Archives for category: Students

In case you didn’t know it already, privacy is dead. The
National Security Agency has asserted the power to listen to your
phone calls and read your emails.

Now we
learn from Pearson and the esteemed (Sir) Michael Barber (the
architect of a philosophy known as “Deliverology”) that the
capability to monitor the actions, behaviors,
thoughts of every student is at hand. We are all about to take a
dive into the Digital Ocean, whether we want to or not. Big data
will tell Pearson and other vendors whatever they want to know.
They will know more about our children and our grandchildren
than we do. Arne Duncan loosened the federal privacy regulations in
2011, so there is no limit on the information that Pearson and
others will collect. But never forget: It is all for the

Peter Greene shared his thoughts about Pearson’s digital ocean here.

he writes:

“Barber assures us that personalized learning at scale will be possible, and again I want to point out that we already have a system that can totally do that (though of course the present system does not provide corporations such as Pearson nearly enough money). I will not pretend that the traditional US public ed system always provides the personalized learning it should, but when reformy types suggest that’s a reason to scrap the whole system, I wonder if they also buy a new car every time the old car runs out of gas (plus, in that metaphor, government is repeatedly pouring sand into the gas tank).

“But no. There will have to be revolution:

“…schools will need to have digital materials of high quality, teachers will have to change how they teach and how they themselves learn…

“This shtick I recognize, because it is as old as education technology. Every software salesman who ever set foot in a school used this one– “This will be really great tool if you just change everything about how you work.” No. No, no, no. You do not tell a carpenter, “Hey, newspaper is a great building material as long as you change your expectations about how strong and protective a house is supposed to be.”

“You pick a tool because it can help you do the job. You do not change the job so that it will fit the tool…..Barber praises the authors of the paper for their “aspirational vision” of what success in schools would look like.

“They see teaching,learning and assessment as different aspects of one integrated process, complementing each other at all times, in real time;

To which I reply, “Wow! Amazing! Do they also envision water that is wet? Wheels that are round?”

Journalist Andrea Gabor graciously offered her blog to retired principal Jeanne Rotunda to reflect on her years as a school leader in New York City.

Having worked in a city that became famous for its obsession with testing and data, Rotunda was an oddity. She cared about the emotional life of children. She knew that the children needed kindness and security to be able to concentrate on school. There was no metric for the qualities she cared about. She knew that every child had a story, every child faced unimaginable challenges.

She wrote:


With the constant focus on testing, the latest standards, data that presume to quantify everything important about a good education, we rarely discuss the important unmeasurables, including the emotional life of children. Yet, who among us is not aware of how our own childhoods have impacted our adult lives? Do we not think about how we feel about situations in our lives and try to manage our stress levels? Aren’t we dealing daily with the complexities of relationships and choices? How can we expect a child like David to focus his energies fully on learning? How can we think a child knows how to express feelings appropriately and ask for what he needs when the closest relationships in his life are so damaged? The trauma of growing up in a home with enormous stress from finances, violence, drugs, and other dysfunctions, cannot be underestimated. How is it that we rarely create the space and time to truly understand how these complex emotions shape the children we educate and our designs for their learning environments?

Being aware of and responsive to a child’s inner life can be painful for the adults who venture there. But responding with anything less than a dedication to understand and help the child navigate their young but fragile lives, is to not be fully present to their reality. Schools that are sensitive to the whole child and build meaningful opportunities to nurture and grow the emotions of children, are schools we should look to for guidance and inspiration.


Dear Friends,

Today this blog reached the unbelievable number of eleven million page views!

I had no idea this would happen when I wrote the first post on April 26, 2012.

Thank you for reading. More than that, thank you for participating.

Many of you contribute regularly to what must be the liveliest discussion about education on the Internet. I read your comments and pick out some that are the most interesting, the most thoughtful, the most informative, and the most provocative and post them. It may be the same day or weeks later. The important thing is that I have tried to make this blog a place where the voices of parents, students, teachers, principals, and superintendents are heard, unedited.

The rules of the blog are limited and simple. Be civil. Avoid certain four-letter words which I will not print. Do not insult your host. There are plenty of other forums for all of the above. Just not here.

As you know, the blog has a point of view, because I have a point of view. I care passionately about improving the education of all children. I care passionately about showing respect for the dedicated men and women who work hard every day to educate children and help them grow to be healthy, happy human beings with good character and a love of learning. I care passionately about restoring real education and rescuing it from those who have dumbed it down into preparation for the next standardized test. I care passionately about restoring to all children their right to engage in the arts, to play, to dream, to create, to have a childhood and a youth unburdened by fear of tests. I care passionately about protecting the public schools from those who seek to monetize them and use them as a source of profit and power.

I am in my end game. I will fight to the last to defend children, teachers, principals, and public education from the billionaires and politicians who have made a hobby of what is deceptively called “reform.” What is now called “reform,” as the readers of this blog know, is a calculated plan to turn public schools over to amateurs and entrepreneurs, while de imaging the teaching profession to cut costs.

The people who promote the privatization and standardization of public education are the StatusQuo. They include the U.S. Department of Education, the nation’s wealthiest hedge fund managers, and the nation’s largest foundations. They include ALEC, Democrats for Education Reform, Stand on Children, ConnCAN, and a bevy of other organizations eager to transfer public dollars to private organizations. Their stale and failed ideas are the Status Quo. Their ideas have been ascendant for a dozen years. They have failed and failed again, but their money and political power keep them insulated from news of the damage they do to Other People’s Children.

We will defeat them. We will outlast them. Who are we? We are the Resistance. We are parents and grandparents, teachers, and principals, school board members, and scholars. We will not go away. They can buy politicians, but they can’t buy us. They can buy “think tanks,” but they can’t buy us. Public schools are not for sale. Nor are our children. Nor are we.

Kathleen M. Cashin and Bruce S. Cooper are on the faculty of Fordham University. Dr. Cashin, an experienced educator, is also a member of the New York State Board of Regents. She is regularly in the minority on votes that increase the pressure for high-stakes testing. Dr. Cooper is a scholar who has written about school finance for many years. In this essay, they criticize the state’s pressure to raise test scores while sacrificing the social and emotional supports that students need to succeed in school. Schools across the state, restricted by Governor Cuomo’s 2% tax limit, must cut somewhere, and they are forced to cut such necessary services to students as social workers, psychologists, counselors, as well as the arts and athletics. These demands and the sacrifices they require will prove harmful to students, in the short run and the long run. A cardinal rule of medicine, derived from the Hippocratic Oath, is: “First, do no harm.” If it were the rule in education, the Regents and the State Commissioner would be judged to have done significant harm to the students in their care, whose well-being they willfully ignore in pursuit of ever higher scores on standardized tests.

Sacrificing Psychologists, Counselors,

& Social Workers—and Athletics & the Arts—to Test Preparation

Kathleen M. Cashin Bruce S. Cooper

To increase funds for the preparation of students for state tests, sadly, New York public schools and their districts have reduced the number of professionals for critical student services; these include guidance counselors, psychologists, and social workers, while removing often athletic coaches, arts and music staff. But how can we expect our children to flourish in schools socially, psychologically, and inter-personally if these students have fewer trained school professionals to turn to, should they need help, comfort, or support?

Thus, we are cutting the most important services for children, those that help them to develop as healthy, happy human beings, all because we are obsessed with spending more funds, hoping to raise test score results through test prep. As one school principal recently commented, “Just forget it if you are seeking a job as a school guidance counselor, as these jobs are few and far between!”

For example, New York State recorded a decline from 7,126 guidance counselors in local public schools in 2009, to 6,622 in school year 2011-12, a drop of 7%, even though the enrollments (and needs) had risen. Likewise, social workers in the state employed in public schools dropped by 6%, from 3,270 to 3,050 during the same time period. And nurses working in public schools in New York declined by 3%, from 3,662 to 3,544 during this time.

As another administrator recalls, when he was a student at a major N.Y.C. public high school, his guidance counselor frequently called him into her office and asked:

“How are you adjusting to school?” She would regularly check on my grades, attendance, and my adjustment to various subjects and classes. This attention and private time meant so much to me, and I remember her fondly to this day, as she helped me to become the person and professional that I became.

Even teachers of art, music, drama, and physical education – and other areas that often go “untested” by the state — are disappearing, again reducing children’s engagement, joy, expression, physical fitness, creativity, and affirmation. What have we as a society accomplished by turning schools into “test mills” where fewer kids are happy; and schools are now spending eight months each year prepping for state tests?

Funding for the music and art in schools in New York City, for example, has plummeted by 81 percent since 2006, from about $10 million for supplies, dipping down to just $2 million in 2012. Cultural partnership funding — to build bridges between N.Y.C. public schools and it important cultural institutions — likewise, has been reduced by 50 percent, from $26 million to only $13 million.


Now, attention and time devoted to the “whole child” are now much less likely because teachers working alone in their classrooms are assuming more and more responsibility. And we see less staff who are trained and hired to help students — socially and emotionally — with a reduction in social workers, guidance counselors, athletic coaches, and school psychologists.

As a consequence, what are the effects of this drop in guidance counselors, now fewer in number in many schools, on children’s growth, stability, school attendance, as well the impact on levels of bad behaviors, such as physical bullying, and cyber-bullying? Those staff, specifically trained to address these students’ needs and problems, have diminished and thus are no longer around — or have so many students to serve, that they are not able to counsel students fully for college and career readiness.

We have data on the reduction in nonteaching staff, and on the rise of bad, anti-social behavior and depression among school kids; thus, we are believe that the drop in counselors and athletic-arts-music staff relates to the rising despair of students, who may have no one to whom to turn: fewer coaches, counselors, and psychologists in their schools.

Hence, we are making demands that students now become college and career prepared, while reducing (or overburdening) the very staff members who are trained to help these students. These critical questions must be answered at the federal, state, and local levels:

1. What is the level of relationship between loss of staff and the rise in student bullying and cyber-bullying?

2. What are the effects of reductions in available psychological and guidance personnel upon the levels of: (a) student suicide, (b) self-mutilation, and (c) truancy and dropout?

3. And how has the increase in gang membership — and combat among gangs –affected students’ feelings of school safety, school climate, and productivity?

Thus, overall, why are we letting our schools become less humane, supportive, and communal. And how are some students taking steps to join or create more gangs for fellowship and a sense of safety in numbers—or trying in other ways to create their own “safety nets”? Unsafe schools may then become breeding grounds, where frightened children look for protection in neighborhood gangs.

In effect, students are creating their own victimhood by these actions:

Looking to gangs for protection from other gangs;

• Missing coping mechanisms developed through counseling, guidance, and teacher relationships;

• Losing chances to learn life and life-coping skills in schools, along with other students and professional staff;

• Reducing available parental involvement and support in helping their own children learn to cope, practice, and succeed in school – and life; and,

• Losing real opportunities to practice social and personal skills at school and home.

We must recognize that caring for and supporting the socio-emotional needs of children are as important in the long-run as simply test-prepping our children’s way to a higher score on English, math, science, and social studies examinations.

Research and experience together show that children can learn, retain, and focus better when they are feeling and functioning as safe, happy, well-adjusted young people. Society has a real responsibility once again to make schools safe-havens for all children, physically and socially. For are we not truly our brothers and sisters’ keepers?


Kathleen M. Cashin, Ed.D., is a member of the N.Y. State Board Regents and a clinical professor at Fordham University.

Bruce S. Cooper, Ph.D., is professor at Fordham University, Graduate School of Education, N.Y.C.


Dr. Bruce S. Cooper

175 Riverside Dr. Apt. #2F

New York, NY 10024

Tel: 917 843-2281


Katie Osgood works in a psychiatric hospital for adolescents. She weighs in here on the debate, if there is one, about “grit.” Grit meaning perseverance, determination, character.

The kids she works with are in terrible trouble, and Katie says it is not their fault.

She writes that:

“…. the hyper-focus on individual character traits like “grit” is incredibility dangerous and damaging.

“I think of my students at the psychiatric hospital where I teach. My students are overwhelmingly students of color and many are students coming from the most debilitating poverty. And the oppression, neglect, and abuses they’ve experienced often manifest as significant mental health problems. Many have severe depression, suicidal ideation, debilitating anxiety, aggressive outbursts, or self-harming behaviors. According to Duckworth fans, these are kids significantly lacking in “grit”.

“And my kids are often very quick to give up on academic tasks. I work with many students who shut down, refuse to come to class at all at times, and instead sleep the day away. Some students act out aggressively-throwing chairs, making threats, storming out of the classroom-as a way to avoid difficult tasks. Others may act the class clown, disrupting the flow of the lesson.

“But there is always a reason behind these behaviors. I would never begin by assuming they lack perseverance, but would always look to why students are acting the way they are. Are they overloaded with their personal problems often including trauma and abuse? Have they been told repeatedly through test scores, grade retention, and frequent detentions/suspensions that they are no good and have internalized that they are “failures”? Is that student experiencing PTSD symptoms affecting their ability to concentrate and to persevere?

“The hopelessness these kids often feel is not a character flaw, but a normal human reaction to unconscionable circumstances. In fact, given the trials many kids have faced, they have shown amazing perseverance and grit in their lives.
Now I am not saying there are never times when kids just need some encouragement to persevere through a task. Good teachers use their relationships with students and expertise to decide if a little extra grit is what’s needed or if the task at hand should be modified or perhaps to discover if the student requires some other more pressing need be met first. Teaching grit is secondary at best in this process. The idea that this trait is a key ingredient missing in our students leading to low educational outcomes is preposterous. In fact, given the difficult life obstacles we do not protect so many children from in this country, this narrative is downright offensive.

“When we acknowledge how our society has utterly failed low-income communities of color through purposeful disinvestment, brutal police tactics, mass incarceration disparately impacting people of color, the lack of affordable housing, the criminal shortage of any jobs (much less living wage jobs), the gutting of a quality welfare system and other public services, and the destruction and dismantling of public education opportunities through school closures, turnarounds, and privatization efforts, we see entire populations thrown into abusive conditions.”

There is much more to read and think about here.

Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and the National
Council on Teacher Quality think they know what makes a great
teacher. A great teacher is the one whose students got higher test
scores this year than last year. A great teacher, they think,
brooks no excuses. In the no excuses charter schools, the teachers
snap their fingers and demand immediate compliance with commands.
Nicholas Ferroni, who teaches teenagers, decided to ask his
students what they think make a great teacher. He wrote about what
they said on Huffington Post. Here
are their answers.
The answers that occur most
frequently are “caring,” “dedicated,” “kind.” No one mentions test
scores. Who do you remember as your greatest teacher? What did he
or she do that made them the best?

This teacher explains: She loves teaching. She loves her
students, but she wants the high-stakes testing and the Race to the
Top to stop. She knows that her students are set up to fail. It is
all so wrong, so mean-spirited, so cruel. This is what she knows:
“I am a NYS certified public school teacher teaching 3rd grade in
an economically disadvantaged school district in rural upstate New
York. I happen to be one of the unfortunate teachers in a “test
grade” and am in fear of loosing my job, my livelihood, and the one
thing I used to enjoy waking up to every morning (my students)!!!!!
I went into teaching to teach precious little minds to learn and
not fear the consequences if they do not get something. “That has
all changed in the last several of years as state and federal
politics have stepped in to tell us how poorly our students are
doing. We, as teachers, are so under pressure to make a round peg
fit into a square hole with these new core standards. The people
who write these tests and demand that all students achieve at the
same level have never stepped foot into a classroom to see the
diversity of the students we work with everyday. “Last year during
the first year of the common core testing, I had students who were
crying because they did not understand the question, did not have
time to finish under the allotted time, or were just simply
overwhelmed by the complexity of the test. Is that why I became a
teacher, no it is not! I teach because I want to see my students
learn, but as more and more pressure comes down on us as teachers
so too does it in our students! “There has to be a time when we
stop thinking about the race to the top and start thinking about
the children we are supposed to be encouraging to want to learn!
The only thing we are doing with these common core state tests is
setting them up for failure and in the same process making teachers
look like they are not doing their jobs. “I’m tired of people who
have never stepped foot into a classroom telling me that I am not
“effective” because my 8 year old students can’t pass a test that
even a college graduate has difficulty completing!!!!!!! Whether I
am effective should not depend on how my students do on a three day
test, it should be based on whether they show growth from beginning
to end, just like they should not be considered as not meeting an
impossible state mandated goal in a three day test!!! Enough is
enough, let us get back to teaching and let our kids be kids,
after-all your childhood only lasts so long!!!!!”

This comment came from “Albany Mom”:   I
agree with the writer that “if parents do not advocate for their
children, who will?”
However, I need help
knowing how to advocate for my child. Who is going to
My husband and I have struggled with the
demons of Common Core this year, watching our 9 year old son sink
into what looks like depression. We can’t afford private school, so
I have coerced, offered rewards, and tried everything to encourage
him. He has developed sleep problems, moody and irritable, and
hardly eats. He has impulsive aggression with his younger sister.
He has lost his previous love of creative play, especially with
Legos, and now is chronically bored unless he has a video game. I
have banned video games since I think it is an escape and he is
becoming addicted. He is withdrawing from me, just as he is from
school. When his father is home on weekends, he tries to talk to
him, but it is more like “you don’t have a choice, just man up and
do your best”. It seems like we can’t change the school
environment, so we have to change our son to adapt to
Every morning is a struggle just to get
him out the door, and every night is another dismal episode of
boring homework (always worksheets with the “common core” logo at
the bottom). He cries frequently at home, and even broke down two
times at school this year when he became frustrated. I know that
caused a loss of dignity for him, and I met with his teacher to ask
for help. I can sense the teacher feels pressured too, and is
concerned about his test scores. He says son daydreams in class. I
was referred to take him to a child guidance center for counseling,
but that is not helping. A therapist can’t change the school
either, so is just trying to help him adapt to it.

I recognize it is not possible for me to make him like
school, and forcing him to go makes me feel like a bully. He may be
more sensitive than some children, but I think public schools need
to be happy welcoming places for children, and not like “work
camps” that make them feel worthless and trapped. This has caused
our family ongoing stress and fear, and it seems to be getting
This is indeed a “psychological plague”
that is taking my child’s spirit, and I think there

are millions of other children out there experiencing
similar emotional distress from CC.
Now I ask
this question to Arne Duncan:
“Is it healthy
and realistic to expect the nation’s children to adapt to an
environment that is obviously causing them psychological

Students have the power to stop the destructive forces that are ruining their education and treating them as data points, not humans who want to learn. They are holding a conference in Los Angeles, where they will discuss strategies to resist school closings, high-stakes testing, data mining, and other current efforts to turn their educational opportunity into an opportunity for entrepreneurs to use them. They can learn from the creative tactics of the Providence Student Union, which has utilized politicl theater to gain public support.

Go, students, go! You own the future. Don’t let the profiteers, bureaucrats, technocrats, and futurists steal it.


Media Contact:

Hannah Nguyen
University of Southern California
Phone: (408) 644-9717
Email address:

USC Hosts EmpowerED 2014 Conference to Highlight Student Voice and Organizing in Education

Students everywhere are tired of feeling powerless
when it comes to decisions about their education.
That’s why they’re fighting back.

LOS ANGELES, MARCH 23 — On Saturday, March 29, at the University of Southern California, over 130 youth from all over Los Angeles will participate in EmpowerED: Los Angeles Student Power 2014. EmpowerED is a student-led education conference that will engage the local student community in discussing and strategizing what it will take to transform our education system to serve all students –and incorporate student voices.

EmpowerED 2014 is hosted by Students United for Public Education’s LA Chapter as a part USC EdMonth. This will be SUPE-LA’s first major event and the first EdMonth event to include local students in a discussion about educational policy issues.

EmpowerED will provide an opportunity for students in LA to learn about the student organizing that is expanding throughout the country, raise their voices on important educational issues, develop leadership and organizing skills, and collaborate with their peers on how to build a movement for student power. Israel Muñoz, co-founder of the Chicago Students Union who has spoken about his experiences on NBC and TED, will deliver the keynote address.

“Students spend most of their day in school, but almost never have a voice when it comes to decisions about their education. My fellow student organizers and I are tired of feeling powerless and have organized student unions to make sure our voices are heard,” says Muñoz. “We are very excited to share our stories with LA students, as well as hear their experiences and work with them to build a stronger local and national student movement. I am honored to be a part of a groundbreaking event that fosters peer-to-peer student empowerment and youth voice.”

Israel Muñoz marches with the Chicago Students Union
to protest mass school closings in his community.

The conference will bring together leading high school student activists from across the country who have organized and led student unions in response to the lack of student voice in top-down policies of the current education reform movement, such as high stakes testing, budget cuts, and mass school closings. In Los Angeles, these policies have further destabilized already under-resourced communities through cutbacks on the arts and humanities, mass teacher layoffs, and the reconstitution of major high schools like Crenshaw and Dorsey.

These experiences run nationwide. As such, EmpowerED will host a discussion panel with Providence Student Union’s Cauldierre McKay, Portland Student Union’s Sekai Edwards, Newark Students Union’s Kristin Towkaniuk, LA’s Coalition for Educational Justice organizer Taylor Broom, Alliance for Educational Justice’s Tre Murphy, and Chicago Students Union’s Israel Munoz.

A large part of the event will consist of hands-on, interactive workshops and open forums. There will be workshops led by all speakers and panelists on various topics such as student unionism, creative direct actions, public speaking, social media, and LA-specific movements for educational justice and student voice. Community groups like K-12 News Network and the California Student Union will also lead workshops on student voice in the budget and student organizing at the college level.

At the end of the day, students will have the unique opportunity to generate artwork that portrays their vision for student voice in education. This artwork will then be displayed in an exhibit called Collective Voice: The Wisdom of Young People on Education, at a 2015 national educational conference in Washington DC.

There will be a Livestream of the event for those who cannot make it to LA to attend. For more information about the EmpowerED 2014 conference and to access the Livestream video on the day of the event, go to

View our promo video:

Follow Us on Twitter: @empowerED_2014


Local media is invited to attend the conference on Saturday, March 29, 2014 to:

Interview EmpowerED attendees and speakers during lunch (12:00 – 12:30 PM)
Capture footage of the featured student organizing panel (12:30 – 1:30 PM)

About Students United for Public Education

Students United for Public Education (SUPE) evolved out of the work of college students involved in defending public education from its attackers. In particular, SUPE was founded to fill a void in the movement for public education — before SUPE, there was no national student organization devoted solely to this cause. Under the guise of “closing the achievement gap” and “school choice,” for-profit corporations and their political representatives have sought to privatize and sell off public education. SUPE understands that a profit motive cannot guarantee a good education. Instead, only a robust and well-supported public education system — along with the courage and will to directly confront problems of racial and economic inequality — can provide a quality education for all.

SUPE is a community based organization because we know that public schools are the heart of every community. In other words, SUPE understands that in order for our goals to be reached, we must fight with K-12 students, parents, teachers, and community members and elevate their essential voices. We aim to work with communities to find out what their needs are, and have them lead the way in the struggle as we work as equals to organize the change they believe is best. Find out more about Students United for Public Education at:

About USC EdMonth

EdMonth at USC is the first national student-led movement and discussion about the state of education in our country. Downtown Los Angeles and the USC campus will serve as the backdrop for educators, parents, policy makers, business leaders, elected officials, engaged citizens and students to engage in a national, collegiate student-driven discussion on the issue of improving education in our country. USC EdMonth is organized by the USC Academic Culture Assembly and USC Program Board. Find out more at:

© Copyright 2014 University of Southern California. All rights reserved.

Hannah Nguyen
(408) 644-9717
University of Southern California | B.A. Sociology
Students United for Public Education | Co-National Organizer
USC EdMonth | Executive Board Member
EmpowerED 2014 | Executive Director

The Rochester Teachers Association is suing the state for its flawed evaluation system, which unfairly judges teachers.

Erica Bryant explains why in this article.

“Years ago, I visited the Kennedy Space Center and bought a coffee mug from the gift shop. It is decorated with some NASA equations, including one used to calculate the speed an object needs to escape Earth’s gravity. This formula fits on one line.

“By contrast, the document that describes how to measure student growth for the purpose of evaluating New York’s teachers and principals is 112 pages.”

Even in 112 pages, the teacher evaluation system is unfair and senseless and penalizes teachers who work with the poorest students.


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