Archives for category: Education Reform

Sarah Garland, writing for the HECHINGER Report, says that the Reagan-era report “A Nation at Risk” (1983) laid the groundwork for today’s regime of high-takes testing, longer school hours, and tougher accountability measures. The conservative Republicans he quotes express satisfaction with the Obama administration’s embrace of their agenda. The enduring puzzle: who stole the Democratic agenda of equity and teacher professionalism?

Here is the latest summary of testing news from FAIRTEST:

Across the U.S., students are returning to classrooms where even more time will be devoted to standardized exam preparation and administration. Over the summer, some districts developed hundreds of new tests to comply with mandates from federal and state politicians who are still not listening to their constituents


Not surprisingly, the escalating testing frenzy is additional motivation for the nation’s growing assessment reform movement.

Colorado Opt-Out Movement Grows

Large Florida County School Board Votes to Research Opting Out of Standardized Testing

Florida District Test Opt-Out Options Legally Unclear

More Lessons From Atlanta, Georgia Cheating Scandal

Indiana Superintendent Criticizes Politically Motivated School Grading System

Michigan School’s Grade Plunges Due to Administrative Error

Michigan School Ratings Largely Measure Race and Income, Not Academic Performance

New Jersey Test-and-Punish Policies Drive Out Good Teachers

Bad Data Sunk New Mexico Teacher Ratings

New Mexico Governor Candidate Calls for Moratorium on High-Stakes Exams

How New Common Core Tests Fail New York Students

New York Parents and Educators Outraged by Poor Quality, Low Accuracy of Common Core Tests

Common Core Testing in N.Y. Creates a Narrative of Failure

Check Out Pearson’s New York Common Core Test Questions — Can You Pass the Eighth Grade Math Test?

New York State Gives Grants to Districts to Reduce Number of Tests

Understanding The Texas Accountability “Twilight Zone”

No Child Left Behind: An Utter Failure in Vermont

Catching Pearson Test Scoring Error Boosts 224 Virginia Students from Failing to Passing

See an Updated Chronology of Pearson Testing Errors

Virginia Family Says Testing Requirement Impedes Their Unitarian Religious Beliefs

Washington Superintendents Blast No Child Left Behind “Failing” Grades

Feds Failed School Rules Inspire Revolting Response

Why Schools Are Awash in a Wave of Testing

Heavy Criticism of NCLB Waivers on Three-Year Anniversary

Duncan Funnels Millions to College Board for Advanced Placement Testing

Teaching is Not a Business

Test-Based Grade Three Reading Retention Does Not Work

Testing Fixation Leads to Narrowed Curriculum for African American

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director

FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing

office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779

mobile- (239) 696-0468


Sharon McCloskey and Lindsay Wagner of NC Policy Watch here fill in the key details of today’s voucher decision.

Judge Robert Hobgood pulled no punches:

“In a stunning rebuke to state lawmakers’ efforts to bring school vouchers to North Carolina, Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood today found the recently-enacted “Opportunity Scholarship Program” unconstitutional and permanently enjoined disbursement of state funds for that purpose.

“The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything,” Hobgood said.”

He added:

“In his ruling today Hobgood recognized the state’s obligation to provide a “sound basic education” to the children attending public schools in North Carolina as mandated by the Supreme Court in its Leandro decision .

“The General Assembly cannot constitutionally delegate this responsibility to unregulated private schools by use of taxpayer opportunity scholarships to low income parents who have self-assessed their children to be at risk,” he said.

“Hobgood noted that the private schools receiving the scholarships are not subject to any requirements or standards regarding the curriculum that they teach, have no requirements for student achievement, are not obligated to demonstrate any growth in student performance and are not even obligated to provide a minimum amount of instructional time.”

The state argued that the $10 million for vouchers was not taken from public school funds. The judge rejected that claim, saying: ““Follow the money,” the judge added. “The clear legislative intent is to utilize taxpayer money to fund private schools.”

Judge Hopgood also wrote:

““It appears to this court that the General Assembly is seeking to push at-risk students from low income families into non-public schools in order to avoid the cost of providing them a sound basic education in public school as mandated by the Leandro decision,” he said.

“Parents who intervened in the case, represented by the Koch Brothers-backed law firm Institute for Justice, did move forward with an appeal of Hobgood’s order, contending that they would be harmed by the court’s delay of the voucher program’s implementation.”

- See more at:”

A note from Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy. White Hat is Ohio’s largest charter chain. It operates for profit. The owner of White Hat, industrialist David Brennan, is a major contributor to Republican politicians, including Governor John Kasich and legislators. Because it is a private company, White Hat does not permit public disclosure of its finances.

Phillis writes:

“A White Hat online business enterprise took $13,106,192.74 from 409 school districts in 2013-2014

“Part of the opaque charter school empire of White Hat Management is an online business. 409 school districts paid $13.1 million to White Hat Management in 2013-2014. Like the giants in the online charter school industry-E.C.O.T. and K-12, Inc.-White Hat’s Alternative Education Academy (also known as OHDELA) is a low performing, low graduation rate, online operation. The 2012-2013 Report Card indicates Alternative Education Academy, a mostly F rated enterprise. The five-year graduation rate was 22.8%.

“These 409 school districts, by force of flawed law, gave up funds (state and local) and governance to one business entity-White Hat Management. Out with democracy and in with oligarchy!

“Does democracy matter?”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

In a two-part article called “Florida’s Charter Schools: Unsupervised,” Karen Yi and Amy Shipley of the Sun-Sentinel describe how the state’s weak laws allows charter school operators in South Florida to profit while wasting taxpayers’ money and children’s lives.

South Florida has more than 260 charter schools. Local districts are supposed to oversee them. The laws about who may open a charter school are lax. Charters open and close, and millions of dollars disappear. Is every charter a fraud? No. But members of the charter sector hold key positions in the state legislature, and the charters are the pride of former Governor Jeb Bush, so there is little effort to rein in the miscreants.

The article begins:

“Unchecked charter-school operators are exploiting South Florida’s public school system, collecting taxpayer dollars for schools that quickly shut down.

“A recent spate of charter-school closings illustrates weaknesses in state law: virtually anyone can open or run a charter school and spend public education money with near impunity, a Sun Sentinel investigation found.

“Florida requires local school districts to oversee charter schools but gives them limited power to intervene when cash is mismanaged or students are deprived of basic supplies — even classrooms.

Once schools close, the newspaper found, districts struggle to retrieve public money not spent on students.

Among the cases the newspaper reviewed:

“• An Oakland Park man received $450,000 in tax dollars to open two new charter schools just months after his first collapsed. The schools shuttled students among more than four locations in Broward County, including a park, an event hall and two churches. The schools closed in seven weeks.

“• A Boca Raton woman convicted of taking kickbacks when she ran a federal meal program was hired to manage a start-up charter school in Lauderdale Lakes.

“• A Coral Springs man with a history of foreclosures, court-ordered payments, and bankruptcy received $100,000 to start a charter school in Margate. It closed in two months.

“• A Hollywood company that founded three short-lived charters in Palm Beach and Collier counties will open a new school this fall. The two Palm Beach County schools did not return nearly $200,000 they owe the district.”

The laws were written to make it easy for anyone to open a charter school.

“State law requires local school districts to approve or deny new charters based solely on applications that outline their plans in areas including instruction, mission and budget. The statutes don’t address background checks on charter applicants. Because of the lack of guidelines, school officials in South Florida say, they do not conduct criminal screenings or examine candidates’ financial or educational pasts.

“That means individuals with a history of failed schools, shaky personal finances or no experience running schools can open or operate charters.”

“The law doesn’t limit who can open a charter school. If they can write a good application … it’s supposed to stand alone,” said Jim Pegg, director of the charter schools department for the Palm Beach County school district. “You’re approving an idea.”

“Charter-school advocates say the complexity of the application, which can run more than 400 pages, weeds out frivolous candidates. But school officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties told the Sun Sentinel some applicants simply cut and paste from previously approved applications available online.”

Charter operators can receive approval and funding before they know where their school will be located. Two iGeneration charters in West Palm Beach opened 11 days after school started.

“As students showed up for class, parts of the building remained under construction. Classrooms had not undergone required fire inspections and sometimes lacked air conditioning, district documents show. The iGeneration charters bused their high schoolers on unauthorized daily field trips because they didn’t have enough seats at the school, records show.

“On one trip, they lost a student. Though she was found four hours later, district officials immediately shut down the schools.

“Because of the quick shut-down, the iGeneration charter schools were overpaid nearly $200,000, according to the Palm Beach County school district. The schools have not returned the money.”

Academic chaos is not unusual:

“A former teacher at the Ivy Academies stored her classroom supplies in the trunk of her car. Every morning, she’d wait for a phone call to find out where classes would be held that day.

“I would never know where we [were] going,” said teacher and former middle school dean Kimberly Kyle-Jones. “It was chaotic.”

“The two Ivy Academies lasted only seven weeks.”

District officials didn’t know where the “nomad campuses” were.

“The biggest tragedy is what happened to those students during the course of time they were in that charter,” Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said. “When you get a lot of private actors coming into the marketplace, folks are in it to make money … Public education is not a place for you to come to make money.”

Some of the charters don’t know how to run a school or to provide basic supplies. In one, the lights were turned off because the school didn’t pay its elecrtticity bill. Children are the losers.

“Every time a charter school closes, dozens of children are displaced — in some instances, mid-month. Many return to their neighborhood schools where some struggle to catch up because their charters did not provide required testing, instruction in basic subjects or adequate services for those with special needs.

“This isn’t just a regular business. This isn’t a restaurant that you just open up, you serve your food, people don’t like it, you close it and move on,” said Krystal Castellano, a former teacher at the now-closed Next Generation charter school. “This is education; this is students getting left in the middle of the year without a school to go to.”

When charters close, district officials are often unable to collect money that the charter didn’t spend:

“State law requires that furniture, computers and unspent money be returned to the districts, but when officials attempt to collect, charter operators sometimes cannot be found.

“We do know there have been a few [charter schools] … where hundreds of thousands of dollars were never spent on kids, and we don’t know where that money went,” said Pegg, who oversees charters in Palm Beach County. “As soon as we close the door on those schools, those people scatter … We can’t find them.”

“When a Broward school district auditor and school detective went searching for Mitchell at the Ivy Academies in September 2013, he left through a back door, records show. District officials said they have yet to find him, or to collect the $240,000 in public money the schools received for students they never had…..

“When the Miami-Dade school district demanded the return of more than $100,000 it overpaid the Tree of Knowledge Learning Academy in 2009, the year-old charter school ceased operations. The district did not recoup the money.

“It’s almost mind-blowing what’s going on,” said Rosalind Osgood, a Broward School Board member. “They just get away with it.”

Two-thirds of South Flotida’s charters are run by management companies, which further complicates the money trail. These companies collect between 10 and 97% of all revenues.

“They’re public schools in the front door; they’re for-profit closed entities in the back door,” said Kathleen Oropeza, who co-founded, an education advocacy group based in Orlando. “There’s no transparency; the public has no ability to see where the profits are, how the money is spent.”

Given the low bar for opening charter schools in Florida, the number is expected to increase dramatically over the next five years. There are more than 600 charters in the state now. And there will be no more supervision than there is now.

Part 2 of the series tells the story of Steve Gallon, who was banned from working in Néw Jersey because of fiscal improprieties but welcomed as a charter leader in Florida.

Despite a Supreme Court ruling that immigrant children without citizenship status have the right to free public schooling, Fox News has taken a strong stand in opposition, according to Media Matters for America.

Its researchers write:

Fox News Decries Granting Undocumented Children Their Right To Access Public Education

Fox News personalities criticized a plan allowing newly arrived child migrants access to public education as “tragic” and dangerous, despite a Supreme Court decision guaranteeing all children access to education regardless of immigration status.

Fox Figures Complain That Refugee Children Receive Taxpayer-Funded Education

Fox Guest: It Is “Tragic On So Many Levels” For U.S. To Educate Immigrant Children. On the August 12 edition of Fox News’ Your World, host Neil Cavuto invited conservative talk show host Gina Loudon on to criticize the fact that undocumented immigrant children receive public education. Loudon claimed it was “tragic on so many levels” for the U.S. to educate the undocumented children, adding that without criminal background checks and health screenings, schools won’t know “if this student is a murderer” or “has one of the diseases that we’re hearing about coming across the border.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 8/12/14]

Fox’s Tucker Carlson: “But What About The Rights Of The Kids Who Were Born Here?” On the August 11 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Tucker Carlson responded to the notion that it is the United States’ legal obligation to educate children who come into the country by saying, “But what about the rights of the kids who were born here, the American citizens who presumably have the right to a decent education and aren’t getting one because of this?” [Fox News,Fox & Friends, 8/11/14]

Fox Business’ Buttner: “Forget The Ebola Scare. Is It Really The Back To School Scare?” On the August 10 edition of Fox Business’ Bulls and Bears, host Brenda Buttner questioned whether parents should be concerned with “a surge of up to 60,000 illegal kids in their classrooms.” Buttner exclaimed, “Forget the Ebola scare. Is it really the back to school scare?” Fox Business reporter Tracy Burns later insisted that “we have to take care of our own first.” [Fox Business, Bulls and Bears, 8/10/14]

REALITY: School-Age Children In America Are Guaranteed Equal Access To Education, Irrespective Of Immigration Status

American Immigration Council: Supreme Court Guaranteed Undocumented Immigrant Children Equal Access ToEducation Under The 14th Amendment In Plyer v. Doe. In 1981, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Texas statute which aimed to withhold state funding from local school districts that also educated undocumented immigrant children was a violation of the 14th Amendment. The Court found that undocumented immigrants and their children are people “in any ordinary sense of the term” and are thus guaranteed equal protection under the law, including the right to not be unfairly barred from the public school system:

The Court based its ruling on the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says in part, “No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (This provision is commonly known as the “Equal Protection Clause.”) Under this provision, the Court held that if states provide a free public education to U.S. citizens and lawfully present foreign-born children, they cannot deny such an education to undocumented children without “showing that it furthers some substantial state interest.”

The Court found that the school district had no rational basis to deny children a public education based on their immigration status, given the harm the policy would inflict on the children themselves and society as a whole. “By denying these children a basic education,” the Court said, “we deny them the ability to live within the structure of our civic institutions, and foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of our Nation.” The Court also said that holding children accountable for their parents’ actions “does not comport with fundamental conceptions of justice.” [American Immigration Council,6/15/12]

Reader Art Seagal comments on the latest, most destructive fads in American education–destructive because they are mandatory and do not permit teacher judgment or professionalism.

Seagal writes:

I just read a telling article in an alumni magazine all about one man’s (Clayton Christensen) business concept – “disruptive innovation”. Sadly, our nation’s children and teachers have become pawns in a corporate-centric world being constantly moved over the chessboard so that opponent’s kings can be check-mated. “Edupreneurs” .. you pick from a string of them – the latest being David Coleman – are trying to play Christensen’s concept (which really is a statement of the obvious put through marketing and given a “brand”) to become the KING – the last man standing – the American Idol – the Survivor – the Bachelorette – you name it and the corporate world is going to find that “ONE PROFIT MAKING IDEAL that is going to be ON TOP (henceforth profitable) rendering everything before it useless. This may work for products??? Think cell phone and landline. But it certainly is not working for the basics of humanity – our quest to learn. Just the mere attempt to try to be the “disruptive innovator” is destroying public education (well there is a lot more contributing to this destruction too like poverty and a failing democratic process on a national level).

I mentioned before.. this era of “guru-ization”. Ravitch totally nails it in this recent article with the revolving door of “next best” and “this way or the highway” style public education that has taken professional control from teachers totally away and put it into the hands of what I will say are wanna be “disruptive innovators”. I am thankful for her existence on a daily basis!!!

We need to bring back teacher control. Yes, teachers who constantly keep updated and read about various education ideas and actually pick and choose those components they professionally feel will merit use in their particular classrooms. When you get a program like Balanced Literacy developed by someone with a lot of ed experience but it suddenly becomes THE ONE PROGRAM in NYC… it serves not to benefit but to disenfranchise because it is expected (no demanded by authorities) to be implemented in a one-size-fits all kind of way. The business model has perpetuated “guruization” by dangling the potential for enormous profit off of “that one idea” that goes forcefully viral. Let’s keep these ideas but not let the corporate world co-opt them!

Coleman’s theories need a good looking at by people who actually have education (not testing experience). Teachers are perfectly capable of looking at his ideas and tossing out everything that does not work. But this is not how it works. They must follow ALL OF IT despite their experience telling them otherwise. Dare I say this but if teachers were allowed to choose from their readings what and how to implement various components of various education ideas… success might be a lot more prevalent. And yes, most teachers I work with WANT TO GO TO PD’s that are not PR brainwashing events but one’s of their choosing that actually help them in the classroom. One fabulous teacher I know, paid on her own dime (as we usually do when we want REAL PD’s) and could not talk enough about a “brain and the young child” conference she attended (led by a neurologist). Instead we are forced to attend conferences where non educators are trained specifically to teach educators and their bosses are getting heaps of money to inflict nonsense on these teachers. These trainers never can answer the nitty gritty real questions that teachers ask because they have not had the requisite classroom experience. And quite often they are charged with selling their company’s “brand”. The superintendents meanwhile get to “check off” that their county’s teachers have been provided “essential training” from their superintendent’s “check-list” that satisfies likely a govt entity that provides funding to their county! Junk food PD’s.

I feel sorry for our “down under” friends… their govt.’s willingness to follow the US public education model truly will put their nation’s most valuable (their young) “down and under”.

Paul Thomas says that events are moving swiftly, and we must move with them.

When the corporate reform movement started, educators were taken by surprise and treated like children. When did it start? Was it the accountability movement that began after “A Nation at Risk” in 1983? Was it the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001? Or the election of Michael Bloomberg in 2001 and years of pointing to the New York City “miracle”? Or the appointment in 2007 of Michelle Rhee in 2007, who was the darling of the media? Or the arrival of Race to the Top, which was no better than NCLB? Or the firing of the staff in Central Falls, Rhode Island, and the release of “Waiting for Superman” in 2010?

Thomas writes:

“Most of those accountability years, I would classify as Phase 1, a period characterized by a political monopoly on both public discourse and policy addressing primarily public K-12 education.

“We are now in Phase 2, a time in which (in many ways aided by the rise in social media—Twitter, blogging, Facebook—and the alternative press—AlterNet and Truthout) teachers, professors, and educational scholars have begun to create a resistance to the political, media, and public commitments to recycling false charges of educational failure in order to continue the same failed approaches to education reform again and again.

“In Phase 1, educators were subjected to the role of the child; we were asked to be seen but not heard.

“In Phase 2, adolescence kicked in, and we quite frankly began to experiment with our rebellious selves. In many instances, we have been pitching a fit—a completely warranted tantrum, I believe, but a tantrum nonetheless.”

Now we are in Phase 3, says Thomas. In Phase 3, we shift to substance, not just putting out fires. We are the adults. The reformers may hold the reins of power but they are in retreat as it turns out that none of their ideas actually works.

He says: “In short, as I have argued about the Common Core debate, the resistance has reached a point when we must forefront rational and evidence-based alternatives to a crumbling education reform disaster.

“We must be the adults in the room, the calm in the storm. It won’t be easy, but it is time for the resistance to grow up and take our next step.”

I am all for Phase 3, but I am not sure who will be convinced by rational and evidence-based alternatives. We have always had the evidence. We have known–even the reformers have known–that their reforms are causing a disaster. They believe in disruption as a matter of principle. How do we persuade them to consider reason and evidence? I think that Phase 3 commences when parents and educators wake up and throw the rascals out of office. In state after state, they are attacking public education, teachers , and the principle of equality of educational opportunity. The best way to stop them is to vote them out.

Michael Brown, the youth who was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, graduated from Normandy High School. You may recall reading here that the Normandy School District, which was 98% African-American, was merged by the state with the nearby Wellston School District, which was 100% African-American.

Michael’s graduation picture was taken in March 2014. Why so far ahead of the graduation date? The high school had only two graduation gowns, and they had to be shared by the entire class. Mark Sumner tells the story of Michael Brown’s high school on The Daily Kos, and it is heartbreaking.

“The grinding poverty in Mike’s world only allowed Normandy High School to acquire two graduation gowns to be shared by the entire class. The students passed a gown from one to the other. Each put the gown on, in turn, and sat before the camera to have their graduation photographs taken. Until it was Mike’s turn.

“What kind of American school would have to share robes across the entire senior class?
The kind that’s been the subject of a lot of attention from the state board of education.

“This district was created by merging two of the poorest, most heavily minority districts around St. Louis—Normandy and Wellston. The poverty rate for families sending their kids to Normandy Schools was 92 percent. At Wellston School District, the poverty rate was 98 percent. Every single student in the Wellston district was African American.

“Still, the state education board voted to merge the districts in 2010 (the first change to state school district boundaries in thirty-five years). Plagued by white flight, crashing property values that destroyed tax revenues, and a loss of state funds as the better-off residents of the area sent their children to private schools, the resulting district isn’t just short of gowns, it’s short of everything. Residents of the district voted again and again to raise their own property taxes, until their rates were actually the highest in the state, but a higher percentage of nothing was still nothing, and district revenues trended steadily down.”

And more:

“So who actually runs Michael Brown’s school district? Well, the president of the board of education is Peter F. Herschend of Branson, Missouri. Herschend isn’t a former teacher, or a former principal, and doesn’t have any training in the education field. He’s the owner of Herschend Family Entertainment, which runs Silver Dollar City and other amusement parks. He’s also one of the biggest contributors to the Republican Party in the state.

“So, when you’re wondering who runs Michael Brown’s school district—when you’re wondering who’s in control of an urban, minority district so poor that the students have only two graduation gowns to share—it’s a white Republican millionaire from out state.”

There have been far too many killings of unarmed young black men. The nation expressed shock when George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin in Florida. The nation should be even more outraged when young men like Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, are killed by the police. The U.S. Justice Department should set standards for the training of police officers so that the use of firearms is a last resort or a very rare occurrence. The police should be the protectors of the community, the keepers of the peace, not an armed force to be feared by young men of color.

It is time for Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, to take the lead in not only demanding an end to the use of deadly force against young people but in setting national standards for police conduct and prosecuting police forces that terrorize people of color.

Here is an account worth reading.


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