Archives for category: Honor Roll

A group of courageous teachers burned their evaluations in a trash can in front of the Albuquerque Public Schools headquarters a few days ago. They are heroes of public education for standing up and saying that these evaluations are junk.

More than three dozen Albuquerque school teachers, including many who have just been rated “highly effective” by the New Mexico Public Education Department, burned their teacher evaluations in front of the Albuquerque Public Schools headquarters Wednesday to protest what many called the inherent “unfairness” of the process.

Courtney Hinman ignited the blaze by taking a lighter to his “effective” evaluation. He was quickly followed by a “minimally effective” special education teacher from Albuquerque High School, then by a “highly effective” teacher from Monte Vista Elementary School.

Wally Walstrom, also of Monte Vista Elementary, told the crowd of 60 or 70 people that his “highly effective” rating was “meaningless,” before tossing it into the fire.

One after another, teachers used the words “meaningless” and “unfair” to describe the evaluations and the process used to arrive at those judgments.

One teacher said she was judged “highly effective,” but a colleague who uses many of the same teaching techniques was found to be “minimally effective.”

Another teacher said the majority of his autistic, special-needs students failed the SBA – a mandatory assessment test – yet he was judged “highly effective.”

To see one of these hero teachers in action, read David Wilson’s account of his exchange with the local newspaper, which is in the unfortunate habit of printing press releases from the state education department, headed by Jeb Bush acolyte Hanna Skandera. She is now chairperson of Bush’s shrinking “Chiefs for Change.” Her appointment as state commissioner was held up for years by the State Senate because she had never taught (a requirement in the state law).

Here is how his forthright letter to the editor begins:

I am writing to ask you to issue a retraction or correction to the article Ms. Westphal wrote recently about the middle school teacher who received an evaluation of minimally effective after receiving highly effective last year. I have written to Ms. Westphal regarding this matter. Unfortunately, I received an automated response explaining that she was out of town.

In your retraction or correction, please state that, contrary to what Ms. Westphal stated in her article, Ms. Hur, chief of staff of Ed Sect’y Skandera, is not a teacher. If you state that she was once a teacher, be sure to include the fact that she taught for only three years, from 2001-2004. In the state of NM, a teacher with only 3 years experience is considered a beginning, relatively inexperienced teacher, still in her probationary period.

Please also include the fact that her three years of teaching experience were in a private school, not a public school, and that she was therefore never subject to the high teaching standards historically applied to public school teachers. Include the fact that she has never been evaluated by NMTeach and has never taught under the requirements of NCLB and RTTT.

It would also be forthright of you to point out that Ms. Hur has never been certified to teach in the state of New Mexico and may also no longer be certified to teach in Colorado.

Finally, you might consider mentioning that Ms. Hur worked for Michelle Rhee’s The New Teacher Project (TNTP) and for David Coleman’s McKinsey & Co., two private organizations that continue to work feverishly to undermine America’s public schools by discrediting and demonizing public school teachers, privatizing our public institutions, and turning our students into perpetual test takers.

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley writes about a veteran teacher who refused to bow to the Great Data God.

Lisa Elliott is a champion of public education. She says in the accompanying video, which you must watch, “This is my home. These are the children I teach.” Her refusal to resign after 18 years of exemplary service, her going public with her courageous resistance, is exemplary. I am happy to place her on the blog honor roll.

Lisa Elliott, a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) and 18-year veteran teacher who has devoted her 18-year professional career to the Alhambra Elementary School District — a Title I school district (i.e., having at least 40% of the student population from low-income families) located in the Phoenix/Glendale area — expresses in this video how she refuses to be bullied by her district’s misuse of standardized test scores.

Approximately nine months ago she was asked to resign her teaching position by the district’s interim superintendent – Dr. Michael Rivera – due to her students’ low test scores for the 2013-2014 school year, and despite her students exceeding expectations on other indicators of learning and achievement. She “respectfully declined” submitting her resignation letter because, for a number of reasons, including that her “children are more than a test score.”

The post includes a video of Lisa Elliott, standing up to the VAMinsanity.

Pittsburgh teacher Mary King said she would not give the state tests to her English language learner students, and she didn’t.


She was “the first and only” teacher in Pittsburgh to refuse to give the test. She is a Teacher of Conscience. I wrote about her here.


“Under state requirements, ESL students — also known as English language learners — who have been in the U.S. less than a year don’t have to take the PSSA in English language arts, but they do have to take the PSSA in math and science. They can have certain accommodations, such as use of word-to-word translation dictionaries without definitions and pictures on some of the exams.


Ms. King, who is in her 26th year and is retiring this school year, said not all students get upset, but she recalled one student who had to take the math test her first week. “All she knew was ‘hello,’ ‘good-bye,’ ‘thank you.’ She cried the whole time.”


Mary King wrote a comment the the newspaper in response to the article. She wrote:


Teaching in PPS has been wonderful because it has challenged every part of me – mind, heart, and spirit. I appreciate Eleanor Chute writing this story. I hope it illuminates, in a small way, concerns many educators have about corporate-driven state mandates (many!) that conflict with what we know about children and learning. Also positive, the letter from Ms. Spolar states: “The District will explore fully the accommodations available to English language learners and anticipates further review of the regulations in response to advocacy pertaining to these testing issues.” I do believe our district wants what is best for our students and hope that the voices of my colleagues are heard by our administrators and our school board of directors. In my most Pollyannaish view of the world, I would love to see PPS become a leader in the pushback that is gathering steam against corporate reforms that are decimating public education. As always, follow the money!


Since she is retiring, she won’t be punished. She should get a medal.


She gets a medal. She joins the big honor roll as a champion of public education.

Amazing news!

Long Island Opt Out, led by parent Jeanette Deutermann, endorsed candidates in yesterday’s school board elections across the two counties that comprise the Island. Fifty-seven of the 75 candidates endorsed by LIOO won their races. This includes seven of Deutermann’s liaisons for Opt Out.

Their message was: “We are taking back our schools.”

Long Island is the national hotbed for opt outs. It is a model for the nation. Parents are organized and active; they have the support of many principals and superintendents.

Jeanette Deutermann has spearheaded this effective resistance to high-stakes testing. She belongs on this blog’s honor roll as a champion of public education.

Edward Johnston of Atlanta is the most persistent gadfly in that city. He regularly writes open letters to the school board and administrators, in an effort to hold them accountable. Johnston is an adherent of the philosophy of W. Edwards Deming; he believes in collaboration, not competition; in encouragement, not punishment. He believes in improving the system, rather than shaming individuals.

I have been on his email blast list for a few years. He is not a teacher. He is a public-spirited citizen. We need someone like him in every community to hold the powerful accountable.

Here is his latest open letter:

May 17, 2015

“Dear Superintendent Carstarphen and Atlanta Board of Education members:

“Regarding your:

“Dear Frederick Douglass High School Parents/Guardians:

“As we end the 2014-2015 school year there are changes occurring at Frederick Douglass High School. We want to make sure that you are informed and engaged in what is happening.

“There will be a new principal of Frederick Douglass High School for the 2015-2016 school year. Please be assured that students, parents, staff and community will remain a priority during this transition in leadership.

“Chief Academic Officer Dr. Carlton Jenkins and Associate Superintendent of High Schools Dr. Timothy Gadson III invite you and the community to attend a meeting on Wednesday, May 20, at 6 p.m. in the school’s auditorium to discuss and provide input into the future direction of the school.

“Frederick Douglass High School Auditorium
225 Hamilton E. Holmes Dr., NW 30318″

Ed Johnson writes in response:

I write to ask you to immediately publish to the Frederick Douglass High School public community, in particular, and to the Atlanta public community, at large, an explanation of your decision to place a new principal at Frederick Douglass High School next school year, 2015-2016. Please do this in consideration of the fact that Frederick Douglass High School’s current principal has been the school’s principal only this school year, 2014-2015. And please do this to demonstrate APS openness, transparency, and trustworthiness, with the pending Wednesday meeting with Drs. Carlton and Gadson notwithstanding.

In your explanation, please cite or otherwise cover beliefs, theories, research, vetted practices and any other details that support your decision, appropriately. And please explain both negative and positive effects you theorize student learning at Douglass High School will experience as a result of your decision, given the fact that you, the APS, have placed a new principal at Frederick Douglass High School every year or so for the past several years, seemingly always based on the school reform and accountability ideology that firing principals and teachers necessarily results in school improvement without harming the children or anyone else.

The Frederick Douglass High School community group Concerned Citizens for the Education Advancement of APS Students has meet with Superintendent Carstarphen about this matter, the group’s chairperson tells me. However, it appears the group came away from meeting with Superintendent Carstarphen without a substantively coherent explanation of why Frederick Douglass High School must have yet another new principal, and understanding only that your decision seemingly derives from your wanting to realize some manner of benefit from the state.

So please note: The explanation you will publish will be summarily dismissed if it tries to “shift the blame” to the state, or to any other external entity, or otherwise contend, in effect, “they made us do it.”

Kind regards,

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
(404) 505-8176 |

The United States never allowed for-profit “public schools” until the charter industry emerged. Now they are spreading.

Jim Hall, a retired principal in Arizona, has formed Arizonans for Charter School Accoubtability to expose their sleazy deals and to show how children and taxpayers are cheated.

Jim Hall is a hero of public education, helping to save a democratic institution from profiteers.

He gathered information about two of the state’s many for-profit charters are using tax dollars to make big profits, while public schools are suffering continual cutbacks. It was shared in the mainstream media.

CBS 5 in Phoenix reported:

PHOENIX (CBS5) – A Valley charter school watchdog is criticizing large charter management chains for directing more dollars away from the classroom than most traditional public schools.

“These schools are made to make a profit,” said Jim Hall, the founder of Arizonans for Charter School Accountability and retired longtime Valley school principal.

“Someone needs to find out how they’re spending their money, and there needs to be transparency,” Hall said.

CBS 5 Investigates examined budget data and IRS tax filings for dozens of charter schools. Among the findings:

Some charter management chains spend as little as 40 percent of their budgets in the classroom, directing as much as 60 percent of their budgets to administrative expenses, plant operations and debt payments for facilities. Traditional school districts spent an average of 54 percent of their budgeted dollars in the classroom during the 2013-14 school years, according the Arizona Auditor General’s Office. The comparison may not be “apples to apples” because charters pay real estate costs out of their operating budgets while traditional school districts do not.

Some nonprofit chains outsource daily operations to for-profit charter management companies. Two examples in Arizona include the Leona Group and Imagine Schools.

Stephen Colbert funded every request for aid by teachers in South Carolina. It is one of the poorest states in the nation.

No competition. No race. No quid pro quo. No mandates.

Help where it is needed. A good person. A hero, now on our honor roll.

The school board of the Katy, Texas, Independent School District voted unanimously to eliminate high-stakes testing.

This is a bold and dramatic step in a state that inflicted the “miracle” of high-stakes testing on the nation. Up until now, Pearson and its stable of lobbyists have called the shots.

The Katy school board has bravely demanded a return to common sense and real education, where tests are diagnostic and used to help students, not to label them. I place the Katy, Texas, school board on this blog’s honor roll.

“The Board resolution also calls for state-funded local assessments in lieu of the high-stakes tests. Such local assessments would provide detailed diagnostics that could assist students in their learning. However, these assessments would not be considered high-stakes, nor have any bearing on accountability ratings.”

A reader recommends the two videos below, which were made during the debate about the New York state budget. Assemblyman Jim Tedesco, a Republican, spoke out against the anti-teacher, anti-public education bill devised by Governor Cuomo. In the second video, he dares the Governor to take the fifth grade math test! Mr. Tedesco has served in the New York State Assembly since 1983. In the legislative chamber, he stands out because he has a graduate degree in special education, was a teacher and a guidance counselor. For his defense of a noble profession and common sense, he joins the honor roll of this blog.



New York is circling the drain. But this guy belongs on the honor roll! Jim Tedesco. Republican and an ex teacher. He shouldn’t have said he was an ex educator, like saying I used to work at Enron. After this he dared the Governor to take the 5th grade exam.


The second video is more entertaining than the first.

I  received this statement from Dr. Kathleen Cashin, a member of the New York State Board of Regents, representing Brooklyn. Dr. Cashin has had a long professional career in education as a teacher, a principal, and a superintendent in the New York City public schools. She has taken a principled stand against the misuse of standardized tests.  I add her to the blog’s honor roll for standing up for what is right for children, for teachers, for principals, and for education.


She writes:


“As a Regent of the State of New York, I cannot endorse the use of the current state tests for teacher/principal evaluation since that was not the purpose for which they were developed. It is axiomatic in the field of testing that tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were designed. They were designed to measure student performance, not teacher effectiveness. The American Statistical Association, the National Academy of Education, and the American Educational Research Association have cautioned that student tests should not be used to evaluate individual teachers. Nor should these tests be used for student growth measures until there is clear evidence that they are valid and reliable. The Board of Regents should commission an independent evaluation of these tests to verify their reliability and validity before they are used for high-stakes purposes for students, teachers, principals, and schools. How can we criticize people for opting out when the tests have not been verified? We need to cease and desist in the use of these tests until such time as we can be confident of their reliability and validity. If tests do meet those criteria, the tests must be released to teachers and to the public after they are given, in the spirit of transparency and accountability.”


Dr. Kathleen Cashin


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