Archives for category: Education Reform

In this incisive article posted on Salon, Elias Isquith points out that it is not enough to chant slogans about the young black men who have been murdered, without any consequences for those who murdered them. He is particularly concerned about the cautiousness of Democratic politicians, who are seeking some line to straddle to show that they are “balanced.” The exception in this case is Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was able to speak of his family, his warnings to his children, his fears for their safety, and centuries of racism.


As a society, we cannot continue to exonerate those who kill young black men. When it is done by a police officer, it is even more horrible. Each instance is abhorrent in its own way. In New York City, Eric Garner was put into a chokehold, which suffocated him; police regulations specifically ban the use of the chokehold because of its deadly consequences.


Again, actions matter more than words. What will President Obama do? What will the Department of Justice do? What will governors and legislatures do? What will police departments do? More black and Hispanic police officers would help. But much more is needed to eradicate the attitudes behind the actions. Citizens, whatever their race, should not fear the police, whose job is to protect them, not to kill them.



Crack investigative reporter David Sirota is looking for a journalist to hire:

** December 4, 2014


A quick note to let you know that International Business Times has a new job opening for a journalist to team up with me on political/financial investigative reporting. This is part of our effort to build out our capacity to do more of the kinds of hard-hitting, impactful work we’ve been doing over the last year. To see the kind of work we are looking to expand on, click here ( .

If you or someone you know is interested in the job, please email me at ( with clips and a resume. The job is not necessarily location-specific – I work in Denver, and the person we hire can work from anywhere, as long as the work can get done. The journalist we hire will be working directly with me.

Please forward this around to anyone you know who might be interested!

Rock the boat,


David Sirota · c/o Creators Syndicate · 737 3rd St. · Hermosa Beach, CA 90254 · USA

In part 1, we learned that Forbers asked a group of billionaires how to fix American education. In this installment, a group of leaders review the billionaires’ agenda.

“In our last installment, Forbes called a summit of Many Very Rich People to lay out what it would cost to fulfill the Must Have list for remaking American education. Now, we’re going to sit around with some alleged representatives of education stakeholders. And we should note that it’s happening in the department of Forbes.

“Paul Tudor Jones (founder of the Robin Hood Foundation) will be directing traffic as Andy Cuomo, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten and Kay Henderson (DC school chancellor) jaw about this. I should note that I’ll be walking you through the Short and Marginally Sweeter transcript; apparently there is a longer version, but I just can’t bring myself to go there.”

So here are the billionaires’ five Big Ideas:

“1) Teacher efficacy– recruit best and brightest

2) Universal Pre-K– because childhood is too long

3) School leadership– give principals greater power over staff

4) Blended learning– broadband and computers for everybody

5) Common Core/ College Readiness– insert all classic baloney arguments here”

What do our leaders think? They love the Big Ideas. But they have different timelines and slightly different strategies.

Take Cuomo, for example:

“Cuomo observes that he didn’t get anything done by being nice, so he made everybody’s money contingent on how well they follow his orders and he hasn’t had any problems since. Money buys compliance!”

Here are Kaya Henderson and Arne Duncan:

“Henderson gives Arne some strokes for being the only government guy who will fund innovation, and I think we can all agree that using a bureaucratic waiver maneuver to create new laws without the benefit of Congress is pretty innovative. The guillotine was also hot new stuff in its day.

Arne will now deliver more History from an Alternative Universe:

Having a common way of measuring success is just so basic and fundamental to all of your businesses–that’s a radical concept in education. We need to get to that point of having a high bar and having clear ways of measuring how everybody is stacking up against that bar. Under No Child Left Behind, about 20 states dummied-down their standards, they reduced their standards. Why? To make politicians of both parties look good. It was terrible for children. Not one person challenged those politicians. Until [philanthropic leaders] and the broader citizenry hold politicians accountable, we’ll continue to be mired in mediocrity.

“It’s true. In thirty-plus years of teaching, I have never measured success in any manner. Just throw darts at a board and call it a day. But states did not dummy down under NCLB to make politicians look good. They did it to save their states’ school from punishment under the heavy brainless hand of top-down federal mandates. They did it to avoid an unavoidable punishment that was inevitable because the feds set standards that nobody believed could be met, but they set them anyway. The dummying down was a completely predictable result of the perverse incentives built into a unsustainable punishment-based test-driven system created by educational amateurs in Washington DC. Dammit, Arne, if you want to learn a lesson from NCLB, learn that one, and learn it in some manner other than repeating the same damn mistakes.”

Peter Greene here tells the jaw-dropping story of what happened when Forbes convened a group of billionaires to share their ideas about how to redesign American education.

What would it take, Forbes asks, to move our middling international test scores to the top five in the world?

Why not ask some of the richest people in the nation, who never taught, probably didn’t go to public school, and perhaps never set foot in a public school?

Where do the unicorns come in? Here is what Peter says about the Common Core, which the billionaires love:

“Wonder how CCSS is still hanging in there? One likely answer is that rich guys just love it. “While Common Core has critics on both extremes of the political spectrum, those in the sensible center rightly view high national standards, coupled with tools to achieve success, as a no-brainer.” This is unintentionally hilarious to me because I do indeed believe that Common Core makes the most sense if you do in fact have no brain. The Forbes Factoid Squad projects that it will cost $185.4 billion to make CCSS fully happen, but will yield returns of $27.9 trillion. Do you suppose that rich guys smoke really, really good drugs. Laced with unicorn blood?”

I recently posted a letter from a teacher whose message was “this too shall pass.”


Some readers took this as an expression of complacency. Just wait it out, and the billionaires will get so frustrated by their repeated failures that they will move on to disrupt something else or go back to playing polo.


The bottom line is that you never win in a confrontation by digging your head into the sand. Complacency is self-defeating. While you close your eyes to what is happening, the high-stakes testing will get worse, your community public schools will be closed, experienced teachers will be fired, and schooling will become a consumer choice, like buying milk at the grocery store (the analogy that Jeb Bush suggested at the Republican convention in 2012, that picking a school should be as easy as choosing between 1% milk, 2% milk, whole milk, chocolate milk, whatever).


And meanwhile, if we do nothing, we will find that one of the institutions considered essential to our democracy will have been destroyed by free-market ideology and greed. Instead of community public schools, where children learn to work and play together, we will have “choice” schools that increase segregation and that are free to kick out the students they don’t want. Of course, some “public” schools will be retained, as the school of last resort for the children unwanted by the choice schools.


Do any of the billionaires pushing this market-based ideology ever stop to wonder why none of the top-performing school systems in the world have the kind of school choice that they are promoting for the U.S.? Has it occurred to them that the nations they admire–those with the highest test scores–have strong public school systems with well-prepared teachers, but no vouchers and no charters?


The current corporate assault on public education will not pass unless those who oppose it take action. On one level, this means that we must organize for the next elections to support only candidates who support public education. The last election–at the gubernatorial level–was frankly a disaster, with the re-election of Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Scott in Florida, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Paul LePage in Maine, and others who support privatization,. The low turnout across the nation showed that not enough people were informed of what was at stake. We must do better next time and elect candidates who will strengthen families, communities, and public schools.


But there is more we can do now. As parents and teachers, we can encourage students not to take the tests. That’s called “opting out.” The tests are created by two or three major corporations that get to decide what our children should know. The results are used to rank and rate children and identify those who are failures and those who are successes. This is ridiculous. Why should the testing corporations be the arbiters of success and failure? Why should they be given the power to label our children? The standardized tests have no diagnostic value; the results come in too late to inform instruction or to provide insight into what children need more or less of in the classroom. In fact, they are utterly worthless. Tests should be written by classroom teachers, who know what they have taught. There is no particular value in knowing how your child compares to children his age in Maine and Arizona. What you really want from a test is an indication, useful to the teacher, of his strengths and weaknesses, a guide to helping him improve where improvement is needed. That is not what you get from standardized testing. What you as a parent or teacher really want is to know that children are engaged in learning, that they learn how to ask good questions and to pursue the answers, that they learn to love the pursuit of knowledge. A standardized test won’t help you reach those goals, indeed it will undermine them by teaching the importance of finding the right answer to someone else’s question.


So here is my advice: Opt out. Stop the machine that produces the data that are used to label your children, to fire his teachers, to close his school. Take away the data and insist that teachers deal with the needs of every child. Do not feed the machine built in D.C. or at Pearson. Be strategic. Do the one thing that only you have the power to do: deny them the data. Use the power you have.


Save the children. Save your schools. Save your community.

This message was posted by a reader. Note that the states cited by Secretary Arne Duncan as exemplars are controlled by very conservative legislatures and governors, who have taken many steps to reduce the status of the teaching profession: Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Florida. Note that he singles out for praise the “Relay Graduate School of Education,” staffed by current and former charter school teachers, not by scholars, researchers, or people holding doctorates. The stated curriculum of this “graduate school” includes no courses on cognitive development, psychometrics, urban sociology, or courses other than teaching for high test scores.

This is the reader’s comment:

Please excuse the long comment but I received this from the Council for Exceptional Children, Teacher Education Division. We need to flood the comments:

Dear TED Board:

After two years of anticipation, the Department of Education held a press
conference this afternoon to announce the release of the teacher preparation
regulations. Today, a variety of materials were posted on the website at, including the press release, fact sheet, and
detailed powerpoint presentation regarding the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) which has been sent to the Federal Register and will be published in the next several days. Also at this link is a draft of the NPRM which I have now printed (405 pages) but not yet read!

I listened in to the press conference this afternoon which featured Sec.
Duncan, Asst. Sec. Ted Mitchell, Jim Cibulka President of CAEP, Mari
Koerner, Dean of Education at Arizona State University and Governor Bill
Haslam of Tennessee. Tomorrow an audio link to the press conference will be available. Below is the press statement sent out by the Department of Education.

Comments on the proposed regs have been rolling in. Those supporting the
regs include outgoing ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, George Miller, the Center for American Progress, Education Trust, Teach for America and Educators 4 Excellence. Those raising concerns about the regs so far include the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, The American Council on Education, the NEA and the AFT.
More dialogue is assured to follow.

The regs appear to be essentially the same as what was proposed at
negotiated rulemaking in 2012. This includes a mandate that every state
rate every preparation program and only the highest rated programs will be
eligibile to use TEACH grants. The metrics that must be used to determine
the ratings include: student learning outcomes, employment outcomes, new
teacher and employer feedback and accreditation by CAEP or state program
approval with specific requirements.

There is a 60 day public comment period for the regulations.

I will be sharing additional informatio n when it is available.

Happy reading and Happy Thanksgiving!

Let me know if you have questions.


U.S. Department of Education
Office of Communications & Outreach, Press Office
400 Maryland Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20202

Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014

Contact: Press Office
(202) 401-1576 or

U.S. Department of Education Proposes Plan to Strengthen Teacher Preparation

New Rules Build on Reforms and Innovation Efforts to Ensure Educators are Classroom-Ready

The U.S. Department of Education today announced proposed regulations that help ensure teacher training programs are preparing educators who are ready to succeed in the classroom.

The proposal builds on the reforms and innovations already happening at the
state and program level across the country and by national organizations
like the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and the
Council of Chief State School Officers. The new rule shifts the focus for
currently required sta te reporting on teacher preparation programs from
mostly inputs to outcomes – such as how graduates are doing in the classroom – while giving states much flexibility to determine how they will use the new measures and how program performance is measured.

“It has long been clear that as a nation, we could do a far better job of
preparing teachers for the classroom. It’s not just something that studies
show – I hear it in my conversations with teachers, principals and pare nts,”
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “New teachers want to do a great
job for their kids, but often, they struggle at the beginning of their
careers and have to figure out too much for themselves. Teachers deserve
better, and our students do too. This proposal, along with our other key
initiatives in supporting flexibility, equity and leadership, will help get
us closer to President Obama’s goal of putting a great teacher in every
classroom, and especially in our high-need schools.”

The proposal would create transparency and create a much-needed feedback
loop among aspiring teachers, preparation programs, principals, schools and states. This information will help prospective educators choose effective programs to train in high-demand teaching fields, assist schools in identifying the most effective programs to recruit from, recognize
excellence t o build on best practices, and help programs target their
improvement efforts.

Specifically, the proposed regulations would refocus institutional data
reporting already required under federal law on meaningful data at the
program level, support states in developing systems that differentiate
programs by performance on outcomes, provide feedback to programs about graduates’ performance and satisfaction, and hold programs accountable for
how well they prepare teachers to succeed in today’s classrooms and
throughout their careers. In addition, by requiring data on new teacher
employment outcomes (placement and retention), it will shine a light on
high-need schools and fields and help facilitate a better match of supply
and demand.

Already, numerous states, institutions and other organizations are
demonstrating vital leadership in improving teacher p reparation. The
proposed rule aims to ensure that these innovative practices are taken to
scale and can be replicated in programs that are struggling.

For example:

* North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, and Florida were among
the first states to collect and report information about teacher preparation
programs and their graduates to the public.

*& nbsp; Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi and Rhode Island
all recently raised admissions requirements to get into teacher prep

* The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s College of Education
benefited from data provided by Louisiana about the results their teachers were getting in the classroom. The University used the results to improve the university’s curriculum by including clinical experience and innovative coursework. And you know what happened? The performance of graduates improved.

* Colleges and universities across the country are also matching supply of teachers to the demand in the field.

* At the University of Texas at Austin, the program, UTeach, is
drawing undergraduates with STEM majors into teaching. Nearly 90 percent of the graduates from the UTeach Austin program become teachers, and about half teach in high-need schools. What’s more, roughly 80% of graduates who become teachers are retained after 5 years.

* Arizona State University and Urban Teacher Residencies United are
enriching the clinical experiences they provide, so their teacher candidates
can learn in real schools with the help of master teachers. Additionally,
these programs use the same teaching standards in preparation that teachers
will use on the job later. Eighty-five percent of Urban Teacher Residencies
graduates remain in the classroom after three years, compared to the 50
percent national average.

* Relay Graduate School of Education, founded by three charter
management organizations in New York City, measures and holds itself
accountable for both program graduate and employer satisfaction, as well as
requires that teachers meet high goals for student learning growth before
they can complete their degrees. Students of Relay teachers grew 1.3 years in reading performance in one year.

* Fayetteville State University in North Carolina incorporates the
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction competencies and standards as well as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards into its curriculum for master’s degree students in education. Of its recent
graduates, 87 percent of new teachers met or exceeded expectations for
student learning growth, compared to the 75 percent state average.

“We know how important strong teaching is to students’ education and life outcomes – especially for our most vulnerable kids,” Duncan said. “Leaders
in this field are already moving in the direction of our proposal, and our
regulations try to align with their best thinking on how to prepare
effective educators who are ready to hit the ground running on day one. If
we are going to improve teaching and learning in America, we have to improve
the training and support that we give our teachers.”

Other changes in the proposed regulations include requiring performance data reporting at the program – rather than the institutional – level and requiring states to engage with a broad range of stakeholders – including teacher preparation programs, school leaders and teachers – in designing their systems. The proposal also changes eligibility for TEACH Grants
( so that the money only goes to graduates
of programs rated effective or higher for at least two of the previous three
years. States must provide technical assistance to any teacher preparation
programs rated as low-performing.

The proposal would require states to report annually on the performance of
teacher preparation programs – including alternative certification programs- based on a combination of:

* Employment outcomes: New teacher placement and three-year
retention rates in high-need schools and in all schools.

* New teacher and employer feedback: Surveys on the effectiveness of preparation.

* Student learning outcomes: Impact of new teachers as measured by
student growth, teacher evaluation, or both.

* Assurance of specialized accreditation or evidence that a program
produces high-quality candidates.

The proposed regulations will undergo a 60-day comment period where the
public can submit suggestions. The final rule will be published in mid-2015.

A fact sheet on the proposed regulation can be found on, along with a version of the draft regulations, which
will publish in Federal Register in coming days.

Mercedes Schneider reviews the botched charter application of Greater Works Charter School in Rochrster, Néw York. The lead applicant and CEO, Ted Morris Jr., was only 22 yet claimed to have 7+ years in the education field.

Schneider calls on the chair of the Regents–Merryl Tisch–to take responsibility for the incompetence of the State Education Department.

This charter school should not go forward.

Which education policy or policymaker would you vote for as “turkey of the year”?


Julian Vasquez Heilig is running a poll on his much-celebrated blog Cloaking Inequity.


Here is your chance to cast your vote!

There will be Black Friday protests at many Walmarts in support of their workers.

Walmart’s stores have been a bonanza for members of the Walton family. Several are billionaires. The Walton Foundation spends $160 million each year to encourage school privatization and non-union schools, charters, vouchers, and TFA.

With all their billions, they pay low wages to their employees. Some Walnarts are accepting food donations for their employees. The Walmart workers are seeking $15 an hour. Too much for the billionaires of the Walton family

The third and final installment in the National Council of Thanksgiving Quality (NCTQ) advisories offers helpful advice about how to continue rating your own Thanksgiving dinner (and that of your neighbors).


And don’t forget the Pledge:


Our Pledge (Talking Turkey):

At NCTQ, we will continue to publish reports that represent the terrible quality of your family’s Thanksgiving Dinner. We will continue to support and publish research on standards and best practices for Thanksgiving Dinner, and we will work to impose those standards on your family. We will use whatever research we can find or create to forward these goals. We will lobby politicians and corporate sponsors to achieve our ends. We seek to standardize all Thanksgiving Dinners, so all US families can be sure they are presenting the best Thanksgiving Dinner for their children. We will also create and support private corporations that will derive enormous profits from delivering a high-quality Thanksgiving Dinner to your family. We will not rest until every child has the high-quality Thanksgiving Dinner he or she deserves.

When you hear about NCTQ, think TURKEY!!




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