Archives for category: Administrators, superintendents

Kenneth Mitchell, a school superintendent in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York, has been concerned about the costs imposed on school districts by Race to the Top. He previously estimated that six districts in his region would spend $11 million to comply with the mandates of Race to the Top, which paid these districts $400,000.

In this comment, he describes a recent meeting with lawyers about possible lawsuits that will be brought because of New York’s flawed Educator Evaluation System.


On Friday, March 14, The Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents hosted a panel of education attorneys to address the following topic:


Supervision, Evaluation & Tenure Decisions

• What is the effect of Education Law §3012-c on a school district’s ability to terminate probationary teachers and principals?

• How might overly prescriptive, rigid statutory and regulatory policy frameworks, such as §3012-c, regarding teacher evaluation, tenure, and employment decisions withstand teacher and principal appeals?

Statistical Reliability and Validity of Data in Supervision, Evaluation & Tenure Decisions

• How might the statistical reliability and validity of measures of teaching effectiveness – state assessments, VAM, SLO’s, school-wide assessment scores – affect teacher evaluation, tenure, and employment decisions?

• How will the metric of ‘confidence intervals’ be considered in a legal decision about a teacher’s effectiveness?

• How will the number of years of value-added assessment data to determine teacher quality be a factor in a teacher or principal appeal?

• In what ways will the use of locally-developed assessments, such Student Learning Objectives (SLOs), be challenged in an appeal?

• How will the individual evaluation of a teacher based on school-wide data, such as the 4th grade math assessment, withstand an appeal?

Implementation, Professional Development, and Resources

• How will such factors as consistency, training, and quality be considered in observations and evaluations developed by supervisors?

• How will equity issues, such as the access to materials (e.g., Common Core units) or technology, be a factor in an appeal?

• Experts in child and adolescent development have asked for a review of the Common Core to ensure that all of the standards are developmentally appropriate.
Since assessments are being developed on the basis of Common Core and teachers and principals being assessed accordingly, how will the aforementioned concerns be considered?

Other References

“Evaluation Law Could Limit Ability to Terminate Probationary Teachers”; Warren Richmond III (Harris Beach), New York Law Journal, (May 2013)

“Legal Issues in the Use of Student Test Scores and VAM to Determine Educational Quality”; Diana Pullin, Education Policy Analysis (2010 Manuscript)

In addition to these references, we have posted other related legal articles on the main page of our website: We have also raised other concerns about the model that we have shared with state legislators, members of the Board of Regents, officials at the State Education Department and with representatives of the governor’s office. There are many other questions that will need to be answered once this enters the legal arena.

We shared that many in our organization have concerns that a) the design of reform model is flawed on multiple levels; b) the expedited and unsupported implementation will further contribute to inevitable legal challenges; c)the weak technical basis and very limited or no research behind elements of the model will not withstand legal challenges. These are just a few of our concerns. As a result, school districts will be wasting even more time and money on legal costs. Unless significant changes are made on the basis of substantive evidence, New York’s reform model is headed for trouble that will move beyond the anxiety and frustration of over-tested students, angry parents, weary teachers, and harried administrators.

Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois surprised many people by choosing Paul Vallas as his running mate for re-election.

Vallas once headed the Chicago schools. He headed the Philadelphia schools, where he launched a major experiment in privatization, which was widely judged a failure. He left Philadelphia with a large deficit. He then was selected to take over the New Orleans district after Hurricane Katrina. Public education was almost wiped out, along with the teachers’ union. Vallas took credit for installing the largest privately managed charter system in the nation. After a brief stint in Haiti, Vallas landed in Bridgeport, where he had a rocky relationship with the local community. He left before getting a judgement on whether he held the proper qualifications to be superintendent of the Bridgeport schools, since he lacked Connecticut-required credentials.

Given this background, read what Governor Quinn said in an interview:

“Q: Paul Vallas supports charter schools. Since you picked him as a lieutenant governor, does that mean you’re open to charter expansion?

“A: No, Paul Vallas believes in public education. So do I. We believe in funding public education. A very, very important issue this year, we’ll be talking about that soon. … He’s committed to a fair, open budget to properly fund education.”

One way to read this brief exchange is that Governor Quinn knows that the wind is blowing towards supporting public schools, not charter schools. It will be interesting to see what Vallas says.

Several superintendents in Long Island, Néw York, hope to find a path out of the morass created by Néw York State’s authoritarian Board of Regents, which loves high-stakes testing.

Here is a comment by one of those superintendents:

Opening the Door: An Alternate Way for Public Education

Our public education system is truly at a crossroads. The question is, do we just passively sit and watch big business tycoons, lawmakers and our elected educational leaders at the state and national level to continue the perpetuation of unproven lies? The over standardization of curriculum and testing as well as their stripping teachers of their professionalism and dignity is not what’s best for kids. There is another way…

Three Long Island superintendents, Mr. David Gamberg, Dr. Steven Cohen and I co-organized an Education Forum that focused on solutions to the broken New York State Regents Reform Agenda. School district administrators, teachers and parents gathered on Thursday, March 13th at Stony Brook University for a panel discussion about “Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School.” Book co-authors and education advocates Dr. Michael Fullan and Dr. Andy Hargreaves joined the panel along with school superintendent Dr. Steven Cohen of Shoreham-Wading River, renowned Finnish education expert Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, South Side High School principal Dr. Carol Burris, and Plainview-Old Bethpage assistant superintendent Dr. Tim Eagen. Southold superintendent David Gamberg moderated and I represented the Shelter Island School District as a panelist.

“The worst teachers teach alone” and don’t collaborate with others. “How hypocritical to put them in competition?” Dr. Hargreaves said, in reference to proposed teacher incentive programs tied to student test scores. Dr. Hargreaves and Dr. Fullan explained that the “professional capital” approach toward education is about creating a comfortable atmosphere for teachers to encourage curiosity and creativity in students. They also described the U.S.’s current direction with education as “business capital” since the focus of measuring academic success has shifted toward the reliance of test scores and unproven methods to evaluate teachers and principals.

From a practical sense, teachers need time to collaborate. Most respected professions do this. School leaders must break the industrial revolution public school model of how schools operate and find ways to alter the internal structure (schedule) of their school day to promote “social capital”. Our east end Long Island school districts are partnering together to begin a district collaboration process to promote our human and social capital capabilities. Dr. Cohen, Mr. Gamberg and I are committed to walk the walk of this alternate and research-based path for public education.

In an effort to change the state’s current path toward their misguided view, we are forming a new lobbying effort called “Summer 2014 Education Action Institute.” It is currently in the conceptual stages. Its purpose is to rally parents and community members to encourage elected officials to participate in future workshops and events.There will be more to come regarding our Summer Institute.

Public Education is at a crossroads but it is not broken. Many will lead you to believe it is. Private sector business tycoons do not have the answer nor do our elected Regents in New York State. The answer is not through testing, standardizing and evaluating every single little thing within our public schools. It’s about trusting and building the capacity of our teachers. The door is open to a better way of educating our children. The question is… will you enter and join us?

Dr. Michael J Hynes is the Superintendent of Schools for the Shelter Island School District.


A fascinating article in Education Week describes a verbal tiff between the Council of Chief State School Officers and the leaders of the two major teachers’ unions.

The Chiefs, as they are known, are the state superintendents. CCSSO received at least $32 million from the Gates Foundation to “write” and advocate for the Common Core, and no matter how much parents and teachers complain and demand revisions, the Chiefs “won’t back down.” They made their certainty and intransigence clear to the union leaders.

The AFT and the NEA also were paid millions by Gates to promote the Common Core, but the unions have members and both Randi and Dennis have vocally criticized the implementation of the Common Core. In some states, the rollout has been nothing short of disastrous.

Randi Weingarten was unusually outspoken in criticizing the rush to impose the Common Core, and she warned the Chiefs that the standards were in serious jeopardy. The article makes clear that while Randi is listening to teachers, the Chiefs are not. Their attitude on full display was “full steam ahead, the critics are wrong, there is nothing but anecdote on their side.” You would think they might have reflected just a bit on the terrible results of Common Core testing in New York, where only 3% of English language learners passed the tests, only 5% of children with disabilities, only 16-17% of African American and Hispanic students, and only 31% of all students.

The advocates of Common Core claim that the new standards teach critical thinking and reflection, but there was no evidence of either critical thinking or reflection from the CCSSO or the other organizations paid to promote the standards.

Andrew Ujifusa writes:

“Anxiety over the Common Core State Standards was on full display Tuesday during the Council of Chief State School Officers’ annual legislative conference. Leaders of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, the nation’s two largest teacher unions, squabbled with state K-12 chiefs over how teachers and the general public perceive the standards, and how well they are being implemented in classrooms.”

Weingarten told those present that they do not understand how angry many parents and educators are. During the discussion, Weingarten “said that in cases like New York state, the poor rollout of the common core had led to “immobilization” among teachers and a distrust that those in positions of authority knew how to do the job right.

“Weingarten added that she expects that many of her members would call for outright opposition to the standards during the AFT’s summer convention, even though both the AFT and NEA support the standards and Weingarten said she wouldn’t back away from the common core.

“On the subject of transitioning to the common core, Weingarten told the chiefs, “The field doesn’t trust the people in this room to have their backs.”

“During the same discussion, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, while he said the union remained squarely behind the standards themselves, also expressed concern that teachers were not getting enough time to learn the standards themselves, to find common-core aligned curricular materials, and to talk to parents as well as each other.

“Those remarks triggered an irritated response from Massachusetts K-12 chief Mitchell D. Chester, who said that the two national unions seemed to be “condoning” strident and vocal common-core foes “at the peril of those [teachers] who are moving things ahead,” an accusation Weingarten denied……

“Weingarten responded that attacking her for being the messenger of concerns about the standards missed the point, telling the state chiefs, “People think we are doing terrible things to them, parents and teachers alike.”

Kati Haycock of Education Trust defended the Common Core. The Gates Foundation paid Education Trust $2,039,526 to advocate for the Common Core.

Michael Cohen of Achieve, which helped to write the standards, strongly defended them.

Gates has paid many millions to Achieve to write and promote the Common Core:

“Gates money also flowed to Achieve, Inc.; prior to June 2009, Achieve received $23.5 million in Gates funding. Another $13.2 million followed after CCSS creation, with $9.3 million devoted to “building strategic alliances” for CCSS promotion:

“June 2012

Purpose: to strengthen and expand the ADP Network, provide
more support to states for CCSS implementation, and build strategic national
and statewide alliances by engaging directly with key stakeholders
Amount: $9,297,699″

Jere Hochman, superintendent of the Bedford Central School District in Westchester County, New York, points out the single biggest failure of the federal government: Congress mandated special-education services but has never paid the costs of its mandate.

Consequently, it is the children who are neediest who are most often neglected and left behind.

He writes:

“The word “education” does not appear in the Constitution.

“Where education is and does belong in the Federal Government is federal law: PL 94-142 now knows as IDEA. That, and civil rights issues, ARE the stuff of federal law and jurisdiction.

“The irony is that while Mr. Duncan et al pay attention to everything else except IDEA and civil rights, the children with the greatest needs are the most unserved.

“The irony is that while Mr. Duncan et al PROMOTE charter schools, vouchers, privatization, and testing every student regardless of disability; they do nothing about those same schools and procedures as they deny and dishearten children with disabilities.

“The irony is that while Mr. Obama et al wants us all to Race to the Top after Mr. Bush et all wanted No Child Left Behind, IDEA is grossly UNDERFUNDED from the 40% “full funding” promised to states at decade ago.

“And, then there’s the Federal Catch-22 – NCLB/RTTT requires annual testing of students in grades 3-8 and HS in English, reading, mathematics, etc. And, they exempt 1% (?) of the students with disabilities from the test while the rest sit in front of exams there is on chance of them having success or feeling good about their learning.

“We’ve always had standards, testing, and data storage issues yet for some reason this has everyone riled up unnecessarily (sorry but this is all fixable) while the real problems go unaddressed. The real problems? Underfunding of IDEA. Subjecting students with disabilities and limited English to standardized tests and double standardized testing. Segregated charter schools.

“Common core standards can be fixed. It’s the federal double standards that need work. And -that’s not news – that’s since 2002 with little outcry.”

California is in the midst of a crucial election for State Superintendent. This article by Gary Cohn describes the players and the context.

On one side is experienced educator Tom Torlakson, who is running for re-election.

On the other side is Marshall Tuck, graduate of Harvard Business School, investment banker, former leader of Green Dot charter schools. He is a strong supporter of privatization of public education and has attracted support from the usual crowd of entrepreneurs, millionaires, billionaires, etc.

California now has more charter schools than any other state in the nation. If Tuck wins, the privatization movement will gain a major stronghold.

Start here to understand the setting for this crucial campaign:

“An election campaign now being fought almost completely out of public view could radically alter the way California’s school children are taught. If Marshall Tuck unseats incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the state’s public education system could become a laboratory for a movement that prizes privatization and places a high value on student test scores over traditional instruction. The contrasts between the two top contenders in the nonpartisan race could not be more dramatic – nor could the stakes for the country’s largest education system.

“The 40-year-old Tuck is a Harvard Business School graduate who has worked as an investment banker for Salomon Brothers and as an executive at Model N, a revenue-management software company. He is a former president of Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school operation in Los Angeles, and later served as the first head of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools — former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s controversial education nonprofit that tried to improve 17 low-performing public schools, with mixed results.

Tuck’s candidacy is supported by the same mix of wealthy education privatizers, Silicon Valley and entertainment money, hedge fund and real estate interests that backed privatization candidates in the 2013 Los Angeles Unified School District school board election — when billionaire businessmen such as Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg gave large campaign contributions to an unsuccessful effort to defeat board member Steve Zimmer. (The Broad Residency, an education management program operated by the Broad Foundation, lists Tuck as an alumnus.)

“Tuck is also supported by former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, a polarizing figure who was once believed to be a potential contender for Torlakson’s job. Like Rhee, Tuck supports using student test scores as a way of evaluating individual teachers’ performances. Critics of this policy, which is favored by school privatizers, claim that it forces classroom instructors to “teach to the test” and scrap curriculum that is not seen as reaping high student test scores.”

We must keep watch on what happens in California. This race may determine the survival of public education in that state, or whether the state will continue monetizing education and creating a dual-school system.

Larry Lee, a native Alabamian who is devoted to public education, is an admirer of State Superintendent Tommy Bice. Here he explains why:

Education Matters

By Larry Lee

How many legislative hearings have I attended in my life? Too many is probably the correct answer. But I recently witnessed something in one that I’ve never seen before. A standing ovation.

It was a joint meeting of the Alabama Senate and House education ways & means committees. Dr. Tommy Bice, state superintendent of education was making his presentation.

He took the members of the legislature and the audience through a day in the life of the Alabama K-12 public school system. With a power point he put faces to numbers. For instance more than 50 percent of the state’s 740,000 students ride a bus to school. More than 7,500 buses cover nearly 500,000 miles a day with many routes beginning before daylight.

He explained that our schools provide more than 90 million lunches annually and that 64 percent of them are free.

At one point he was so emotionally involved in discussing one particular student that he had to stop and gather himself.

When he finished, the room rose to their feet in applause and Senator Trip Pittman, chair of the senate committee, told him it was the best presentation that committee had ever heard.

As I read about superintendents around the nation and share info with friends in other states, I’m often struck by the fact that there is an adversarial relationship between their chief education official and other education “players.” It appears that too many are chasing the latest rabbit sent their way by another Washington think tank or scrambling after the blessings of another giant foundation.

Each time this happens, I say thank God for Tommy Bice.

For any kid growing up in Alexander City, AL in the 1960s, like Bice, there was always the thought that their career might lead them to Russell Mills. After all, many considered that Alex City was Russell Mills and vice versa.

When Bice received a four-year scholarship to attend Auburn University and study textile engineering on his high school graduation night it looked as if his future was on that path. But throughout his freshman year and all the pre-engineering classes, something kept tugging at him.

That “something” was the connection he made with students as a volunteer in a special education class in high school. “For whatever the reason, I just related to them,” recalls Bice decades later. “And I still do to this day.”

By the end of his first year, Bice knew that his heart was not in textile engineering and he switched to the school of education. Little did he imagine that this change would one day lead to him being named Alabama State Superintendent of Education as of January 1, 2012.

One thing is certain, Bice paid his dues on the way to the top. He has held almost every position in the education field. From classroom teacher at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, to alternative school director, to high school principal, to superintendent of the Alexander City school system to Deputy State Superintendent.

“I loved the classroom,” says Bice, “but I realized I could have broader influence on more students if I became an administrator.” Dr. Jack Hawkins, longtime president at Troy University and then president at AIDB, encouraged Bice to go to graduate school.

Bice hit the ground running when he became state superintendent. And it has quickly become apparent that each of his stops along the education ladder left their mark and his decisions are guided by what is best for students, schools and teachers. At a time when well-funded foundations are buying a seat at the education reform table and a deft way of churning out “sound bites” is given more credibility than classroom and school administration experience; Bice trusts his own instincts and listens to those he knows share a common background.

For example, in 2009 the U.S. Department of Education dangled millions upon millions of dollars before states to get them to jump on the Race to the Top bandwagon. Like dozens of other states, Alabama went through the extensive application process. The application was denied and editorial writers and politicians seized the opportunity to decry the condition of our education system.

But like many things that sound too good to be true, for the most part so was RTTT as “winning” states have had to agree to implementing programs that experienced educators consider questionable at best.

“Not getting selected was a blessing,” says Bice. “Too many folks failed to remember that the one who pays the fiddler gets to call the tune.”

Instead, Bice and his staff have crafted a well-thought out, well-researched document called Plan 2020 that details the objectives and strategies for Alabama K-12 education into the foreseeable future. The four components of the plan lay out what is expected of students, support systems, teachers and administrators and school systems.

Bice has the whole-hearted support of the State Board of Education in this effort. In fact, one board member recently called the plan “brilliant.”

“We have to rethink how we’ve been doing some things,” says Bice. “We must redefine what a high school graduate should know, we must have collaboration among the end users of our product, whether it is businesses or universities.

“We’ve been preparing kids to take a test, instead of preparing them for real life,” he continues. “This has to stop.”

Tommy Bice still lives in Alexander City where Russell does not cast the shadow it did when he was growing up there. From 1930 to 1970, the Alex City population increased 173 percent. But since 1970, about the time Bice was discovering his connection to special children, growth slowed to less than one percent annually.

And fortunately for Alabama, Dr. Tommy Bice decided to be an educator, rather than an engineer.

Larry Lee led the study, Lessons Learned from Rural Schools, and is a long-time advocate for public education and frequently writes about education issues.

One of the blog’s regular contributors writes from California. I am sorry to say that I have never met him, but he can be counted on to write some of the wittiest comments on the blog, almost always punctuated by maxims and axioms gleaned from his reading. Everyone who is a regular reader knows his writings and commentary. Here are his thoughts on the brouhaha about salaries for school leaders:

KrazyTA writes:

I apologize in advance for the very long length of this comment.

For the residents of Planet Reality who visit this blog, The New Charter/Privatizer Math of RheeWorld, or A Lesson in Resisting Rheeality Distortion Fields.

Venality Added Measurement/Venality Added Modeling.

February 1, 2014 comments on this blog in order of appearance, with link below:

[start quote]

MS: Carmen Farina earns about as much as Eva Moskowitz annually but no one minds that. Yet another double standard perpetuated by the anti-choice extremists.

DR: Carmen Farina oversees the education of 1.1 million children

Eva M: 7,000.

Carmen has a 40-year pension.

Eva: $499,000 and she is not an educator.

No spin in this zone.

MS: Yet another double standard. Shocker. Carmen is earning $412,000 a year. Quite a payday, but that is ok, because she is part of the establishment, they have different rules. Only Reformers get criticizm for ‘excessive pay’.

DR: MS: Carmen Farina spent 40 years as an educator. She earned a pension. Now she is chancellor of a system with 1.1 million students.

Eva Moskowitz is a politician, not an educator. She runs a chain of charter schools with 7,000 or fewer students. She is paid $499,000, more than the president of the US. That is ridiculous.

Are you suggesting that their responsibilities are equivalent?

1.1 million is more than 7,000.

MS: I can honestly say I think Eva pays herself too much. It is too much of a political lightning rod to take that kind of salary in my view. I think she earns every penny of it, but given the politics, she should not take that much of a salary IMHO.

[end quote]

Next immediately following comment from February 2, 2014:

COSMIC TINKER: Charter schools are all about the children and union teachers are greedy? That is opposite world.
In NYC, “16 charter school CEOs earn as much as $500,000 a year.”


Eva Moskowitz: $499,000 a year and for the students, a number higher than the oft-repeated 5000, i.e., the above 7000. $499,000/7000 = approx. $71.29@student, which I will round down to $70@student. *Impressed with how “fair and balanced” I am?*

Carmen Fariña: $412,000 a year and for the students, a number lower than the above, 1 million students, proving once again that I am bending over backwards for Eva M., $412,000/1,000,000 = $0.412@student, which I will round up to 50¢@student. *”Fair and balance” am me.*

Now on to the Venality Added Modeling system to see how the two stack up against each other. $70/0.50 = $140. So for every 140 Benjamins that Eva M. is squeezing out of each and every one of her “most precious assets” [thank you, Michelle Rhee!] Carmen F. is getting 1. And they say you can’t measure the quality of venality by a quantity of $tudent $ucce$$?

Señor Swacker, even you must be taken aback by my VAManiacal adroitness. And Robert D. Shepherd, you must admit I’ve handily surpassed every benchmark set by the Potemkin Village metrics of the old Soviet Union. Chiara Duggan, if you gave 50¢ of voice for every $70 worth of choice that the charterites/privatizers bring into play…but I digress.

How can anyone possibly not understand by means of the above hard—we’re talking tempered steel!—data that Eva Moskowitz is worth 140 times more than Carmen Fariña? That Eva M punks Carmen F? That Eva M works 140 times harder, better and more efficiently than Carmen F?

As a noted theologian of the High Holy Church of Testolatry [charterite/privatizer denomination] has declared in no uncertain terms: “Men lie and women lie but numbers don’t.” [Dr. Steve Perry, “America’s Most Trusted Educator,” channeling rapper Jay-Z]

And just notice what Cosmic Tinker pointed out: EduExcellence as measured by the Venality Added Modeling system isn’t just confined to Eva M. It’s everywhere you can find a self-styled leader of the “new civil rights movement” of our time—except, of course, in those pathetic public schools aka factories of failure…

So remember, the next time someone criticizes data-drivel, er, data-driven instruction and management by the numbers and curricular bullet lists, just hit ‘em between the eyes with this indisputable meganumerical bomb—140 to 1 ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at, boobala.

The future is charters and vouchers and privatization because $tudent $ucce$$ is the ₵en¢ible tsunami that will swamp all opposition.


Although on Planet Reality where Rheeality Distortion Fields don’t function nearly as well as they do on RheeWorld, there is a better than 98% “satisfactory” [thank you, Bill Gates!] chance of certainty that the future belongs to those struggling for a “better education for all.”



“Laughter is poison to the pompous.”

And a healthy antidote to mathematical intimidation and artless obfuscation and delusional invention…

Only a few hours before a school board meeting scheduled for this evening, Newark’s state-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson announced that neither she nor her leadership team would attend the meetings or any other meetings of the school board. Apparently, she thinks the board is too unruly and she prefers to engage with parents in other (controlled) settings.

This is quite a show of contempt for the Newark school board, which is the closest the people of that city come to having any voice in school affairs. Their district has been under state control since 1995.

The Vergara trial in Los Angeles prompted this National Board Certified Teacher to reflect on the power dynamics in LAUSD. And how it affects the students. The trial is funded by a very wealthy tech entrepreneur whose legal team claims that due process rights for teachers denies the civil rights of minority students because it is harder to fire teachers if they get a hearing. Superintendent John Deasy testified for the plaintiffs who are suing his districts because he says he can’t fire ineffective teachers.

The classroom teacher wrote this commentary on the trial and the issues:

“The Vergara case is truly the epicenter of everything wrong with the direction of American public education.

“Sorry in advance for this long post, but this case connects a lot of dots…from my classroom in Los Angeles…to Wall Street…to The White House.

“The words in this case are twisted in Orwellian ways, where a term like “Civil Rights” gets to be used by the oppressors instead of those trying to liberate kids from their dictums.

“Teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District is an exercise in futility these days. Watching this court case unfold with its Trojan Horse arguments about the best education for students is like hearing the 1% argue that what the financial system needs is less regulation so that the poor people of the country can be free to achieve their American Dream.

“Their words are all about “liberty” and “justice” and “equality”, but it is obvious who reaps the benefits of those terms.

“It is no coincidence that our District Superintendent John Deasy, was the first witness called to testify against the teachers of his own district.

“He knew that he had the backing of the very rich benefactors who have paved his life in education. He keeps winning because there is no realistic way to challenge his authority.

“The Editorial Board of the LA TIMES, like the Editorial Boards of papers like The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune are enamored by this sort of superintendent–a man who is brought in to kick teachers’ whining butts and bring up test scores. The cosmetic nature of HOW they do it is apparent to anyone who looks at it.

“They have lowered graduation requirements and (as in our school) have brought in empty BS “Advisory” classes that the kids can get full credit for attending (that’s 40 additional credits after four years!!!) so that graduation rates can be boosted. No one is going to do an in depth analysis of this because the public wants results! Arne Duncan can give a big hooray for Deasy and company because the graduation figures are going up! Numbers don’t lie!

“Are our kids “smarter” because John Deasy is our superintendent? No. The pedagogy that Deasy believes in is small-minded and literal. If a teacher in LA is doing great things in his or her classroom, the chances are it’s IN SPITE of the District, not because of it. The only true education emphasis that Deasy champions is the same one that most of the 1% from Bill Gates to Barack Obama to Arne Duncan adhere to: Get the most kids through the education factory they oversee (and often profit from) towards the goal of making them somewhat competent in the world to not go out and steal. It is a very low bar. Very few schools and administrations treat education as a mind-blowing, explosive and subversive experience. That would be about the last thing on John Deasy’s agenda.

“For Deasy and those who back him, Education is defined by them alone, using their own, limited metrics about what they think constitutes “education”.

“For Deasy’s system, creative teaching is seen only as an added bonus–not a primary function. If it happens, great, but it is not the most important aspect of education. Creativity and the emphasis on a critical understanding of the world is not the thing the system values most. Deasy, Duncan, Gates and Pearson value kids responding to its metrics. Actually, if those metrics are achieved, then the Education System says the “product” is successfully educated.

“The truth is that the System will NEVER get the results from this urban population of kids (or for most others either) because they neglect to deal with a variety of factors: Poverty, environment, lack of parental wherewithal, economic forces that dictate a certain path for the working class that Deasy oversees.

“But Deasy’s route to “success” was vastly different from that likely of the students he oversees. In fact, ironically, his path was much more “American” in its orchestration of how the country actually works: Inheritance, privilege and obsequiousness. Although most people are tired of hearing about Deasy’s PhD “controversy” ( it is always worth remembering because it is a perfect metaphor for how Deasy has always gotten his way throughout his entire education life. With the tremendous support of a financial power structure that has bolstered his career from Day One, Deasy has been the beneficiary of those whose interests he promotes. First it was the financial interests of billionaires Bill Gates and later Eli Broad which morph conveniently into the political interests of the neo-liberal Democrat agenda.

“Brought in and imposed upon the city by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Deasy consolidated his support by having Eli Broad pony up millions into LAUSD to “buy” support for him. Deasy has enjoyed the unfaltering support of The United Way, the Chamber of Commerce, multi-millionaire Jamie Alter-Lynton’s LA SCHOOL REPORT and The LA Times…behind these entities are all men and women of great wealth who have thrown their considerable influence backing Deasy’s “Reform” Agenda but do not send their own kids to LAUSD. Our current Mayor Eric Garcetti is a product of the UCLA Lab School and the tony Harvard Westlake Prep (as Mayor Emmanuel sends his kids to University of Chicago Lab where the Obama kids also attended).

“No matter.

“Like many other inner cities with very separate education agendas for other people’s children, these socially-liberal Titans of LA Power pull the strings for a school system that is both racist and classist. The type of education that Deasy prescribes for the kids of LAUSD would never go over in his former school district of Santa Monica. Educated, mostly white and financially secure parents would not tolerate the low bar for their own kids. They would not tolerate the class size that our students endure and are supposed to “buck up” and learn in, nor the pitiful lack of electives, art, drama or field trip opportunities.

“As for LAUSD teachers? Most suffer in silence. Our system’s teachers are cowed and intimidated. Where do they look for support? How did they become the enemy? Hundreds of teachers in “jail” in LA. Deasy gets a 91% disapproval rating from the very people he leads and it doesn’t garner a shrug. Imagine if the Secretary of Defense got that rating from the troops or any municipal Police Chief from the officers on the street? There would be calls for firing immediately, but teachers are demonized and can be ignored. Everyone from Obama to Bill Gates to Arne Duncan gives lip service to “WE LOVE TEACHERS!” but it is in much the same way as Colonel Sanders LOVES his chickens.

“Only a neo-liberal, corporatist agenda could get a piece of agitprop like the anti-union teacher film WON’T BACK DOWN at the last Democratic Convention. Wall Street loves people like Arne Duncan and John Deasy and Barack Obama. No matter that these people never had any experience in public urban education before they rose to power, they have sought to undermine teachers and student opportunities at every level.

“They have no shame of putting my students in a real-life movie that actually SUBVERTS their interests. They will back law suits like Vergara v. California stating its “for the kids”. Deasy will claim that his teachers are the problem, instead of the social issues that hold students’ lives in their sway. Ghastly, Deasy then claims that its HIS OWN self-serving, self-aggrandizing, self-benefiting educational policies (and those of Gates, Broad, Pearson, et. al) that are the life preservers for the kids.

“Our kids are afloat in a desperate sea and the “rescue” ship they send is manned by cannibals.

“The LAUSD School Board is a feckless lot. It is too much inside baseball to go into the individual psychologies of the seven members. Suffice to say they read the newspapers and are always VERY concerned how they appear to the editorial boards who keep them in line. Education is political and its big business. To say otherwise is ignorant at best and downright disingenuous at worst. I do not hold out much hope for this sorry lot because they are all in over their heads.

“Without rehashing the iPad story, LA’s citizens got upset because they saw it as a ridiculous waste of their money–while teachers saw it as horrifying waste of resources and priorities. We were told by our leader, Deasy, that iPads were a Civil Rights issue which was met with universal derision. We are now forced to figure out some way of threading the needle of asking the public to actually give MORE to public education which actually IS a Civil Rights issue, but it has been polluted by Deasy’s “version” of Civil Rights. When our own district stabs us in the back, undercutting our desire to make the public understand what the system truly needs, then what hope do we have to actually do right by our kids?

“John Deasy, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and Barack Obama have miserably failed all urban kids. Their education is a disaster for my students. But the people who have the influence and power to change it don’t realize it (charitably?) or they simply BELIEVE the “philanthropists” when they say something is true and necessary because they also NEED those people for their political survival. And they get their backing because they back them. And so on and so on and so on….

“To connect the dots even further in this depressing spirit, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) has announced that Bill Gates will be a keynote speaker at their 2014 Teaching and Learning conference next month. As a National Board teacher, I am horrified by this entity that is supposed to recognize the excellence in teaching is becoming just a shill front. Education is political and the National Board steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the destruction of public education. In fact, Gates has given so much money to this organization that it has created a toxic influence in the organization, reducing the “reliability” of what National Board constitutes great teaching.

“My disenfranchised classroom loses out simply because we can’t buy our way into a seat at the table.

“My kids can’t “buy” their way into a PhD.

“My kids have to accept what Deasy and The LA Times tells them is necessary for them.

“Who is our court of appeal in this system?

“Vergara v. California is the rich’s power grab. American public education is on trial not by “the people” but by the oligarchs who use it as a punching board to misdirect the culpability of many of these elites in creating the societal pathologies these kids navigate everyday.

“The true enemy of the nine students whose names are cynically being used in the suit are not their teachers–but those who exploit their desire for a true education–and will replace their trust with fat bank accounts in someone else’s name at a desk very far away (and with a much better window view) than theirs at the school’s they originally came from.”


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