Jeb Bush created an organization called “Chiefs for Change,” comprised of state superintendents who shared his views about vouchers, charters, high-stakes testing, accountability, VAM, and digital learning. Then, as members lost their elections and their jobs, the Chiefs shrank from nine to four. Not what you would call a show of force. To avoid meeting in a very small room, the Chiefs decided to open their ranks to include district superintendents. Its newest members are Chris Barbic, who runs the little all-charter Achievement School District in Tennessee, and Mike Miles, superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District. Dale Erquiaga, the new state chief in Nevada, also joined. Deborah Gist, a long-time member, will not have to give up her membership when she moves from being state superintendent of Rhode Island to superintendent in Tulsa.
No sooner did Mercedes Schneider post a blog about the disintegration of Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change,” than the group decided it needed a makeover. After all, as Mercedes pointed out: As of March 10, 2015, it boasts only four members, down from 13 in October 2014. The remaining members are John White of Louisiana, Deborah Gist of Rhode Island, Hannah Skandera of New Mexico, and Mark Murphy of Delaware. And one of the four, Deborah Gist, is on her way to Tulsa to become superintendent. Which brings the “Chiefs” down to only three. The “Chiefs” have been a reliable echo chamber for Jeb Bush’s policies, favoring high-stakes testing, the Common Core, charter schools, evaluation of teachers by test scores, digital learning, and A-F school grades. The new leader of this tiny group of three Chiefs is John White, a big supporter of vouchers, for-profit charters, and the rest of Jeb Bush’s agenda.
But now that their number has diminished so dramatically, the group has decided to open its ranks to city superintendents (allowing Gist to remain a member). And now that Jeb Bush is a Presidential candidate, it will strike out on its own, no longer an adjunct to Bush’s “Foundation for Educational Excellence.” The group says it is looking for “bipartisan education leaders” and hopes to have a voice in the debate about the future of No Child Left Behind.
Across the nation, parents are organizing to fight the corporate takeover of their children and their schools. The first step: organize to boycott the state tests. Without your child’s data, the machine stops running.
As parents, you have the power.
The latest report from Néw Mexico:
As I’m sure you know, New Mexico has one of the masters of Chiefs for Change, Hanna Skandera, in the chief’s seat of our education department. We are under her thumb and trapped under her policies, which she brought with her, straight outta Florida and straight from Jeb.
This week, Albuquerque BOE member Kathy Korte organized and held a rally there to ask that she stop the reckless testing and punitive measures against our kids and schools. She responded that she was “disappointed” that we aren’t all towing her line.
It’s time to get the parents educated, motivated, angry, and active. That’s why NM Refuse the Test is pushing for New Mexico to follow New York’s lead and put parents in the driver’s seat of both boycotting the tests and taking back our schools.
I would truly appreciate your posting this on your blog to help get the word out to your New Mexico readers who may not be on social media.
Thanks so much. And congrats on your Jon Stewart invite!
Kris L. Nielsen”
Carole Marshall is a retired teacher in Rhode Island who explains how State Commissioner Deborah Gist’s insistence on standardized testing has discouraged educators and students across the state. The most pernicious effect of this policy, Marshall shows, has hurt poor and minority youngsters the most.
In an article in the Providence Journal, Marshall writes:
The Oct. 15 Commentary piece (“R.I.’s diploma system brings out the best”) by Deborah Gist, Rhode Island’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, is yet another demonstration of her ability to say what she wants to be true, as if the saying of it makes it true.
Among the many half-truths and untruths in her screed is the insinuation that students who score badly on the New England Common Assessment Program tests, i.e. urban students, have been subject to “years of poor, inadequate education,” while students who do well have teachers who, by contrast, “provide great instruction that engages students on many levels and teaches key academic skills.”
This malicious slur on urban teachers is the ultimate in hubris from a young woman who spent a handful of years teaching in an elementary school and since then has glided up the professional ladder on the shoulders of right-wing politicians and millionaires like Jeb Bush and Eli Broad. If there are any urban teachers who didn’t know what the commissioner thought of them before, they know now.
I left urban teaching before I had planned to for one reason only: I could not be a participant in what top-down, standardized testing does to destroy education in urban schools and, by extension, the lives of students who are already hanging on by a slender thread to the dream of a successful middle-class life.
Before the systematic destruction began, I would have held my school, Hope, up against any other school in the state in terms of who was providing great instruction. Hope’s faculty included a significant number of advanced degrees, Ivy League graduates, and national-board-certified teachers. With the support of then-Commissioner Peter McWalters, we taught literacy across the curriculum, shared rubrics for scoring work, and created a system for student portfolios. We were doing the slow, careful job of building a climate characterized by rigorous, accountable learning.
Then high-stakes testing arrived on the scene and to nobody’s surprise, urban schools’ scores were worse than the scores of suburban schools; the same pattern repeats itself year after year in every corner of this country.
Why? There are a host of extremely well-documented reasons for this. To name just a few: Urban schools have a hugely disproportionate number of students who are new to the language; a hugely disproportionate number of students with learning disabilities; and large numbers of students with serious behavioral problems, including those sent from their suburban districts to group homes in the cities.
That is in addition to the reality that students from impoverished environments are often handicapped by circumstances beyond their control, such as vocabulary deficits, health problems, unstable homes, hunger, and the list goes on. We can all wish these conditions didn’t exist, but we can’t, as Commissioner Gist likes to do, simply ignore them away. Throwing tests at urban students does nothing to solve their problems. The disparities will only grow wider as mandatory test preparation steals more and more time from real education in urban schools.
On the subject of test prep and teaching to the test, Commissioner Gist is correct about one thing: “schools with students who perform well on state assessments do not focus on test preparation.” Pretty tautologically obvious in my opinion; the schools with students who perform well have no reason to focus on test preparation.
On the other hand, in the schools that are being threatened with closure solely on the basis of test scores, you can be sure administrators are not just sitting around, waiting to lose their jobs. The specter of low scores powerfully encourages test preparation and teaching to the test.
This year, the turn-around company hired for $5 million to raise scores in Providence schools hired tutors who spent every school day during the month of September prepping 11th graders for the NECAP assessments.
The students were missing their regular classes every day, even in subjects like physics and foreign languages, so that the schools could show improvement. Suburban parents would never have allowed this; urban parents were not informed.
Students are disingenuously told that this is all happening for their own good. Any reader of this newspaper who truly believes that the testing juggernaut is about benefiting the students is sorely uninformed.
The textbook publishers who sell the test and test-prep materials will make their billions, the so-called turn-around companies will make their millions, and carpetbaggers like Ms. Gist will continue blithely along their career paths, leaving behind wrecked schools and crushed dreams in the cities.
Carole Marshall taught at Hope High School for 18 years, retiring in 2012. Before that she was a business correspondent for the Observer of London and taught journalism at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the University of Rhode Island.
Hanna Skandera, one of the shrinking number of Jeb’s Chiefs for Change, was a no-show.
Tony Bennett, ex-Indiana chief, ex-Florida chief, was not sure whether to lecture on A-F grading systems. Rahm Emanuel insisted he was not a reformer, maybe just a passerby.
Was anyone happy? Sounds more like a wake than a party.
Are the reformers down in the dumps because they realize they ARE the status quo?
Who can you rail against when you control the federal government, the biggest foundations, and most states?
Just those darn teachers.
Earlier today, I posted
a story about a brave principal in Oklahoma, Rob
Miller, who is under investigation by the State Education
Department for encouraging parents to opt out of a field test. The
parents said they did it on their own.
Principal Miller said he obeyed the law. It was clear that he would not let the State
Superintendent Janet Barresi, a member of Jeb Bush’s dwindling
Chiefs for Change, Intimidate him.
I just received the following communication from Mr. Miller. He is a man of courage. He belongs
on our honor roll. He responds here to those who sent him words of
He writes: “I am very humbled that Diane chose to post
this story. We truly have a State Superintendent in Oklahoma who is
out of control. Thanks to all for your words of support and
encouragement! I also want everyone to know that my district
leadership and BOE are 100% supportive. This is clearly an attempt
by one of Jeb’s Chiefs for a Change to silence a critic. Thank you,
David for sending a response to our SDE. I think Barresi needs to
know the size of the army she is about to engage with.
Collectively, we are impossible to stop. And, Teresa, I truly am
proud to be called a Bad Ass!”
Note to John Merrow: Yes, there are
heroes in education. They are fighting for our kids. They are
fighting for good education. They are fighting for
This is exciting!
Folks, the tide is turning!
An experienced superintendent announced that he will run for state superintendent against Janet Barresi, the current superintendent who is a member of Jeb Bush’s shrinking Chiefs for Change.
Barresi worked as a speech pathologist, then became a dentist. She opened charter schools. She is part of the Jeb (“test ’em until they cry, then give everyone a grade”) Bush school of thought.
Her challenger rejects the corporate reform rule book:
Dr. John Cox has been a superintendent for 20 years in Oklahoma.
Read this from Dr. Cox:
“I chose to run for state schools superintendent because I do not agree with the current reforms that are being forced on our public schools,” Cox said. “It is time that we return to trusting our teachers and believing and knowing that they are professionals.
“It is also time that we trust principals and superintendents to do their job, and return local control back to our school boards and communities.”
He said he believes his candidacy was a way to being part of a process to save public education in Oklahoma.
“The only recourse that we as educators have, is to work towards improving our schools by fighting for local control, taking care of our teachers, and making a system that allows all children to be successful,” Cox said. “It is time that we take a common sense approach to accountability.”
Cox said the major challenges facing the school superintendent and school districts, in general, is adequate school funding.
“We lead the nation in school funding cuts since 2009, and we need to advocate for increased funding,” Cox said. “Some people will say that throwing money at public schools does not increase student learning, but I will tell you that extra funds help provide … personnel that have direct contact with students and will provide more one on one learning for our students, which will improve student learning.”
EduShyster here describes Kevin
Huffman’s relentless campaign to demoralize Tennessee
teachers and make Tenessee the worst state to be a teacher. She
suggests that the time is soon coming when Huffman will be held
accountable. Not by the state board, which rubber stamps his bad
ideas even when they aren’t informed of the details. No, he will
face the accountability of angry parents, teachers, and other
citizens who have grown tired of his destructive tactics. That day
will come, rest assured. Even his membership in Jeb Bush’s Chiefs
for Change won’t save him from the wrath of
Tennessee’s Angry Moms</a, who created their own Facebook
Stephen Bowen, state commissioner of education in Maine,
that he was resigning his post to take a job as “director
of innovation” for the DC Council on Chief State School Officers.
He is the second member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change to resign
in the past few weeks. Tony Bennett of Florida w the other; he
resigned when news broke about rigging the A-F grading system to
raise the grade of a school run by a political donor. Last year,
Bowen was at the center of a scandal
revealed by journalist Colin Woodard. Bowen was taking
instruction and even model legislation to promote digital learning
from Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. FEE gets
subsidies from the tech corporations that stand to profit as
digital learning expands. Bowen previously worked for a
conservative think tank in Maine. The interesting aspect of this is
the apparent transformation of the CCSSO, which was for many years
a staunch defender of public education. Bowen clearly was a charter member of the privatization movement, of which his mentor Jeb Bush is a prominent leader.