Archives for category: Education Reform

The Sacramento Bee, which has been very supportive of Mayor Kevin Johnson and also of corporate reform, posted a story about the postponement of the ESPN film about how he saved the hometown basketball team.

The article on the newspaper’s blog says the molestation accusations were reported long ago, they are old news, and the only thing new is the surfacing of the video of the accuser being questioned by the police. Putting a face on the alleged victim revived the story.

If you watch the video, it may strike you as odd that this teenager is questioned by a middle-aged policeman, who asks her intimate questions about what happened to her. Maybe this is standard police practice, but it seemed to me that she should have been questioned by a female police officer.

After reading the story, I was left with the impression that the newspaper thinks this story is no big deal, that it will blow over, and that life will go on for the Mayor.

Over the past few years, I have traveled several times to North Carolina, one of the states where the Governor and Legislature are doing their best to destroy public education and the teaching profession.

I met a beautiful, dynamic woman named Vivian Connell. Vivian is a National Board Certified Teacher who decided to go to law school. Teachers in North Carolina are near the bottom nationally in teacher pay.

After my last visit, I learned that Vivian was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is a degenerative disease that has no cure.

Vivian began writing a blog called FinALS, in which she chronicled her determination to face the end of her life with dignity, courage, and a bucket list. The bucket list consisted of things she had always planned to do with her children, as well as a trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., with students, and other deferred plans. She began doing them. Each entry described her heroic battle with this deadly disease. She faces her struggle with courage, wit, and determination.

I corresponded privately with Vivian, but had not heard from her lately. I checked her blog and learned that the latest entry was February 25. As usual, it was filled with Vivian’s candor and intention to squeeze joy out of every last minute of her life and make it meaningful.

I checked with my friend (and hers) Bertis Downs of Athens, Georgia. Bertis told me that Vivian had recently been in the hospital. Apparently, she is out of the hospital now.

Please read her blog, and if you are inclined, write her. Her email is

She deserves our love and admiration and whatever prayers and thoughts we can send.

Mercedes Schneider read an appeal for help from Peter Cunningham, the editor or CEO of a blog called Education Post.

And this was her reaction.

Peter was Assistant Secretary for Communications (or something like that) on behalf of Arne Duncan during the first term of the Obama administration. When he left, as Mercedes shows, Eli Broad asked him to start a blog to rebut all those pro-public education bloggers out there who were dominating social media So, Broad gathered a few other 1%-ers (Bloomberg and Walton), and together they chipped in $12 million for the new blog to promote charter schools, merit pay, high-stakes testing, and other tenets of the “reform” movement led by Arne Duncan.

Read this story in the Washington Post announcing the new blog, but read the comments too. They are hilarious. You can see that the blog had a problem from the get-go and needed some masterful PR.

But it appears that the message is not getting through. Even with $12 million, social media is still dominated by bloggers like Mercedes, Peter Greene, Anthony Cody, EduShyster, Jersey Jazzman, Jonathan Pelto, Mother Crusader, Paul Thomas, Julian Vasquez Heilig, and lots of others who aren’t paid. They write with passion and conviction because they are filled with passion and conviction.

These bloggers prove what Daniel Pink, Dan Ariely, Edward Deci, and other cognitive psychologists have written about motivation. Idealism and autonomy beat rewards every time.

According to an article in The Progressive, Dr. Ben Carson likes to say that American children were better educated in the 1830s.

As “proof,” he offers questions from an exam given to children in Kansas, which asks obscure questions that few college graduates today could answer.

Carson then identified the following questions from the test:

· Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.

· Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865.

· Show the territorial growth of the US.

· Name and locate the principal trade centers of the US.

· Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.

· Describe why the Atlantic Coast is colder than the Pacific at the same latitude.

Impressive questions! Kids really knew all that?!? Dang, they really were smart! And we are really dumb!

Well, it is true that the few schools that existed at all in those days emphasized fact-memorization. This is a good example of the kinds of facts considered most important (along with the height of various mountains, the names of the biggest oceans, etc.).

Most such questions today would likely be part of “Trivial Pursuits.”

Similar exams and questions from 19th century textbooks have been used for decades just as Dr. Carson is now using these test questions.

These are not examples of the decline of American education, for many reasons.

First, because so few children were in school at all in the 1830s. Most schools were in session for only a few months a year. Most children who were in school ended their education at grade 8 or earlier. There were very few high schools, except for private schools for the children of the elite.

Second, because the ability to memorize what you were taught and parrot it back on a test is not an example of the decline of American education.

My bet: 99% of the student in the 1830s who took a Common Core test today would fail. Maybe 100%.

– See more at:

The ads for the program describe the crisis of the school to prison pipeline. According to the ad on Sirius for the Sunday 4 pm show, Arne Duncan will explain what the school to prison pipeline is and why it starts in school.

I hope someone listens. I am sure it doesn’t start in school, unless he means the bootcamp schools where children are dehumanized.

Just when I think I have heard the most absurd story possible about charter schools that pillage taxpayers’ dollars, I discover a story like this one (thanks to a reader in Florida).

This is only part of the story:

With roughly 270 students, the new Paramount Charter School in Sunrise has already received $740,000 in taxpayer-funded money and is slated to get about $3 million during the school year.

Despite the infusion of public cash, Paramount — an elementary-level school that, like all charters, is privately owned but publicly funded — is riddled with problems. According to a school board member, it’s already had three principals, lost nearly all of its teachers after the first month due to firings and resignations and has some parents alleging their children aren’t learning there.

The president of the company that owns the school, Jimika Williams Mason, drove away from a Local 10 News camera in her vehicle. It was discovered the listed vice president of the company, Ashley Challenger, is a 22-year-old Nova Southeastern University student who said she was given a spot on the school’s board of directors through the college and had no idea she had even been listed as a corporate vice president of the Advancement of Education in Scholars Corporation.

She said she had met once with Mason but had no idea what was happening at the school and had yet to attend a board meeting.

More findings about the troubled charter school include:

Mason, the president, lists no experience in the education field in the application, instead noting that she spent six years in management at a Miramar company that specializes in unsecured home improvement loans.

Former NFL player and reality TV star Hank Baskett is listed in the application as a “non-voting board member” who will “aid in the Sports and Fitness program.” But Baskett’s agent, Jim Ivler, said Baskett is not affiliated with the school. “They reached out to us more than five years ago interested in establishing a relationship with Hank,” Ivler wrote Local 10. “It never went anywhere and we haven’t heard from them in years.”

The corporate office goes to a building in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park, but a manager there told Local 10 the company doesn’t actually rent physical office space, but rather has a “virtual office” where it can receive mail and phone messages.

After promising at least two teachers who spoke to Local 10 on condition of anonymity a salary of $36,000 and full benefits, the school after the first month instructed them that if they wanted to keep their jobs they would have to take a $6,000 pay cut and forego benefits. Both teachers were among those who resigned, while numerous teachers were fired. “I don’t understand how you can give someone a school just based on paper,” said one teacher. “Not only the school, how can you give them the children,” said the other.

A member of the local school board said:

“Everything is a free-for-all basically…And the sad part is we’re going to find this generation of kids, many of them, who are not educated properly in these schools.”

To learn more about this school, read Mercedes Schneider’s description here.

How delightful to see Peter Greene quoted in Esquire in an excellent column by Charles P. Pierce.

Pierce writes:

“​Campbell Brown used to be an anchor at CNN. Campbell Brown is now married to Dan Senor, the former official prevaricator for the Avignon Presidency’s excellent Mesopotamian adventure and a mysteriously popular television commentator on events far out of his depth. Campbell Brown also has taken it upon herself to be the latest rich and (semi-) famous person to parachute in and destroy the idea of public education. (And when the history of the Obama Administration is written, its willingness to go along with charter-school grifters at the behest of Arne Duncan is going to be a very big debit on the ledger.) Campbell Brown would like the Democratic candidates to come to an event she’s having and debate about education. So far, as Peter Greene reports via Diane Ravitch’s most excellent blog, the Democratic candidates have told Campbell Brown that, sorry, we all have unbreakable oral surgery appointments that night. Brown blames the teachers unions, which is not a surprise. She blames a teachers union every time a cloud passes in front of the sun.​”

Andrea Gabor, the Michael R. Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism at Baruch College, read Gary Rubinstein’s analysis of the so-so performance of charter schools in New York City and wrote this post about it.

About that stellar performance turned in by Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charters, Gabor pointed out that Eva’s schools are known for cherry picking their students:

In this post, I showed how Success Academy schools cherry picks students who are less needy economically and have far fewer special needs students and English Language Learners than nearby public schools.

And she noticed something else: there are public schools that outperform the Success Academy schools, with the same demographics.

But, I also noticed that in Rubinstein’s graph, at least five public schools with comparable economic-need statistics performed as well, if not better, than the Success Academy schools. Several more performed nearly as well, with much higher levels of economic need.

A recent post by charter advocate Richard Whitmire is stunningly in sync with Rubinstein’s analysis. Whitmire concedes that of 6,440 charter schools, only 1,200 hundred are living up to their promise of outperforming public schools–i.e. less than 20 percent. Whitmire’s suggestion is to close 1,000 charter schools immediately. I guess its easy to experiment with other people’s children…

Given the decidedly unmiraculous performance of charter schools overall, and the high performance of many outlier public schools, wouldn’t it be more prudent to focus on learning from the outliers–both publics and a small number of experimental charters–how to improve public schools, rather than jettisoning the public system for a decidedly iffy alternative?

Education Reform Now is the political action arm of Democrats for Education Reform. DFER is privatization, financed by hedge fund managers. It supports charters, high-stakes testing, evaluation of teachers by test scores, and is in general opposed to public education and not friendly to teachers or to unions.

Here is their side by side on Hillary and Bernie.

David Bloomfield, professor of educational leadership, law, and policy at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, writes that it is time for Merryl Tisch, the chancellor of the New York Board of Regents, to step down and make way for new leadership.

Tisch was appointed to the Board of Regents on April 1, 1996 — almost 20 years ago. She became chancellor in 2009.

“Upon taking the Regents helm, Tisch promised, “We will embrace innovation with a data-driven approach . . . to raise test scores, raise graduation rates, and finally close the achievement gap.”

“By her own measures — and she’s had plenty of time to prove the wisdom of her approach — Tisch has fallen far short. Last month, statewide test scores showed a mere 31.3% of students proficient in English Language Arts and 38.1% in math on the tough, relatively new Common Core-aligned tests.

“In June 2012, Tisch bemoaned that “nearly a quarter of our students still don’t graduate after four years.” That is still the case. For students taking up to five years to complete high school, the 2010 graduation rate stood at 77%. Today it is 76.4%.

“Meantime, the achievement gap persists. Four-year graduation rates for 2010 and 2014 — one of the best apples-to-apples indicators we have — show exactly the same 25 percentage point difference between black and Hispanic students compared to white students…..

“Less appreciated, but perhaps more important, Tisch’s unsuccessful focus on standards and testing has distracted the department from another major function, district oversight. The crisis in East Ramapo — where the school board has long plundered district funds to provide services to students attending yeshivas — is only beginning to be met with effective action.”

Districts failed to meet state requirements for helping English language learners and immigrant children. The Regents didn’t crack down. In Néw York City, Bloomfield writes, “state requirements for school librarians, physical education and more have been ignored. Of greatest consequence, the rampant racial and income segregation of the state’s schools has been met with mere lip service from the person who should be New York’s leading voice and change agent on the issue…..

“Tisch vehemently believes that poor performance should lead to firings and school closures.”

Tisch insists that failure should not be allowed to comtinue.

Bloomfield writes:

“It is time for Tisch to take the medicine she has advised for others.” Leave, resign, go. Why allow failure to continue?


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