Archives for category: Education Reform

Peter Greene has been following the conversation at EducationPost, the blog funded by Broad, Walton, Bloomberg et al for $12 million, he says that the new spin from reformsters is that education is too politicized. He agrees but asks how it got that way. Who took the decision making power away from educators and gave it to legislatures, governors, the President, and Comgress? Not educators.

Peter Greene knows who did it:

“As it turns out, I think I have an answer for this one. Asking why the Common Core are wrapped up in politics is like asking why human beings are so involved with blood.

“The Common Core were birthed in politics. They were weaned on politics. And every time they have looked tired and in trouble, they have been revived with a fresh transfusion of politics.

“When David Coleman and Gene Wilhoit decided they wanted to standardize American education, they did not come up with a plan to sell such a program on its education merits. They called on Bill Gates to use his money and power to convince state governments to legislate systemic changes to education.

“The states signed on to a Memo of Understanding (a political tool for out-politicking politics) and many of them did it before there were even any standards to look at. This was a political move, using the political power of legislatures and governors’ offices to impose rules on educational systems– in many cases, before educators in particular states even knew that such a systemic overhaul was being considered.

“Common Core’s Pappy, No Child Left Behind, was a creature of politics, right down to its spin-ready title. It was created to put a glossy shine on bipartisan action for the kids. Educators (and other people with rudimentary math skills) pointed out early on that the NCLB end game of 100% above average was ridiculously improbable, but the political shininess plus the political notion that future politicians would find a political solution drowned out good sense. Because, politics.”

He concludes:

“At no point in all this reformy baloney have we seen the spectacle of bottom-up reform, a reform movement driven by teachers and other educators saying, “Hey, we have some ideas that are so revolutionary and so great that they are spreading like wildfire strictly on their educational merits!”

“No– Common Core and its attendant test-driven high stakes data-glomming VAMboozling baloney have come from the top down, by politicians using political power to impose educational solutions through the political tools applied to the political structure of government. Why do people get the idea that all these reformy ideas are linked? Because they all come from the same place– the linkage is the political power that imposed them all on the American public education system.

“Look. We live in the real world and politics play a part in many things. But for some reformsters to offer wide eyes and shocked dismay and clutched pearls as they cry, “Oh, but why does it have to be so political!” is the height of hypocrisy. It’s political because you folks made it political, every step of the way, and it’s not humanly possible for you to be too dumb to know that (particularly at a site like Education Post that is larded with career political operatives). So if you want to have a serious conversation about any of this, Step One is top stop lying, badly, directly to our faces. I can’t hear you when my bullshit detector alarm is screaming in my ear.”

Howard Blume and Teresa Watanabe of the Los Angeles Times describe the storm clouds gathered around Superintendent John Deasy. The problem is rooted in the peculiar bidding process for what will eventually be a $1.3 billion effort to give a computer to every student and staff member. Released emails showed that Deasy and his close associate Jaime Aquino (a former employees of Pearson) were in discussions about the bidding two years before the bidding began. After this revelation from the emails, which seemed to imply favoritism for Apple and Pearson, Deasy canceled and restarted the bidding.


Then Deasy asked for a release of all emails between board members and technology companies. Not exactly a way to build relationships, especially when four of the seven board members are not exactly Deasy supporters.


Deasy’s supporters say he is being targeted unfairly. Eli Broad says he is the best superintendent that he has seen in the half-century he has lived in Los Angeles.


Will he survive? Is his credibility compromised? Will he shift the blame to the board? Stay tuned for what is becoming a long-running drama.



A data analyst who worked for the past several years in the New York City Department of Education wrote the following about Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain. Most of the data he cites comes from public records maintained by the city or state education departments. His footnotes are at the bottom of the post.

Building a Charter Chain, and a Mayoral Campaign, on Lies

Over the past few days a deluge of, what for lack of a better word can only be described as Success Academy propaganda material, has appeared in the New York City media. The New York Daily News published an opinion piece written by what they termed “a researcher” and a “graduate student” that used the veneer of data to argue that Success Academy is a true success and miracle story.[1] Careful analysis reveals that many of the claims are outrights lies and the rest are half-truths.

Let’s start digging in.

Claim #1: “Success Academy schools serve a similar share of special needs students relative to their zoned counterparts.” This is a lie. According to the latest public data on the New York City Department of Education’s Progress Report website [2] the 4 Success Academy schools in Harlem had a total of 2540 students enrolled. Of these students only 17 were special education students with the highest level of need. That’s 0.6% of their students. By contrast the average percent of special education students with the highest level of need at community elementary/middle schools throughout New York City was 9.4% and 14% in Harlem. The average community school in NYC serves 1,500% MORE of the highest need special education students than Success Academy.[3] Such a vast disparity, in what to a significant extent are disabilities based on neurological, medical and physical differences, can’t be explained by anything other than Success Academy not serving the neediest students in the community.[4] You might think it would be hard for the researchers who penned the propaganda in the Daily News to top this lie. They will manage to surprise you.

Claim #2: “the school is more successful in teaching students English…27% of Success Academy students passed the ELL writing exam, compared to 19% at nearby schools.” This is a lie. The school is not successful at teaching English Language Learners. The “researchers” somehow forgot to mention that Success Academy only serves ELLs who are already amazingly good at English. According to the New York State data [5] over 90% of the ELL students at Success Academy are proficient or advanced in kindergarten (that is before Success Academy would have had much of an effect). Seems that Success Academy only serves English Language Learners who already know English. There ARE data suggesting that Success Academy IS very successful at kicking ELLs out (perhaps the few intermediate level ELL students who manage to slip through the lottery).[6]

Claim #3: “Success Academy students scored on average 39 points… ahead of others from equivalent backgrounds.” This is a lie. It is only by misrepresenting the “equivalent background” that they can make this claim. As we have seen in the first two lies that were exposed above, these “researchers” have not even come close to controlling for “equivalent backgrounds.” They have not controlled for level of special education need. They have not controlled for English Language Learner performance levels. They have not controlled for parent characteristics. They have not controlled for home environment. They have not controlled for peer effects of creaming some of the most advantaged students in each neighborhood.[7]

Claim #4: “the overall rate of attrition at Success Academy is far from alarming.” This is a lie. The “researchers” make this claim by comparing the yearly rate of attrition at Success Academy to that of other, nearby community schools. But that is an absurd comparison to make. After all, the data show that Success Academy is serving some of the most economically, linguistically, and academically privileged students in Harlem.[8] On top of that parents must actively choose to enter a lottery to get into Success Academy and must put up with Ms. Moskowitz’s hazing.[9] The fact that even after such a thorough screening process every single year, year after year, another 10% of the student body leaves IS rather disturbing.

Claim #5: They dismiss as a “side argument” the notion that “the choice not to backfill drives up scores.” It is a moral imperative to point out that only charter schools are given this “choice.” Public schools serve all students, from all circumstances, at all times (even when charter schools kick those very students out right after “census day,” the day districts use to calculate enrollment for budget purposes). It is disturbing that this difference seems to carry such little weight with so-called education reformers. It can only make one wonder how invested they really are in the success of each and every student.

It is also disturbing that these researchers seem unable to use basic logic and arithmetic. An Independent Budget Office report showed that charters are more likely to lose the students who score poorly on the New York State exams and who are more often absent.[10] Losing 30% of the students who will test poorly before they enter the first testing grade (i.e. 10% attrition each year through 3rd grade) can have a huge effect on test outcomes. Since it is reasonable to assume that Success Academy replaces those students with ones more likely to do well on the exams, the whole Success Academy effect can be explained by attrition.[11]

Let’s use the data from Harlem Success Academy 1 as an illustration. This year’s 8th grade cohort, the one that started kindergarten in the 2006-07 school year, dropped from 83 students in kindergarten to 63 students in 3rd grade. This means that at least 25% of the cohort disappeared even before the first exam.[12] As the disappearing students are the ones least likely to do well on the exams that means that in 3rd grade these students can be expected to score proficient on the New York State exams at a rate that would be about 25% higher than would be expected based solely on other factors (such as the creaming and self-selection noted above). This effect fully accounts for Success Academy’s, now obviously banal, outcomes.

Claim #6: “growth data from 2013 suggests that in the upper grades, on average, students maintain their high early achievement rather than moving further ahead.” Now this one is interesting since the researchers are more or less admitting that a Success Academy education amounts to very little. If students are not growing more the more time they are spending in these schools, what exactly is Success Academy accomplishing? This little fact shows that the rest of their essay amounts to little more than apologetics and lies. It is implausible to assume that Success Academy accomplishes magic in the early grades and then barely manages to hold ground in upper grades. In fact, this is another piece of evidence suggesting that Success Academy amounts to little more than an accounting trick.

However even this is a half-truth since the most recent (2012-13) New York City Department of Education Progress Report data show that Success Academy lagged well behind its “peer” schools in English exam growth.[13] Success Academy scored in the 39th percentile on English exam growth for their overall student population and in the 21st percentile on English exam growth for the students who began with scores in the lowest 1/3 of students citywide.

Claim #7: “The implication is that, through “drill and kill” instructional techniques, Success Academy is teaching students only low-level skills…The reality is much different.” Here the “researchers” mislead in various ways. They state that “Success Academy students get more science instruction than their peers.” It is unclear how they know this since no evidence is cited. They forgot to mention that according to a Success Academy teacher “We do not teach history or foreign languages in elementary school.[14]” The teacher also revealed that “Test prep starts in November.” A former teacher noted that the “Entire school focused on remaining at top of network schools assessment wise.” [15] From another interview, “All of the other grades, besides seventh and eighth grade, have been doing test prep since…the beginning of November. So that means they weren’t having English class, they were just doing stupid passages by random authors of no literary basis, quality, and just doing multiple choice questions for the past two months or so. [16]”

The “researchers” also somehow forgot to mention that exactly zero Success Academy students scored well enough on the Specialized High School Admission Exam to be admitted to one the city’s top high schools.[17] This forgotten piece of data supports the teachers’ claims that a very narrow sort of test prep characterizes Success Academy curriculum, as little of it appears to generalize to other exams.

Conclusion: Given all the other tricks in the Success Academy playbook including suspension rates 2-3 times the district averages [18], teacher attrition rates approaching 75% a year [19], the ability to spend thousands of more dollars per student thanks to deep pocketed ideological foes of public schools [20], the ability to grade its own exams (public schools are legally prohibited from doing so), and lots more instructional time, Success Academy must be considered an utter failure.

The media, as seen in the “puff piece” in the New York Times Magazine [21], is clearly getting behind Eva Moskowitz’s planned mayoral campaign. However, the accumulating lies cannot withstand scrutiny. Eva has fought audits of her schools and has refused to be transparent with Success Academy data. These are not the characteristics that we want in an elected official. Nor in a leader of schools.

[3] By the way, Success Academy did not do any miracles with these students. Fewer than 20% tested proficient on the NYS English Exam.
[4] Not that that has stopped shills for the charter school industry from trying
[7] They also convert a 39 point difference in test scores into being “3 years” more advanced than other students. To put this ridiculous claim in context, let’s note that 39 points is about 12% of the average total score for general education students in New York City on the New York State exams. They are essentially claiming that a student who scores a 92% on an exam is 3 years more advanced than a student who scores an 80%.
[9] Here is one parent’s description on “I attended the orientation & was “turned off” by Ms. E. Moskowitz condescending & offensive approach. She was bordering on insulting. When informing the parents of their obligations to attend the after-school games/activities, she said,“All parents are expected to attend and stay for the entire time. Don’t think you can come for a little while & leave to go get your hair done”. “Another comment made in poor taste was when a parent ask if there was financial asst. 4 uniforms. Ms. M’s response was, “ have six weeks to save up”.”
[10] “Among students in charter schools, those who remained…had higher average scale scores…compared with those who had left for another New York City public school.” “Absenteeism is an even greater predictor of turnover for students in charter schools, compared with its predictive power for students in nearby traditional public schools.”
[11] Since Success Academy refuses to transparently share its data we are unable to determine exactly how much of a role attrition plays in the early grades. The public data only show overall cohort sizes, so when Success Academy loses 10% of its students a year, if it backfills those seats in grades K-3, the cohort size appears to remain stable through those years. As the “researchers” admit to at least the 10% annual attrition rate we will accept their numbers. But it is also possible that attrition is even higher in the early grades, since “survivor bias” makes it reasonable to assume that the longer a student has been at a Success Academy school the more likely they are to remain.
[12] See the previous endnote for an explanation of why this is likely an underestimate.
[13] this data does not account for the selective attrition effects noted above and is therefore a very optimistic figure for the real outcomes within Success Academy schools
[19] and

Wendy Lecker, senior attorney for the Education Law Center, writes here that our most important national standards are found in our obligation to provide a high-quality education, adequately funded, to all children.

She was reminded of this by the recent court decision in Texas, where Judge John Dietz ruled that the schools were inadequately funded.

“Dietz found that to prepare children for citizenship, every school must have a basic set of essential resources: pre-K, small class size, enough teachers, libraries, books, technology, support staff — including counselors, social workers and paraprofessionals — and extra services for children with extraordinary needs, adequate facilities and a suitable curriculum. After a lengthy trial, the judge ruled that Texas’ school-finance system failed to ensure schools had these basic resources and that, as a result, children in these schools were being denied their constitutional right to an education.”

“Across this nation, courts in school funding cases have found that these same resources are essential to a constitutionally adequate education in their states. Like Dietz, they heard evidence from national educational experts and local educational experts — superintendents and teachers who work with public school children every day. These judges heard what children need and what works best to help children learn. From Kansas, to Washington, to New Jersey and beyond, these far-flung courts ruled that their states are responsible for providing schools with this nearly identical basket of educational goods.

“So-called education “reformers” push a different and lesser vision of education — perhaps most honestly expressed by the Dayton, Ohio, Chamber of Commerce:

[whose spokesman said] “The business community is the consumer of the educational product. Students are the educational product. They are going through the educational system so they can be an attractive product for business to consume.”

“This diminishment of children as being in service to business is echoed by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who lamented that because of our public education system, “we are falling further behind our international competitors.”

“Not only is this vision offensive, it is wrongheaded. It has been proven over and over that U.S. students’ scores on national or international tests bear no relation to America’s economy or worker productivity.”

Our national standard ought to be, and until recently was: equality of educational opportunity. That standard cannot be met until all children have access to a good public school with experienced teachers and adequate resources. We must hold state governments accountable for supplying the schools that children need.

Andrew Cuomo won with 62% of the vote; Zephyr Teachout received 34%. Teachout had a great showing considering that she was a complete unknown with little name recognition, vastly outspent by Cuomo. Her $200,000 vs his $35 million. And his legal team kept her tied up in court challenging her residency; she won but lost two weeks of campaigning. Cuomo did his best to make Teachout invisible, never debating her, never mentioning her name, turning his back to her when she tried to shake her hand, treating her as a non-person. Yet she nonetheless managed to win the votes of 34% of Democrats who voted. She swept many upstate counties, perhaps on the hydrofracking issue (she is against it). She was a class act. He was a cold, calculating bully who refused to mention her name or shake her hand.


After the election, Cuomo bragged that “he had bravely taken on several narrow but well-organized special interests — state employees, teachers and hydrofracking opponents — who, he said, were upset with him because he did not give into their wishes.” So we are likely to see more education budget cuts, more cheerleading for non-union charter schools, and gubernatorial support for hydrofracking, since these are some  of the groups that Cuomo was proud to have defeated. The unions and the Working Family Party should have endorsed Teachout. Well, there is always next time. She was a great candidate and she has a future, if she chooses to stay in the arena.


Aaron Regunberg, former organizer of the Providence Student Union, won a seat in the State Senate in Rhode Island. That’s great news. Never again will the State Senate pass a policy on education without hearing the voices of those it affects most: students.


Gina Raimondo was elected governor of Rhode Island. She wasn’t my choice because of her role in cutting pensions but she is preferable to Mayor Taveras, who touts charters and was DFER’s choice..

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

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

“Special Educator NY: all credit to Duane Swacker—



And to the most esteemed SomeDAM Poet:

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

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

“I could wile away the hours

Conferrin’ with the flowers

Consultin’ with the rain

And my head I’d be scratchin’

While my thoughts were busy hatchin’

If I only had a brain.”

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


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

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

Rheeally! In a Johnsonally sort of way…*


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


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


That report found that:


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


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

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


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










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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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