Archives for category: Massachusetts

News flash! There is a national test that enables us to compare reading and math scores for every state! It is called NAEP. It reports scores by race, ELLs, poverty, gender, disability status, achievement gaps. This is apparently unknown to the Néw York Times and the Secretary of Education, who has said repeatedly that we need Common Core tests to compare states.

The New York Times, America’s newspaper of record, has a story today about Massachusetts’ decision to abandon PARCC, even though its State Commissioner Mitchell Chrster is chairman of the board of PARCC. True or Memorex? Time will tell.

But the story has a serious problem: the opening sentence.

“It has been one of the most stubborn problems in education: With 50 states, 50 standards and 50 tests, how could anyone really know what American students were learning, or how well?”

Later the story has this sentence:

“The state’s rejection of that test sounded the bell on common assessments, signaling that the future will now look much like the past — with more tests, but almost no ability to compare the difference between one state and another.”

What happened to the National Assessment of Educational Progress? It has been comparing all the states and D.C., as well as many cities, since 1992. Has no one at the New York Times ever heard of NAEP?

In a strange turn of events, Maureen Healey, the Attorney General for the state of Massachusetts, issued a brief defending the cap on charter schools. There is currently a strong push by charter advocates to lift the cap so charters can expand. She speaks on behalf of the Baker administration, but Governor Charles Baker (a Republican) supports charter schools.


Attorney General Maura Healey, acting on behalf of the Baker administration, moved Friday to crush a lawsuit that would overturn the state cap on the number of charter schools, forcefully challenging the argument that limiting these schools deprives children of a quality education.

The lawsuit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court in September, names as plaintiffs five Boston students who were unable to secure charter school seats during the lottery earlier this year and were assigned instead to traditional Boston public schools that have been classified by the state as underperforming.

The defendants include James A. Peyser, Governor Charlie Baker’s secretary of education, and other Baker administration officials who are officially responsible for enforcing the cap, even though they strongly support lifting it to allow more charter schools.

That tension has raised questions in legal and political circles about how Baker, a Republican, and Healey, a Democrat, might respond to the lawsuit, which argues that the cap unfairly deprives thousands of Massachusetts students of their constitutional right to a quality education.

On Friday, Healey, acting as the attorney for Peyser and other education officials, made clear that the state intends to aggressively fight the suit. In two strongly worded legal filings, the attorney general argues the lawsuit should be dismissed on several grounds.

She contends that the argument advanced by the five plaintiffs that there is a direct link between the charter school cap and the poor education they claim to be receiving is “illogical, highly speculative, and remote.”

“Numerous other factors” other than the charter cap could be responsible for the poor performance of some schools, Healey writes. And simply opening more charter schools won’t necessarily help because there is no guarantee that they would be high-quality charters, she contends.

‘Numerous factors other than the cap could be responsible for the poor performance of some schools.’


“Not all charter schools in Massachusetts are high-performing,” Healey writes. “In fact, it is not unusual for the department or the board to impose conditions on existing charter schools, or close them because they do not perform as required.”
Healey also asserts that Boston has not, as the plaintiffs argue, reached its limit on the number of charter schools because it still has seats available in so-called Commonwealth and in-district charter schools, which are given more flexibility than traditional public schools, though not as much as full-fledged charter schools.



When the Indiana legislature held hearings about education, parents drove hours to testify and sat for several hours as the imported “experts” spoke. Many of the parents had to leave after waiting for five hours.

Look at what happened in Massachusetts when the Legislature held hearings about lifting the charter cap.

The politicians danced in and out; some left early. The parents waited.

The foundations testified. The parents waited.

The school committees testified. The parents waited.

The heads of charter schools testified. The parents waited.

The charter parents in their matching T-shirts testified. The parents waited.

After hours went by, and almost no one was left, the parents spoke.

Look at the photo. It tells the story.

Who owns the public schools if not the public?

The world of education policy wonks has been waiting with bated breath to learn whether State Commissioner Mitchell Chester would choose to stay with the state’s test called MCAS or to adopt the Common Core PARCC test (Chester is chair of the PARCC board).

Chester answered the question by proposing to merge the two tests and create a hybrid!

No one actually knows what this means or how it will work. Will it satisfy all parties or make everyone angry?

EduShyster reports that three of the city’s leading law firms have filed a lawsuit to overturn the state’s cap on the number of charter schools.

The irony is that they are suing the state and the state board of education, which are led by charter advocates.

She writes:

So our defendants in a case alleging that the charter cap is a violation of students’ civil rights also happen to be wildly pro proponents of lifting said cap. Are there any other ways in which this case is in fact the opposite of what it purports to be? Funny you should ask…It turns out that the case has nothing to with individual rights period—it’s actually a separation of powers case that will hinge on the concept of *justiciability.* I will tell you no more about this now as we have officially stumbled onto a terrain in which I am *needs improvement.* But suffice it to say that this is yet another reason for the decided lack of enthusiasm that beshrouds this case. You see, our white-shod friends have accidentally raised a topic that our proponent-defendants would prefer to eschew: the increasingly unequal state of school funding in Massachusetts, and the role that charter schools play in exacerbating that inequality, especially in poor districts.

Remember the line about charter schools saving poor kids from failing schools? Here is the irony. Massachusetts is the highest performing state in the nation. As more charter schools are opened, more school districts will lose students and resources.

The Bay State–or at least its current leaders–seem determined to create a fiscal crisis for underfunded districts and a two-tier system of schools with public funds. One free to choose its students, the other required to enroll all students.

I first learned about Roland Fryer, Jr., a Harvard economist, when he devised an experiment to pay students for raising test scores in several cities, which failed. Subsequently, he seemed to be involved in other such experiments where the methodology always involved incentives for teachers or students to get higher scores. Here is an outside review of the merit pay plan he designed for New York City. Another of his less-than-successful incentive plans was called “loss aversion.” It works like this: the district gives teachers a $4,000 bonus at the start of the school year; if scores go up, they keep it. If scores don’t go up, they give the money back.

That gave me an idea: how about “loss aversion” for economists? If their predictions are wrong, their computer is confiscated. Or their pay is cut. Or they lose a digit on one finger.

Mercedes Schneider decided to learn more about Fryer after learning that Charlie Baker, the Republican governor, had appointed Fryer to the State Board of Education. The state is on the verge of deciding whether to stick with its MCAS state tests or switch to PARCC. The State Commissioner of Education for Massachusetts, Mitchell Chester, is chair of the PARCC Governing Board. Gosh, I wonder which test they will choose?

Schneider wondered, who is Roland Fryer, Jr.

She writes that Fryer was “promoted from assistant professor to full professor after a single year on the Harvard University faculty (and skipping right over associate professor, to boot).

“Fryer is also the faculty director of Harvard University-based EdLabs, which describes itself as just a helpful group of individuals with no agenda:”

Here is their agenda:

We are an eclectic collection of scientists, educators, and implementers with diverse backgrounds and vast experience, generating ideas and implementing experiments that have the potential to transform education.

Edlabs has no political affiliation or agenda to promote. We squeeze truths from data. People may not always like what we discover, but we will disseminate our results no matter what we find.

Sounds good, yes?

But then she checked out EdLab’s associates and funding, and almost every notable reformer group was there.

Among his advisors: Joel Klein, Condoleeza Rice, and Eli Broad.

Among his funders: the usual suspects. You can guess, or read the post.

Schneider reports on one of Fryer’s ideas to close the achievement gap: don’t test the affluent districts (like the one he lives in), because it would leave less time for reading Shakespeare; but test the poor kids daily.

As I have said on more than one occasion, tests are a measure, not an educational intervention. They measure gaps, they don’t close them. If you have a fever, you can find out how high it is with a thermometer, but taking your temperature again and again will not lower your fever.

Gus Morales, the outspoken leader of the Holyoke, Massachusetts, Teachers Association, won the right to a hearing from the state’s Department of Labor Relations after he was laid off by his district.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association and his colleagues believe he was dismissed because he led protests against the state takeover of the district.

“The state Department of Labor Relations (DLR) has found “probable cause” to believe that the Holyoke Public Schools illegally fired Holyoke Teachers Association (HTA) President Gus Morales because of his activism as a union leader.

“The DLR will hold a hearing on the complaint, which stems from a charge filed by the HTA on June 25. The DLR complaint is similar to a grand jury indictment; the upcoming hearing will have many of the characteristics of a trial, with witnesses and cross-examination.

“Because I speak out against policies that I see as bad for our students and bad for our educators, I have been targeted for two straight years,” said Morales, whose employment contract with the Holyoke Public Schools was not renewed at the end of the school year.

“Morales, who does not have professional teaching status, was similarly dismissed at the end the 2013-14 school year after his election to lead the HTA. Then, as now, the DLR issued a complaint that found reason to believe that Morales was illegally terminated for his union activism.”

Morales and the HTA were vocal opponents of the takeover, which was imposed in April despite widespread objections from the community and several of its elected leaders.

“It is an outrage that an educator and leader such as Gus Morales, who has spoken out for the students and the Holyoke community, is being targeted for dismissal,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “The MTA will not tolerate attacks on educators, especially when the attack is meant to cause fear among those who challenge the deeply flawed accountability system used to punish educators, students and communities. Gus has the courage to address the real issues affecting Holyoke — such as economic and racial injustice — and the MTA supports him and the HTA in holding the state accountable for providing resources that the community can use to combat these problems.”

“Throughout stakeholder meetings to craft a “turnaround” plan for Holyoke Public Schools, Morales and others from the HTA raised concerns about the influence of standardized tests, the need to provide social services to students living in poverty, inadequate programs for students on special education plans, the lack of ethnic diversity in the teaching ranks and other issues that they felt that the receiver needs to address.”

Morales never got a bad evaluation until he spoke out against bad policies.

Reader Christine Langhoff read a post about Philadelphia’s Superintendent William Hite, a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendent’s Academy, who filled top jobs with other Broadies. Broadies are trained to support charter schools and to close down public schools.

Langhoff reported similar trends in Boston, since the appointment of Tommy Chang as superintendent. In Los Angeles, Chang was in charge of the disastrous technology program. Now, he has surrounded himself with corporate reform types, all either from Broadie groups or Gates groups trained in the corporate reform ideology.

She writes:

Superintendent Tommy Chang, late of LAUSD and the iPad melodrama; his previous school experience was to run a Green Dot charter school with 580 students. He’s Broadie, class of 2015.

He has named Barbara Deane-Williams, also a Broadie 2015, as his Senior Deputy Superintendent of Operations.

His Chief of Staff comes to us from Families for Excellent Schools.

Doannie Tran, the newly-appointed Assistant Superintendent of Professional Learning in BPS comes from TFA and TeachPlus.

At least one new principal was a TFA’er whose classroom experience is quite limited.

And TNTP is hiring – (isn’t that the school system’s job?) :

“Leadership Coach – Boston Public Schools

Boston, MA

Seeking passionate school leaders!
TNTP seeks a full-time Leadership Coach to support school improvement efforts in Boston, MA. This position is available immediately and is based in Boston.” Wondering if they’re bringing their walkie-talkies and bugs for teachers’ ears.

More of the same at the state level – Heather Peske, current Associate Commissioner for Educator Quality in DESE comes through TeachPlus, Education Trust, and Teach for America.

And – oh glee!

“E4E Focus Groups: Educators for Excellence (E4E) is a teacher-founded non-profit that works with teams of teachers to help them make change at the school, district, state, or union level. They are considering coming to Boston and are interested in learning from current BPS teachers: what are the current issues facing Boston teachers? what channels do teachers have to take leadership on issues that matter to them? This is also a chance to learn firsthand about E4E’s model and how it might work here in Boston. Fill out this brief survey to tell me which dates work for you for a 2-hr meeting (dinner/lunch included):”

Stealth takeovers of the public system.

EduShyster posted an article by Amy Berard, who taught sixth grade in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where she became trained in what was called “No Nonsense Nurturing.” She had to wear a wireless earpiece and receive instructions from three coaches who sat in the back of her classroom, telling her what to say, how to act, how to respond to students, how to stand. She eventually left the district. She was “not the right fit.” Apparently, she got the idea that she was a professional, a human being with thoughts and feelings, and that what she was asked to do was unprofessional and dehumanizing.


It is a shocking article. This is how it begins:

“Give him a warning,” said the voice through the earpiece I was wearing. I did as instructed, speaking in the emotionless monotone I’d been coached to use. But the student, a sixth grader with some impulsivity issues and whose trust I’d spent months working to gain, was excited and spoke out of turn again. “Tell him he has a detention,” my earpiece commanded. At which point the boy stood up and pointed to the back of the room, where the three classroom “coaches” huddled around a walkie talkie. “Miss: don’t listen to them! You be you. Talk to me! I’m a person! Be a person, Miss. Be you!”


Last year, my school contracted with the Center for Transformational Training or CT3 to train teachers using an approach called No Nonsense Nurturing. It was supposed to make us more effective instructors by providing “immediate, non-distracting feedback to teachers using wireless technology.” In other words, earpieces and walkie talkies. I wore a bug in my ear. I didn’t have a mouthpiece. Meanwhile an official No Nonsense Nurturer, along with the school’s first year assistant principal and first year behavior intervention coach, controlled me remotely from the corner of the room where they shared a walkie talkie. I referred to the CT3 training as C-3PO after the Star Wars robot, but C-3PO actually had more personality than we were allowed. The robot also spoke his mind.
If you’re not familiar with No Nonsense Nurturing or NNN, let’s just say that there is more nonsense than nurturing. The approach starts from the view that urban students, like my Lawrence, MA middle schoolers, benefit from a robotic style of teaching that treats, and disciplines, all students the same. This translated into the specific instruction that forbade us from speaking to our students in full sentences. Instead, we were to communicate with them using precise directions. As my students entered the room, I was supposed to say: “In seats, zero talking, page 6 questions 1-4.” But I don’t even talk to my dog like that. Constant narration of what the students are doing is also key to the NNN teaching style. “Noel is is finishing question 3. Marjorie is sitting silently. Alfredo is on page 6.”
My efforts to make the narration seem less robotic—”I see Victor is on page 6. I see Natalie is on question 3″—triggered flashbacks to Miss Jean and Romper Room. All that was missing was the magic mirror. But even this was too much for the NNN squad in the corner. “Drop the ‘I see’ came through my earpiece. All this narration was incredibly distracting for the students, by the way, to the point where they started narrating me. “Mrs. Berard is passing out the exit tickets.” “Mrs. Berard is helping Christian.” “Mrs. Berard is reviewing the answer to question 4.”


Read it all. It is frightening. Some organization is being paid many thousands of dollars to turn teachers into robots who will treat the children as standardized widgets. Who dreamed up this absurd and insulting program?


PS: This program has the endorsement of an officer of the Gates Foundation, presumably speaking for the Foundation.



In this post, EduShyster includes an actual, genuine report card received by a fifth-grade student in Massachusetts, whom she calls “Ginny.”


You must see it to believe it.


The report card has room for grades in history and social studies, but the spaces are blank. No time for such arcane stuff.


EduShyster checks the history framework for fifth-graders. It is ambitious. But the student was not exposed to any of it.


Now I can guess what you’re thinking—does Ginny really need to learn any of this old timey stuff anyway, since she can just look it up on her phone when she gets to college? Also, maps are SO over as we have GPS now, and by the time Ginny learns to drive her car will drive itself. Also, also, democracy seems to be on its way out anyway, so far better that Ginny devote her time to practice choosing between some predetermined choices.


Is this how we prepare our future citizens?






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