Archives for category: Principals

Who stands up for the neediest, most vulnerable children in Chicago? Not Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Not the Mayor’s hand picked Board of Education. Not the Superintendent Forrest Claypool, who imposed what he himself calls “unconscionable” cuts to special education.

Who stands up for the children? Educators.

Principal Troy LaRaviere (who was previously warned by CPS about speaking out too much) describes here the principals’ revolt, and the CPS officials’ sneaky effort to announce the cuts in a Friday afternoon (when they would get minimal media attention), with only one day to appeal.

If this what reformers stand for? Hurting defenseless children?

LaRaviere writes:

“Whenever I try to take a break from writing about CPS to focus on other aspects of my professional and personal life, CPS officials do something so profoundly unethical, incompetent and/or corrupt that my conscience calls me to pick up the pen once more. This time, they’ve targeted special education students. Obscured in the latest round of CPS budget cuts is an unprecedented move to cut legally required special education services. Educators are often asked if a school based budget cut will affect students. The answer is always “yes.” Each person in a school provides a service to a group of students. When CPS decides to cut the dollars that fund a school-based position they are, in effect, taking the service away from students.

“One district official was quoted in the Sun-Times stating, “CPS continues to work with our principals to prepare for these adjustments.”

“Adjustments” is CPS’ latest euphemism for cuts to student services. If they keep it up, they’re going to “adjust” students out of their education entirely. CEO Forrest Claypool often repeats a talking point that the cuts CPS will “have to make” are “unconscionable.” If one thinks the cuts are “unconscionable” then one does not give those cuts a false euphamistic name like “right-sizing.” Yes, that’s the actual term they use to describe their efforts to reduce services to special education students. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, CPS took an additional $13.3 million worth of services from CPS students with their latest “adjustments.” The article includes a spreadsheet detailing the cuts to schools across Chicago. For example, Ogden school lost five special education teachers and three special education assistants, while Austin High School lost two teachers and four assistants.

“Chicago’s mayor and CPS officials often cite the need to “sacrifice” in order to “save money” as a justification for such cuts. However, all too often CPS and City Hall pretend not to see opportunities to save money by making those who can most afford it sacrifice. Instead they turn their avaricious eyes toward those who can least afford it: our students. They didn’t make the banks that swindled CPS out of $100 million sacrifice by suing them to recoup their losses; they prefer to make students sacrifice by increasing their class sizes. They didn’t makes SUPES Academy sacrifice by denying the organization a $20 million no-bid contract; they prefer to make students suffer by cutting their sports programs. They didn’t make the scores of basement dwelling for-profit charter school management organizations suffer (88% of charters are in the bottom half of CPS performance in student reading growth); instead they took funds used to provide programming for students in more successful neighborhood schools. They didn’t make Aramark and Sodexo Magic (an Emanuel campaign contributor) suffer by canceling their custodial management contracts when they failed to keep schools clean; CPS and City Hall prefer instead to make special education students sacrifice by cutting their legally required educational services.”

Where are the lawyers?

Troy LaRaviere is a prominent elementary school principal in Chicago. He has been outspoken in his opposition to Rahm Emanuel’s budget-cutting and his preference for privately managed charters. He is on the honor roll of this blog for his courage and articulate support of the children and educators of the Windy City.

He recently spoke at the Chicago Club and titled his address, “A Love Letter to Chicago’s Teachers.”

Much to his surprise, he received an anonymous love letter from a teacher. She was deeply inspired by his speech.

Her letter to Troy begins like this:

I’ve been reading and listening to your love letter over and over the last few weeks. Your passion is contagious. Your sweet words, hard and true, light the darkness in my heart; the light I had forgotten. Although, your words I hold dear to my heart…I cannot leave my man (CPS). He provides for me…without him…I don’t know how I would be able to feed my kids. Yes, he is abusive…He constantly threatens to quit me. He reminds me annually that I can be easily replaced by someone younger, cheaper and less experienced. He doesn’t respect me…in fact he constantly belittles me with tests that constantly change and evaluations that are subjective and punitive…as if I haven’t proven that I am worthy or good enough despite the years that I have sacrificed for our relationship. He sends people to check up on me in hopes of catching me doing wrong.

Troy says he is a shy man by nature, but clearly he was moved by this letter. You can bet he will fight even harder now for justice and equity and respect for the city’s teachers, parents, and children.

Marc Tucker’s blog reports how top-performing nations select school principals. Most require several years of teaching experience and a long and in-depth course in leadership skills. The report, by Jennifer Craw and Jackie Kraemer, describes the high professionalism required in top-performing nations.

By contrast, some states in the U.S. allow non-educators to become principals.

The U.S. is definitely an outlier.

Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center, New York, doesn’t think much of Governor Cuomo’s proposal for teachers to be evaluated by drop-by outsiders. The Governor made this part of his education package of “reforms.” His original proposal, which has been handed over to the State Education Department (or the Board of Regents) was to have test scores count for 50% of each teacher’s evaluation, to have 35% determined by an “independent evaluator,” and only 15% based on the principal’s judgment. Who would these outside evaluators be? How much would they be paid? What would it cost? How many would be hired to review the work of every teacher in the state? How much time would they spend with each teacher? This is the kind of idea that would be dreamed up only by someone who never was a principal or a teacher.

Here is what Burris says:

The folks up in Albany are showing once again that they never met a bad idea they didn’t like. The idea that teaching would improve if only “outsiders” came in to do observations is absurd.

When confronted with the costs of this half-baked scheme, legislators suggested that money could be saved by “swapping” administrators among districts to do observations. Can you imagine the consequences of putting this idea in place?

Schools would not function as principals are put on the road to observe teachers in other schools, leaving their own students and teachers without support when a crisis occurs. In rural New York, schools may be an hour or more apart. If the outside observations stay within the district, we would have elementary principals observing physics classes, and high school principals observing pre-k.

Observations would become little more than a check list hastily done by someone who has no vested interest in helping the teacher improve. One might imagine a cadre of “hired guns” who excel in writing harsh observations being brought in to a school to get a teacher who is respected in the building principal but not by a district office or a Board of Education.

This scheme makes one thing crystal clear–Cuomo despises teachers and the principals who support them. Let’s see if the legislature goes along or stands up for our public schools and the children they serve.

Ken Mitchell, who recently retired as a school superintendent, attempts to shed light on thorny problems in current education policy in this article.


No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have been dismal failures, and their main result appears to be the creation of chaos and incoherence at the local level. Both assume that standardized tests are not only the measure of education but the goal of education. Legislators are reacting by passing laws about how to evaluate teachers, a subject about which they are not expert and not well-informed.


Mitchell calls for the creation of an education summit, but with a twist:


It is time for an education summit, but not one that emanates from the governor’s office.


The governor has appointed commissions on mandate relief, school reform, and Common Core, naming members who often lacked expertise or objectivity. This time we need a summit involving stakeholders: teachers, principals, superintendents, parents and school boards. We need a de-politicized venue to ensure an objective analysis of the evidence behind current and proposed reforms related to assessment, teacher evaluation, Common Core and charter schools. If policymakers continue to mandate without evidence and allow profiteers to influence educational decisions, children will be harmed and public education ruined.


His suggestion makes sense. The Legislature should listen to the experts, rather than attempt to regulate the teaching profession. They would never dream of passing laws to evaluate the medical profession or any other profession. Why should they tell principals and superintendents how to evaluate teachers?

Roseanne Woods was a high school principal in Florida for 32 years. She is now a protester and a blogger. She is outraged by Florida’s punitive testing and accountability regime. In this post, she describes a state that cares more about testing than teaching.

For her steadfast dedication to real education, I place Roseanne Woods on the blog’s honor roll.

She writes:

“Children are stressed out and parents are m ad enough to want their children to “Opt-Out” of all high-stakes testing. Frustrated teachers are leaving the profession and superintendents are demanding real change. Lawmakers: how about some real relief?


“Florida schools are about to hit the big testing/school grades accountability iceberg this spring. Why? This year, instead of FCAT, all 3rd-11th grade students will be taking brand new tests on the extremely challenging Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), aka, Common Core Standards. Third graders who don’t score well on reading will be retained and high school students who don’t pass will not graduate. Schools will receive A-F school grades based on these scores.


“Not to worry—districts have been assured by DOE that the scores will be “normed” (manipulated) to match last year’s scores. Somehow, that gives little comfort


“Here’s a sample 3rd grade math problem— ‘A bakery uses 48 pounds of flour each day. It orders flour every 28 days. Create an equation that shows how many pounds of flour the bakery
needs to order every 28 days.’


“Any wonder many parents are having trouble helping their children with homework?


“There are now 154 of the 180 days on the Florida State Testing Calendar devoted to a variety of required state assessments in grades K-12 that effect schools’ grades. Any wonder that schools are spending more and more time prepping and practicing for these tests?…


“To make matters worse, schools also have to implement Florida Statute 1012.34– requiring 50% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on “rigorous” tests for every subject/course taught. So, at great expense, school districts have been scrambling to create over 1200 tests on courses not covered by the required Florida Standards Assessments, FSA. These district assessments must cover quite the spectrum including art, physical ed., drama and guidance counselors. By law, elementary students must take 6-7 end-of-course tests to prove their teachers did a good enough job to be eligible for a performance bonus.”


Florida is a very sick state. Please, someone, invite the Governor and the State Board of Education to visit Finland! All that time and money for testing is wasted.

Parents at the Julian Nava Academy in South Los Angeles loved their middle school. They worried about their children moving on to a high school where they might get less attention, where the education would not be as good as it had been at Nava Academy. So the parents organized, met with the principal, met with the district administrator, and won permission to open a new high school, called Nava College Preparatory Academy.


The school opened this fall, and the parents remain engaged with it. Its first class has 300 students, and it will eventually grow to 1100 students. Note there was no parent trigger, no confrontation between parents and educators. The parents loved the school they had, they wanted more of it, they made their case, and they won.

Carol Burris, fearless leader of educators and parents opposed to test-based accountability in Néw York, here appraises the record of John King as state commissioner of education in Néw York.

King was appointed last week to be an “advisor” to Arne Duncan. He and Arne are on the same page in their zealous belief in standardized testing, Common Core, and evaluating educators by student scores.

King came to the job with three years of experience in a “no excuses” charter school. He listed his ambitious goals at the outset of his reign. Higher test scores, higher graduation rates, an evaluation system for teachers and principals. Burris demonstrates that he achieved none of his goals and alienated parents and educators with his top-down, tone-deaf approach.

Thanks to King, students in the class of 2022 will have a 30% graduation rate unless his successors reverse King’s policies.

Peter Greene reports that the National Association of Secondary School Principals is reviewing and likely to endorse a statement rejecting VAM. The NASSP recognizes a growing body of research that shows the inaccuracy of VAM.

They cite the research, then offer recommendations:

“NASSP recommends that teacher eval include multiple measure, and that Peer Assistance and Review programs are the way to go. Teacher-constructed portfolios of student learning are also cool.

“VAMs should be used to fine tune programs and instructional methods as well as professional development on a building level, but they should not be “used to make key personnel decisions about individual teachers.” Principals should be trained in how to properly interpret and use VAMmy data.”

This is an important step forward, toward professional responsibilty and common sense.


NBC has abandoned its annual “education nation” funded by Gates and featuring the leaders of privatization and high-stakes testing.

Now is our hour! We are here for you! We are here for the millions of students, teachers, parents, and administrators who are part of public education. We are here permanently. We are not going away.

Coming Saturday, Oct.11

PUBLIC Education Nation

Panel #1: Testing & the Common Core

Just Two Weeks Away! The first-ever PUBLIC Education Nation

This time we own the table, and we will bring together educators, parents and students to tell the truth about what is happening in our schools, and what real reform ought to be all about.

Next Sunday, October 5, will be our major money bomb online fundraiser for the event. This is NOT sponsored by the Gates, Bloomberg or Walton foundations – it is sponsored by US – each and every person who cares about the future of public education. Please donate here, and spread the word.

If you are in the New York area, and would like to attend the October 11 event in person, please show up by 11:30 am at 610 Henry St at Brooklyn New School/Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, and register here in advance. You can also sign up for the online event on Facebook here.

Follow us on Twitter at @PublicEdNation & @NetworkPublicEd

Panel #1: Testing & the Common Core

One of the highlights of the event will be the very first panel,

Testing and the Common Core, which will be moderated by New York’s high school Principal of the Year, Carol Burris. Burris has written extensively about equity in schools and the impact of the Common Core, and will bring her many years as an educator to the table. She will be joined by the following education experts:

Alan A. Aja, Ph.D. is the Assistant Professor & Deputy Chair of the Department of Puerto Rican & Latino Studies in Brooklyn College. His research examines race, gender and class disparities between and among Latino and African American communities; immigration/education policy; social and economic segregation; sustainable development and collective action/unionization. Before academia, Aja worked as a labor organizer in Texas, an environmental researcher in Cuba, a human rights organizer in Argentina and in a refugee hostel in London. He is a public school parent and elected member of the SLT (School Leadership Team) of PS264 in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Dr. Aja will discuss the impact of common core aligned testing in New York, Kentucky and other states on marginalized communities, with attention to blacks, Latinos, ELLs, special ed/learning and disability students. He will present the early evidence to demonstrate that the Common Core and its testing is not resulting in the closing of the achievement gap, but may, instead be leaving disadvantaged students even further behind. He will also discuss alternative ways to increase student and school performance.

Rosa L. Rivera-McCutchen, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at CUNY’s Lehman College. She began her career in education as a high school teacher in the Bronx.Her research examines the theory and practice of leadership in small schools in urban settings in order to create socially just and equitable schools for Black and Latino students. Dr. Rivera-McCutchen’s research has appeared in an edited book entitled Critical small schools: Beyond privatization in New York City urban educational reform.

Dr. Rivera McCutchen will focus on the moral imperative of leading for social justice in the face of CCSS and high-stakes testing. She will highlight the challenges leaders face in resisting, and focus on the strategies that leaders have used in mounting successful campaigns of resistance.

Takiema Bunche Smith is the Vice President of Education and Outreach at Brooklyn Kindergarten Society (BKS), where she oversees educational programming and outreach initiatives at five preschools located in low-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York. In both her professional and personal life, Ms. Bunche Smith is involved in various advocacy efforts that relate to early childhood care and education funding and policy, and the push-back against the overemphasis on high stakes testing in public schools. She has been a classroom teacher, teacher educator, content director for Sesame Street, and director of curriculum and instruction. She attended NYC public schools for 3rd-12th grade and is now a public school parent and member of the SLT at Brooklyn New School.

Ms. Bunche Smith will discuss the early childhood education implications of the Common Core and how it affects schools, students and parents. She will discuss various parent perspectives on the Common Core as well as critically highlight those who are not part of the conversation around Common Core.

On Saturday, Oct. 11, you can tune in online here at to the live broadcast starting at 12 noon Eastern time, 9 am Pacific time.

The event will conclude with a conversation between Diane Ravitch and Jitu Brown.

The Network for Public Education is hosting this event. It is NOT sponsored by the Gates, Walton or Bloomberg foundations. It is sponsored by YOU, each and every one of the people who care about our children’s future.

Can you make a small donation to help us cover the expense of this event? We are determined to create the space not ordinarily given to voices like these. But we need your participation. Please donate by visiting the NPE website and clicking on the PayPal link.

A live-stream of the event will be available on Saturday, Oct. 11, starting at Noon Eastern time, 9 am Pacific time at

Support The Network for Public Education

The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society. Our mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students.

Over the past year, donations to The Network for Public Education helped us put on out first National Conference – an incredible success. In the coming year, we will hold more events, webinars, and work on the issues that our members and donors care about the most!

To become a Member or to Make a Donation, go to the NPE website and click on the PayPal link. We accept donations using PayPal, the most trusted site used to make on-line payments.

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