Archives for category: Education Reform

The Network for Public Education will hold its third annual conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.


We chose Raleigh to highlight the tremendous activist movement that is flourishing in North Carolina. No one exemplifies that movement better than the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who will be the conference keynote speaker. Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.

You can read about the history of Moral Mondays in this great piece in the Nation.

The Moral Monday protests transformed North Carolina politics in 2013, building a multiracial, multi-issue movement centered around social justice such as the South hadn’t seen since the 1960s. “We have come to say to the extremists, who ignore the common good and have chosen the low road, your actions have worked in reverse,” said Reverend William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and the leader of the Moral Monday movement, in his boisterous keynote speech. “You may have thought you were going to discourage us, but instead you have encouraged us. The more you push us back, the more we will fight to go forward. The more you try to oppress us, the more you will inspire us.”

Please save the date and plan to join us as we bring together activists from across the nation to build resistance to privatization and punitive, high-stakes testing.

A reader called NY Educator has analyzed the list of “failing schools,” assembled in response to Governor Cuomo’s budget mandates.

He or she writes as a comment:

“I’ve worked up a lot of data on the 178 schools on Cuomo’s “hit list” of “failing schools.” They are, on average 93% minority, in contrast to 54% statewide minority.

“They enroll on average 86% economically disadvantaged students, in comparison to 53% statewide.

“On average 16% of their students are English language learners. State average is 8% (charter average is 5%).

“On average, 23% of their students have disabilities, compared to an average of 16% statewide and only 14% in the state’s charter schools.

“These schools are intensely segregated and, in dozens of cases reflect “apartheid segregation” (99%-100% minority). [I am uncertain of the origin of the term apartheid segregation–I know Jonathan Kozol uses it, but it may have been initiated by Gary Orfield.]

“The schools serve tens of thousands of very high need students, including high school students who just can’t finish 22 credits and five exams in four years because they are enrolled in non-credit bearing classes like beginning English and Resource Room. When they graduate in 5 or 6 years it doesn’t matter . . . because only the four year graduation rate counts.

The state assessments in 3-8 ELA and math discriminate against these students. The number and percent of minority, economically disadvantaged, ELL and SWD students scoring at level 1 and 2 are disproportionate and the most recent changes in tests and scoring (beginning in 2013) profoundly exacerbated these gaps.

“I would argue that the explosion of achievement gaps is in fact discriminatory and unconstitutional. Are there any good lawyers out that who can help me put together an argument that it is unconstitutional to 1) perpetuate intense and apartheid segregation in NY schools 2) assess children and hold schools accountable according to measures that can be demonstrated to have discriminatory impact 3) having isolated and targeted these schools and communities in a discriminatory fashion, now subject the schools to harsh measures including (if they are converted to charters) removing them from the democratic control of their communities? And making the institution of “school” itself nothing but a grand money laundering scheme to convert public, taxpayer dollars into private profit???

“It is unconscionable that children, families, educators and communities must now suffer the “beating” that will come with the “carrot and stick” part of state intervention.”

Just to demonstrate how strange the politics of education are these days, one of the key amendments to the Senate “Every Child Achieves Act” was called the Murphy amendment. It failed. It would have revived or worsened the punishments of NCLB. It main supporters were Democrats. Mercedes Schneider describes this amendment (and others) in this post. Schneider writes: “Senator Murphy’s (D-CT) amendment 2241 (which Warren co-sponsored) went up for a vote and was rejected 43-54. The 12-page text of Murphy’s SA 2241 reads more like No Child Left Behind (NCLB), with its detailed prescription for reporting on student test results, for “meaningfully differentiating among all public schools” (i.e., grading schools), including publicly identifying the lowest five percent, and, among interventions, potentially firing staff and offering students the option to transfer to other schools and using part of the budget to pay for the transportation.”

This amendment would have enacted tough, federal-mandated accountability, akin to setting up an “achievement school district” in every state.

Here is the roll call vote. Almost every Democrat voted yes, almost every Republican voted no. The amendment failed by 54-43.

See how your senators voted.

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 114th Congress – 1st Session
as compiled through Senate LIS by the Senate Bill Clerk under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate
Vote Summary
Question: On the Amendment (Murphy Amdt. No. 2241 )
Vote Number: 241 Vote Date: July 15, 2015, 04:29 PM
Required For Majority: 3/5 Vote Result: Amendment Rejected
Amendment Number: S.Amdt. 2241 to S.Amdt. 2089 to S. 1177 (Every Child Achieves Act of 2015)
Statement of Purpose: To amend the accountability provisions.
Vote Counts: YEAs 43
NAYs 54
Not Voting 3
Vote Summary By Senator Name By Vote Position By Home State
Alphabetical by Senator Name
Alexander (R-TN), Nay
Ayotte (R-NH), Nay
Baldwin (D-WI), Yea
Barrasso (R-WY), Nay
Bennet (D-CO), Yea
Blumenthal (D-CT), Yea
Blunt (R-MO), Nay
Booker (D-NJ), Yea
Boozman (R-AR), Nay
Boxer (D-CA), Yea
Brown (D-OH), Yea
Burr (R-NC), Nay
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Capito (R-WV), Nay
Cardin (D-MD), Yea
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Casey (D-PA), Yea
Cassidy (R-LA), Nay
Coats (R-IN), Nay
Cochran (R-MS), Nay
Collins (R-ME), Nay
Coons (D-DE), Yea
Corker (R-TN), Nay
Cornyn (R-TX), Nay
Cotton (R-AR), Nay
Crapo (R-ID), Nay
Cruz (R-TX), Not Voting
Daines (R-MT), Nay
Donnelly (D-IN), Yea
Durbin (D-IL), Yea
Enzi (R-WY), Nay
Ernst (R-IA), Nay
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Fischer (R-NE), Nay
Flake (R-AZ), Nay
Franken (D-MN), Yea
Gardner (R-CO), Nay
Gillibrand (D-NY), Yea
Graham (R-SC), Not Voting
Grassley (R-IA), Nay
Hatch (R-UT), Nay
Heinrich (D-NM), Yea
Heitkamp (D-ND), Yea
Heller (R-NV), Nay
Hirono (D-HI), Yea
Hoeven (R-ND), Nay
Inhofe (R-OK), Nay
Isakson (R-GA), Nay
Johnson (R-WI), Nay
Kaine (D-VA), Yea
King (I-ME), Nay
Kirk (R-IL), Nay
Klobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Lankford (R-OK), Nay
Leahy (D-VT), Yea
Lee (R-UT), Nay
Manchin (D-WV), Yea
Markey (D-MA), Yea
McCain (R-AZ), Nay
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
McConnell (R-KY), Nay
Menendez (D-NJ), Yea
Merkley (D-OR), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
Moran (R-KS), Nay
Murkowski (R-AK), Nay
Murphy (D-CT), Yea
Murray (D-WA), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Not Voting
Paul (R-KY), Nay
Perdue (R-GA), Nay
Peters (D-MI), Yea
Portman (R-OH), Yea
Reed (D-RI), Yea
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Risch (R-ID), Nay
Roberts (R-KS), Nay
Rounds (R-SD), Nay
Rubio (R-FL), Nay
Sanders (I-VT), Yea
Sasse (R-NE), Nay
Schatz (D-HI), Yea
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Scott (R-SC), Nay
Sessions (R-AL), Nay
Shaheen (D-NH), Nay
Shelby (R-AL), Nay
Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Sullivan (R-AK), Nay
Tester (D-MT), Nay
Thune (R-SD), Nay
Tillis (R-NC), Nay
Toomey (R-PA), Nay
Udall (D-NM), Yea
Vitter (R-LA), Nay
Warner (D-VA), Yea
Warren (D-MA), Yea
Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea
Wicker (R-MS), Nay
Wyden (D-OR), Yea
Vote Summary By Senator Name By Vote Position By Home State
Grouped By Vote Position
YEAs —43
Baldwin (D-WI)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Booker (D-NJ)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Coons (D-DE)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Hirono (D-HI)
Kaine (D-VA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Leahy (D-VT)
Manchin (D-WV)
Markey (D-MA)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murray (D-WA)
Peters (D-MI)
Portman (R-OH)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)
NAYs —54
Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Burr (R-NC)
Capito (R-WV)
Cassidy (R-LA)
Coats (R-IN)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Cotton (R-AR)
Crapo (R-ID)
Daines (R-MT)
Enzi (R-WY)
Ernst (R-IA)
Fischer (R-NE)
Flake (R-AZ)
Gardner (R-CO)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heller (R-NV)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (R-WI)
King (I-ME)
Kirk (R-IL)
Lankford (R-OK)
Lee (R-UT)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Paul (R-KY)
Perdue (R-GA)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rounds (R-SD)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-SC)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Shelby (R-AL)
Sullivan (R-AK)
Tester (D-MT)
Thune (R-SD)
Tillis (R-NC)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)
Not Voting – 3
Cruz (R-TX)
Graham (R-SC)
Nelson (D-FL)
Vote Summary By Senator Name By Vote Position By Home State
Grouped by Home State
Alabama: Sessions (R-AL), Nay Shelby (R-AL), Nay
Alaska: Murkowski (R-AK), Nay Sullivan (R-AK), Nay
Arizona: Flake (R-AZ), Nay McCain (R-AZ), Nay
Arkansas: Boozman (R-AR), Nay Cotton (R-AR), Nay
California: Boxer (D-CA), Yea Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Colorado: Bennet (D-CO), Yea Gardner (R-CO), Nay
Connecticut: Blumenthal (D-CT), Yea Murphy (D-CT), Yea
Delaware: Carper (D-DE), Yea Coons (D-DE), Yea
Florida: Nelson (D-FL), Not Voting Rubio (R-FL), Nay
Georgia: Isakson (R-GA), Nay Perdue (R-GA), Nay
Hawaii: Hirono (D-HI), Yea Schatz (D-HI), Yea
Idaho: Crapo (R-ID), Nay Risch (R-ID), Nay
Illinois: Durbin (D-IL), Yea Kirk (R-IL), Nay
Indiana: Coats (R-IN), Nay Donnelly (D-IN), Yea
Iowa: Ernst (R-IA), Nay Grassley (R-IA), Nay
Kansas: Moran (R-KS), Nay Roberts (R-KS), Nay
Kentucky: McConnell (R-KY), Nay Paul (R-KY), Nay
Louisiana: Cassidy (R-LA), Nay Vitter (R-LA), Nay
Maine: Collins (R-ME), Nay King (I-ME), Nay
Maryland: Cardin (D-MD), Yea Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
Massachusetts: Markey (D-MA), Yea Warren (D-MA), Yea
Michigan: Peters (D-MI), Yea Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Minnesota: Franken (D-MN), Yea Klobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Mississippi: Cochran (R-MS), Nay Wicker (R-MS), Nay
Missouri: Blunt (R-MO), Nay McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
Montana: Daines (R-MT), Nay Tester (D-MT), Nay
Nebraska: Fischer (R-NE), Nay Sasse (R-NE), Nay
Nevada: Heller (R-NV), Nay Reid (D-NV), Yea
New Hampshire: Ayotte (R-NH), Nay Shaheen (D-NH), Nay
New Jersey: Booker (D-NJ), Yea Menendez (D-NJ), Yea
New Mexico: Heinrich (D-NM), Yea Udall (D-NM), Yea
New York: Gillibrand (D-NY), Yea Schumer (D-NY), Yea
North Carolina: Burr (R-NC), Nay Tillis (R-NC), Nay
North Dakota: Heitkamp (D-ND), Yea Hoeven (R-ND), Nay
Ohio: Brown (D-OH), Yea Portman (R-OH), Yea
Oklahoma: Inhofe (R-OK), Nay Lankford (R-OK), Nay
Oregon: Merkley (D-OR), Yea Wyden (D-OR), Yea
Pennsylvania: Casey (D-PA), Yea Toomey (R-PA), Nay
Rhode Island: Reed (D-RI), Yea Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea
South Carolina: Graham (R-SC), Not Voting Scott (R-SC), Nay
South Dakota: Rounds (R-SD), Nay Thune (R-SD), Nay
Tennessee: Alexander (R-TN), Nay Corker (R-TN), Nay
Texas: Cornyn (R-TX), Nay Cruz (R-TX), Not Voting
Utah: Hatch (R-UT), Nay Lee (R-UT), Nay
Vermont: Leahy (D-VT), Yea Sanders (I-VT), Yea
Virginia: Kaine (D-VA), Yea Warner (D-VA), Yea
Washington: Cantwell (D-WA), Yea Murray (D-WA), Yea
West Virginia: Capito (R-WV), Nay Manchin (D-WV), Yea
Wisconsin: Baldwin (D-WI), Yea Johnson (R-WI), Nay
Wyoming: Barrasso (R-WY), Nay Enzi (R-WY), Nay
Vote Summary By Senator Name By Vote Position By Home State

Minutes ago, a bipartisan majority of the Senate approved the Every Child Achieves Act, which is the bill forged by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and Patty Murray (D-WA). This is the long-overdue reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, the legislation passed by Congress in 2001 and signed into law on January 8, 2002. The underlying legislation is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, whose purpose was to authorize federal aid to education targeted to schools that enrolled significant numbers of children living in poverty. The original bill was about equity, not testing and accountability.


The Senate bill retains annual testing, but removes federal sanctions attached to test results. Any rewards or sanctions attached to test scores will be left to states. The Senate rejected private school vouchers; nine Republican Senators joined with Democrats to defeat the voucher proposal. The bill also strengthens current prohibitions against the Secretary of Education dictating specific curriculum, standards, and tests to states, as well as barring the Secretary from tying test scores to teacher evaluations. The bill repudiates the punitive measures of of NCLB and RTTT.


The House of Representatives has already passed its own bill, called the Student Success Act. A conference committee representing both houses will meet to iron out their differences and craft a bill that will then be presented for a vote in both houses.


As I get additional details, I will post them.


Speaking for the Network for Public Education, I will say that we are pleased to see a decisive rejection of federal micromanagement of curriculum, standards, and assessments, as well as the prohibition of federal imposition of particular modes of evaluating teachers. We oppose annual student testing; no high-performing nation in the world administers annual tests, and there is no good reason for us to do so. We reject the claim that children who are not subjected to annual standardized tests suffer harm or will be neglected. We believe that the standardized tests are shallow and have a disparate impact on children who are Black and Brown, children with disabilities, and children who are English language learners. We believe such tests degrade the quality of education and unfairly stigmatize children as “failures.” We also regret this bill’s financial support for charter schools, which on average do not perform as well as public schools, and in many jurisdictions, perform far worse than public schools. We would have preferred a bill that outlawed the allocation of federal funds to for-profit K-12 schools and that abandoned time-wasting annual testing.


Nonetheless, we support the Senate bill because it draws a close to the punitive methods of NCLB and RTTT. It is an important step forward for children, teachers, and public education. The battle over “reform” now shifts to the states, but we welcome an era in which the voices of parents, educators, and students can mobilize to influence policies in their communities and states. We believe that grassroots groups have a better chance of being heard locally than in Washington, D.C., where Beltway insiders think they speak for the public. We will continue to organize and carry our fight for better education to every state.

Can a fox be trusted to guard the henhouse? Can the guy who oversaw the Néw Orleans experiment in privatization be counted on to “improve” public schools? Does the Laura and John Arnold Foundation care about anything other than privatization and taking away defined benefit pensions from public sector workers? John Arnold was a very successful Enron trader, now a philanthropist and advocate for charter schools.

Reader Chiara contributed this development:

“HOUSTON, TX—The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today announced that Neerav Kingsland has joined the Foundation as a senior education fellow. Mr. Kingsland will oversee the Foundation’s efforts to improve K-12 education. Most recently, he served as the chief executive officer of New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), a nonprofit organization working to ensure that every child in New Orleans, Louisiana, is able to attend a high-quality public school.”

This is the guy that wants to privatize all public schools, right? Glad to see the ed reform “movement” is moving towards ever-more extreme policy and practice.

Can someone who wants to eliminate public schools really “improve” public schools? If the ed reform movement attaches no value at all to schools that now exist, are they really likely to go about “improving” them with any kind of appreciation for the downside risk inherent in replacing them with the privatized model?

It is always risky to imagine what some long-dead figure might have thought about current events. But David Perrin, an experienced high school English teacher in Illinois, makes a good case for Mark Twain’s likely reaction to Common Core testing.


He cites Twain’s writings to show his disdain for test-centered teaching. Perrin gives example after example of Twain’s low regard for the teaching of facts without meaning, taught solely to be parroted back to the teacher.


Perrin writes:


Twain compared the instructional methods in American asylums for the “deaf and dumb and blind children” to those used routinely in Indian universities and American public schools. As a friend of Helen Keller and a champion of her education, Twain was familiar with the methods of asylums; he’d convinced his friend H.H. Rogers to finance her schooling at Radcliffe in 1896. In Following the Equator, he chastises public schools for emphasizing rote learning and teaching “things, not the meaning of them.” He applauds the “rational” and student-centered methods of the asylums, where the teacher “exactly measures the child’s capacity” and “tasks keep pace with the child’s progress, they don’t jump miles and leagues ahead of it by irrational caprice and land in vacancy—according to the average public-school plan.” In contrast, Twain quips, “In Brooklyn, as in India, they examine a pupil, and when they find out he doesn’t know anything, they put him into literature, or geometry, or astronomy, or government, or something like that, so that he can properly display the assification of the whole system.”


The Common Core standards and their assessment tools would have given Twain plenty of fodder for his sardonic wit. The first “anchor standard” for writing at the grade 11–12 level declares that students will “write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” This goal will be assessed by Pearson, one of America’s three largest textbook publishers and test-assessment companies. Pearson will, at least in part, be using the automated scoring systems of Educational Testing Services (ETS), proprietor of the e-Rater, which can “grade” 16,000 essays in a mere 20 minutes.


Robo-grading! How absurd is that? Perrin cites Les Perelman, who is a retired professor of writing at MIT and a leading critic of robo-grading. Perelman “claimed that ETS privileges “length and the presence of pretentious language” at the expense of truth, stating, “E-Rater doesn’t care if you say the War of 1812 started in 1945.” He watched the e-Rater return high scores after he submitted nonsensical passages—for instance, the claim that “the average teaching assistant makes six times as much money as college presidents … In addition, they often receive a plethora of extra benefits such as private jets, vacations in the south seas, starring roles in motion pictures.” These sentences hardly adhere to the stated goal of “valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence” of claims.


Twain would also have been critical of the profit motive involved in Common Core testing. It never ceases to amaze how willing Americans are to sell out principles and values when the next fast-talking salesman comes along.


Perrin concludes:


In Twain’s writings, he returned again and again to a simple theme: Education should be practical and meaningful. When high marks on exams are the goal, students end up focusing on isolated facts and writing in what Twain described in Tom Sawyer as a “wasteful and opulent gush.” He would have almost certainly had something to say about essay-grading software and corporations that refuse to reveal their testing methods.

Stephen Dyer of the Innovation Institute was sure that the Ohio legislature would pass a bill to reform the state ‘s unaccountable charters. But he was wrong. The Senate passed the bill but it died in the House.


Money. Lobbyists.

“The Real Politick of Ohio charter school reform stems from big campaign contributors William Lager, who runs the nation’s largest for-profit school – the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow – and David Brennan, who runs White Hat Management, which also has an E-School – OHDELA. Between them, they’ve given about $6 million to politicians since the charter school program began. In return, they’ve collected one out of every four state charter school dollars ever spent.”

David Berliner, distinguished educational researcher, has assembled the facts about the powerful influence of poverty and inequality on students. Until now, the linked article has been behind a paywall. It is now available to all.


Here is the background for the article:


This paper arises out of frustration with the results of school reforms carried out over the past few decades. These efforts have failed. They need to be abandoned. In their place must come recognition that income inequality causes many social problems, including problems associated with education. Sadly, compared to all other wealthy nations, the USA has the largest income gap between its wealthy and its poor citizens. Correlates associated with the size of the income gap in various nations are well described in Wilkinson & Pickett (2010), whose work is cited throughout this article. They make it clear that the bigger the income gap in a nation or a state, the greater the social problems a nation or a state will encounter. Thus it is argued that the design of better economic and social policies can do more to improve our schools than continued work on educational policy independent of such concerns.


He writes:


What does it take to get politicians and the general public to abandon misleading ideas, such as, “Anyone who tries can pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” or that “Teachers are the most important factor in determining the achievement of our youth”? Many ordinary citizens and politicians believe these statements to be true, even though life and research informs us that such statements are usually not true.


Certainly people do pull themselves up by their bootstraps and teachers really do turn around the lives of some of their students, but these are more often exceptions, and not usually the rule. Similarly, while there are many overweight, hard-drinking, cigarette-smoking senior citizens, no one seriously uses these exceptions to the rule to suggest that it is perfectly all right to eat, drink, and smoke as much as one wants. Public policies about eating, drinking, and smoking are made on the basis of the general case, not the exceptions to those cases. This is not so in education.


For reasons that are hard to fathom, too many people believe that in education the exceptions are the rule. Presidents and politicians of both parties are quick to point out the wonderful but occasional story of a child’s rise from poverty to success and riches. They also often proudly recite the heroic, remarkable, but occasional impact of a teacher or a school on a child. These stories of triumph by individuals who were born poor, or success by educators who changed the lives of their students, are widely believed narratives about our land and people, celebrated in the press, on television, and in the movies. But in fact, these are simply myths that help us feel good to be American. These stories of success reflect real events, and thus they are certainly worth studying and celebrating so we might learn more about how they occur (cf. Casanova, 2010). But the general case is that poor people stay poor and that teachers and schools serving impoverished youth do not often succeed in changing the life chances for their students.


America’s dirty little secret is that a large majority of poor kids attending schools that serve the poor are not going to have successful lives. Reality is not nearly as comforting as myth. Reality does not make us feel good. But the facts are clear. Most children born into the lower social classes will not make it out of that class, even when exposed to heroic educators. A simple statistic illustrates this point: In an age where college degrees are important for determining success in life, only 9% of low-income children will obtain those degrees (Bailey & Dynarski, 2011). And that discouraging figure is based on data from before the recent recession that has hurt family income and resulted in large increases in college tuition. Thus, the current rate of college completion by low-income students is probably lower than suggested by those data. Powerful social forces exist to constrain the lives led by the poor, and our nation pays an enormous price for not trying harder to ameliorate these conditions.


Because of our tendency to expect individuals to overcome their own handicaps, and teachers to save the poor from stressful lives, we design social policies that are sure to fail since they are not based on reality. Our patently false ideas about the origins of success have become drivers of national educational policies. This ensures that our nation spends time and money on improvement programs that do not work consistently enough for most children and their families, while simultaneously wasting the good will of the public (Timar & Maxwell-Jolly, 2012). In the current policy environment we often end up alienating the youth and families we most want to help, while simultaneously burdening teachers with demands for success that are beyond their capabilities.


Berliner then proceeds to eviscerate the assumptions and theories that undergird the failed policies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Most politicians share these failed ideas and support these failed policies. Berliner brings research and knowledge to the issue and shows that there is no debate. On one hand is reality, based in research and experience; on the other is ideology backed by money and power.


The conclusion: The so-called “reformers” are hurting children. They are undermining American public education. They are ruining education. They should inform themselves and work to eliminate the sources of inequality and poverty and poor academic performance.



Campbell Brown, the pretty and telegenic face of the “reform” movement, was interviewed by Fortune magazine about her new website, funded by rightwing billionaires like the Walton Foundation.

Brown’s first foray into “education reform” was her campaign against sexual predators in the public schools. So far as I can tell, she never attended a public school and neither do her children, but somehow she concluded that a significant number of teachers in New York’s public schools are sexual predators.

She went from there to the big time, leading a campaign to save children from tenured teachers (who might be sexual predators). The case against tenure has never been clear, since high-performing districts have tenured teachers as well as low-performing districts. Brown seems to think that getting rid of tenure will lead to a better education for all children. It would be helpful if  she offered some evidence for this belief.

She claims that she is not opposed to teachers’ unions but she is quick to claim that anyone who disagrees with her is fronting for unions.

I offered her some friendly advice recently. I offered to join with her in a crusade to help the nation’s neediest students, whose biggest disadvantage is poverty, not tenured teachers. We could campaign together for more resources for the schools they attend, the restoration of teachers of the arts, the full funding of the band and physical education and foreign languages. She hasn’t answered.

The American Federation of Teachers sent questionnaires to all the candidates for the Presidency. Three candidates responded: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders.

Here are O’Malley’s responses.

Candidate questionnaire: Martin O’Malley
Today, almost 50 million students attend our nation’s public schools. Along with their parents, communities, teachers, paraprofessionals and other school employees, these students have been forced to live under test—and-punish policies that include sanctions and school closings, high-stakes assessments, and federalized teacher evaluations that are counterproductive and have taken the joy out of teaching and learning.

Q. What is your view of the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as the No Child Left Behind Act)? What changes, if any, would you make to the law, and why? Please include positions on:
• The federal government’s role in ensuring equity and access to resources for all children;
• The role of standards, assessments and accountability in public education;
• Ensuring that all students have access to a broad curriculum that includes art and music,
as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM);
• Professional development for school staff; and
• Community schools.

MO’M: I support the reauthorization of the ESEA. The Senate HELP Committee has preserved the integrity of the bill while avoiding the most extreme Republican amendment attempts. I urge the House to maintain that integrity and to reject any changes that would radically undermine our nation’s public education system.

Though I support the reauthorization of ESEA, there are a number of areas where the law needs improvements – most notably, a requirement for turning around our lowest-performing schools. This legislation must acknowledge that equitable allocation of resources for our most vulnerable kids is not the same as equal allocation of resources. As a nation, we must commit to concentrating federal dollars where the need is greatest, including in the communities with the most underperforming schools and students. As our well-performing suburban schools find new and innovative ways to connect a child’s learning experience with their real-world environment, our lower-income urban schools can’t be left behind.

Our children, regardless of their circumstances, deserve a well-rounded education, including training in the arts, that will prepare them for the needs of the modern workforce and economy. During my time as Governor, we increased the number of students enrolled in STEM or related CTE programs by nearly 400%.

While the federal government plays an important role in education, that role does not include the determination of standards or curriculum in the classroom. However, in order to grow a strong workforce for tomorrow, we need an accurate way of evaluating how we’re building students’ potential today. I support performance-based assessments, which allow students the flexibility to show their learning in ways that meet their strengths and interests – and allow professional teachers to adjust in real-time so student achievement accelerates.

Test score data should not be used as a hammer at the end of a teacher’s evaluation, it should be used from the start to begin an instructional improvement process. To shift test scores from a punitive measure into a supportive one, we must make additional investments in professional development for our teachers. We also need to offer adequate training for new initiatives, and engage the educator community in virtually all systemic decision-making in our schools. I’m all for modernizing and improving education for all kids, but we should be doing so in partnership with our educators, not at their expense.

Q. Do you support any of the current reauthorization proposals under consideration in the 114th Congress?

MO’M: I support the ESEA reauthorization currently on its way to the Senate floor, but would encourage the improvements noted above.

Q. What role do you think the federal government can play in providing access to early childhood education? What specific policy proposals would your administration pursue?

MO’M: The federal government plays a fundamental role providing access to early childhood education. This is one of the strengths of the current ESEA reauthorization. I support and applaud Senator Murray’s amendment creating grants to help states boost quality and access in early learning. Further, I support using federal funds, in partnership with states, to make pre-K universal.

Q. What are your views on private school vouchers, tuition tax credits, and charter school accountability and transparency?

MO’M: I support the strengthening of our public education system, not only as a way for all children to prepare themselves for economic success, but as a way to stronger neighborhoods, healthier communities, and a more engaged citizenry and informed electorate. I oppose vouchers for private schools, and the expanded use of tax credits to support private school tuition. I am concerned about the rapid proliferation of unaccountable charter schools. Providing excellent and innovative education should be the goal of charter schools – not expansion for the sake of profit. We need strong standards, oversight, and transparency to ensure that charters are acting in the best interest of our kids – and are serving the goals of our education system as a whole.

Q. Escalating tuition and fees are leading to a growing number of students leaving college with overwhelming debt from student loans. This burden of rising costs and rising debt makes access to higher education increasingly difficult for many students and their families. What is the role of the federal government in ensuring that higher education is affordable and accessible?

MO’M: The federal government plays an essential role in making higher education affordable and accessible. While states like Maryland have worked hard to hold the line on the cost of college tuition, we cannot make college truly affordable for families unless the federal government provides leadership. This is especially true when it comes to student debt: Congress helped create the student debt crisis by setting high, fixed interest rates on student loans. My administration would fight to win student borrowers the right to refinance their loans, and would make income- based repayment the default for all borrowers. The ultimate goal must be to make college debt-free for all students.

Q. There has been a nationwide pattern of disinvestment in public higher education such that per-student funding dropped 26.1 percent between 1990 and 2010. What would your administration do to remedy this?

MO’M: My administration would restore investments in higher education. First, I would provide additional aid to states to cover the cost of tuition at public and community college and universities, tied to states also investing more. Second, I would tie the receipt of federal aid to states and schools taking steps to reduce the underlying costs of college. This includes increasing AP and dual-enrollment courses, easing the transfer of credits from community colleges, expanding quality online learning, and making sure that aid is reaching the students who need it most.

Q. Career and technical education programs help ensure that postsecondary credentials and skills are accessible to all – necessary in today’s economy. In your view, what is the role of the federal government in supporting high-quality CTE programs?

MO’M: As Governor, my administration increased the number of students enrolled in STEM or related CTE programs in Maryland by nearly 400%. However, while the federal government plays a critical role supporting these efforts, the taken modest steps we have taken as a country to expand STEM or related CTE education are far from sufficient.

My administration would launch a new, comprehensive national program for CTE, starting in high schools, and in partnership with community colleges and employers. This builds on successful efforts launched by the Obama Administration, where

schools partner with employers – who also provide financial support – to train students and workers for the positions they need to fill now. Our program will require greater federal investment, but we will see far greater returns – in good jobs created and filled, and in reduced spending on higher education. CTE training is an equal alternative to a four-year college degree, and we must treat it as such.

Q. What is the federal government’s role in requiring appropriate transparency and accountability of for-profit institutions?

MO’M: I support the Protections And Regulations For Our Students Act and its efforts to protect students from the predatory practices that are too prevalent in the for-profit college sector. The federal government should not only play a strong role in cracking down on such fraudulent behavior, it should proactively seek out these bad players and cancel the federal debt incurred by students who were sold a bad deal.

Q. What are your views of the Affordable Care Act? What changes would you make, if any, to the ACA, including the excise tax on high-cost plans and the provisions on shared responsibility for employers?

MO’M: I agree that a high quality healthcare system is a “moral imperative, an economic necessity, and a fundamental right for all.” The Affordable Care Act is an important step in realizing that goal. My administration would build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act while being ready, as always, to support smart changes that can better provide high quality coverage and control costs. Our guiding principle would always be the triple aim: better patient experience, lower costs, and improved outcomes.

For example, to promote creative solutions to healthcare challenges around the country, I support flexibility for states to pursue innovations in health care delivery and payment with the potential for shared savings, such as through the State Innovation Model program at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. One underappreciated aspect of the Affordable Care Act is its support for innovative models of health care delivery in payment. In Maryland, we adopted a creative approach with our unique hospital rate setting commission: We obtained approval to put our hospitals on global budgets covering all payers, creating a strong incentive to reduce preventable admissions and keep patients and communities healthy.

Q. Do you support initiatives designed to move health insurance coverage away from an employer-based model? If so, what would you propose as an alternative to the current system for covering working adults?

MO’M: I support a public option, which should have been included in the Affordable Care Act.

Q. Many licensed healthcare professionals, particularly RNs, are leaving hospital service because of difficult working conditions, including excessive and unsafe workloads, understaffing, and mandatory overtime. What would you do to address these problems and to improve recruitment and retention of nurses and other healthcare professionals?

MO’M: Maryland has long prohibited mandatory overtime for nurses, with some exceptions, and I support such bans.

More broadly, my administration would make securing reforms to our nation’s overtime rules a priority – including raising the overtime salary threshold to 1,000 a week, limiting exemptions, and enforcing the law. Wage law violations are unacceptable and far too prevalent in the healthcare industry. My administration would invest the resources necessary to hold all employers accountable for wage theft, overtime violations, and other failures to comply with labor laws.

My administration would also vocally support efforts to organize healthcare professionals, including in hospitals and among home healthcare workers. Expanding and protecting collective bargaining rights is a critical step to securing better working conditions in the healthcare industry. I applaud AFT’s efforts to organize nurses and other healthcare professionals, winning these workers a greater role in shaping the U.S. healthcare system to better meet the needs of the people they serve.

Finally, my administration would proactively invest in our healthcare workforce. As we continue to transform our healthcare system and the settings and methods used to deliver care continue to evolve, it is critical that our healthcare workforce is trained and prepared for the transitions ahead. At the same time, the reforms we’re making within the healthcare system will align to help improve working conditions for healthcare professionals. Offering greater rewards for prevention and fewer avoidable admissions, for example, can reduce the burnout that results from a system that historically rewarded volume rather than value.

Q. Merger and acquisition activity continues to consolidate the U.S. healthcare system into the hands of a few corporations, many of which are for- profit. What would you do to ensure competition in the healthcare industry is fair and protects the American consumer?

MO’M: My administration’s strategy would be two-fold. First, I would continue to embrace proven strategies for coordinating care. In Maryland we not only put hospitals on global budgets, we established a statewide information system for patients that allows doctors and nurses to securely access patients’ health data from every hospital across the state. Even before the ACA took full effect, we used this big data approach to providing smarter health care to reduce avoidable hospital admissions by 10% in a single year.

While this greater coordination is critical to providing more targeted and thus less costly care, I am concerned about consolidation that does not further these aims. Far too often, mergers and acquisitions within the health care industry are used not to achieve savings through reduced fragmentation, but to drive up prices for patients and consumers – at the cost of providing better care. That is why my administration would aggressively enforce our nation’s antitrust laws, and why I will continue to champion the need to restore competition to the U.S. economy throughout my campaign.

Q. What would you do to ensure that communities have access to public health services?

MO’M: My administration would look to the innovative steps we took in Maryland to expand access to public health services. For instance, we used the statewide health information system described above to pinpoint clusters of patients and diagnose public health concerns. We then used this information to charge community-level care managers with improving wellness at a neighborhood-level. We did this most importantly through the Health Enterprise Zones we stood up to improve health care access and quality, and reduce health disparities, in underserved communities. We also encouraged the development of more comprehensive women’s health centers, to provide screenings and referrals for Medicaid eligibility, WIC nutrition, substance abuse and mental health treatment alongside reproductive health care.

Beyond these important steps, my administration would protect and build on the Affordable Care Act’s efforts to promote good health and prevent chronic disease. I would protect the mandatory funding stream the ACA obligated for these efforts, which has wrongly been reallocated for other purposes, and develop better metrics for measuring the effectiveness of prevention-related efforts.

Q. What are your priorities for revitalizing the economy, strengthening the middle class, creating jobs, and ensuring fair taxation? How would your plan help restore funding for education, healthcare, transportation, public safety, and many other services provided to our citizens?

MO’M: My administration would focus first and foremost on raising wages: by increasing the minimum wage and the salary threshold for overtime pay; restoring and strengthening collective bargaining power; and supporting families by expanding access to paid leave and safe and affordable childcare. My administration would also restore investments in the common good and future of our nation, including in infrastructure and innovation, and most of all in education. We cannot revitalize our economy without creating an education system that empowers each and every child to reach their full potential, starting with pre-k and all the way through college.

We can restore funding for these better choices and investments by rebalancing our tax system so that the wealthiest Americans – not just middle class families – pay their fair share. This includes setting higher marginal rates, taxing capital gains and income at the same rate, corporate tax reform, and other long-overdue reforms. We must also restore accountability to our financial markets, to reverse the failed policies of deregulation and wealth accumulation that gutted funding for key priorities while costing millions of Americans their jobs, homes, and retirements. That’s why I have called for real structural and accountability reforms, including reinstating Glass-Steagall, charging regulators with holding law-breakers accountable, and breaking up big banks before they break us. These steps must be an explicit part of any agenda to revitalize the economy and make it work for all families.

Q. The United States has a 3.2 trillion infrastructure deficit according to the American Society of Civil Engineers and that’s just for repairs. What are the mechanisms (e.g., public, private, infrastructure bank) through which we can fund the rebuilding of this country, including necessary renovation and modernization of our public schools, hospitals, and public buildings?

MO’M: Repairing, upgrading, and modernizing our nation’s infrastructure will require an historic investment—one that can only be made using both public programs and other financing tools. My administration would restore the Highway Trust Fund, while redoubling successful competitive grant programs. But I would also look to credit and loan guarantee programs; to bonding programs, for both transportation infrastructure and building construction and retrofits; and to other programs that support public-private partnerships, including an infrastructure bank. However, whenever we leverage private dollars to build public projects, I would make protecting high-road labor standards a priority, as we did in Maryland. We cannot look for cost efficiencies on the backs of American workers.

Q. What would your administration do to build and strengthen retirement security for all working men and women, including protecting employees’ pensions? What is your plan for sustaining and strengthening Social Security and Medicare?

MO’M: My administration would expand Social Security benefits, not cut them. We are the most prosperous country the world has ever seen. In an economy that is increasingly out of balance towards the most privileged, expanding Social Security so seniors can retire with dignity—not cutting benefits, not privatization, not raising the retirement age, not means testing, not eating into their economic security—should be a top priority, and an achievable one.

I would expand Social Security benefits by lifting the payroll tax cap for the highest earners, starting at 250,000. Right now, millionaires are essentially done paying into Social Security by mid-February. Those in that upper income range can afford to contribute more to expand one of our most cherished programs. I would also modify the formula that determines the level of benefits that seniors receive, including so that increased benefits are targeted towards lower and middle-income beneficiaries.

These are critical steps, because we know for a fact that 401(k)s won’t leave enough for many seniors to live on in retirement. The recession took its toll on families’ ability to save and plan adequately, and further weakened state pension systems, including the one I inherited in Maryland. As a result, we had to implement balanced reforms that brought the pension system back on the path to fiscal health, while protecting the collective bargaining rights and retirement security of state employees. This was tremendously difficult, but we got it done not by demonizing teachers and state workers, as other states have, but by bringing them to the table. I have always fought to ensure the rights and benefits of Maryland workers, and my administration would do the same for all public employees.

Q. What are your views on the privatization and contracting out of public services, including school services and state and local government services?

MO’M: We should not privatize or contract out school services. Teachers are our partners in educating our students. We should invest more, not less, to train and equip teachers—not engage in a race to the bottom.

Q. Current federal laws and policies encourage and promote collective bargaining through the National Labor Relations Act. What are your views on collective bargaining for the private and public sectors? What is your view regarding agency fee and so-called right-to-work laws?

MO’M: I believe that we must make it easier, not harder, for workers to organize – by tearing down barriers to collective bargaining, while embracing new and expanded organizing models, and reversing the nearly unprecedented consolidation of corporate power. As Governor, I expanded public sector collective bargaining rights to thousands of additional state workers, and to home health aides and child care workers whose pay is subsidized by the state. I signed a Fair Share Act so that unions can do their job representing the voices of their members. And I created a Public School Labor Relations Board, as well as legislation requiring prevailing wages to be paid on public school projects.

There is no question that the decline of unionization over the last 30 years has fueled growing inequality and stagnating wages, and that the steps states are taking to wipe out unions—especially those attacking teachers’ unions—are failed choices. I reject right-to-work laws that weaken the bargaining power of workers and drive down wages, as well as misguided efforts to roll back public sector bargaining rights. Chasing cheaper labor will not grow our economy or more it more competitive.

Q. As president, what would you do to: (a) prevent employers from intimidating and harassing workers who support union representation, (b) ensure that workers are free to organize and bargain the workplace, and (c) protect the rights of American workers?

MO’M: My administration would do everything in its power to protect and strengthen the rights of American workers. I would support efforts to make it easier to join a union by streamlining the process and reducing employers’ ability to interfere with elections. This includes the rule NLRB has moved forward to speed up union elections, which I believe is an important first step. I also support the board’s efforts to hold companies jointly responsible when their franchisees violate labor laws. We’ve allowed large corporations to largely shed their responsibilities for managing their employees and to consolidate power over markets, and we’ve seen poorer working conditions and stagnating wages as a result. I would aggressively enforce our nation’s anti-trust laws to reverse this concentration of corporate power and give workers a louder voice. Finally, I would strongly support efforts to expand collective bargaining rights to more people, including home care workers, as we did in Maryland – and to continue upgrading these jobs by fighting for higher wages and better working conditions. I applaud labor’s efforts continue organizing and engaging new and existing members even in light of what I agree was a bad decision in Harris v. Quinn. We have to use every tool at our disposal to continue making progress.

Q. The federal government has direct responsibility for setting labor standards. There has been a growing call for changes to those standards, including paid sick days, paid family leave, and higher minimum wages. What changes, if any, would you prioritize?

MO’M: I would make changing these labor standards my first priority as president. I would call for a 15 federal minimum wage, and—if DOL does not first complete its rule—would use executive authority to raise the threshold for overtime pay to 1,000 a week. I would fight for laws that guarantee all workers access to paid maternity leave and paternity leave, and expand access to safe and affordable childcare. I have helped lead the call for these higher standards, including in Maryland, and will continue to make these issues a central issue in my campaign.

Q. More than 8 million public employees in 25 states currently have no OSHA protection or entitlement to a safe and healthful workplace. Do you support universal OSHA coverage for all public employees?

MO’M: Yes, and more. The gaps in the enforcement of our labor laws should be unacceptable to everyone. Beyond health and safety, millions of people, including some of our most vulnerable workers, are victims of wage theft every year. Our enforcement agencies must be able to hold employers accountable, and to prevent these blatant violations in the first place. My administration would dedicate the energy and resources necessary to fully enforce the law.

Q. What policies would your administration pursue to ensure that all people—regardless of who they are, where they live, or where they come from—are able to climb the ladder of opportunity and participate fully in our economy and democracy?

MO’M: My administration would be committed to ensuring that Americans, regardless of their background and status, would have the opportunity to succeed by investing in education, raising wages, supporting families, securing immigration reform, expanding health care, and protecting the dignity of retirement. These are the better choices our national interest demands. I have also called for a new agenda for opportunity and justice in America’s cities and communities, built on investments to connect poverty to opportunity: guaranteeing every family access to affordable housing near good schools and jobs, building and upgrading infrastructure to connect poverty to opportunity, committing to reduce poverty and eradicate child hunger, and—most importantly—creating new jobs and equipping students and workers with the skills needed to secure them.

Q. In your opinion, what are the elements of comprehensive immigration reform? How would your administration’s stance on immigration reform fight back against inequality, promote economic justice, and increase wages for all workers?

MO’M: As Governor I urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and I would forcefully do the same as president. Bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows will grow the economy, create new jobs, and expand our tax base – benefiting the country as a whole. It will help all our workers, especially our most vulnerable workers, by lifting wages, and helping to drive improved labor standards. I know this from personal experience, from what we’ve done in Maryland, even without federal action—passing the DREAM Act, expanding access to drivers’ licenses, launching the New Americans Commission, and providing refuge for more migrant children per capita than any other state.

That’s why, while we continue to advocate for and will achieve comprehensive reform, we can’t wait for Congress to act. My administration would also use executive action to the fullest extent of our authority: to expand deferred arrival programs to more people, including the parents of Dreamers; to end detention, especially for families and children; and to make prosecutorial discretion meaningful, by individually examining cases to assess whether people are eligible to remain in the U.S. and contribute to their family and community.

Q. What are your views on campaign finance reform? Do you support a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision?

MO’M: I support a constitutional amendment to overturning Citizens United. But I also recognize that we can’t afford to wish and wait for a Constitutional amendment to restore our democracy. We can bring greater transparency to our elections: by updating the rules governing disclosure to ensure that big special interest spending is reported, and charging and empowering federal regulators to block unlawful outside spending. Even more important, we must return to a government where all voters’ voices are heard. Runaway election spending forces candidates to listen to big money donors over the voters they claim to represent. We should embrace citizen-funded elections, giving candidates the opportunity to raise a larger number of smaller contributions from people back home.

Q. What would your administration do to ensure that voting in elections is free, fair, and available to all Americans? Do you oppose policies that restrict access to voting and voter registration?

MO’M: Our democracy depends on greater participation, yet in recent years we have sharply limited access to our most fundamental right. My administration would push to restore the Voting Rights Act and tear down barriers to voting, like ID requirements. And we would work to modernize voting and voter registration to make it easier for more people to vote. We did this in Maryland, establishing on-site early voting and same-day registration, as well as online voter registration. We also restored voting rights to more than 50,000 people with criminal records, and made it easier for young people to vote.


Q. What do you think this nation’s priorities should be during the next decade? How would your presidency advance those priorities?

MO’M: The most important thing that we as a people need to get done is to restore the truth of the American dream: that when people work hard, they should be able to get ahead. That dream is in danger of becoming a lie for the vast majority of Americans who see their families slipping further behind. Making it true again will require us to return to the better choices we long made as a country – and to fundamentally rebalance our economy so that it works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. My administration would focus first and foremost on raising wages, not only by increasing the minimum wage, but by strengthening collective bargaining and securing comprehensive immigration reform. At the same time, my administration would hold Wall Street accountable, ending the decades of deregulation that wrecked our economy and accumulated wealth at the top like almost never before. By asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share, I would restore investments in the future of our country – most especially in our students, teachers, and schools.

These choices require better leadership and the ability to get things done. I have 15 years of executive experience, and I have never backed down from a fight. I fought to make these better choices in Maryland, where we put the goal of a stronger middle class at the center of every decision we made. And as a result, we made Maryland one of the top states for upward mobility for families, with the highest median income in the nation, and – since the depths of the recession – a faster rate of job creation than our neighbors in Virginia or Maryland who were mostly trying to cut their way to prosperity. These are the goals we should be setting for our nation, and I believe that with will and leadership we can achieve them.

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