Archives for category: Education Reform

Several major technology companies signed a pledge not to sell or misuse private student data. Critics were not reassured.


According to a story in Education Week,


K-12 student-privacy pledge released Tuesday and signed by prominent ed-tech providers prompted immediate statements of concern from some advocacy groups about whether self-regulation will do the job of protecting student data.


The voluntary Pledge to Safeguard Student Privacy, co-authored by the Software and Information Industry Association or SIIA, and the Future of Privacy Forum, and signed initially by 13 companies and one non-profit, includes six “do’s” and six “don’ts” of handling student data. The signers—including Amplify, DreamBox Learning, Edmodo, Follett, Knewton, Knovation, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Microsoft, and Think Through Math—agree to abide by the provisions of the pledge effective January 1, 2015.


Among key elements of the pledge are promises to:


Not sell student information
Not behaviorally target advertising (which means targeting advertising based on a student’s web-browsing behavior)
Use data for authorized education purposes only
Not change privacy policies without notice and choice
Enforce strict limits on data retention
Support parental access to, and correction of errors in, their children’s information
Provide comprehensive security standards
Be transparent about collection and use of data
The pledge was created as parents’ worries about the privacy and security of their students’ data have resonated in state legislatures, and as the state of California enacted a strict privacy law last month. It also follows the collapse of inBloom, a controversial data management company that was striving to be a single repository for up to 400 pieces of information about each student whose data were uploaded to the cloud—but that fell under the weight of protests from parents, some educators, and others.


Software companies selling products to K-12 schools have been concerned, too, that their mission to collect and use student data to help educators better teach their students will not be permitted by law. “Without data, we are flying blind,” said Aimee Rogstad Guidera, founder and executive director of Data Quality Campaign, a national nonprofit that advocates for the effective use of education data to improve student achievement, in a statement in support of the pledge.


Range of Reactions to Pledge


The National School Boards Association and the National PTA joined the organizations that released the pledge with their endorsements in the launch announcement. Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, said he thinks the pledge is helpful. “It states, pretty clearly and crisply—in language a non-lawyer can understand—what’s not going to happen with your data,” he said. Schools and districts are looking for that kind of assurance in an industry standard about the collection, management, and use of personal information, he said.


But Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters based in New York City and co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, said in a statement that “we need legally enforceable provisions requiring parental notification and consent for the disclosure and redisclosure of personal student data, as well as rigorous security standards.” She predicted that the pledge would not reassure parents about data sharing, data-mining and data breaches.


Mark Schneiderman, the senior director of education policy at SIIA, said that, when companies make public pledges like this one, it is enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC.


It is worth remembering that the CEO of Knewton, working with Pearson, boasted that education is the most data-minable sector of the economy. Data mining is big business.  Can we trust them?

Daniel S. Katz, a professor of education at Seton Hall University, explains on his blog how to recognize a phony education reform group.

The key is, as always, follow the money. If the group is funded by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation, the John Arnold Foundation, or the Helmsley Foundation (among others), you can bet there are no grassroots. If they not only have said funding but an expensive location and grow rapidly, and if they advocate for charter schools and test-based evaluation of teachers, there are no grassroots, only faux reform roots that are part of the movement to privatize public education. The “reform” movement likes to pretend that it has a broad base so it funds numerous “front” groups. We have not seen so many front groups since the 1930s. Today, as then, they represent no community, no one but the funders and the elites and those with a hidden but anti-democratic agenda.

This teacher wrote the following response to a post about “close reading” in first grade. When I read her or his comment, I thought of John Greenleaf Whittier’s great poem “Barbara Frietchie.” I leave it to you to figure out why.

The first-grade teacher wrote:

“Retired teacher, you hit the nail on the head! Six year olds are not ready for this! I am a first grade teacher, and this CCSS garbage is going to ruin our children’s education. In desperation this week, I pulled out my old Margaret Hillert books & used them in my reading groups. The children were so excited, and said, “Teacher, we can read these! This is so fun!” It nearly brought me to tears. In first grade, it’s all about Reading, capital R. My job is to make my babies fall in love with the written word-to make them not be able to wait to turn the page to find out for themselves what funny thing Junie B. Jones or Amelia Bedelia is going to do next. I’ve been teaching first graders to read for 19 years. I know what works. I’m keeping the Margaret Hillert books on the reading table and Pearson Publishers, David Coleman, and Bill Gates can come pry them from these gnarled hands.”

Ed Berger tries to figure out why some parents give up on their district schools, whose teachers are fully certified, to attend partial schools, where ill-trained teachers come and go at a high rate.

“Specific information from teachers about the strengths and the needs of the educational programs are too often left out of the messages given to the community. When a bond issue fails, or enrollment drops, there is great concern that the community does not support its schools. Yes, in difficult economic times folks are reluctant to vote for new bonds. Voters need to know that student needs will be met by their vote. Districts need to counter the claims of partial schools and be very clear about what they offer.

“The reality is that the public will not support district schools that fail to communicate the education benefits they provide, and the needs teachers identify. Partial (alternative) schools succeed where the district schools do not explain the wealth of advantages they deliver for every child.

“Voters will support necessary services for children when they understand how this extra burden of taxation helps kids. Not kids five years from now, but kids in school now.”

And he writes:

“When a partial school can suck students away from a district school, something is very wrong. District schools have elected school boards, certified teachers and administrators, the ability to raise capital dollars through bonds for building and maintenance (and not have to use instructional dollars to create a school space), and comprehensive curricula. It is almost certain that teachers are not being listened to. It is an indicator that the immediate needs of children are only assumed to be known by those interfacing with the community.

“District schools must provide information necessary for parents to decide which school best provides all of the options their child must have. If parents take their children out of district schools it is certain that they do not know the differences between a district school and a partial school, or even what comprehensive curriculum, teacher certification, and teacher expertise and experience mean for students. District schools must keep this information before the public.

“Increasing class size, eliminating experienced and proven teachers and counselors, deleting services, closing libraries, killing art programs, using TFA and other cheap, unskilled class-sitters, and assuming that fear (high stakes testing and its inherent threats) motivates human beings, destroy public support for district schools.”

District schools belong to the community. Choice policies allow voucher schools and charter schools to sell their wares with promises. District schools must clearly explain to parents why it matters to have experienced, well-prepared teachers and a full curriculum, why it matters to have the arts and a band and a library with a trained librarian. Community support must be built and rebuilt, daily. Active parents must be relied upon to reach out to other parents. And the message must be clear: this is our school.

Carol Burris, an experienced high school principal, knows that there are many dimensions to school success. Here she writes about a new program to recognize success without relying exclusively on test scores.

Does your school qualify?

Burris writes:

Dear Colleagues,

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) has started an exciting new high school recognition program called Schools of Opportunity.

Unlike previous “top 100” lists, Schools of Opportunity will recognize schools for doing the right things by their students in order to close opportunity gaps. It allows nominators (principals, teachers or parents) to show how their high school is outstanding by choosing 6 of 11 research based principles and explaining how their school made progress.

The first round requires short responses where the applicant makes his or her case.

The second round asks the school to provide the data it chooses to submit to make its case.

Using a rubric, Silver and Gold Schools will be recognized. There will be follow-up phone or Skype interviews.

Finally a few truly outstanding schools will be visited for special recognition.

We will not be “ranking” Gold or Silver Schools, but they will be recognized with much publicity.

The Answersheet of the Washington Post will be covering and publishing the lists just as Jay Matthews’ does with his challenge index list.

We are piloting this in New York and Colorado this year, and next year going national. That means that there will be a New York Schools of Opportunity list and one for Colorado this spring.

In order to be eligible, you must have at least 10% of your students receiving free or reduced price lunch, and the % of students with IEPs must be no more than 2% below the average for your district. (For most of you, you are the sole high school in your district so that is of no concern). I am one of the co-directors of the program (I am an NEPC Fellow) and because of that, South Side will not be eligible.

We need to change the conversation regarding what school quality is about. This is how we hope to make that happen.

Press releases are going out. You can find the Answersheet’s announcement here

The link to apply is above as well as in the WAPO announcement. If you have any questions, feel free to call me at 516 255 8820. Thanks! Carol

Lisa Schencker of the Salt Lake Tribune reported that class sizes are rising in the state, despite an official low number. She realized that the official number of 22.8 students per class was misleading. The Tribune invited readers to write and identify large classes.


The Tribune asked readers last week to help us find the state’s largest classes. The Tribune received more than 100 responses via email, Facebook and Twitter — mostly from teachers.


One teacher in the Granite district said she had 52 students in her Utah Studies class for seventh-graders last year. A parent reported 43 students in her son’s Granite district honors English class last year. A Canyons foreign language teacher said she now has 42 students in one of her classes. A Logan School District teacher reported 56 students in one of her classes.


“The classes of 40 and 38 are frequently interrupted with management and behavioral issues, not enough computers in the same lab, etc.,” wrote Shelly Edmonds, a teacher at Hillcrest High, who noted she has one class with 40 kids this year.


Hillcrest High Advanced Placement Literature teacher Katie Bullock said she has 39 kids in one class and 100 AP Literature students overall.


“Try grading the amount of writing that takes place every week in an AP Lit course (or should take place … which doesn’t … because I can’t humanly keep up …),” she wrote. reviews a number of governor’s races around the country, and here is the takeaway: governors who cut education funding are on the defensive, even insisting that they didn’t do it.

Consider this:

” The fight is fierce in Pennsylvania, where Democratic challenger Tom Wolf is accusing Gov. Tom Corbett of cutting $1 billion in education funding, forcing 20,000 teachers out of the classroom and prompting 70 percent of school districts to increase class sizes []. Corbett has countered with an ad accusing Wolf “and his special-interest groups” of spending millions to mislead the public, claiming that funding during his tenure as governor has increased each year to its highest level ever [ But it’s Wolf who’s resonating with voters – he’s up about 17 percentage points in the polls [].

“- Check out this new roundup of campaign trail reaction to GOP governors who’ve cut education funding, exclusive to POLITICO []. American Bridge President Brad Woodhouse tells us governors like Rick Scott, Sam Brownback and Scott Walker are getting “slammed … dealing a major blow to their electoral futures.”

On California it is a close race for state superintendent between educator Tom Torlakson and investment bbanker-charter cheerleader Mardhall The fight is fierce in Pennsylvania, where Democratic challenger Tom Wolf is accusing Gov. Tom Corbett of cutting $1 billion in education funding, forcing 20,000 teachers out of the classroom and prompting 70 percent of school districts to increase class sizes []. Corbett has countered with an ad accusing Wolf “and his special-interest groups” of spending millions to mislead the public, claiming that funding during his tenure as governor has increased each year to its highest level ever [ But it’s Wolf who’s resonating with voters – he’s up about 17 percentage points in the polls [].

- Check out this new roundup of campaign trail reaction to GOP governors who’ve cut education funding, exclusive to POLITICO []. American Bridge President Brad Woodhouse tells us governors like Rick Scott, Sam Brownback and Scott Walker are getting “slammed … dealing a major blow to their electoral futures.”

In California, it is a right race for superintendent between educator Tom Torlakson and privatizer Marshall Tuck. The future if public education in that state hangs in the balance. If Tuck wins, expect more charter schools and attacks in due process rights for teachers.

Tim Farley, a school administrator in New York, has become an education activist. He feels that he must, for the sake of his own children and for the sake of the children in his school. He is a leader in the group of parents and educators from across the state called NYSAPE (New York State Allies for Public Education).


Farley writes:
As a school administrator, I receive NYSSBA’s (New York State School Boards Association) monthly publication “On Board”. Over the past year, On Board has included articles of mixed support for/skepticism toward the implementation of the Common Core Standards, or the standards themselves. However, I must say that when I opened to page four of the September 22 issue ( agenda-stay-the-course/), I was taken aback as there was a full page written by former Regent James Jackson, titled, “The Reform Agenda: Stay the Course”.


Mr. Jackson begins his OpEd by quoting Machiavelli: “…There is nothing more difficult to manage, or more doubtful of success, or more dangerous to handle…” and he ends the quote with “…to take the lead in introducing a new order of things.” I find it highly ironic that Jackson chose to quote Machiavelli, as the term Machiavellian is defined by Merriam Webster as “using clever lies and tricks in order to get or achieve something; clever and dishonest”.


He then shares his empathy and respect for Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents “who have led our state’s program of reform”. He continues: “I believe that students will succeed because I believe that teachers, being professionals, will keep them first in their thinking. The mechanisms that we have developed to enhance teacher effectiveness will soon evolve into a dynamic engine that delivers unprecedented levels of education and support services. All stakeholders just need to remain positive, supportive, patient and committed to the Reform Agenda.”


Wow! So, all we need for success is to remain positive and committed to an agenda that the majority of New Yorkers do not agree with. Moreover, there are parts of Jackson’s OpEd that seem a bit patronizing, such as: “Teachers and administrators are dealing with a lot of change, fast, and it’s natural to feel disoriented.”


Frankly, Mr. Jackson, I have never been so focused and clear-headed in my life. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Jackson for over two hours last November. I shared my experiences of the Regents Reform Agenda first-hand with him, both as a parent of four school-aged children, and as an educator for over twenty-two years. I shared with him specific examples of how some of the standards were developmentally inappropriate. I shared with him how onerous and abusive the testing had become under John King’s watch. I shared with him how demoralized the teachers had become. I shared with him how our students’ sensitive data was being given away and not protected. However, he didn’t seem to understand, or maybe he simply didn’t care.


You see, the problem isn’t “change” itself, but rather the prescribed change being offered, i.e. – the Regents Reform Agenda. And if Mr. Jackson and the others on the Board of Regents (Regents Kathy Cashin and Betty Rosa excluded) had listened to the voices of those in the field of education instead of dictating, he may still be on the Board of Regents. (Mr. Jackson was not re-appointed to his position representing the third Judicial District of New York State, and one can only speculate as to the reasons why.)


NYS Senator John Flanagan is the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education. He held five hearings all across the state last year. I testified at one of those hearings and the voices of dissent far outnumbered the voices of support. You can read his executive summary here ( NYS%20Senate%20Report%20-%20Regents%20Reform%20Agenda.pdf).


As a part of the report, Flanagan wrote the following: “Overall, there were several consistent themes. Without question one theme was genuine frustration. Given a chance to vent, witnesses did so because they have deeply held concerns about the Regents Reform Agenda. Who is in charge? Is anyone truly listening? More importantly, is anyone really doing anything even if they are listening? Why are things so rushed? How come there is such a desire to amass and share data? Why are there so many tests? Why are they so long? Why do my kids no longer like school? How come teachers are so frustrated? Do we even know whether any of this will work? Why is corporate America involved? How are my children actually going to be better off? These questions are rhetorical for purposes of this report, but the teachers, parents and districts we heard from are actually asking them. They want and are entitled to real answers, especially from the State Education Department and the Board of Regents.”


Mr. Jackson concludes his OpEd with: “…we must effectively challenge Machiavelli’s conclusion about the uncertainty of practitioners successfully implementing innovations. If you, like me, support the Common Core Standards and the Reform Agenda, don’t be lukewarm about it.” Unfortunately for you Mr. Jackson, the people have spoken and they do not like the Regents Reform Agenda. The voices of dissent will continue to get louder until those in charge start listening to those being affected by the change.


Here is a quote from General Colin Powell: “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems, is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”




Tim Farley

Education Leader

Reformers like to tell us that they are in a hurry. They want everything reformed now, or yesterday. They can’t wait. They can’t even wait to find out if their reforms make any sense. Their motto might as well be, “Don’t just stand there, reform something.”


But Andy Hargreaves explains here why the hurry up approach doesn’t work. Hargreaves is one of our most sensible thinkers about education. He is now advising the Ontario minister for education.


Ontario, he writes, has tried to learn from the mistakes of others. It has aimed for slow and steady improvement, not overnight transformation by forced march of teachers, administrators, and students.


It paced the change agenda so that achievement gains would be steady and sustainable rather than spectacular but unstable. It also provided a stronger spirit and much higher levels of support than in England in terms of resources, training, partnership with the teacher unions and an emphasis on school-to-school assistance.
Ontario’s literacy gains of 2-3 percent or so every year seemed both steady and cumulatively substantial and sustainable. But even its more advanced strategy had its limitations. The literacy gains were not matched by similar gains in math over the whole reform period, and in the past four years, math results have actually fallen. In practice, reformers now acknowledge, the numeracy strategy was not nearly so intensive as the literacy strategy. What is the lesson to be learned? In practice, even Ontario, with all its change knowledge, couldn’t implement wholesale changes in literacy and numeracy together, so one half of the strategy fell by the wayside by default.


Hargreaves concludes that it is better to sequence reform plans, not do everything at once in a crash course.


It is better still to know that the reform plans make sense, which ours in the U.S. do not.

Yohuru Williams, a historian at Fairfield University, sharply rebukes those who seek to eliminate tenure and claim to be advancing “civil rights.” His article on Huffington Post is titled “Lies My Corporate Ed Reformers Told Me: The Truth about Teacher Tenure and the Civil Rights Movement.”


He writes:


The champions of corporate education reform insist that efforts to strip teachers of the procedural guarantees of due process embedded in tenure are somehow an extension of the Civil Rights Movement. In the latest iteration of this make-believe history, former CNN anchor Campbell Brown and her ally, lawyer David Boies, wax philosophical about how their campaign to end tenure is really “about Civil Rights.” While the rhetoric plays well in the press, it deliberately misrepresents the actual history of Civil Rights. In reality, teachers played a critical role in the movement. In some cases, they were able to do so because they were bolstered by tenure, preventing their arbitrary dismissal for activism.”


Teachers, he reminds us, were at the forefront of  the civil rights movement, and tenure–where it existed– protected their right to support the movement. In the South, many states did not allow any kind of tenure for teachers, and it was harder for them to be active in the civil rights movement because they could be easily fired.


“During the Jim Crow era, one of the most effective weapons segregationists had in their arsenal of terror was the power to fire or refuse to hire those who engaged in acts of civil disobedience or challenged the status quo. With the higher duty to protect children, many teachers bravely faced this challenge, using their classrooms not only to teach basic skills, but also to encourage critical thinking skills and inspiring young people to challenge second-class citizenship. Recent scholarship as well as personal memoirs captures this important role played by educators. In a 2009 biography Claudette Colvin, who at 15 refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus nearly nine months before Rosa Parks, credited her teachers with inspiring her to make her courageous stand against Southern apartheid.


“Not all Black teachers were awarded tenure. In fact, very few states in the South offered the basic guarantee of due process to Black teachers but, in those states where teachers were protected, they were able to speak and testify openly and honestly about the detrimental impact of Jim Crow on their students.”


He concludes:


“So when so called “reformers” like Campbell Brown try to make the case that tenure extends teachers an unfair guarantee of employment unlike other public servants, she is more than stretching the truth. To be clear, when confronted with inequalities in pay and the denial of tenure to Black teachers, the NAACP did not argue for an end to tenure, but for the extension of the same basic protections of due process to Black teachers. In addition, when her allies like David Boies try to claim they are carrying on the legacy of the movement, they are not. Instead, they should address the issues of poverty and inequality; the same issues raised by the NAACP in 1950s and1960s that continue to plague American education. The lack of resources, bloated class sizes, high stakes testing, and zip code discrimination are real problems — not teacher tenure.

“At the end of the day, what made teachers so critical to the Civil Rights Movement is partly what makes many of them dangerous to the agenda of the so-called education reformers today. Why is divesting tenure at the top of their list? In stripping away due process and removing basic protection against retaliation, they will effectively silence the strongest line of defense against those practices, such as high stakes testing, and re-segregation that remain harmful to children. In the process, they will clear the way for the ultimate corporatizing of American education in opposition to both the history and legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. Fortunately teachers have already begun to organize to make a stand in an effort to shield and protect those who stand to be harmed most — our children.”





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