Archives for category: Education Reform

To those of you who regularly read the comments on this blog, you will frequently encounter pithy, funny, learned comments by reader KrazyTA. He is as likely to quote a Greek philosopher as to quote Groucho Marx. And he constantly reminds us to laugh.

Here is his latest, in which he explains the mysterious acronym TAGO, first written here by Señor Swacker. .

“Special Educator NY: all credit to Duane Swacker—



And to the most esteemed SomeDAM Poet:

I am surprised that you don’t seem to know the Secretary of Education’s favorite song.

According to the usual unconfirmed rumors, it is pasted on the ceiling of his DOE office. So on those frequent occasions when he is resting from his tiresome toiling on behalf of “the kids” he can recite the “Song of Myself.” [Note: he, er, “borrowed” without attribution the title—as educrats are wont to do with many things on their resumés—from Walt Whitman, just as he, er, borrowed the words and tune to the song. But let’s leave that for another occasion…]

“I could wile away the hours

Conferrin’ with the flowers

Consultin’ with the rain

And my head I’d be scratchin’

While my thoughts were busy hatchin’

If I only had a brain.”

Wow! Talk about not seeking refuge in the unexamined life! Socrates—we’ve got a live one!


The only catch: he hasn’t told his speechwriters.

*But not to worry: they already know. That’s why in his speeches over the last two years he is steadfastly for & steadfastly against & steadfastly somewhat for/somewhat against high-stakes standardized testing.

Rheeally! In a Johnsonally sort of way…*


Stephen Sawchuck notes in his blog at Education Week that a pattern is emerging from teacher evaluation programs: The highest ratings go disproportionately to teachers of advantaged students and the lowest ratings to teachers of students who are disadvantaged. He wonders whether this suggests that the ratings systems are biased against those who teach the neediest students or does it suggest that the schools with high numbers of disadvantaged students get the worst teachers.


I am reminded of the joint statement released a few years ago by the American Educational Research Association and the National Academy of Education, which predicted that those who taught the neediest students would get the lowest ratings because of factors beyond their control. Their schools are apt to get less resources than they need and have larger classes than is beneficial to students. It may have fewer science labs and computers. Its students are likelier to be ill and have a higher absentee rate because of inadequate medical care.


That report found that:


Even when the model includes controls for prior achievement and student demographic variables, teachers are advantaged or disadvantaged based on the students they teach. Several studies have shown this by conducting tests which look at a teacher’s “effects” on their students in grade levels before or after the grade level in which he or she teaches them. Logically, for example, 5th grade teachers can’t influence their teachers’ 3rd grade test scores. So a VAM that identifies teachers’ true effects should show no effect of 5th grade teachers on their students’ 3rd grade test scores two years earlier. But studies that have looked at this have shown large “effects” – which suggest that students have at least as much bearing on the value-added measure as the teachers who actually teach them in a given year.


One study that found considerable instability in teachers’ value-added scores from class to class and year to year examined changes in student characteristics associated with the changes in teacher ratings. After controlling for prior test scores of students and student characteristics, the study still found significant correlations between teachers’ ratings and their students’ race/ethnicity, income, language background, and parent education. Figure 2 illustrates this finding for an experienced English teacher in the study whose rating went from the very lowest category in one year to the very highest category the next year (a jump from the 1st to the 10th decile). In the second year, this teacher had many fewer English learners, Hispanic students, and low-income students, and more students with well-educated parents than in the first year.

This variability raises concerns that use of such ratings for evaluating teachers could create disincentives for teachers to serve high-need students. This could inadvertently reinforce current inequalities, as teachers with options would be well-advised to avoid classrooms or schools serving such students, or to seek to prevent such students from being placed in their classes.


So, do schools serving low-income students get worse teachers, or do teachers in low-income schools get smaller gains because it is harder to succeed when kids do not have the extra resources they need and are burdened with poverty? I would say it is some of both. For one thing, brand new teachers are disproportionately placed in low-income schools, some having just finished their teacher training, as well as TFA recruits who have only 5 weeks of training. First-year teachers are likely to be less successful than experienced teachers. At the same time, it is harder to get big test score gains in schools where there are large numbers of students who don’t speak English and who have high needs.










Another post by the tireless public school advocate Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy:

Unconscionable, far-reaching consequences intrinsic in the White Hat Management company’s claims of private ownership of school assets purchased by public funds

A lot of public school personnel in Ohio at this time are embroiled with the question of, “To have or not to have Common Core.” As important as this discussion is, it pales relative to the White Hat Management claims before the Ohio Supreme Court (oral arguments will be heard September 23). The Court is being asked to decide the question of ownership of charter school assets that are purchased with taxpayer money. This is a matter that should rankle all taxpayers, particularly those who are public education advocates.

White Hat Management company claims ownership. On the other side, ten or more of White Hat’s own school boards claim ownership. Six organizations, including the charter school advocacy group, Ohio Coalition for Quality Education, have filed amicus briefs in support of White Hat’s claims. Conspicuously absent from the fray are statewide public education associations and local public school groups. Ohio School Boards Association filed the only amicus brief against the White Hat Management claims.

When the $11 million charter school pilot project was enacted, a long time public education professional was scorned, even by associates, for saying that one day this pilot project will turn into a billion dollar per year fiasco. At this juncture, it can be predicted that a ruling in favor of White Hat Management will hasten the demise of the public common school system.

A ruling in favor of the White Hat Management claims could have eventual consequences such as:

Private companies operating public services, such as corrections, might seek and acquire ownership of existing public facilities via cozy campaign contribution-related relationships between company and state officials.

Aggressive private companies might “elect” company-friendly school district board members who in turn could transfer ownership of public facilities and equipment to private operators as one of the terms in the contract.

Transparency and accountability in the use of tax money might disappear completely. Taxation without representation is already a fact in charterland and a decision in favor of White Hat Management would worsen the situation.

The privatization of education movement would be energized by a decision in favor of White Hat Management.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Susan Ochshorn, a specialist in early childhood education, demonstrates in this post (as she has before, and will again) that play is crucial for the healthy mental development of young children. Ochshorn is the founder of ECE Policyworks and a tireless advocate for childhood.

Ochshorn cites the research of Deborah Leong to explain the importance of play.

“Self-regulation, as the non-neuroscientists among us refer to executive function, has to do with the development of the prefrontal cortex, and influences both cognition and emotions. Leong compares this “muscle,” which grows exponentially in the years from birth to five, to a traffic controller, allocating mental resources to focus on the tasks at hand. Here are the three components of executive function:

Inhibitory self-control, which allows children to delay gratification, and to stay on task, even when they’re bored;

Working memory, which enables kids to take multiple perspectives and hold two strategies in mind at the same time; and

Cognitive flexibility, or the ability to adjust mental effort depending upon the task, and to pay attention when the task is challenging.

And here’s why it matters: Levels of executive function have been found to predict academic success better than IQ and social class. Moreover, self-regulation correlates with acquisition of literacy skills, improved teacher-child interactions, and relationships with other children. Emotional regulation is also linked to a child’s ability to control stress while learning. Unregulated children just can’t get down to the important business at hand, and they are becoming alarming statistics. Today, one out of 40 preschoolers is expelled, or three times the rate of K-12 expulsions. Class size, teacher-child ratios, duration of day, teacher credentials and education levels, as well as teacher stress have all been implicated in this growing phenomenon. Early childhood mental health consultation is increasingly seen—and indeed, welcome—as a viable strategy for changing this calculus. But it’s not enough.”

In short, children need to play, and our test-obsessed education system is reducing the available for play. This is not good for children or for the mental health of our troubled society.

Alan Singer compares Arne Duncan’s recent denunciation of over-testing–that is, his own policy in Race to the Top–to George W. Bush’s infamous victory speech in Iraq under a banner saying “Mission Accomplished.”

He notes that Duncan offers a one-year delay in using test scores to evaluate teachers, while the other leading voice in American education proposed a two-year moratorium. Wouldn’t you think a simple phone call between Arne and Bill could have settled the matter? You know, it’s not like states or local districts have anything to say about how or when teachers should be evaluated. This decision belongs to Arne and Bill.

If the issues were not so serious, watching test-and-punish advocates backpedal in the face of the rapidly growing testing resistance movement would be great entertainment. From U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan crying crocodile tears about the impacts of the very policies he advocated, to Rhode Island Commissioner Deborah Grist’s sudden embrace of an even longer suspension of the graduation testing requirements she long defended, to Florida Governor Rick Scott promising a commission to review the testing overkill his political allies imposed (a stalling tactic also adopted by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie), politicians are beginning to wake up to the power of grassroots activism. At the same time, courageous local leaders — such as a Colorado Superintendent, several Florida school committees and the Vermont State Board of Education — are pushing the envelope by calling for a moratorium on standardized testing to allow for development of better assessments.

No question that 2014-2015 is going to be a most exciting school year for assessment reformers as PBS education reporter John Merrow makes clear in his predictions!

Colorado District Superintendent Wants to End Standardized Testing

Feds Tell Florida: Test English Language Learners in English ASAP

Palm Beach School Board Considers Opting Out From Florida State Testing

Hundreds Endorse Lee County Opt-Out Petition (now almost 1000 signers)

Florida Lags on ACT . . . Again

Governor Calls for Review of Florida Standardized Testing Policies

Undermining Kindergarten in Illinois, One Test at a Time

Chicago Teachers Report on How to Organize a Test Boycott

Illinois Super Tells Parents What Matters Most in Education

New Massachusetts Teachers Union Head: How Tests Are Failing Our Schools

Concerns Grow as New Mexico Shifts to Computerized Testing

New Mexico Teachers Say State Evaluation System Does Not Effectively Measure Performance

Why New York State Common Core Test Scores Should Be Ignored

Final Opt-Out Numbers Show Movement Jumped in New York City

Wanted: The Whole Truth About New York State Exams

Rhode Island Commissioner Back Tracks: Now Supports Longer Delay in Grad Test Requirement

Texas Suspends Math Grade Promotion Test Requirement

Vermont Calls on Feds to Overhaul NCLB Testing Policy

See Vermont State Board of Education Resolution

Vermont Secretary of Education Speaks Out Against Standardized Testing

Federal Stubbornness Falsely Labels Washington Schools as “Failing”

Parents Want an End to the Testing Obsession

Kindergarten “Sweat Shop” Testing Frenzy Comes Under Fire

Predictions for the New School Year: Growing Resistance to High-Stakes Testing Tops the List

Duncan Offers States One-Year Postponement on Test-Based Teacher Evaluation

See FairTest News Release

Administrators Pledge Ethical Treatment of Children Whose Families Choose to Opt Out

Report Urges Fewer Tests, More Peer Review

Education News: Groundhog Day All Over Again?

Standardized Testing Is Really Great: Two Poems

Public TV Airs Two Videos Showing Excellent Schools Using Healthy Assessment (check websites for dates, times and channels)

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing

office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 696-0468

The media loves the story of miracle schools. Imagine that! A school where 90% or more pass the state tests! Where 100% graduate. Where 100% are accepted into four-year colleges. Michael Klonsky once said to me, miracles happen only in the Bible. When the subject is schools, miracle claims should be carefully investigated.

With that caution and skepticism in mind, we turn again to a post by a researcher who works for the New York City Department of Education and must remain anonymous. This is the same researcher who chastised the media for ignoring attrition rates at Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy schools. In posting that article, I failed to capture the links to documentation (a terrible oversight, I admit). I include his/her links at the bottom of this article.

Ed Reformers Are Most Like (a) Pinocchio (b) Beavis:
Getting to the Bottom of the Reformer Distaste for Honest Analysis

My short essay examining some of the dishonest claims about Success Academy’s data led to interesting debate on this blog.[1] Some of that discussion illuminated the dishonesty with which education reformers approach data and facts. I’ll limit this essay to the dishonesty reformers display in the charter school debate.

Reformers tend to make two very different arguments about charter schools. Argument #1 is that charter schools serve the same students as public schools and manage to put public schools to shame by producing amazingly better results on standardized exams. Therefore, reformers claim, if only public schools did what charter schools do (or better yet, if all public schools were closed and charter schools took over), student learning would dramatically increase and America might even beat South Korea or Finland on international standardized tests. When it is pointed out that, as a whole, charters do no better than public schools on standardized tests [2], reformers will quickly turn their attention to specific charter chains that, they claim, do indeed produce much better standardized test results. So what’s the deal with these chains? Well, in every case that has been subjected to scrutiny their results are extremely suspicious. Here is a short list of examples:

1. Achievement First in New Haven had a freshman class of 64 students (2 students enrolled later), and only 25 graduated- a 38% graduation rate- yet the school claimed a 100% graduation rate by ignoring the 62% attrition rate. [3]

2. Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) had a freshman class of 144 students and only 89 12th graders- a 62% graduation rate- yet the school (and Arne Duncan) claimed a 100% graduation rate by ignoring the 38% attrition rate. [4] As a 6-12 charter chain, DSST also manages to attrite vast numbers of their middle school students before they even enter the high school.

3. Uncommon Schools in Newark disappears 38% of its general test takers from 6th to 8th grade.[5] Another analysis found that through high school the attrition rate was, alarmingly, much higher “Uncommon loses 62 to 69% of all males and up to 74% of Black males.”[6]

4. BASIS in Arizona- “At…BASIS charter school in Tucson, the class of 2012 had 97 students when they were 6th graders. By the time those students were seniors, their numbers had dwindled to 33, a drop of 66%. At BASIS Scottsdale…its class of 2012 fell from 53 in the 6th grade to 19 in its senior year, a drop of 64%.” [7]

5. The Noble Network in Chicago- “Every year, the graduating class of Noble Charter schools matriculates with around 30 percent fewer students than they started with in their freshman year.” [8]

6. Harmony Charters in Texas- “Strikingly, Harmony lost more than 40% of 6th grade students over a two-year time.” [9]

7. KIPP in San Francisco- “A 2008 study of the (then-existing) Bay Area KIPP schools by SRI International showed a 60% attrition rate…the students who left were overwhelmingly the lower achievers.” [10]

8. KIPP in Tennessee had 18% attrition in a single year! “In fact, the only schools that have net losses of 10 to 33 percent are charter schools.” [11]

In every case these charter chains accepted students that were significantly more advantaged than the typical student in the district, and then the charters attrited a significant chunk of those students.

Success Academy in New York City plays the same game. It accepts many fewer high needs special education students, English Language Learners, and poor students. [12] It attrites up to 1/3 of its students before they even get to testing grades and then loses students at an even faster pace. It selectively attrites those students most likely to get low scores on standardized tests. [13] It is legally permitted to mark its own exams (as are all New York City charter schools) while public schools cannot. It loses 74% of its teachers in a single year at some of its schools. [14] The author of the Daily News editorial that sparked the initial blog commented “even in the aggregate that wouldn’t seem to account for” the results. It is entirely unclear what he means by “in the aggregate.” But it is clear that he has his arithmetic wrong. A charter chain that starts with an entering class that is likely to score well on standardized tests, then selectively prunes 50% or more of the students who don’t score well on standardized tests and refuses to replace the disappeared students with others, can easily show good standardized test results with the remaining students. Any school could do this. It’s really not rocket science.

Charter advocates usually first give argument #1 a try. When called on the data that clearly show high-flying charters engage in creaming and in pruning, which can account for most of their “success,” they quickly switch to argument #2. Argument #2 claims that charter schools play a different role than public schools. What exactly their role is can vary from “serving high-potential low-income students [14]” to serving as laboratories of innovation. The problem with argument #2 is that we don’t need charters to cream students (public schools could do that too…if it were legal), and charters as a sector are not doing anything innovative. Kicking out half of your class is no innovation, nor is it hard to create an environment that will encourage the half least likely to succeed to quit. The Navy SEALs have been doing that for years.

At the policy level these two different arguments have led to much confusion. It is often unclear what charter advocates are defending as they switch back and forth between the two arguments. This makes it difficult to have sensible public discussion about charters and leads many to accuse charter advocates of hiding their true motivations (from privatizing education for profit to breaking unions).

It is time that education policy makers demanded an honest accounting of charter practices. Metrics must be produced by every district clearly showing the demographics of charter school students, the attrition rate, and general data on which students are attrited. It is critical that the demographic data be as detailed as possible (e.g. specifying level of special education need, distinguishing between free and reduced price lunch, specifying level of English Language Learner status) since the charter sector and its advocates have in the past used broad categories to cover up important differences (e.g. claiming to serve the same numbers of English Language Learners as public schools while only serving advanced ELLs, claiming to serve the same number of poor students as public schools while serving much higher proportions of reduced as opposed to free lunch students, claiming to serve the same number of special needs students as public schools while serving only students with minimal needs).[15] With honest data in hand, the more important conversation about good teaching practices, engaging curricula, and effective students support services can begin. It is this conversation that will truly improve education for students. It is also the conversation that professional educators want to have.[16]

[5] /
[13] The high attrition rate before testing in 3rd grade may explain the data pattern noted in this analysis.
[16] I leave it as an open challenge to Ms. Moskowitz to voluntarily share this date (scrubbed of identifying student information of course) so that independent researchers can examine the Success Academy results. If she declines to do so we can only wonder what she is hiding.
[17] I wanted to end on a positive note so I add this comment as a footnote. We can expect that reformers will resist allowing the national conversation to go in this direction since they have so little to contribute to it. So many have so little classroom experience and so little time in schools that they will do all they can to make sure the conversation does not turn in this direction. If it did, they’d be out of a job. So we can expect that, as long as reformers maintain their power base, the national conversation about education will be limited to accountability, choice, standards, VAMs… anything but discussion of actual classroom and school-level practices.

Howard Blume and Teresa Watanabe update the Los Angeles iPad scandal and note growing demands for a full investigation.


This doesn’t look good for Deasy. Aquino bailed out and took another job earlier. Dan Schnur calls Aquino’s email “the smoking gun.”


Deasy has defended the bidding process as proper and added that he and his staff talked to vendors in pursuit of good deals and good products. The focus on Aquino, who worked for a Pearson affiliate before his hiring at L.A. Unified, sharpened Tuesday, when General Counsel David Holmquist confirmed that the district was looking into whether he had violated ethics rules.


Those ethics rules required Aquino to avoid dealing with Pearson contracts for a year. But he sent emails to executives with the international education-services firm before the end of his first year with L.A. Unified.


“I believe we would have to make sure that your bid is the lowest one,” Aquino wrote to Pearson executives in one email, dated May 24, 2012.


“The Aquino email is the smoking gun. Even if no laws were broken, the appearances are absolutely horrible,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. “It’s hard to interpret what Aquino said in any other way than that he wanted to fix the bid process before it even got started.”





C.M. Rubin traveled the globe and interviewed educators with interesting ideas, insights, experience.

She conducted more than 250 interviews.

She invited Adam Steiner, a technology specialist in the Holliston, Massachusetts, public schools to review them and select the Top Ten.

I am happy to say that I am one of them.

Read here to find the Top Ten and their interviews.

Bob Braun, veteran reporter turned independent blogger, charges that officials in New Jersey broke state laws requiring a random lottery to advance the charter movement in Newark.

He writes:

“New Jersey and local school officials have been involved in a conspiracy to evade laws governing the operation of charter schools in order to allow the wholesale “charterization” of public schools in Newark, the state’s largest city. State Education Commissioner David Hespe allowed the city’s charter schools to ignore legally-mandated lotteries while, at the same time, he secretly amended the charters of those privatized schools as an after-the-fact method of justifying the elimination of lotteries.”

Read it all, to this sad conclusion:

“By April, Cerf had left as commissioner, joining the private company “Amplify” so he could use the contacts he made as New Jersey commissioner to make a lot of money. Hespe, a once-trusted public servant who previously served as state education commissioner, took over in February. He apparently needed the job more than the good reputation he had developed in the past as commissioner under former Gov. Christie Whitman, so he did his new master’s bidding. He stretched the law until it broke.

“And he did it while, all the while, assuring union leaders and others he was desperate to get rid of Cami Anderson. That was a great if laughable ploy–fooling the most vocal critics of Cami Anderson so they would stay quiet while he and Anderson prepared both to impose “One Newark” on the city, quiet anger against the incompetent superintendent, and give Christie’s agent another three-year contract.

“Scamming the city. Its parents. Its children.

“One Newark” is illegal. It’s illegal because it discriminates on the basis of race. It is illegal because it violates a raft of state laws and regulations.

“And it is illegal because it violates the charter school law.

“But, in a New Jersey operated by Gov. Christie’s Mafia, illegal is only what the governor says it is. And Hespe and Anderson do his bidding.”


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