Archives for category: Humor

The poem below was written by Holly White, an English teacher and parent. I asked her to explain why she wrote it, and she did. Oh, when you read the poem, you will come to the acronym HEDI, which means “highly effective, effective, developing, and ineffective,” the ratings given to teachers based on test scores and observations.


Holly White writes:


“After graduating from Colgate University in the small town of Hamilton, NY, I was given the opportunity to stay in Hamilton and pursue my career as an English teacher. I have taught at HCS, the community’s P-12 public school, for 14 years. I’m proud of our creative and talented students, of our incredibly dedicated faculty and staff, and of the broader Hamilton community that supports us.


“As a teacher, and as a parent with two children in elementary school, corporate education reform is often on my mind, especially during testing season. One evening in early March, I was reading a few Dr. Seuss books to my children. I paused in the middle of the book “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” after reading the following passage:


Out west, near Hawtch-Hawtch,
there’s a Hawtch-Hawtcher Bee-Watcher.
His job is to watch…
is to keep both his eyes on the lazy town bee.
A bee that is watched will work harder, you see.


Well…he watched and he watched.
But, in spite of his watch,
that bee didn’t work any harder. Not mawtch.


So then somebody said,
“Our old bee-watching man
just isn’t bee-watching as hard as he can.
He ought to be watched by another Hawtch-Hawtcher!
The thing that we need
is a Bee-Watcher-Watcher!


“After tucking my kids into bed, I still couldn’t shake the image of the Hawtch-Hawtchers lining up to watch the “lazy town bee.” I pulled out my laptop and–attempting to channel Seuss’s use of verbal irony and absurdity–wrote for the next four hours.”


A Portrait of Education Reform, Inspired by Dr. Seuss


We said students would be proficient, all 100 percent!


But the year 2014, it came and it went…
There’d been little improvement after 12 years of tests,


So we searched till we found the most “rigorous” ones yet.


What those teachers must need is more accountability,


Then they’ll surely work harder, every he and each she.


As soon as they hear about APPR,


They’ll take their feet off their desks, make their lessons five-star,


And strive to earn back the public’s trust


(A tough task, since they’ve been treated with scorn and disgust).


Once they know that we’re watching, and changing cut scores,


And counting all the 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s,


They’ll teach and they’ll prep and they’ll drill for the test,


They’ll strive for a HEDI score that shows they’re the best,


They’ll cut back on art, science, creative writing


(The things they say students find most exciting).


They’ll overcome all of those pitiful excuses:


Poverty? Absenteeism? Hunger? Abuses?


Learning disabilities? Disobedient teens?


And kids who don’t read, but just stare at their screens?


Each student is different, learns at his own pace?


What’s that you say – learning isn’t a race?


No more excuses! With 40 minutes a day,


They can mold kids and shape them in every which way


(They can start in first grade, which is no place for play).


And all the while, schools’ funding will slow,


Because the harder we make things, the better they’ll go.


Each student will succeed, a year’s worth they’ll grow,


They’ll all factor trinomials and use “soak-a-toe”


If their teacher works hard like a real go-getter,


If she only works harder and faster and better…

But here I must pause in this poetic pretense,


(It’s been hard not to laugh while spouting nonsense).


Silly teachers, good luck being “highly effective,”


The system’s designed to say you’re flawed and defective.


The problem is, as by now you can probably tell,


Who’d want “reforms” if they knew teachers were doing well?


That just like most doctors, nurses, and crossing guards,


Most teachers are competent and already work hard.


What would happen to Pearson, McGraw, hedge fund investors,
Charter schools, EMOs, boards of directors?


Education’s a great source of new revenue,


The possibilities abound, and profits accrue.


But please, keep this between us; no one else needs to know.


As long as no one speaks up, then onward we’ll go…


by Holly White, HCS teacher

Our blog poet–“Some DAM Poet”–regularly comments with witty poems. He/she is a good reason to read the comment section faithfully.


Here the the Poet’s reflection on the New York state mess:


“Metamorphosis” (certainly since I lived there)


Gregor Samsa woke quite late
Found himself in NY state
Though he’d turned to beetle queer
That was not his biggest fear


Governor was King of Hearts
Walking naked in the parks
Scaring parent and little kid
With every crazy thing he did

Earlier today, John Merrow announced that he was joining the Board of Directors of Pearson. His post was filled with so much silliness that it should have been apparent that he was joking, although many (including me) were taken in by his subtlety. John just sent the following message:

….effective at 12:01 AM tonight. That’s April 2nd, meaning April Fools Day is officially over. I confess that I enjoyed serving Pearson and hope I had some impact on its corporate culture.

I was not on the Board long enough for my stock options to vest, and I hadn’t gotten around to filling out the withholding forms for compensation, so I guess my day of toil was voluntary, a charitable donation. I checked with my accountant to see if I could claim it as a deduction, but apparently Pearson is not a non-profit organization. (I was misinformed.)


John Merrow
Education Correspondent,
PBS NewsHour, and President,
Learning Matters, Inc.
212.725.7000 x104

Very likely no one was more surprised by John’s announcement this morning than the real Pearson Board of Directors.

I should also take this opportunity to make sure you know that Governor Cuomo did not veto his budget bill and did not apologize to educators for insulting them.

And the National Education Policy Center did not switch sides and join the reformers; its press release was an April Fool’s joke.

Just in case you were wondering.

Governor Andrew Cuomo shocked the press corps and the Legislature when he promptly vetoed the budget that he had lobbied so hard to get passed. He said that he didn’t realize that his education proposals lacked any basis in research or experience, nor did he know that they would outrage the state’s parents and educators.

When asked why he had taken this radical step, he said he was reading his Tweets during his lunch hour and discovered that no one liked what he had done. He didn’t want to make every parent and educator in the state angry, he said, and so he decided to veto his own legislation. He noted that there was a precedent for this action; he pointed out that last year he pledged not to evaluate teachers on the scores of the Common Core tests, since the tests were new and few teachers had had time to learn them. But he vetoed that proposal, his own.

The Governor said that his willingness to veto his own proposals demonstrated his flexibility and willingness to listen to the views of the public. “Having an on-time budget,” he said, “was far less important than doing the right thing.”

He also pledged to return the millions of dollars he has collected from hedge fund managers, because he wants to be remembered as “the students’ lobbyist,” not “the charter school students’ lobbyist.”

As his press conference concluded, he promised to shave his head bald as penance for his initial bad judgment.

Happy April 1, a day when surprising things happen, even if they aren’t true.

A few months ago, John Merrow was having a fund-raising drive for his program, and I sent a check. He promptly returned it and said it was a conflict of interest for him to accept any funding from someone he might cover. I was impressed, right up to today, when John announced to the world that he has agreed to join the Board of Directors of Pearson, Inc. 

This is shocking news. Here is how he explains it:

It hasn’t been officially announced yet, but I want my friends to know that I will be joining the Board of Directors of Pearson Education. This was not an easy decision, and I know that some of my friends, particularly those on the left, will be angry with me. I ask you to withhold your judgment until you have finished reading this.

Pearson has been criticized, unjustly in my view, for putting profits ahead of children, but I have gotten to know some of Pearson’s leadership, and I can attest that they are caring parents who are devoted to their children. Recently I took one of my grandchildren to a polo match at the home of a Pearson executive. When my little girl fell and scraped her knee, our host attended to her every need. He could not have been more caring. Pearson hostile or indifferent to children? I don’t think so. I know better.

Pearson has gotten a lot of bad press, and I may have contributed to that with my reporting about the ‘Opt Out’ movement and its attacks on assessment. For example, when the Pearson Foundation was forced to shut down and fined $7.7 million for some questionable practices, the press coverage made it sound as if the Pearson Foundation had been guilty of child molestation. All it did was entertain some decision-makers in an effort to create a relaxed atmosphere where they could make important decisions about purchasing tests and other education products, perhaps from Pearson Education but also available from McGraw-Hill and other companies.

Why have I accepted Pearson’s invitation? Well, it’s not the money. Yes, it is true that I will receive something north of $100,000 per year plus stock options, but I publicly pledge that I will donate some of that largess to charity.

I am doing this because, frankly, I believe I can do more good from the inside than I can from outside

I guess his theory is that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Another sell-out. Especially troubling since he starts in his new position today, April 1. (Hint: April Fools’ Day. He fooled me.)

Kevin Welner of the National Education Policy Center, which had been one of the most respected critics of corporate education reform, has announced its intention to cross over and join the reformers! This is terrible news for all those who counted on its ability to marshall first-rate scholars to debunk the claims and hoaxes of the “reform” movement.

Welner says that he is to doing it for the money. The big money, he claims, is with parents and teachers, not hedge fund managers or the Walton or Gates or Broad Foundations.

To quote the press release:

BOULDER, CO (April 1, 2015) – The National Education Policy Center today announced that it is changing its mission statement and renouncing the pursuit of strong, equitable public schools.

NEPC director Kevin Welner admitted that the whole enterprise had been a ruse, and that he and his colleagues were really only in it for the money and for the elation of constant policy victories.

The NEPC’s mission statement has been “to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. … guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.”

Welner announced that the new mission statement would be “to promote policies that have a surface appeal, that are built on the whimsical magic of the free market, and that use schools to facilitate the reproduction of inequalities from generation to generation.” Research evidence, Welner added, would be created whenever necessary to prop up these goals.

“We know that by abandoning our past mission we’ll have to forgo the immense funding advantages that come from caring about high-quality evidence and equity and public schooling. But that was never really us. There comes a time when we must set aside our crass pursuit of financial support and dedicate ourselves to our true ideals. If this means trying to squeeze money from financially strapped hedge fund managers or ‘reform-focused’ foundations with tiny endowments, then that’s just what we will have to do,” said Welner.

Steven Singer wrote these five terrific posts last year. I didn’t see them when they appeared. Probably you didn’t either. You should.

#5: Raiders of your lost pension.

#4: Forget corporations….unions really are people.

#3: The multiple choice mind.

#2: A curriculum of compassion.

#1: Franz Kafka and the metamorphosis of teacher evaluations

Read them and enjoy!

Jennifer is a Momma Bear in Tennessee. The Momma Bears are a parent group that fights for their children and their schools.

Jennifer had a fantasy: She imagined she was stuck in an elevator with Bill Gates. Trapped between floors. And she told him what she thought. In the time they were stuck, she insisted he watch a video that disproved his world-view. She even gave him fruit snacks (he was famished).

What did she teach him? Read and enjoy.




NY Teacher wrote the following comment in response to the TeachPlus survey, which said that teachers think the PARCC test is better than their own state tests. This gave me a belly laugh.



“Before the teachers were allowed to assess the tests, Teach Plus provided them with training to ensure they had the necessary background knowledge.”


“This training was preceded by a snack of psilocybin mushrooms laced with a generous sprinkling of lysergic acid diethylamide. Teachers were not only impressed with the quality of the PARCC items but were also mesmerized by cursors that continuously changed size, shape, and color, keyboard keys that greeted them by spelling out their name, and wallpaper in the test room that breathed as if alive.”

Every year, the National Education Policy Center selects the absolutely worst research, worst  policy proclamations, and worst think tank pronouncements and bestows upon them the Bunkum Award. Here are the winners! Open the link to watch the thrilling video.
2014 Bunkum Honorees:


The ‘Class Size Reductio ad Absurdum’ Award
To GEMS Education Solutions for The Efficiency Index

Comparing international test scores and drawing ominous conclusions is quite the rage. Also, as GEMS Educational Solutions found, it is a great way to garner credulous coverage from The Economist and the BBC. All that’s needed is a pile of data and a mathematical model, and one can do creative things like rank countries’ educational systems based on their “efficiency.” It apparently matters not how much sense it all makes, as long as it can be puffed up with something that sounds sufficiently intimidating, such as a stochastic frontier analysis, to lend an air of gravitas to an inherently silly idea. So armed, GEMS set out in The Efficiency Index to rank 30 countries. When the data emerged from the GEMS statistical grinder, researchers concluded from the resulting mince meat that to get a 5% increase in PISA scores, teacher wages would (on average) have to go up by 14% or class sizes would (on average) have to go down by 13 students per class.


The most entertaining part of this report is the efficiency index itself, which purports to list optimal wage levels and class sizes for each country. For four countries, the optimal class size is estimated at fewer than two students per teacher. The teacher salary part of the report is almost as risible. The Swiss, we discover, should cut teachers’ wages nearly in half to achieve that nation’s “optimal” teacher salary. Indonesian teachers meanwhile would see their wages triple. As explained by our reviewer, City University of New York economist Clive Belfield, such anomalies expose the weaknesses in each of the study’s three key elements: “the output measure is questionable, the input measures are unclear, and the econometric method by which they are correlated does not have a straightforward economic interpretation.”


Meanwhile, even those of us in the research community who have long pointed to the benefits of (smart) class-size reduction can savor the irony of an “efficiency” report suggesting that two students is an optimal class size.



The ‘What the World Needs Now is Choice Sweet Choice’ Awards
To Fordham Institute for Expanding the Education Universe

To Reason Foundation for Federal School Finance Reform
The past decades have seen school choice expand through charter schools, vouchers, tax credits (neo-vouchers), and various other mechanisms dreamed up after feverish evenings of reading Milton Friedman. While it’s true that all this choice has increased systemic inequities even as it has failed to improve educational outcomes, that’s no reason to stop or slow down—at least not according to two Bunkum-winning reports: Expanding the Education Universe: A Fifty-State Strategy for Course Choice from the Fordham Institute, and Federal School Finance Reform: Moving Toward Title I Funding Following the Child from the Reason Foundation.


The Fordham report urges policymakers to bring the blessings of market competition to the selection of classes, envisioning a future when students design their own selection of online and off-line classes, offered by a variety of public and private providers. Unfortunately, the report makes no effort to actually evaluate the merits of the idea. It “assumes, without solid evidence, that course choice, electronic educational provisions, and the like are viable, effective, and proven methods,” according to reviewers and University of Southern California scholars Patricia Burch, Jahni Smith and Mary Stewart. “Accordingly, the piece rests entirely on assumptions and assertions.” The reader is left to ponder the next step after course choice. Perhaps our children might purchase individual lessons (and grades) through a bidding process on eBay?


Or they can just take federal Title I funding and head off directly to a private school, as proposed by the Reason Foundation in its report Federal School Finance Reform: Moving Toward Title I Funding Following the Child. Those lost in the antiquated “Good Ole Days” of the Great Society may have mistakenly thought that the purpose of Title I was to provide equal educational opportunities via compensatory services for needy children. It turns out that it’s really about school choice, if one takes the perspective of the Reason report, which argues that Title I funds, and other funds that states and districts may wish to contribute, should be distributed as a form of voucher (this is one version of what is called, “Title I portability”).


Under the current system, Title I is the federal government’s primary way of assisting schools serving large numbers of students meeting Title I eligibility criteria. So moving money away from those schools of concentrated poverty may seem counter-productive to the untrained eye. It might also seem odd to be telling low-income families that the way for them to receive better educational opportunities is to take $2,100 or so, somehow supplement it with their own money, and find a private school. Reviewer Gail Sunderman, a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, concluded that the report’s recommendations are “likely to exacerbate existing inequities between schools within the same district rather than improve them.” But surely Sunderman and those who share such concerns simply fail to appreciate the miracle of school choice.



The ‘Back-Tracking via CTE’ Award
To Lexington Institute for Updating Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century

The U.S. has a long history of tracking low-income students and students of color into dead-end vocational classes that prepare them for neither college nor a career. Every so often policymakers notice this, wring their hands, and say “never again.” Yet hope springs eternal in the human breast. So we can trust that a new generation of politicians will pop up with “innovative” ideas about how to create vocational tracks that produce completely different results.


Not ones to disappoint, a collection of think tanks and elected officials of both major parties are now promoting the idea that Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools will prepare their students for jobs in our New EconomyTM. We encourage the Lexington Institute to accept its Back-tracking Bunkum Award on behalf of the many other think tanks and policy wonks, across the centuries, that have discovered and rediscovered this most derivative of ideas. The Lexington report, Updating Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century, offers advice on how to unleash CTE’s potential to meet the needs of employers and employees alike in our rapidly changing economy. It is built on the Petrillian assumption that we should separate academically talented children from those in need of a non-academic alternative.


Reviewers Marisa Saunders and Jaime del Razo, both of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, concluded that the report manages to over-reach and under-reach simultaneously: It uses “a few poorly developed examples to make broad claims about key attributes of successful programs;” at the same time it does not capture the potential of high school CTE programs to bridge between academic features and the potential to use CTE approach to make learning more relevant and engaging. By replicating the harmful mindset that career education is somehow in conflict with college preparatory curricula, thus requiring separation of academic and voc-ed students, the report reinforces longstanding divisions by social class that funnel students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds disproportionately toward a vocational track, while affording those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds greater access to higher education and the higher incomes that come with it.



The ‘It’s Never Too Early to Revise History’ Award
To Sonecon, Inc. for The Economic Benefits of New York City’s Public School Reforms, 2002-2013

Michael Bloomberg hadn’t yet left New York’s City Hall before a series of publications were released that put a rosy gloss on his administration’s educational record. One such report, The Economic Benefits of New York City’s Public School Reforms, 2002-2013, was produced by Sonecon, Inc. a Washington, D.C., economic advisory firm that claims to apply “methodologies that produce analytically unassailable results.” Sonecon’s chairman, Robert Shapiro, authored the report along with Kevin Hassett, the American Enterprise Institute scholar who co-authored the visionary (i.e., delusional) 1999 book, “Dow 36,000.” The Sonecon report credited New York City education reforms during the Bloomberg years with boosting the City’s economy to the tune of $74 billion. “While such estimates are always an exercise in some level of speculation, this report relies on highly inappropriate assumptions to reach its conclusions,” reviewer and NYU economics of education professor Sean Corcoran explained. “Specifically, it attributes all gains in high school completion and college enrollment to the reforms, applies national statistics on earnings and college completion to the marginal graduate in NYC, and extrapolates cross-sectional associations between graduation rates and home prices at the zip code level as the causal effect of higher graduation rates.” For example, breaking down the report’s math, Corcoran finds that the estimated impact of the Bloomberg-era reforms on property values is equivalent to “two-thirds of the entire increase in residential property values between 2007 and 2013.” Finally, let’s not forget that the Bloomberg-era reforms were preceded by a landmark court ruling which, Corcoran notes, “helped drive a large increase in state resources for the City’s schools”—yet that case is not mentioned in the Sonecon report. The “back of the envelope” estimates that the Sonecon report makes, Corcoran concludes, “are pure fantasy.”



And finally…



The ‘Fractured Fraction Award for Using Erroneous Numerators and Denominators to Get Predetermined Results’

To School Choice Demonstration Project and University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform for Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands


To University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform for The Productivity of Public Charter Schools

The University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform (EDRE) wins our Grand Prize for two reports. The first, Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands, argues that charter schools are underfunded. The second, The Productivity of Public Charter Schools, argues that despite being underfunded, charter schools still manage to produce better outcomes than district schools. The reports are impressive indeed—as long as we’re collectively willing to overlook the researchers’ bungling of their calculations of both the numerator and the denominator of their equation.


The charter school funding report was reviewed by Rutgers University school finance professor Bruce Baker. He noted the report authors’ misunderstanding of intergovernmental fiscal relationships, and he explained how this misunderstanding produced an erroneous assignment of “revenues” between charters and district schools. A district’s expenditure is frequently a charter’s revenue, since charter funding is often received by a pass-through from district funding. Thus, the EDRE report doubles up on the assignment of revenue to the public school districts: their own plus the charters’. The Arkansas authors also fail to take into account the fact that districts often retain responsibility for direct provision of services (such as transportation) to charter school students. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the report suffers from vague documentation of its research methods and data sources. For example, it treats “all revenues” (not defined) as expenditures (which they assuredly are not). When numbers were not handy, report authors drew on murky “additional data sources.”


A productivity calculation looks at results per expense, so the enigmatic revenue calculation of the first report is used by the EDRE authors as their denominator. Their numerator computation is not much better, since it’s cobbled together with entirely inappropriate comparisons of student population characteristics.


That second report was reviewed by University of Colorado Boulder research professor Gene Glass, who found that it used state average NAEP scores without bothering to consider the well-known population differences between charter schools and non-charter public schools on demographic variables such as poverty (free lunch eligibility) or special-needs status. As Glass asks in his review, “If one is calculating ‘bang for the buck,’ what is left if neither the bang nor the buck can be believed?”


For these stunningly incompetent analyses, the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform has thoroughly earned the 2014 Bunkum Grand Prize for shoddy research.


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