Archives for category: Education Reform

As readers know, I often criticize President Obama’s education policies, which are even worse than those of President George W. Bush.


But I am glad for his Supreme Court nominees, and now I am very happy that he has begun the process of normalizing relations with Cuba.


I visited Cuba as a tourist in February 2013 (yes, you can visit as a tourist if you call a tourist agent authorized to make arrangements by the U.S. State Department). Of the many people I spoke to, all were eager to see a new relationship between our countries. The people are eager for a new day. The embargo has impoverished Cuba. I flew with my friends on a charter flight from Miami to Havana. There are several every day. Once our nations have a normal relationship, it will be easier for us to travel in both directions. Cuba is a beautiful island with wonderful food, vibrant art and music, environmental treasures, and beautiful beaches.There are many tourists there from all over Europe and the Americas. We should be there too, engaging in commerce and tourism, enjoying our neighbors and their culture.

Christine Langhoff, a regular commenter on the blog, left this response in reaction to the post about “Arne’s Worst Idea” (evaluating colleges of education by the test scores of students taught by their graduates):


Two reasons this qualifies as Arne’s worst idea:




Arne’s recommendations legitimize these faux organizations. Relay purports to be a graduate school of education, when it is better described as a training program not unlike McDonald’s hamburger university. And NCTQ (run by the Fordham Institute) has published a “ranking” of teacher prep programs whose methodology can be summed up this way (from Peter Greene): “this is a report in which some people collected some graduation brochures and course syllabi and close read their way to an indictment of all college teacher training programs”. See Linda Darling Hammond’s more scholarly indictment of NCTQ here:


During Duncan’s tenure, up has become down and not through legislation, but stealthily, through regulation changes behind closed doors.


TFA’s = highly qualified teachers
Relay= graduate school of education
FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) = conduit to give away private information to for-profit entities
NCTQ – “ratings” of teacher prep institutions = research
Charter schools = the answer to life’s persistent questions


Looks like our former pro basketball player has become a water boy, carrying water for the dismantlers of our public school systems.


We are left with only one real question: Why was Arne Duncan appointed Secretary of Education?

Peter Goodman, who writes frequently about education in New York, cites research showing that test scores on the SAT, Pearson, and PARCC tests matter less than overall grade-point-average, which shows the results of four years of study, work, and testing. The test score registered on a single test on a single day matters far less than performance over a long period of time: showing up, doing the work, trying hard, and trying harder. He calls it “academic tenacity.” Is this the same as “grit”? In a recent debate about a post by Paul Thomas, one commenter on the blog said that it was beyond arrogant for an affluent white person to tell an impoverished child of color to “get grit,” but it is also important not to dismiss the idea that non cognitive behaviors can make a huge difference. Goodman cites authorities who say these non cognitive skills and behaviors can be taught. Really smart kids who give up easily are not likely to succeed. How can we help them learn that persistence will help them succeed in meeting their goals?


What I firmly believe is that non cognitive behaviors and skills matter, but what matters most is to reduce poverty. If we raise up families,  we raise up the lives of children in those families. Goal-setting becomes more credible when goals are imaginable.

New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) released the following reaction to John King’s departure as State Commissioner of Education. They urge that Governor Cuomo not interfere in the process of selecting a replacement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 11, 2014

More information contact:

Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123;

Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;

NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) –

John King Resigns: Parents & Educators Call for a New Direction from the Regents and

Demand NO Interference from Governor Cuomo

Late Wednesday, the New York State Education Department announced that Commissioner John King is resigning effective the end of this year to accept a new post in Washington as an advisor to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Last year NYSAPE, parents, and educators from around the state called for Commissioner King to step down. After many months of frustration and outrage from parents and educators across New York State, the chapter closes on an embattled commissioner who failed to address legitimate serious concerns.

Eyes from all corners of the Empire State now turn on Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, the Board of Regents, and the legislature to ensure the next commissioner represents the substantial change in direction that public school parents demand from a responsive government that serves the people. NYSAPE calls for the Regents to adopt an open, inclusive selection process and stresses the importance of input from parents, educators, and other stakeholder groups in appointing a commissioner who will be more accountable to the public at large.

Governor Andrew Cuomo will also be watched very closely to ensure he does not overstep the constitutional authority of the Regents and interfere in any manner with the selection of a new commissioner of education. For innumerable reasons, New Yorkers are very glad to live within a NYS Constitution that does not grant Governor Andrew Cuomo authority when it comes to oversight of education in New York. They will be watching very closely both Governor Cuomo, who called public schools a “monopoly” to be broken, and his private backers with financial interests in the privatization of our public schools.


Westchester County

“It is time for the Board of Regents to move in a very different direction. The Regents dismal track record of refusing to heed warnings and address significant parental concerns with excessive testing, student data privacy, and school privatization leaves no room for error with the selection of the next commissioner and must not allow for any interference from Governor Andrew Cuomo or his backers,”

said Lisa Rudley, founding member of NYSAPE and Westchester County public school parent.

New York City

“John King was the most unpopular commissioner in the history of NY State. He showed no respect for parents, teachers or student privacy. Ironically, he was intent on protecting his own privacy, and routinely withheld public documents; our Freedom of Information request of his communications with inBloom and the Gates foundation is more than 1 ½ years overdue. His resignation is good news for New York state; hopefully he will be unable to do as much damage at the US Department of Education,” Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

Long Island

“This is bittersweet news for the parents and educators of New York. For the past few years we have endured an education commissioner that has repeatedly ignored our pleas for help. He has heard our stories of our children suffering as a result of the Board of Regent’s corporate reform agenda, and replied, “full steam ahead”. New York has seen the largest testing revolt and parent uprising in known history under his regime. This outrage and pushback from parents and educators will continue to grow until the Board of Regents and the State Education Department put their focus where it belongs: on our children. The future of education for the children of New York now rests with the selection process of his replacement, and parents demand to see educators on this search committee. Our hope is that his replacement will finally begin to listen to parents and educators, put our children first, and protect our NYS public education system,” stated Jeanette Deutermann, founder of Long Island Opt Out and Nassau County public school parent.

Dutchess County

“John King had many successes as commissioner of education. He was successful in creating a polarized, toxic situation and shutting down dialogue on important education policy matters such as common core, high stakes testing and student privacy. King earned a prestigious vote of “no confidence” from the state’s largest teachers union. King successfully hurled accusations and insults against parents, educators and concerned citizens and was able to deflect responsibility for his actions. King was successful in shortchanging the democratic process. King managed to avoid accountability to the Regents for demonstrated incompetence and lack of professionalism. In his short reign as commissioner of education, King was successful in mobilizing and forcing parents, educators, and concerned citizens to call and write state politicians demanding the he resign or be removed. King provided great advice and leadership that advanced charter, corporate education and other interests at the expense of public school children,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess county public school parent.

Otsego County

“The news of Commissioner King’s resignation is a victory for everyone in NYS who has repeatedly called for this moment. I am hopeful that a replacement commissioner will be appointed who has enough integrity to heed the concerns of stakeholders rather than blatantly ignore them. We must insist on an educational leader who will represent the best interests of students, parents, teachers, and schools,” Danielle Boudet, founding member of NYSAPE and Oneonta Area for Public Education.

Oneida County

“The students, parents, and teachers of New York State must insist that Mr. King be replaced with a commissioner that will actually put the needs of students’ first. Under John King’s watch, New York State embraced a reform agenda set forth by billionaires, a reform agenda designed to falsely label public schools as failing, widen the achievement gap, and portray hard working professional educators as the problem. This trend will only continue unless the citizens of New York demand better for our children. Mr. King’s departure provides the true stakeholders of public education-children-the hope that our next commissioner of education be courageous enough to defend our public schools by challenging the false narrative currently put forth by reformers,” said Jessica McNair, Oneida County public school parent and educator.

Erie County

Eric Mihelbergel, founding member of NYSAPE and Erie County public school parent stated, “On October 15 of 2013 we called for the resignation of NYS Education Commissioner John King after he proved his complete disregard for parents and the public by cancelling all scheduled Town Hall meetings across New York State. Now, over a year later, he is leaving New York State education in far worse shape than he found it. The New York State Board of Regents must step and do what they could not do before. They must appoint a new commissioner that puts the needs of our children ahead of the agenda of corporate education reformers.”

“Considering the many problems from Common Core, testing, and the failing APPR educator evaluation system, it is time that New York State has an experienced educator who has worked as a public school classroom teacher, principal, and superintendent as its next commissioner,” Chris Cerrone, Erie County public school parent and board of education member.


Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager of the BATS stated, “John King has disregarded the voice of the practitioners in the classroom which soundly told him that the policies he promoted were hurting children and destroying their education.”

New York State Allies for Public Education consists of over 50 parent and educator advocacy groups across New York State. More details about our education positions and advocacy can be found at


Stephane Simon has written an in-depth article about the tech industry’s campaign to promote the tech industry.

Politico writes:

“CODING CONFLICTS OF INTEREST?: A PR campaign that featured an appearance from President Barack Obama on Monday to promote computer science education is raising questions about the motives of the tech-company funders and the growing influence of corporations in public schools. The $30 million campaign touting the need to train more employees for the industry is financed by companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon – even as tech giants lobby Congress for more H-1B visas to bring in foreign programmers. Courses through the campaign’s marketer, the nonprofit, have not been formally tested but are making their way into tens of thousands of classrooms nationwide. And the coalition is pushing more than a dozen states to count computer science classes toward high school math or science graduation requirements.”

Simon writes:

““Nowhere else in education do we start by saying ‘We have a need for this in the K-5 curriculum because there are good industry jobs at Google,’” said Joanna Goode, an associate professor at the University of Oregon who works on computer science education. “I’m not doing this work to train Google employees.”
Such skepticism hasn’t slowed the industry’s momentum. Founded just last year, created three introductory programming courses for students in elementary and middle school in a matter of months. The curriculum has not been formally tested — but already, about 60,000 classrooms nationwide already have committed to using it….

“Silicon Valley CEOs have complained for years about a huge shortage of qualified programmers. In its “National Talent Strategy” released in 2012, Microsoft said it had 3,400 unfilled jobs in the U.S. for researchers, developers and engineers. And Zuckerberg has said that Facebook aims “literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find,” because they’re in short supply.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists numerous categories of computer services as among the fastest-growing careers in the country; those jobs are also generally well-paid.

“Skeptics, however, aren’t convinced that there’s a real shortage — and suggest that tech companies are simply eager to bump up the supply in order to keep their labor costs down.
They note that salaries in the IT industry have not increased, in real terms, since the late 1990s — unlike salaries in other fields, such as petroleum engineering, where the labor market was undeniably tight. Furthermore, only about two-thirds of students who earn college degrees in computer and information sciences take jobs in that field within a year of graduation, according to an analysis by Hal Salzman, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University.”

Read more:


Jeb Bush is one of the biggest boosters of online learning, virtual charters, and graduation requirements for online courses. His Foundation for Educational Excellence is funded in large part by the tech industry.

Karin Klein of the Los Angeles Times wrote an excellent editorial about the disastrous decision to spend $1.3 billion on iPads for every student and staff member of the LA schools. It should be a cautionary tale for every school district that is about to invest hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in new technology.


The District’s Inspector General investigated the purchase and found nothing wrong. But he never looked at the emails that passed between district officials and the winning vendors (Apple and Pearson). The school board never released the results of that investigation. Now a federal grand jury has been impaneled to look at the evidence of possible wrong-doing, and that is a very good thing. The grand jury will also examined the botched computer system that cost millions of dollars and never performed as it was supposed to.


She writes:


When the school board reached a severance agreement with Deasy in October, it issued a statement that board members do “not believe that the superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts” in regard to the emails. That statement was completely inappropriate considering that Bramlett’s investigation into the emails was still underway—as it is now. The board has no authority to direct the inspector general’s investigations—but it can hire and fire the person heading the staff office, and controls his office’s budget. (In fact, just a week or so before the board made its statement, Bramlett’s office pleaded for more funding, according to a KPCC report.) The statement could be seen as pressuring the inspector general not to find wrongdoing; in any case, board members are in no position to prejudge the matter.


For that matter, none of us are in that position. The emails could be perfectly legal and appropriate—or not. It’s unknown whether even a federal grand jury will be able to ferret out the full picture, since many earlier emails were apparently deleted and aren’t available. And if it uncovers ethical rather than legal problems, the public might never know; the grand jury is looking for evidence of crime. Federal crime at that. This might not be the best mechanism for examining the iPad purchase. But the investigation at least ensures that an independent authority is examining the matter, unimpeded by internal politics or pressures.


Yes, the public has a right to know and a right to expect that public officials will act in the best interests of students. As for the huge purchases for technology, we in New York have learned that even the sharpest and most ethical city officials have trouble monitoring the technology purchases. The largest financial scandal in the city’s history occurred recently, when a company called Citytime won an IT contract for $63 million in 1998 which ballooned into a $600 million payout; the principals went to jail. The school system’s ARIS project, launched in 2007, was supposed to aggregate data on the city’s 1.1 million students; it was recently dumped because so few teachers or parents used it, at a loss of $95 million. There were other instances where consultants bilked the city, in large part because no one supervised what they were doing.


Is there a moral to the story? Choose your own. Mine is that these multimillion dollar technology purchases must be carefully monitored, from beginning to end, to be sure that the public interest is protected and served. The problem is that many school districts lack the expertise to know whether they are getting what they paid for, or getting a pig in a poke. When even New York City and Los Angeles can be misled, think how much easier it will be to pick the pockets of mid-size and smaller districts.

Alan Singer suspects that the reason so many school “reformers” keep promoting dramatic stories about miracle schools is that it relieves society of any responsibility to attack fundamental issues like poverty, segregation, and unemployment.


He writes:


Pathways in Technology Early College High School or P-Tech is a small high school with 330 students in Brooklyn, New York. Its student population is 85% African American and 11% Hispanic. Three-quarters of the students are eligible for free lunch and one-in-six is considered special education. Because of a partnership with IBM and the City University of New York to prepare students for 21st century careers in technology, it has been presented as the academic wave of the future, including in the 2013 State of the Union Address by President Barack Obama, who also visited the school in October 2013.


For proponents of P-Tech, the message is clear. The United States does not need to put more money into public education. We don’t need to rebuild inner city minority communities. We don’t need a full employment jobs programs. We don’t need to tax companies that are masking profits by shifting income overseas. All we need for a bright and rosy future in the United States are private-public partnerships to jumpstart more P-Techs for Black and Latino students.


P-Tech Brooklyn is so highly regarded that New York State Governor Andrew Como has pledged $28 million in state aid over the next seven years to open sixteen new P-Tech programs and another ten programs are planned down the line. There are new P-Techs in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens and Cuomo has promised P-Techs for Geneva, Poughkeepsie, and Yonkers. Meanwhile, IBM is taking the P-Tech model nationwide and hopes to help create 100 new P-Techs by 2016. Five P-techs are already in operation in Chicago and P-Tech’s Brooklyn principal Rashid Davis has become a national spokesperson for the program, traveling to Idaho in 2013 where five P-Techs were being developed.


To their credit, New York State Commissioner John King and Board of Regents’ Chairperson Merryl Tisch have been wary of the hype around P-Tech. Singer reviews test score data and can’t figure out why all the hoopla.


He writes:


Overall, P-Tech ranked 951st out of 1079 high schools in New York State on student math and reading scores. This placed it in the lowest 12% of state schools. My intent is not to denigrate the students of P-Tech or their teachers. It is to challenge the idea that the P-Tech model being promoted by politicians and business leaders is a magical solution to problems plaguing the American economy and inner-city minority schools.


What do all the numbers mean? If you neighborhood P-Tech successfully attracts students who are already performing above the academic norm, they will continue to score above the norm and your P-Tech will be declared a miracle school. But if your local P-Tech becomes home to students who are struggling academically, they will continue to struggle academically and your P-Tech will perform below expectations.


On a deeper level the performance of students at the Brooklyn P-Tech means State Education Departments, corporations, foundations, and the federal government have no idea how to improve the educational performance of inner-city minority students and that they are selling the public a fairy tale.


The “P” in P-Tech certainly does not stand for “performance.” It may well stand for “phony.”


I don’t think anyone should put down the hard-working educators in schools like P-Tech. It is not their fault that politicians are overhyping their success. There is a moral to the story, however. Schools alone can’t compensate for the social and economic problems of our society. We need a government that will stop pretending that school reform will end poverty and close income gaps. It won’t. We must work for the day when politicians take responsibility for problems that only social policy can address and stop spinning tales of miracle schools.

David Greene sees eerie similarities between George Orwell’s 1936 essay “Shooting an Elephant” and the events of today. What were the police officers thinking when they took a fatal shot? What was the police officer thinking when he subdued Eric Garner with a lethal chokehold?


Greene’s post was prompted by a column written by Jim Dwyer in the New York Times. Dwyer had a printout of Orwell’s essay. He fell into a chance conversation about Eric Garner’s death with a man sitting next to him on the subway, who was familiar with the essay:


Mr. Harris’s recollection of the essay was sound: It was written by a former British police officer in lower Burma who was overseeing a town where a bull elephant broke free and wreaked havoc. The townspeople want the officer to do something about it. He shoots the elephant.


“Who was the writer?” Mr. Harris said, peering down. “George Orwell, of course. It’s a good analogy.”


Born in Harlem, Mr. Harris, 57, “an American of African descent,” said he had repeatedly watched the video of Mr. Garner, face pressed into the sidewalk, calling out that he could not breathe.


“Every time I look at it, see him on the ground, I —” Mr. Harris put a hand on his own chest — “I have a hard time breathing myself. I try to read his lips.”


No other officers intervened. The ambulance team that responded provided virtually no care to Mr. Garner as he appeared to be slipping out of consciousness.


“He’s a human being,” Mr. Harris said. “No one’s doing anything for him. It’s clear-cut. I don’t think the cop set out to murder him. But it’s not manslaughter? It’s not negligence?….”


Putting the entire discussion on the heads of police officers made little sense to him. Besides his job as a caretaker for a house, Mr. Harris said he works as a “freelance painter” and anything else he can pick up. “How are you going to feel as a man if you can’t pay the rent?” he said. “If Eric Garner had a real job, he wouldn’t have been on the street selling cigarettes. Poverty makes us angry. Racism and poverty together, it’s explosive.”



Bob Schaeffer reports weekly on the growing anti-standardized testing movement.

Here is the latest news:

On this “Giving Tuesday,” our gift to you is another set of stories and resources about the rapidly growing national assessment reform movement.

In return, we ask that you help FairTest’s critical work supporting grassroots activists, policy-making allies, and journalists by making your most generous possible contribution today either by clicking here or mailing your check to P.O. Box 300204, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130. Your donation will be fully tax deductible.

Thanks for all you do !

Why the Testing Resistance Movement is Expecting a “Full-On Revolt” This Spring

Testing Market Surges with Common Core

Alaska Students Prepare to Stress-Test New Computerized Exams

Overhauling California’s Accountability System

California Impact Academy Demonstrates Deeper, More Meaningful Student Assessments

Five Reasons to Stop Colorado’s Testing Madness

Colorado District Votes to Remove Most Students From Common Core Testing

Groups Florida Families Opt Out of Florida’s Standardized Assessments

Damning Account of Illinois’ Common Core Testing Initiative

Kansas Tries to Avoid Repeat of Computerized Exam Problems

More New Mexico Families Opt Out of Tests

Failure: The New York State Common Core Eighth Grade Math Test

Tulsa, Oklahoma Superintendent Sets Up Task Force to Examine Teachers Assessment Concerns

Evaluating Rhode Island’s System of Evaluating Teachers,98157

Utah’s Summative Tests Should Not Be Used to Grade Schools or Teachers

Commission Recommends Changes to Virginia’s Standards of Learning Assessments

Frequent Changes to Washington State Exams Only Help Test-Makers

Congressional Republicans Make “No Child” Overhaul Top Education Priority

Arne Duncan’s Ed School Evaluation Plan Misses the Point

“The Adventures of Sampleman”

Standardized Testing on the School Playground

Jesse Hagopian: Assessment Reform is Part of New Civil Rights Movement

Secondary School Principals Adopting Position Against Value-Added Measurement

Myths, Lies, and the Endless Cycle of Education “Reform”

Common Core Testing Ignores Needs of Youngest Children

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468

Valerie Strauss has a column describing a puzzle: younger Americans, ages 18-34, are more educated than their parents’ generation, but making less money.


Your guess is as good as mine, but here is my guess. Inequality is growing; the middle class is less secure. The “reformers” want everyone to go to college, but they do nothing to address the shrinkage of jobs, especially jobs that pay what college graduates are led to expect. All their “reform” blather is a convenient way of diverting attention from growing wage inequality and growing wealth inequality.


Strauss writes:


Young adults in the United States today — those Americans from 18 to 34 years old — are on average earning less than their counterparts 35 years ago, but more have a college degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

This piece on the bureau’s blog says that earnings among young adults range from state to state across the country, with some states seeing an increase. In Massachusetts, for example, young adults earn on average $6,500 more annually, adjusted for inflation; in Virginia, they earn $4,100 more. But states where there have been big declines are “Michigan, Wyoming and Alaska where young adults earn at least $9,000 less than they did 30 years ago,” the blog post says.

What does this all say about America today and the earning prospects for young people? The post says:

Young adults’ experiences may reflect a rise in inequality. Since the 1980s, income inequality for households and families has gone up at the same time as the country as a whole has become more educated. The picture that emerges from these statistics reveals a generation of young adults who may be, at once, both better and worse off than their parents.


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