Archives for category: Duncan, Arne

This is funny.

Politico reports:

“BAY STATE SMACKDOWN: Education Secretary Arne Duncan penned a glowing tribute in the Boston Globe [] this week praising the legacy of outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick in improving the state’s schools. “Quite simply,” he wrote, “Massachusetts leads the nation.” That raised the hackles of Jim Stergios, executive director of the conservative Pioneer Institute. He responded with his own op-ed [ ], which opens with the line: “Who says Common Core advocates don’t like fiction?” Stergios notes that the big gains in Massachusetts test scores came before Patrick took office – and that scores have since dropped in several key areas, such as third-grade reading proficiency and SAT scores. Stergios blasts Patrick for abandoning Massachusetts’ famously high standards in favor of the Common Core. He’s even harsher on Duncan, suggesting that the secretary suffers from a “toxic mix of self-importance and the inability to see reality.”

Recently the Néw York Post ran an article about Al Sharpton, saying that he received money from corporations in return for not campaigning against them as racist. The story said that the firm of former Chancellor Harold Levy paid Sharpton $500,000 to help a client who was competing to manage a gambling franchise.

Leonie Haimson, CEO of Néw Tork City’s most activist group Class Size Matters, writes that the NY Post left out the key details of that transaction.

She writes:

“Left out of this account is the most interesting part of the story. It’s not just that the money for Sharpton was ostensibly for “equity” and funneled through Education Reform Now, the non-profit arm of Joe William’s pro-charter Democrats for Education Reform. The larger context is that ERN was merely a pass-through, and the money was directed to Sharpton through the Education Equity Project, founded by then-Chancellor Joel Klein, in exchange for Sharpton agreeing to co-chair the group and adopt Klein’s aggressive anti-teacher, pro-charter stance.”

A few days ago, Secretary Arne Duncan tweeted this question:

“What if every district committed both to identifying what made their 5 best schools successful & providing those opps to all their students?
2:44 PM – 30 Dec 2014″

Within minutes, someone created a hashtag #whatif, and parents and teachers began flooding Twitter with their own “what if” questions. Valerie Strauss reprinted some of them here.

Here is one:

“Jeanne Berrong @kayringe
@arneduncan #WhatIf the DOE committed both to identifying what made their 5 worst reform initiatives failures & removing them from schools?
5:52 PM – 30 Dec 2014″

Here is another:

“Karen Lewis @KarenLewisCTU
#whatif @arneduncan, children got their lives back, their joy of discovery and a safe place to learn to think critically? Play is real.
10:48 PM – 30 Dec 2014″

And another:

“Chris Cerrone @Stoptesting15
#WhatIf Every family & student boycotted @arneduncan ‘s high-stakes testing & we moved to a well-rounded education w/ authentic assessment.
9:41 PM – 30 Dec 2014″

People across America are speaking truth to power, right now on Twitter, where they are tweeting in opposition to charter takeovers in Tennessee.

The BATs’ twitter storm using the hashtags #WeBelieve2015 and #beliefgap calling out Tennessee Achievement School District superintendent Chris Barbic and his privatization agenda has gotten the attention of The Tennessean Newspaper. They’ve posted an active link to the twitter discussion on their website.

Thank goodness for Peter Greene, who finds the time to read reams of think tank reports and even the daily and weekly promotional materials produced by the U.S. Department of Education. He even reads the Department’s official blog, which regularly reminds the citizenry of what a good job the Secretary and the Department are doing, what a great contribution they are making to the improvement of American education.


Peter Greene came across a recent statement from Arne Duncan that is supposed to be his personal reflections on what he has learned as he traveled the country. Peter says he actually didn’t learn anything new. What he learned is that he has been right all along!


Peter writes:


Many people are unclear about the meaning of “learn.” Learning implies a change of state, a movement from not-knowing to knowing, from not-understanding to understanding. The world has a large supply of people who are not interested in a change of state, and so their interactions with the world around them are not about understanding or grasping or discovering, but about confirmation. They are not looking for a change of state, but of a more solid, comfortable settling into their status quo.


Politics are not conducive to learning. You don’t get many political points for saying, “Hey, I’ve look at some facts, talked to some people, examined the issue, and I’ve come to a different understanding.” In life, we aspire to be, find, foster life-long learners. In politics, learning just gets you a “flip-flopper” label.


So it’s not particularly surprising that in traveling through fifty states, Arne “learned” that he’s always been right about anything. Not once in fifty states did he encounter something that made him say, “Damn. I need to rethink this.”


And more:


Duncan goes on to cite some specific visits in which he was excited to discover that he has been right all along and that his policies are awesome. This is not learning. By the end of this piece of puffery, it’s clear that Arne has learned nothing in five years, but he has collected confirmations of his pre-existing beliefs….


The basic point of writing is that you have something you want to say and somebody you want to say it to. Arne’s essay appears to fail on both points.


I take it as the intersection of Arne in particular and politics in general– a pointless, empty exercise in talking to the air to signify, at a minimum, that you are still doing something, and that nothing has changed (just in case anybody was wondering). Devoid of personality, purpose or passion, it hints at a bureaucrat who has simply lost his moorings and any particular contact with actual human beings and the world they live in, but who may not realize that he’s even adrift.


Take it from me. It is very hard to admit you have been wrong. It is very hard to look at the evidence and publicly acknowledge error. What is especially problematic is that Arne Duncan has taken it upon himself to “reform” American education by imposing the lessons he learned in Chicago. Most people would agree that Chicago is far from being a model for America. But more important, no Secretary of Education in the past 35 years has taken it upon himself to control not only K-12 education, but higher education as well. Frankly, it’s alarming. I wish that Arne had learned in his travels that there is wisdom about education found in schools and universities across the nation, and that one of our great strengths as a nation is that we expect people and institutions to make decisions that work best for them and to operate without mandates from distant government agencies.



The federal government has been a strong funder of privately managed charter schools since the Presidency of Bill Clinton. The charter movement got a solid boost from his support of what were supposed to be laboratories of innovation, collaborating with public schools.

Until the past decade, the role of the United States Secretary of Education was to improve public education. Since the Presidency of George W. Bush, the federal government has put its massive political and financial weight on the side of privatization. The Bush revisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act–renamed “No Child Left Behind”–created a series of steps that were ruinous to the nation’s public schools. Given the unrealistic mandate that every students in every school must be proficient in reading and math by 2014—a goal met by no state and by no other nation–the public schools were set up for failure. The sanctions for failing to meet this impossible goal were all punitive, no help: firing the staff, closing the school, turning the school into a charter school, state takeover of the school. Not one of the sanctions had any evidence to support its efficacy. Yet both parties went along with a bill whose goal was to undermine, weaken, close, and stigmatize the nation’s public schools. Of course, matters got even worse when Barack Obama was elected and chose Arne Duncan as his Secretary of Education. Duncan hired his key staff from groups (e.g., the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation) that actively promoted privatization and high-stakes testing (that led to privatization). Duncan never lost a chance to bemoan the “mediocrity” and “low expectations” of public schools, or to praise the success of privately managed charters.


In this toxic climate, Congress and the U.S. Department of Education have created numerous financial rewards for those who with to open or expand charter school, thus encouraging the advance of privatization. Make no mistake. This is a historic turn of events in our nation’s education system, away from a public responsibility to a market-based approach to opening and closing schools, with test scores as the only gauge of quality, with indifference to desegregation, and with lessened accountability for charter schools whose owners are politically connected.


Our frequent commentator Laura Chapman has gathered a summary of federal programs that encourage privatization; these grants are enhanced by hundreds of millions of dollars from private foundations, including the Walton (Walmart) Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Dell Foundation, the Arnold Foundation, the Helmsley Foundation, the Fisher Family (the Gap) Foundation, and many more.

Chapman writes:



Corruption in charters is aided and abetted by U.S. Department of Education, directly and indirectly by your taxes and mine.

Investments available in 2014 from USDE, and note that much of this money was authorized in the No Child Left Behind Act.


The USDE 2014 Funding for Charter School Programs (ESEA, Title V, Part B, Subpart 1) Total = $248.1 Million.

1. State Education Agency (SEA) Grants and Non-SEA Grants: (ESEA,Title V, Part B, Subpart 1) $153.9 Million. These Grants are awarded on a competitive basis to SEAs, who in turn, make subgrants to charter schools. But, when SEAs do not apply for or they are denied funding, individual charter schools can apply directly to the USDE. Funding is used to help cover charter school start-up costs.
2. Replication & Expansion Grant. $60.1 Million. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis to non-profit charter management organizations (CMOs) that have demonstrated success, including improved academic achievement.
3. National Leadership Activities Grant (ESEA,Title V, Part B, Subpart 1) $11 Million. Competitive grants fund projects of national significance to improve charter school quality, as well as money to disseminate information about the projects.
4. State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grant (ESEA,Title V, Part B, Subpart 1) $11 Million. Competitive grants to states to help cover charter school facilities costs.
5. Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program (ESEA, Title V, Part B, Subpart 2) $11.9 Million. Competitive grants to public and non-profit entities that enhance the ability of public charter schools to raise private capital to acquire, construct, renovate, or lease academic facilities.
In October,2014 USDE announced grants to 27 charter organizations in 12 states worth $39.7 million.
For Replication and Expansion. Here is one sure to insult New Yorkers: the fabulous Success Academy Charter Schools, for $2,234,500. The biggest overall winner is KIPP for $13,789,074 worth of expansion, and the biggest winner by state is California $26,780,502 followed by Tennessee, $3,112,402
For Planning, Program Design, and Implementation Grants, the biggest winner at $308,270 is the Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation, operator of Gulen charters with issues with scandal documented at .
The big winner by state for start-ups is Washington, with four new charters funded at $1,122,606, about $250.000 per school. Next is Oregon, with three new schools, $692,427 total, Illinois with three, including expansion of the Nobel network already in 12 states and saturating greater Chicago. Total for Illinois-based operations $575,705.


information sources: the following and

Teacher Angie Sullivan wonders why her school is being turned around yet again and how many staff will be fired again. This is, of course, the idea embedded in Race to the Top, the idea that scores will go up if part or all of the staff is fired, and the whole school is disrupted and “turned around.” This approach negates the values of stability, consistency, and other old-fashioned notions in favor of disruption and chaos. “Creative destruction” usually turns out to be just plain old destruction, and it destroys trust.

Angie writes:

33 schools in Vegas are being considered for “turnaround”.

My principal announced Standford Elementary was one. No one could really understand why – because most of the staff turned over last year and most of us just got there. The former principal had turned it around – and then they moved her out and someone new in.

In 2013-2014 we taught one set of standards – and tested in another because at the last minute we became the test school for SBAC. Our old computer lab computers could not even run the SBAC tests. So we lost all our stars – mainly due to confusion, new staff, old technology, and general disruption.

So I’m out with all the holiday shoppers buying a suit – because tomorrow I have to not only do parent conferences and my regular busy day . . . I have to interview for half an hour in the middle of the day.

Very disruptive. Congratulations! And Happy Holidays!

Are there about 2,600 (80 x 33) Vegas teachers going through this interview process right before the holiday?

I guess if you are one of the 800 long term subs (they have driven off the licensed teachers) – you probably get to skip the interview?

Pricey Teach for America get to skip it too I bet.

Which suit will help me keep on teaching my at-risk kids that I love? Red? Purple?

What is the official color of destruction, disruption, and devastation?

I hope I don’t cry – I need all the self-respect I can get.

They keep saying not to worry – why do they call it an interview? Interview means . . . Worry.


Secretary of Education Arne Duncan can’t get over his obsession with the idea that the only reason children don’t have higher test scores is because they have “bad teachers” with low expectations. He has consistently said that teachers’ colleges bear the blame for those “bad teachers.” Never having taught, he has strong opinions about how to fix teaching. He loves charter schools, especially those without unions; he loves Teach for America, because they are elite. He loves evaluating teachers, principals, schools, even teachers’ colleges, by student test scores.


David Berliner, one of our nation’s most eminent researchers, does not agree with Duncan. He has different ideas. He tells Duncan, as he once told his dean, how to solve the problems of teacher education.


Berliner writes:



“Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Obama administration want to improve teacher education. Me too. I always have. So I went to the president of the university I was then working at and showed him university data that I had collected. I informed him that a) we were running the cheapest program on campus, even cheaper to run than the English Literature and the History programs; and b) that some of our most expensive programs to run, computer science and various engineering programs, produced well-trained graduates that left the state. But teachers stayed in the state. I told my president he was wasting the states resources and investing unwisely.


“I told him that with the same amount of money as we spend on the students that leave the state I could design one year clinical programs so every teacher does clinical rotations in the classrooms of schools with different kinds of students, rotations modeled on medical education.”


Berliner has many other good ideas. Read them here. Arne should invite him to meet and hear his ideas on how to improve teacher education.

On his blog “Cloaking Inequity,” Julian Vasquez Heilig conducts an annual poll seeking to identify the “Turkey of the Year.” This year’s winner, hands down, is Arne Duncan. This was an unusually impressive victory because in the listing of candidates, Duncan’s name appeared last. And better: he garnered a majority of the votes, even though there were several choices.

Caitlin Emma, who writes for, here reviews the threat to student privacy posed by online courses.

While students are taking these courses, the provider is gathering a treasure trove of information about each of them. This data may later be sold to marketers, who see students as customers.

There is a federal law that is supposed to protect student privacy, but in 2011-12, Secretary Arne Duncan oversaw a weakening of FERPA regulations, removing key protections.

Companies working together, like Pearson and Knewton, are gathering confidential student data whenever your child goes online.

Why should corporations advertise when they can use Big Data to identify their target audience? Race to the Top required states, if they wanted to be eligible for federal cash, to create a massive student data warehouse, to open more charters, and to adopt “college and career ready standards,” I.e. Common Core. Clever, no? A bonanza for certain corporations.

This is scary stuff.


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