Archives for category: Honor Roll

Bonnie Cunard Margolin in Florida reminds us of the brief rebellion in Lee County, Florida, when the school board voted to opt out of a crushing burden of state tests. One member rescinded her vote and the rebellion was crushed. But the fight goes on, led by Don Armstrong, a hero for children.

Bonnie writes:

As you remember, last Fall, Lee School Board Member, Don Armstrong, stood up in a bold move and opted his twin children out of testing. The entire county followed immediately after, setting off a storm of discussion about testing in Florida. His voice helped many but cost him his re-election here in Lee Cty.

The fight in Lee rages on. Armstrong is a large part of it. In fact, our superintendent, Dr. Nancy Graham (the super who gave us so much resistance during the opt out), just resigned amid sanctions for intimidation and bullying from the US Dept of Ed, Office of Civil Rights.

It stays hot down south here ;) I thought you might be interested in Armstrong’s Sunday letter this week. He mentions BAT and Bob Schaeffer (also a Lee Cty, FL resident). Here is his letter:

Happy Sunday. As always I woke up Sunday morning, drank my coffee, and pondered the issues that we are facing in the Lee County School District. This upcoming week, we have some testing issues that we need to address at Tuesday’s 6 pm Board Meeting. Let’s dive right in and look at the issues, as well as some of the solutions.

Let’s start with a look at the new testing calendar. The Lee County School Board is required to approve the testing calendar by each October. This calendar was placed on last week’s agenda, page 99, for public review. When it became public, the proposed calendar really startled parents and teachers to see that the amount of testing has increased in Lee County this year, despite efforts by the community and our state representatives to reduce testing last spring.

So, why so much concern with this new Lee County testing calendar? Well, let’s see. Starting in the kindergarten, we have ridiculous amounts of testing. Our young kindergarten students must complete 240 minutes of testing (district and state). And, you can follow the testing all the way to high school, with older students facing over 30 hours of state and district tests in one school year.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you heard that right. 30 HOURS of testing in one school year. Yes, and up to 240 minutes of testing in kindergarten, alone. WOW. Kindergarten testing – and, I don’t mean Fun Friday Spelling Tests. I mean, 240 minutes of grueling multiple choice tests, some on advanced software platforms, and all with high stakes consequences for our 5 year olds.

Can you imagine? I remember when I was in kindergarten, the only thing we were tested on was on how not to eat the glue and whether or not we could sing the ABC’s. Now, all their time is being spent on multiple choice testing. This insanity is taking away from our children’s’ education. Our children should be blowing bubbles, not filling them in.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I fully understand that we need some type of testing to measure our students’ education, but this has completely spun out of control. As local resident, Bob Schaeffer, also National Director of FAIRTEST, pleaded at the school board microphone last Tuesday, “Enough is enough.” Lee County residents must stand up and put a stop to this nonsense.

So, let’s look at why there is so much testing. First, you have testing companies which make money. Then, you have lobbyists which make money and, of course, you have politicians who are pushing the testing because those same lobbyists are donating money to their campaigns. It is one big profitable scheme.

You see folks, there is one crucial piece to all that I just said that is missing: Teachers. Yes, you heard me right: TEACHERS. Why aren’t the teachers involved in the choice of tests? Wouldn’t you think that they are the ones who understand the children they teach? Wouldn’t you be confident that a professional, holding a college degree and licensed by state of Florida, would be the best choice to measure the needs of our students? Wouldn’t a teacher know best about where students need to be, academically, and how to get them there?

These questions bring me to the solution, and you know me: I am all about solutions.

I recommend we form a Testing Coalition across the state of Florida. This coalition is to be made up of teachers from Elementary, Middle and High School. Each of these teachers will be appointed by their peers. At the beginning of the year, they will collect data and at the end of the school year, they will work with the other 67 school districts in the state to analyze the data and recommend programs, professional development, and other needs. Yes, we would have to pay the members of the coalition and, yes, it would absolutely be well worth the money spent. The missing element in today’s crazy world of school accountability is the teacher’s voice. Let’s return teachers to the table of decisionmaking.

It’s simple. Their job would be to look at all the tests and decide which ones are working and which ones are not working. Then, they would go to the education committee in Tallahassee with recommendations.

Teachers have a voice and it is time we listened. Our Florida teachers are well educated on their craft and extremely well educated on the failures of recent reform efforts. Think about it, if you put a large group of teachers, especially intelligent, brave teachers willing to stand up to corporate, education reform, like BATS ( BadAss Teachers Association – 55,000 strong )In front of the education committee with recommendations, our leaders would have to be silly not to listen to them. The teacher’s are screaming for a voice. Let’s give it to them.

Remember, kids first not politics. Don’t put a $ sign on our kids’ education.

– Don Armstrong, Parent and Candidate for Lee County School Board

Here is a hero. Dr. Randy Weick, a high school history teacher in Kentucky with a degree from the London School of Economics, has filed a class action suit against some of the nation’s largest investment firms for the danger they have inflicted on the pensions of Kentucky teachers.

A columnist in Forbes writes that Wieck has taken on “the titans of private equity”:

Wieck has filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court of the Western District of Kentucky claiming that mismanagement of the investments of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement Systems (KTRS) has resulted in the worst-funded state teacher plan in the U.S—forcing teachers to contribute more of their salaries (up from 9% to 13%).

Wieck has no lawyer—he’s representing himself—in a Herculean effort to save his own and other Kentucky teachers’ retirement.

You might expect that powerful, well-funded national and local public unions would rally behind Wieck to hold Wall Street accountable for undermining teachers’ retirement security. To date, in Kentucky and nationally, public sector labor organizations have been mighty reluctant—even when pressed—to recognize that how the money in a pension is managed is at least as important as how much goes into it and is paid out in benefits.

Labor should be embracing a new role—providing meaningful independent oversight of pension investments. Every public pension needs an outside Inspector General, in my opinion. Organized labor could and should make it happen.

Private Equity firms mentioned in the Wieck complaint include Blackstone, Carlyle and KKR. Excerpts from the case referring to Private Equity investments include:

“As late as 2007 KTRS had no alternative investment managers listed in their Comprehensive Annual Financial Report; by 2013 there were 31 alternative managers listed and KTRS continued to add alternative investments in 2014 and 2015—despite the filing of a lawsuit against another Kentucky State Pension plan challenging the legality of purchasing alternatives.”

“KTRS has failed in their fiduciary duty by selecting investments and investment managers not permitted by statute of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. KTRS has invested in high-risk alternative investments not appropriate for fiduciaries under the common law. Many of these alternative investment entities have not documented in their contracts that they adhere to investment ethics and disclosure rules as required by statute. KTRS Trustees have allowed numerous alternative investment managers to violate Kentucky state law on ethics and disclosure – which also constitutes violations of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. KTRS (in Fiscal Year 2014) admitted to paying $9.2 million to alternative investment managers in secret no-bid contracts. KTRS managers who have hired lobbyists in Frankfort include KKR, JP Morgan (Highbridge) and Blackstone – which has 16 listings on the executive branch lobbyist list (all affiliates and placement agents combined).”

Dr. Randy Weick joins this blog’s honor roll, fighting for all teachers in Kentucky.

The following letter was sent to teachers in Patchogue-Medford, Long Island, in New York state by the superintendent, Dr. Michael J. Hynes. Hynes is a hero of public education. He joins the honor roll of this blog for his thoughtfulness, his care for his staff and students, and his willingness to stand up and speak out. When State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia met with Long Island superintendents to help them understand why they must take a firm position against opt outs, Superintendent Hynes of Patchogue-Medford, Superintendent David Gamberg of Greenport-Southold, Superintendent Steven Cohen of Shoreham-Wading River, and Superintendents Joe Rella of Comsewogue, were not invited. All have been outspoken against the state’s misuse of standardized testing. Gamberg and Cohen did not encourage opt outs, but they both sent letters home to parents explaining that there was no penalty for opting out.

August 28, 2015

Dear Ms. ——-,

The purpose of this letter is to let you know that I DO NOT CARE what your state growth score is. Let me be clear … I DO NOT CARE. It does not define you. Please know that I understand nobody likes to be reduced to a number.

The fact is, you are much more than a number; not only to me, but most important to the children and parents you serve. Keep your head up and your eye on what is more important … your students and your teaching craft. The Patchogue-Medford School District fully supports you as an educator, regardless of what this meaningless, invalid and inhumane score states. Let me know what you need and it is my sincere hope you have a great year.

With warm regards,

Michael J. Hynes, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Celeste Richter, a highly rated Florida teacher, does not want a bonus for a test she took nearly 25 years ago.

The legislature passed a plan to award $10,000 to teachers who had high SAT scores in high school. The bonus is also available to currents teachers who are rated “highly effective” but only if they had high SAT scores. Veteran teachers may not be able to obtain their SAT scores, or learn whether they were in top 20%, as the law requires.

“I refuse,” said Richter, a highly-effective rated AP government teacher at Wesley Chapel High School. “A test I took in 1991 is not valid to say what a quality educator I am.”

“Richter, who’s entering her 19th year of teaching, isn’t looking up her SAT scores, though she recalls doing well. She doesn’t want the state’s award of up to $10,000, though she really could use it.

“As a moral principle, I don’t believe this is an effective way to reward teachers for a good job,” she said, further noting that the final amount will likely be far less than the maximum. “I’m not going to run after crumbs.”

For standing on principle, for courage and candor, Celeste Richter joins the blog’s honor roll.

Many people think the law is a giveaway to Teach for America, who will earn more than 10-year veterans and leave in two or three years. Its author, Erik Fresen, is a member of a family that owns a large charter chain, Academica.

Here is a teacher worthy of joining the blog’s honor roll. She is willing to risk her career to do what is right for her students, her colleagues, and her profession. Let’s hope that speaking out protects her from vindictive retaliation.

From Kim Irvine, English teacher, Utah

To Whom It May Concern: The decision to write this has been a difficult one. I am the breadwinner for my family. I have an adult handicapped daughter who needs her seizure medication to survive. Without my insurance, her pills would cost over $750 a month, which I cannot afford. I put all of this in jeopardy by voicing my concerns. Many teachers feel the same as I, but are too afraid to speak. You must understand that teachers who speak out are labeled, targeted, and either forced to retire or resign. This may come as a surprise, but I have watched this happen to colleagues over and over. I know that I will now be a target, but the risk is something I have accepted because I must speak out for the sake of my students and my profession.

My philosophy of education and learning is simple. I believe that all students can learn. I believe that student learning is incumbent upon me, the teacher. I believe that authentic learning can only occur in an informed, stimulating, and safe environment, and I believe that the creation of that environment is my responsibility. I believe that the future of the quality of life for each of my students is directly related to whether or not they learn what I have to teach them. In short, I believe that my job is the most important job in the world because we desperately need the future innovations and ingenuity my students are capable of.

This is why I love my job, and all of my eighth graders. I like the way the adolescent mind approaches life. They are positive, creative, brilliant, and fearless, and I often end up on the other end of the teaching as their horizons expand and carry me with them. Every day is different and challenging, poignant and heartbreaking, but thoroughly exhilarating. I spend my days looking at life through the lens of an eighth grader, always looking for stimulating ways to teach. I’m fortunate because anything beautiful, noteworthy, or of good report, fits neatly into the English curriculum.

I have been teaching for 16 years and have always felt a special thrill when a former student contacts me saying they want to be a teacher just like me. But, lately, I hesitate because I am not sure what to say. Teaching is not the same profession it was, and many of my dear colleagues are leaving. It is not surprising to see that many of the states, that are paying attention to this exodus, are predicting a looming teacher shortage like we have never seen before. For example, in Indiana, the data show an alarming decrease in teaching licenses issued from nearly 7,500 six years ago to a measly 934 for 2013-14 school year.1 These figures are the canary in the coalmine and the culminating disaster in education will have rippling effects for a long time to come.

So why are we facing such a decline? Ask any veteran teacher and you will hear the same story. We can’t keep this up. The thirst for data is killing my profession and becoming the supreme focus above all else. Currently, we sacrifice over 30 teaching days a year currently with all of the mandated testing, and the fact that the data is used to discredit teachers is insulting. I will tell you right now that if I am unable to articulate where a student’s skill level was when they started my class, what specific skills we (the student and I) have targeted for the year, their current progress, and where we expect to be by the end of the year, I should be fired. That is my job. I am the professional. I have spent years perfecting and honing my craft of teaching. I collect my own data and drive my instruction based on that data. The data I get from the testing is nice, but frankly redundant and expensive and time consuming. I can teach reading to over 30 students at a time with reading levels ranging from 3rd to 11th grade in the same room at the same time and not only keep them all on task, but I can make it an exhilarating, successful experience for all involved. That’s what a professional teacher can do. That is the “art” part in the art of teaching.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. There is much at stake. Utah has many dedicated, passionate teachers who are working nothing less than miracles for our students. But, we are weary, and gun shy, and frustrated as we watch our class sizes increase, our pay and benefits decrease, and the mandated data-driven paperwork increase exponentially, while our state superintendent constantly reminds us that we are whiney, ineffective, and not worth our salaries. No wonder our numbers are dwindling. In sum, it is obvious why this next generation of college graduates is not choosing education. Why would they?

My father was a seminary teacher for over 36 years, and taught all over the world for the LDS Church Education System. He taught me an important precept, “Faith without works is dead.” The current state superintendent, Mr. Smith, recently explained that the thing our Utah students need most is faith, not necessarily more funding. 2 I disagree. I believe we need work; a lot of work, but we need to be careful to look closely because everything is not always as presented. Instead of spending ridiculous amounts of money on risky, unproven products created by vendors, we need to address the real issues that determine success or failure of our students. We need support for our students living in poverty and support for students struggling with language barriers. We need to insist on best practices for not only from Utah teachers, but our Utah legislature and Utah public servants as well. We need transparency and candor. We need authentic exploration into policy based on sound educational research, not propaganda produced by greedy vendors with intentions of using school funding and taxpayers’ dollars to line their pockets and increase their profit margins.

Education is not a business. Business is motivated by profit. Doing what is best for our students should be our motivation. We cannot serve two masters.

Sincerely, Kim Irvine

Utah State Democratic Education Caucus Chair

1 r

2 in Page 2 of 2

Hawaii applied for and won a Race to the Top grant. So, of course, Hawaii was required to create a new teacher evaluation system that incorporated student test scores. Many teachers objected. Mireille Ellsworth was one of them. She especially opposed the use of “Student Learning Objectives.” She said the measures were invalid and unreliable. Because she refused to complete the “SLOs,” she got a subpar rating. She challenged the rating, and she won.



When the Hawaii Department of Education released the details of its new teacher evaluation system three years ago, veteran teacher Mireille Ellsworth made a radical decision: She would simply refuse to do part of it.


Like many teachers in the state, Ellsworth felt that linking teacher pay — even partially — to student test scores was unfair. But there were other portions of the complex and multi-tiered system that she objected to as well, including the use of Student Learning Objectives as a measure of teacher success.


“I could tell it was something that could be easily manipulated by any teacher,” Ellsworth said. “Essentially it would be a dog and pony show.”


The new evaluation system was put into place over the past five years, at a cost of millions of dollars, teacher demoralization, and untold hours of work. When the results were tallied, 97% of the state’s teachers were found to be highly effective or effective. The search for “bad” teachers was very expensive and ultimately a failure.


Ellsworth said no to the whole process.


Ellsworth, who teaches English and drama at Waiakea High School in Hilo, has a slew of objections regarding the EES. The 18-year teacher’s biggest beef though is with the Student Learning Objectives or SLOs, which she refused to complete two years in a row.


For the SLOs, teachers are asked to predict the growth or achievement of each student — something they can then come back and revise mid-semester. Ellsworth felt it was a student privacy violation for this student data to go into her personnel file, and said the data could easily be manipulated by teachers.

“It’s just an exercise in trying to justify your existence and pass it no matter what,” Ellsworth said.


She had philosophical objections to the SLOs as well.


“If a teacher has low expectations for a student, research has shown that student will perform at a lower rate,” Ellsworth said. “For me to put on paper and then in my professional portfolio online that I expect anything short of success is completely wrong and is against everything I’ve been taught.”
It is, she said, like committing “educator malpractice.”


The strongest support for test-based teacher evaluation comes from the conservative National Council of Teacher Quality, which defends the process that Ellsworth and other teachers find objectionable. NCTQ seems certain that the schools are overloaded with ineffective teachers, but does not attempt to explain why the new RTTT-mandated systems in almost every state find that 95-99% of teachers are rated effective or highly effective. All those billions spent, for what?


For her courage in resisting the government’s attempt to force her to violate her professional ethics, Mireille Ellsworth joins the blog’s honor roll of champions of public education.

Faced with the highly unpopular law on teacher evaluations rushed through the Legislature by Governor Cuomo with minimal consideration or debate, seven members of the 17-member New York State Board of Regents issued a vigorous dissent. The law requires that 50% of teacher evaluations be based on test scores, a number that is not supported by research or experience. Unlike the Governor and the Legislature, these seven members of the Regents have demonstrated respect for research and concern for the consequences of this hastily-passed law on teachers, children, principals, schools, and communities. They are courageous, they are wise, and they are visionaries. They have shown the leadership that our society so desperately needs. All New Yorkers are in their debt.

I place these wise leaders on the blog honor roll.

The dissident Regents issued the following statement:

Position Paper Amendments
to Current APPR Proposed Regulations


We. the undersigned, have been empowered by the Constitution of the State of New York and appointed by the New York State Legislature to serve as the policy makers and guardians of educational goals for the residents of New York State. As Regents, we are obligated to determine the best contemporary approaches to meeting the educational needs of the state’s three million P-12 students as well as all students enrolled in our post secondary schools and the entire community of participants who use and value our cultural institutions.

We hold ourselves accountable to the public for the trust they have in our ability to represent and educate them about the outcomes of our actions which requires that we engage in ongoing evaluations of our efforts. The results of our efforts must be transparent and invite public comment.

We recognize that we must strengthen the accountability systems intended to ensure our students benefit from the most effective teaching practices identified in research.

After extensive deliberation that included a review of research and information gained from listening tours, we have determined that the current proposed amendments to the APPR system are based on an incomplete and inadequate understanding of how to address the task of continuously improving our educational system.

Therefore, we have determined that the following amendments are essential, and thus required, in the proposed emergency regulations to remedy the current malfunctioning APPR system.

What we seek is a well thought out, comprehensive evaluation plan which sets the framework for establishing a sound professional learning community for educators. To that end we offer these carefully considered amendments to the emergency regulations.

I. Delay implementation of district APPR plans based on April 1, 2015 legislative action until September 1, 2016.

A system that has integrity, fidelity and reliability cannot be developed absent time to review research on best practices. We must have in place a process for evaluating the evaluation system. There is insufficient evidence to support using test measures that were never meant to be used to evaluate teacher performance.

We need a large scale study, that collects rigorous evidence for fairness and reliability and the results need to be published annually. The current system should not be simply repeated with a greater emphasis on a single test score. We do not understand and do not support the elimination of the instructional evidence that defines the teaching, learning, achievement process as an element of the observation process.

Revise the submission date. Allow all districts to submit by November 15, 2015 a letter of intent regarding how they will utilize the time to review/revise their current APPR Plan.

II. A. Base the teacher evaluation process on student standardized test scores, consistent with research; the scores will account for a maximum of no more than 20% on the matrix.

B. Base 80% of teacher evaluation on student performance, leaving the following options for local school districts to select from: keeping the current local measures generating new assessments with performance –driven student activities, (performance-assessments, portfolios, scientific experiments, research projects) utilizing options like NYC Measures of Student Learning, and corresponding student growth measures.

C. Base the teacher observation category on NYSUT and UFT’s scoring ranges using their rounding up process rather than the percentage process.

III. Base no more than 10% of the teacher observation score on the work of external/peer evaluators, an option to be decided at the local district level where the decisions as to what training is needed, will also be made.

IV. Develop weighting algorithms that accommodate the developmental stages for English Language Learners (ELL) and special needs (SWD) students. Testing of ELL students who have less than 3 years of English language instruction should be prohibited.

V. Establish a work group that includes respected experts and practitioners who are to be charged with constructing an accountability system that reflects research and identifies the most effective practices. In addition, the committee will be charged with identifying rubrics and a guide for assessing our progress annually against expected outcomes.

Our recommendations should allow flexibility which allows school systems to submit locally developed accountability plans that offer evidence of rigor, validity and a theory of action that defines the system.

VI. Establish a work group to analyze the elements of the Common Core Learning Standards and Assessments to determine levels of validity, reliability, rigor and appropriateness of the developmental aspiration levels embedded in the assessment items.

No one argues against the notion of a rigorous, fair accountability system. We disagree on the implied theory of action that frames its tenet such as firing educators instead of promoting a professional learning community that attracts and retains talented educators committed to ensuring our educational goals include preparing students to be contributing members committed to sustaining and improving the standards that represent a democratic society.

We find it important to note that researchers, who often represent opposing views about the characteristics that define effective teaching, do agree on the dangers of using the VAM student growth model to measure teacher effectiveness. They agree that effectiveness can depend on a number of variables that are not constant from school year to school year. Chetty, a professor at Harvard University, often quoted as the expert in the interpretation of VAM along with co-researchers Friedman & Rockoff, offers the following two cautions: “First, using VAM for high-stakes evaluation could lead to unproductive responses such as teaching to the test or cheating; to date, there is insufficient evidence to assess the importance of this concern. Second, other measures of teacher performance, such as principal evaluations, student ratings, or classroom observations, may ultimately prove to be better predictors of teachers’ long-term impacts on students than VAMs. While we have learned much about VAM through statistical research, further work is needed to understand how VAM estimates should (or should not) be combined with other metrics to identify and retain effective teachers.”i Linda Darling Hammond agrees, in a Phi Delta Kappan March 2012 article and cautions that “none of the assumptions for the use of VAM to measure teacher effectiveness are well supported by evidence.”ii

We recommend that while the system is under review we minimize the disruption to local school districts for the 2015/16 school year and allow for a continuation of approved plans in light of the phasing in of the amended regulations.

Last year, Vicki Phillips, Executive Director for the Gates Foundation, cautioned districts to move slowly in the rollout of an accountability system based on Common Core Systems and advised a two year moratorium before using the system for high stakes outcomes. Her cautions were endorsed by Bill Gates.

We, the undersigned, wish to reach a collaborative solution to the many issues before us, specifically at this moment, the revisions to APPR. However, as we struggle with the limitations of the new law, we also wish to state that we are unwilling to forsake the ethics we value, thus this list of amendments.

Kathleen Cashin

Judith Chin

Catherine Collins

*Josephine Finn

Judith Johnson

Beverly L. Ouderkirk

Betty A. Rosa

Regent Josephine Finn said: *”I support the intent of the position paper”

i Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Jonah Rockoff, “Discussion of the American Statistical Association’s Statement (2014) on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment,” May 2014, retrieved from: The American Statistical Association (ASA) concurs with Chetty et al. (2014): “It is unknown how full implementation of an accountability system incorporating test-based indicators, such as those derived from VAMs, will affect the actions and dispositions of teachers, principals and other educators. Perceptions of transparency, fairness and credibility will be crucial in determining the degree of success of the system as a whole in achieving its goals of improving the quality of teaching. Given the unpredictability of such complex interacting forces, it is difficult to anticipate how the education system as a whole will be affected and how the educator labor market will respond. We know from experience with other quality improvement undertakings that changes in evaluation strategy have unintended consequences. A decision to use VAMs for teacher evaluations might change the way the tests are viewed and lead to changes in the school environment. For example, more classroom time might be spent on test preparation and on specific content from the test at the exclusion of content that may lead to better long-term learning gains or motivation for students. Certain schools may be hard to staff if there is a perception that it is harder for teachers to achieve good VAM scores when working in them. Overreliance on VAM scores may foster a competitive environment, discouraging collaboration and efforts to improve the educational system as a whole. David Morganstein & Ron Wasserstein, “ASA Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment,” Published with license by American Statistical Association, April 8 2014, published online November 7, 2014: Bachman-Hicks, Kane and Staiger (2014), likewise admit, “we know very little about how the validity of the value-added estimates may change when they are put to high stakes use. All of the available studies have relied primarily on data drawn from periods when there were no stakes attached to the teacher value-added measures.” Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Thomas J. Kane, Douglas O. Staiger, “Validating Teacher Effect Estimates Using Changes in Teacher Assignments in Los Angeles,” NBER Working Paper No. 20657, Issued in November 2014, 24-5:

ii Linda Darling-Hammond, “Can Value Added Add Value to Teacher Evaluation?” Educational Researcher, March 2015 44, 132-37:

Jimmie Don Aycock, a Repubilcan legislator from Killeen, Texas, has decided to retire from the House of Representatives in the state legislature. This is a great loss for the state’s children, because Aycock has been a great friend and defender of public schools. As chair of the House Education Committee, he tried to get a new funding formula that would fairly distribute state monies, without waiting for a court to declare the state’s formula to be unconstitutional. He has delayed, diverted, and stopped many efforts by ideologues to harm public education, whether by vouchers, parent trigger, or other devious means that would siphon money away from the public schools.

Before entering the legislature, Jimmie Don Aycock was a veterinarian and a rancher. He was also a graduate of his local public school in Bell County, and he served on the local school board. He will be fondly remembered by parents, educators, and perhaps even students, as the author of SB5, the bill that reduced the number of end-of-course exams required for high school graduation from 15 to 5.

Even if the children never heard his name, they have benefited from his wisdom and care for them. He is admired by both parties as a statesman, a man who really does put children first. One of his Democratic colleagues said that “he’s the kind of guy you’d buy a used car from, and wouldn’t look under the hood.” Certainly the children of Texas and public schools benefited from the fact that a member of the dominant party in red state Texas was their champion.

Will anyone else in the Texas legislature take on Jimmie Don Aycock’s role as a defender of the precious democratic institution of public education? Will anyone else take the lead to stop the evisceration and privatization of public education? The Lt. Governor, former radio host Dan Patrick, is an outspoken proponent of vouchers. Until now, a bipartisan coalition of big-city Democrats and rural Republicans have defended their community’s public schools. Will another Jimmie Don Aycock rise from the ranks?

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Aycock when I spoke in Austin to a combined meeting of the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas School Boards Association. He is a respected and beloved figure in Texas. With all the honors being heaped on him, this may not mean much, but I place him on the blog honor roll as a hero of public education in the nation.

Purdue’s dean of education Maryann Santos de Barona bluntly described the pernicious effects of “reform” on enrollment in the College of Education, as Purdue President Mitch Daniels listened quietly. As Governor of Indiana, Daniels was responsible for the “reforms” she was describing.



Maryann Santos de Barona, dean of Purdue University’s College of Education for the past six years, was at the front of a Stewart Center meeting room May 14 for one of those death-by-PowerPoint presentations. From among her dozens of slides, the dean was showing the university’s trustees a sinking trend line of undergraduates enrolled in Purdue’s teacher education program.


At the other end of a conference table, one big enough to seat 10 trustees and assorted support staff, was Mitch Daniels. The Purdue president fidgeted as his education dean unflinchingly laid out her hypotheses for why students were avoiding careers in elementary and secondary education, as well as why test-weary schools were increasingly reluctant to experiment with Purdue-developed curriculum.


Wait, you know where this one is going, right? Probably so.


But it still was stunningly awkward, as the dean heaped so much of the blame at the feet of her boss, without calling him out by name. She didn’t have to. Not a person in the room — probably not in the state — was unfamiliar with Daniels’ role for clearing the way for education reform in Indiana in his previous life as a two-term Republican governor.


“What is happening in (pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade) education, in legislative bodies and in governmental offices, affects our enrollment, our course offerings and our administrative responsibilities,” Santos de Barona said during an annual update for the trustees’ Academic Affairs Committee.


“Our profession is at a critical juncture,” she said. “The pervasive negativity about the teaching profession, and the misconception that education is broken, has resulted in increased pressures on practicing teachers. As a result, they are less likely to want to mentor our student teachers — and have less time to do so. Teachers and administrators are reluctant to let our faculty research in their classrooms, as this represents a risk that might impact test scores.”


Santos de Barona said undergraduate enrollment in the College of Education is down 33 percent since 2010, even as recruitment efforts have been ramped up to interest high school seniors across Indiana and students looking into changing majors once on campus. (Graduate student enrollment at the education college is up 32 percent during the same time. “We saw this coming and diversified our portfolio,” Santos de Barona said after the meeting.)


Santos de Barona told the trustees that Purdue wasn’t alone in this — that it was a national issue. One example: Ball State University, once called Ball State Teachers College, has seen a 45 percent drop in undergraduates in its elementary and kindergarten prep programs in the past decade.


Santos de Barona didn’t specifically mention it, but the trend at Purdue tracks the timeline of education reform in Indiana, when teachers’ bargaining power was busted, scores on standardized tests were tied more closely to pay raises and to overall A-to-F grades for schools, and the introduction and expansion of a private school voucher system sold on the idea that there had to be something better than what public schools could provide.


How refreshing that the dean brought the terrible consequences of the Governor’s actions to his face and let him know that he is responsible for a catastrophic decline in the number of young people entering the teaching profession. Being a reformster means you are never held accountable for your actions. Former Governor Mitch Daniels was confronted with the facts. Wonder what he heard? Or did he just tune out his dean?



Yes, as readers have suggested, Dean Barona belongs on the blog’s honor roll for speaking truth to power.

Scott Walker has a plan. It is called “reform,” but in reality it is destruction. He (acting through the legislature) is holding funding for public schools flat (he wanted to cut it); he is increasing funding for charter schools and vouchers; he is imposing draconian budget cuts on the University of Wisconsin system; and he is lowering standards for entry into teaching. One analysis says the voucher expansion proposal would drain $800 million from public schools over a 10-year period.

Tony Evers, the veteran educator who was elected twice as state superintendent of education, says Wisconsin is in a “race to the bottom.”

Wisconsin has decided to reform its teacher licensing standards—by eliminating them! Anyone with any bachlor’s degree can teach any subject, a change inserted into the state budget without hearings.

Even those without a bachelor’s degree are eligible to teach, as Valerie Strauss notes: “That’s not all. The proposal would require the education department to issue a teaching permit to people who have not — repeat have not — earned a bachelor’s degree, or potentially a high school diploma, to teach in any subject area, excluding the core subjects of mathematics, English, science, and social studies. “The only requirement would be that the public school or district or private voucher school determines that the individual is proficient and has relevant experience in the subject they intend to teach. And, the department would not be permitted to add requirements.” says that high school dropouts moght be eligible to teach middle school and high school under the legislative plan to drop standards.

The state Department of Public Instruction released this critique of the latest assault on the teaching profession.

Governor Scott Walker and his allies in the Legislature are working full-time to privatize public education and destroys he teaching profession. State Superintendent Tony Evers made these statements. He is a hero for standing up fearlessly to the know-nothings, joins the blog’s honor roll as a champion of education.

His office issued this blast:

“Legislative action slides teacher licensing standards toward the bottom”

“MADISON — Major changes to teacher licensing voted into the 2015-17 state budget, without a hearing, puts Wisconsin on a path toward the bottom, compared to the nation, for standards required of those who teach at the middle and high school level.

“Adopted as a K-12 omnibus motion by the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC), the education package deregulates licensing standards for middle and high school teachers across the state. The legislation being rolled into the biennial budget would require the Department of Public Instruction to license anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any subject to teach English, social studies, mathematics, and science. The only requirement is that a public school or school district or a private choice school determines that the individual is proficient and has relevant experience in each subject they teach. Traditional licensure requires educators in middle and high school to have a bachelor’s degree and a major or minor in the subject they teach, plus completion of intensive training on skills required to be a teacher, and successful passage of skills and subject content assessments.

“Additionally, the JFC motion would require the DPI to issue a teaching permit for individuals who have not earned a bachelor’s degree, or potentially a high school diploma, to teach in any subject area, excluding the core subjects of mathematics, English, science, and social studies. The only requirement would be that the public school or district or private voucher school determines that the individual is proficient and has relevant experience in the subject they intend to teach. For both provisions in the JFC motion, the DPI would not be able to impose any additional requirements. This may preclude the fingerprinting and background checks required of all other licensed school staff. The standard also is lower than that currently required for teachers in choice and charter schools, who must have at least a bachelor’s degree.

“We are sliding toward the bottom in standards for those who teach our students,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “It doesn’t make sense. We have spent years developing licensing standards to improve the quality of the teacher in the classroom, which is the most important school-based factor in improving student achievement. Now we’re throwing out those standards.”

“Currently, all 50 states require a beginning teacher to have a bachelor’s degree for traditional licensure, with a narrow exception for career and technical education teachers (Georgia). The states have differing standards for alternative routes to licensure, generally requiring major content coursework or a test in lieu of coursework for individuals to be eligible for an alternate route to earn a teaching license.

“Wisconsin has several routes for career changers, who want to teach our elementary and secondary school students, to earn a teaching license through alternative programs,” Evers noted. “Emergency permits allow them to work under supervision while completing educator preparation program requirements. Each alternative route program ensures that candidates are supported and are ready to do the job independently when they complete alternative licensing requirements.”
Under provisions of the omnibus motion, the leaders of 424 public school districts, 23 independent public charter schools (2R charters), and potentially hundreds of private choice schools would determine who is qualified to teach in their schools. Current provisions of the JFC motion would restrict these licenses to teaching at the district or school that recommended the individual for licensure.

“Learning about how children develop, managing a classroom and diffusing conflict among students, working with parents, and developing engaging lessons and assessments that inform instruction — these are the skills our aspiring educators learn in their training programs,” Evers said. “Teaching is much more than being smart in a subject area.

“This motion presents a race to the bottom,” Evers said. “It completely disregards the value of the skills young men and women develop in our educator training programs and the life-changing experiences they gain through classroom observation and student teaching. This JFC action is taking Wisconsin in the wrong direction. You don’t close gaps and improve quality by lowering standards.”

It makes you wonder if the “reformers” in Wisconsin plan to deregulate other professions, so anyone can be a doctor or a lawyer or whatever they want, without professional education.


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