive
Columbus, OH 43235

Last year, I posted about Kevin Welner’s “Charterland.”


Now David Safier of Arizona has turned it into a video, followed by a discussion.


Play the game and see who gets in. And who does not.

Steven Singer, who teaches in Pennsylvania, explains the planned insanity behing standardized testing, rigged for failure. He likens the situation to a video game that he played with his friend as a child, where the questions and answers might suddenly and arbitrarily change.

In Pennsylania, the privatization movement started with deep budget cuts. Then comes a new standardized test. Too many students did well, so the tests were made more “rigorous.” Now, most students “fail.”

Did they get dumber? No. Did he become a worse teacher? He says no.

So what’s up? The students are set up to fail. The teachers and schools are set up to fail? Why? It clears the way for charters and vouchers.

One hopeful sign in Pennsylvania: Governor Tom Wolf wants to help public schools, not destroy them. Unlike his predecessor, Tom Corbett.

Singer writes:

“In my home state, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and the Keystone Exams are high stakes versions of my buddy’s moronic quiz. The purpose isn’t to fairly assess: it’s to stump as many kids as possible.

“And it’s working. For the fourth year in a row, student test scores have declined statewide. Previously, students had been doing relatively well. Why the change?

“It began with budget cuts. The legislature slashed almost $1 billion every year in school funding. That means higher class sizes, less teachers, fewer electives, tutoring, nurses, services, etc. And districts like mine weren’t exactly drowning in money to begin with.

“Students now have less resources, therefore they can’t prepare as well for the tests.

“So what did the legislature do? Did our lawmakers fix the problem by putting back the money they had repurposed as gifts to the natural gas industry?

“Heck no! They made the tests even more unnecessarily difficult.

“As a result, the steady decline in test scores this year fell off a cliff!

“After all, this was the first year in which the Commonwealth fully aligned every question of its mandatory testing with the Pennsylvania Core Standards – which are similar, but not identical to the Common Core standards adopted in other states.

“Proficiency rates in grades 3 through 8 dropped by an average of 35.4 percent in math and 9.4 percent in English language arts on the PSSA. Nearly half of all seventh and eighth graders dropped an entire proficiency level in math in just one year.

“If I made up a test like this in my own classroom, gave it to my students and got results like these, my first assumption would be that there was something horribly wrong with the test. I must have messed something up to fail so many students! Teachers are always on the lookout for unclear or bad questions on their self-created exams. The for-profit corporations that create our state-mandated tests? Not so much.

“Though state Department of Education officials acknowledge the continued decline in scores, they insist problems will work themselves out in subsequent years – as if a 4-year trend is just an anomaly. Move along. Nothing to see here, folks.

“My students used to make impressive gains on the tests. My principal stopped by today to give me the scores for my current students and those I taught last year. No surprise. Very few passed….

“It’s almost impossible to avoid certain conclusions about this whole process. Standardized testing is designed to fail students – just like my buddy’s movie quiz was designed to stump me.

“These tests constitute fake proof of inadequacy. They attempt to “prove” our public schools are failing and should, therefore, be replaced by private corporations – maybe even by subsidiaries of the same for-profit companies that make and grade these tests!

“When my buddy unfairly stumped me, we both knew it was a joke. We’d laugh and play another video game.

“But there’s nothing funny about this when it’s perpetrated by the state and federal government.

“Pennsylvania’s standardized test scores are a farce just like the scores in every state and territory throughout the country. They’re lies told by corporations, permitted and supported by lawmakers, and swallowed whole by the media and far too much of the public.”

Tony Hillery was a limousine driver for celebrities a few years back. When business slowed, he had an inspiration: Why not teach children to raise food? He founded a program called “Harlem Grown,” where children learn that they can make their own compost and grow their own vegetables and certain fruits. Hillery has inspired many others with his devotion to children, to healthful food, and to learning what will be a lifelong skill.


Watch the video in this post.


Want to learn more? Here is the website for Harlem Grown: From Junk Food to Healthy Food.

Valerie Strauss has a fascinating column about executive pay at some of our major education “nonprofits.” It is hard to see the difference between nonprofits and for-profits when you look at executive compensation. I hope she next takes a look at the compensation of charter chain executives.

According to the latest publicly available 990 tax forms filed to the IRS by the three organizations, which operate under 501(c)3 tax exempt status because of their declared educational missions:

Kurt Landgraf, now the former president and chief executive officer of the Educational Testing Service, earned for the 2013 fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2013: $1,307,314 in reportable compensation and $42,210 in estimated other compensation from the organization and related organizations. [See the ETS 990 here.]

Jon Whitmore, the chief executive officer of ACT, earned for the 2013 fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2014: $672,853 in salary, plus a bonus of $150,000, and other reportable compensation of $12,949, plus retirement contributions of $57,152, plus other nontaxable benefits of $18,109. That’s a total of $911,073. [See the ACT 990 here.]

David Coleman, the president and chief executive officer of the College Board, as well as a trustee, earned for the 2013 fiscal year ending June 30, 2014: $690,854 in reportable compensation plus $43,338 in other compensation from the organization and related organizations. Total: $734,192. (Coleman, a co-author of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts, joined the College Board in 2012, and was new in his job). [See the College Board 990 here.]

Go to her column to see the links to the tax forms.

ETS paid some members of its Board of Directors at a rate up to $103,000 a year for what is reported as approximately two hours of work a week, about $1,000 an hour. And more than three dozen top executives received more than $300,000 in total annual compensation; seven of those topped half a million dollars. For example, Philip Tabbiner, senior vice president for business innovation and growth, earned $655,055 in reportable compensation. Randy Bennett, Frederiksen Chair for assessment innovation, earned $316,450 in reportable compensation and a total of $489,758. Donado Yvette, vice president and treasurer, earned $422,793 in reportable compensation.

At the College Board, senior vice president Peter Negroni earned a total of $811,873 — the majority part of a severance package. That total was more than what was listed for Coleman, the College Board president.

The College Board itself claimed total assets that topped $1 billion, and its “assessment” programs — mostly the SAT and PSAT — took in $333 million but spent $289 million, for a net of $44 million. ACT’s total assets were $530,638,419 for fiscal 2013.

The College Board spent $1,768,295 on lobbying Congress and other public officials, the form says. ACT’s 990 form reported $674,485 in lobbying expenses, and the ETS, $40,851.

Fairtest, which criticizes the misuse of standardized tests, reported total revenue of $145,332.

Average teacher pay: about $50,000.

Who adds more value to society?

Andrew Rotherham is an insider inside the deepest realms of the Beltway. He is also a bona fide reformer who supports TFA, charters, and the whole corporate reform menu. Long ago, he advised Bill Clinton; now he is on the advisory board of Campbell Brown’s “The 74,” which has a long list of things it wants to do to strip away tenure, collective bargaining rights, and whatever teachers care about.

Andy wrote a very interesting story about the five “takeaways” from Duncan’s departure.

Here are some of his thoughts that are especially informative:

Education is apparently on the president’s “Eff-It” list. At this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, President Obama said that he didn’t have a bucket list, but with time running out on his administration, he did have something that rhymed with it. The president’s choice of John King* to oversee the department after Duncan is a signal he’s not that concerned with education politics at this point.

To the right, King is a lightning rod because of his support for Common Core standards and his leadership implementing them in New York. To the left, he’s a flashpoint because of his support for teacher evaluations and no-nonsense championing of high expectations for low-income students and real accountability for the schools that serve them.

Teachers unions and some conservatives have been calling on Duncan to resign – this is not what they had in mind.

The education debate is about to get nastier. John King is an accomplished African American educator who helped found a highly regarded charter school in Boston. His personal story is as compelling as any education official in the country. Most reform critics don’t want to tangle with him publicly, if for no other reason than they have sense enough to recognize the gross optics of well-heeled white people explaining to an African American man why we shouldn’t have demanding expectations for educators serving low-income minority youth. So expect the debate to get nastier behind the scenes as those tensions manifest in other ways. In particular, look for more controversy in states and local communities but don’t expect much from Washington other than more administrative action.

Hillary is in the hot seat. Teachers unions need scalps and political theater to keep their activist members happy. (That’s why you get odd spectacles like Duncan helping write the very talking points teachers union leaders were using to castigate him publicly.) There is no way to read King’s ascension other than as a slap in the face to teachers unions, especially the New York-centric American Federation of Teachers, which has been sharply critical of the future secretary. Look for them to ratchet up the pressure on Hillary Clinton to distance herself from reform in a visible way, particularly in a primary fight where she needs labor’s support and her political problems lie to the left.

By the way, it was Michael Grunwald of Politico who wrote that Arne helped to draft the NEA’s condemnation of him.

Grunwald wrote:

At the NEA’s convention in 2011, the union formally declared that it was “appalled” with Duncan’s work. But at the same convention, the NEA endorsed the president’s reelection, as if the education secretary whose family hung out with the Obamas at Camp David was some kind of rogue operative. I heard from several sources that Duncan actually helped negotiate the language of his own condemnation; he’s no politician, but you can’t run the Chicago schools without some sense of politics.

In a move that was not unexpected, the leadership of the National Education Association endorsed Hillary Clinton for President.

Hillary’s campaign faces a strong challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who may well win the primaries in New Hampshire and Iowa. And the yes-no, will-he-or-won’t-he non-campaign of Vice President Joe Biden has drained support from Hillary.

In the car yesterday, I heard a report that Arne Duncan was stepping down. President Obama said: He did more than anyone else to bring American education into the 21st century, sometimes kicking and screaming.

I am paraphrasing but that is a very close approximation of what he said.

So this is what the 21st century will look like: boot camps for minorities; teachers with scripts; schools run for profit; school scams by corporations; education industry traded on Néw York Stock Exchange; high-yield online schools with high attrition rates; the monetization of public education.

Dora Taylor , parent activist in Seattle, wonders when the results from the SBAC tests will be released. The tests were given six months ago.

“Remember the Common Core SBAC test that was given to students in Seattle during the month of April and May, the test that was sooo important for students to take, the test that certain school administrators threatened, coerced and embarrassed students into taking, that SBAC test? Well, parents and students have yet to see the results of the test.

“So then the question is, why haven’t the results been published? Does OSPI or our superintendent hope we’ll forget about the test? That it will be just a vague and very bad memory when precious class time was lost and millions of dollars spent on a test that is of no value to teachers or their students? Even if and when we see the results, will it matter? Teachers, students and parents cannot see the questions or the answers.

“Is it because the results were so bad that a narrative is being created by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction OSPI/Bill Gates (Bill Gates has provided OSPI with $14M in grants since 2009)? We know that the Common Core Standards test results in other states were so low that parents began to question the test’s validity.”

How long does it take the computer to grade the tests?


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