Archives for category: Teacher Tenure

We all know, or should know, about Campbell’s Law. That is a social science axiom that says:

“The more any quantitative social indicator (or even some qualitative indicator) is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”

The short translation: the more you measure people and tie high-stakes to the measurement, the more likely they are to make the measurement the point of their activity, which distorts the activity. Campbell’s Law explains why teachers teach to the test or even cheat, because so much is riding on achieving high test scores. So teachers forget about everything other than test scores, such as citizenship, character, ethics, and so on.

Arthur Goldstein, who teaches high school ESL in New York City, here explains how Campbell’s Law has been replaced by Campbell Brown’s Law. Campbell Brown is the media figure who is leading a lawsuit to eliminate tenure in New York State.

Here is Campbell Brown’s Law:

“Campbell Brown’s Law says whatever goes wrong in school is the fault of the tenured teachers. If you fail, it’s because the teacher had tenure and therefore failed you. Absolutely everyone is a great parent, so that has nothing to do with how children behave. Campbell Brown’s Law says parents have no influence whatsoever on their children. If parents have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, that will have no effect. If they provide no supervision because they aren’t around, that won’t affect kids either.

“Campbell Brown’s Law says kids themselves are not responsible either. If they don’t study, that isn’t their fault. The teacher should have made them study. If they fail tests because they didn’t study, it’s a crime and the teacher should be fired. Under Campbell Brown’s Law the only obstacle to studying is if the teacher has tenure. This is unacceptable and it is therefore the reason that the parents work 200 hours a week. It’s also the reason the kids didn’t study. The kids figured they didn’t have to study because their teachers had tenure.

“Campbell Brown’s Law is demonstrated in charter schools, where teachers don’t have tenure. All kids excel in charter schools, except for those who don’t. That explains why, in some charter schools, that all the students who graduate are accepted to four-year colleges. It’s neither here nor there if two-thirds of the students who began ended up getting insufficient standardized test scores and getting dumped back into public schools. That’s not the fault of the charter teachers, because they don’t have tenure and are therefore blameless. Campbell Brown’s Law says so.”

It is an excellent post, and how brilliant to connect Campbell’s Law to Campbell Brown ‘s Law.

Goldstein concludes:

“In short, if you’re a tenured teacher, you are an impediment to Excellence. The only way you can help children is by getting rid of your tenure, standing up straight and walking to Arne Duncan in Washington DC and saying, “Please sir, I want to be fired for any reason. Or for no reason. I want to take personal responsibility for all the ills of society. Neither you, society, poverty, parents, nor children themselves are responsible. I’m ready to be dismissed at the whim of Bill Gates or the Walmart family and I agree with you that Katrina was the bestest thing to happen to the New Orleans education system.”

“Me, I’m still a tenured teacher. And as terrible as that may be, I’m still relieved to never have had students so hopelessly stupid as Arne Duncan or Campbell Brown.”

As for me, I took a lot of hostile comments on Twitter for saying to a Washington Post reporter recently that Campbell Brown was pretty but didn’t know much about teaching. Outraged people, many of whom seemed to work for Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst or similar organizations, called me sexist for saying she was pretty but didn’t object when I said she was clueless about education. Anyone who wants to call me pretty (at the ripe old age of 76), you have my permission. Have at it. I wonder what the enraged Brownians will think about Campbell Brown’s Law.

Jeff Bryant wonders whether Campbell Brown will replace Michelle Rhee as the public face of “reform”? Bryant describes the movement as “Blame Teachers First.”

Bryant suspects that Rhee’s star is fading fast. Bryant describes her as “education’s Ann Coulter.” The lingering doubts about the Washington, D.C. cheating scandal never dissipate, and John Merrow’s latest blog about the millions that Rhee has paid to protect her image have not been enough to stop the slide. He notes that she never collected the $1 billion she predicted and that her organization is retreating from several states. Her biography bombed. She was unable to draw a crowd in many of the states where she claimed to have thousands of supporters. Bryant says she is yesterday’s news.

Campbell Brown is thus next in line to inherit the role as leader of the “Blame Teachers First” movement.

Bryant writes:

“With Rhee and StudentsFirst sinking under the weight of over-promises, under-performance, and unproven practices, the Blame Teachers First crowd is now eagerly promoting Campbell Brown.

“According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Brown launched the group Partnership for Educational Justice, with a Veraga-inspired lawsuit in New York State to once again dilute teachers’ job protections, commonly called “tenure.” The suit clams students suffer from laws “making it too expensive, time-consuming and burdensome to fire bad teachers.”

“An article in The Washington Post noted, “Brown has raised the issue of tenure in op-eds and on TV programs such as ‘Morning Joe.’ But she may be just getting warmed up.”

“Actually, Brown has already been warmed up and is plenty ready to take the mound and pitch. As the very same article noted, Brown started her campaign against teachers some time ago, claiming that the New York City teachers’ union was obstructing efforts to fire teachers for sexual misconduct. Unfortunately for Brown, the ad campaign conducted by her organization Parents Transparency Project failed to note that, as The Post article recalled, at least 33 teachers had indeed been fired. “The balance were either fined, suspended or transferred for minor, non-criminal complaints.” Oops.

“Further, as my colleague Dave Johnson recalled at the time, Brown penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal accusing the teachers’ union of “trying to block a bill to keep sexual predators out of schools.” It turned out, the union wanted to strengthen the bill, not stop it. Double oops.

“Nevertheless – or as The Post reporter put it, “undaunted” – Brown has now decided to take on teacher personnel policies on behalf of, she claims, “millions of schoolchildren being denied a decent education.”

Who is funding the new anti-teacher drive? Bryant describes the familiar organizations that promoted Rhee, such as TNTP, which Rhee founded, as well as Republican operatives.

He writes:

“What emerges from these interwoven relationships, then, is a big-money effort led by a small number of people who are intent on the singular goal of reducing the ability of teachers to have control of their work environments. But to what end?

“Regardless of how you feel about the machinations behind the Rhee-Brown campaign, what’s clear is that it is hell-bent on imposing new policies that have little to no prospect of addressing the problem they are purported to resolve, which is to ensure students who need the best teachers are more apt to get them.

“Research generally has found that experienced teachers – the targets for these new lawsuits – make a positive difference in students’ academic trajectory. A review of that research on the website for the grassroots group Parents Across America concluded, “Every single study shows teaching experience matters. In fact, the only two observable factors that have been found consistently to lead to higher student achievement are class size and teacher experience.”

The new campaign looks very much like the old campaign, with only this difference. Brown does not pretend to be a Democrat.

Moshe Adler, a professor at Columbia University, has emerged as one of the most incisive critics of the work of Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff on Value-added measurement (VAM).

In the recent Vergara decision about tenure for teachers in California, the study by Raj Chetty and John Friedman of Harvard and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia played a prominent role. But according to the economist Moshe Adler the study is wrong and misleading. According to Adler, the authors suppressed a result that contradicts their main claim, they picked and chose which data sets to use, they used a misleading method of analysis that inflated their results and they misrepresented research that contradicts their claims as supporting them. These are just a few of the problems with the scientific integrity with the study. Adler wrote his review for the National Education Policy Center and it can found at:

A short time after the publication of his NEPC review, Adler received an email from Chetty that informed him that the study had been accepted for publication by the American Economic Review (AER). (Chetty also suggested that a Nobel Prize will likely follow!) Adler immediately wrote to the editors of the AER to alert them to the grave scientific problems with the study. The editor-in-charge did not evaluate Adler’s objections herself, nor did she send them to the referees to evaluate. Instead, she forwarded Adler’s letter to the authors who then replied to Adler’s NEPC review. The editor found this reply satisfactory, but as Adler explains in his response, Chetty’s et al.’s reply is without merit, and it only adds to the problems with the research. Chetty’s letter to Adler and Adler’s correspondence with the AER can be found at:

Arthur Goldstein, a high school teacher of English as a Second Language in New York City, explains in this article that good teachers need tenure too.

Goldstein gives examples of teachers who were denied tenure because they stood up for the rights of their students.

When he made demands on behalf of his students, only tenure protected him from being fired.

He writes:

“Shortly thereafter, I requested books for my students. For some reason, they were unavailable. My colleagues could get books, but I couldn’t. By then I had less than one class set, so students had to share them.

“Months later, I learned the United Federation of Teachers contract said the school had to provide supplies. I threatened to file a grievance, something I had never done up to that point. A week after my threat, my kids got two brand-new class sets of books.

“Tenure doesn’t only protect the so-called bad apples, or teachers accused of misconduct or incompetence. It protects all teachers. This is a tough job, and despite what you read in the papers, it also entails advocating for our students, your kids, whether or not the administration is comfortable with it.

“I meet passionate and effective teachers everywhere I go. How many will stand up for your kids when schools don’t provide the services they need? How many will demand deserving kids pass classes even if they fail a standardized test? How many will tell state Education Commissioner John King that failing 70% of New York City’s students is not only counterintuitive, but also counterproductive?

“It’s hard to say. Abolish tenure and that number will drop very close to zero.”

In this short post, David Greene and Glen Dalgleish explain what tenure is, in plain English.

At the heart of the Vergara decision lies a logical fallacy: eliminate due process and seniority from teachers, and schools with low-performing students will magically have a great teacher in every classroom. To say this makes no sense is an understatement.

In this post, Bruce Baker demonstrates that it makes no sense empirically either.

As he concludes: “In the land of VergarNYa… a world where logical fallacy rules the day and where empirical evidence simply doesn’t matter…”

A wonderful find by loyal reader KrazyTA, who has read the Vergara transcripts. The esteemed economist Raj Chetty of Harvard, a cheerleader for VAM, says he prefers large data sets (no humans) to anecdotes, then tells a theoretical anecdote about a coach who lays off rookie Michael Jordan. The fact that this never happened is of no consequence to the professor from Harvard.

KrazyTA writes:

A good intro to my last posting on the Vergara Decision.

What role do reason, consistency, logic, and facts play in the self-styled “education reform” movement?

From a posting on this blog of 3-23-2014, “Common Core for Commoners—Not My School!”—

“This is an unintentionally hilarious story about Common Core in Tennessee. Dr. Candace McQueen has been dean of Lipscomb College’s school of education and also the state’s’s chief cheerleader for Common Core. However, she was named headmistress of private Lipscomb Academy, and guess what? She will not have the school adopt the Common Core! Go figure.”



When you’re a supernova of the “new civil rights movement of our time” like Michelle Rhee you don’t have to get your numbers right—or even read the source you cite for your assertion!—when you make a claim.

“So the report Rhee herself cites contradicts her main point: standardized testing does, in fact, gobble up lots of classroom time. Her statement above, according to the source she herself cites, is just dead wrong.”


If you’re Bill Gates you can assert to Lyndsey Layton re the potential $tudent $ucce$$ synergy between Common Core, Pearson and Microsoft that:

“Yeah, we had the old Pearson stuff. I, it, it, there’s no connection, there’s no connection to Common Core and any Microsoft thing.”

But then there’s the joint statement by Pearson and Microsoft of 2/20/2014—


But surely during the Vergara trial Dr. Raj Chetty was able to demonstrate the hard-nosed, data-based logic, consistency, reasons and facts behind VAMania and high-stakes standardized testing and the like, right?

Please refer to the following link for the references re Dr. Chetty’s testimony:


*Note that I will refer to the latest more refined version of the rough draft, which goes from pp. 508-595.*

Pp. 553-554, Dr. Raj Chetty:

“In my opinion there are two different approaches to analysis. You can look for anecdotes or you can look at large data sets. I prefer to look at large data sets because I think there is a psychological bias that any human being has to focus on outliers.”

Sounds reassuring until you realize that this is his way of “reasoning” away myriad accounts that VAM estimates fluctuate wildly or that Campbell’s Law is a real concern, not just a “conjecture.”

But here’s where the rubber meets the road.

When discussing LIFO (i.e., seniority) policies, he goes all in to make sure we of little understanding grasp why the least effective senior teachers should be laid off before the more effective novice teachers:

P. 576: “…[L]et me give an analogy which hopefully will resonate and be familiar with many people here.

Let’s say you are a manager of a basketball team and you have a new player, Michael Jordan in his rookie year who looks very promising, but in his rookie year he is not doing so well relative to the other players on the team. So you could take a short term perspective and say, well, this guy doesn’t seem to be doing so well this year, so I’m going to let him go and stick with the other players so that we do well in the next season, or could you take a longer term perspective and say Michael Jordan seems to have a lot of potential, he is going to be great in two years, he’s going to be one of the superstars, I’m going to keep him because I really care about my team in the longer run.

The LIFO policy is effectively saying let’s let Michael Jordan go, I wouldn’t want to have Michael Jordan on my team.”

There are so many things wrong with this brief example of “high-disorder” thinking that I hardly know where to start. But just some brief comments, and I won’t even bring up the whole mismangled approach to teamwork, cooperation and collaboration he brings up. *Michael Jordan could give Dr. Chetty some good advice: “There is no ‘i’ in team but there is in win.”*

So we lesser beings must zealously avoid the “psychological bias” we have in focusing on “outliers” and ground ourselves instead in “large data sets”? Is it too much to remind a numbers/stats person that the NBA has, maximum, less than 500 players [and not all can dress for any one game? And that these are exceptionally fine athletes, world class no less—literally, if you saw one of them playing in your local gym or playground, they would blow everyone else away. The bench warmers are outliers! They are ALL outliers!

And Michael Jordan is an outlier among outliers! Picking him as an example of what approach to use in assessing the effectiveness of millions of teachers via numerical rankings is betraying a hopelessly confused surrender to the “psychological bias” to focus on “outliers”!


And as for those millions of teachers: VAM already has moved the “highly effective” and “highly ineffective” and the “most effective” and “most ineffective” all over the rankings from year to year—how long could Dr. Chetty’s “Michael Jordans” survive such VAMboolzement before being kicked out of the classroom? [With all apologies to Dr. Audrey Amrein-Beardsley.]

I stop here. End of my Vergara Decision series.

Let’s pay heed to Joe Flood, author of THE FIRES:

“Initially, we use data as a way to think hard about difficult things, but then we over rely on data as a way to avoid thinking hard about difficult problems. We surrender our better judgment and leave it to the algorithm.”

[Jim Horn and Denise Wilburn, THE MISMEASURE OF EDUCATION, 2013, p. ]


P.S. Even a very dead, very old and very Greek guy knew better:

“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” [Plato]

Peter Greene here reviews and refutes Campbell Brown’s article in the New York Daily News about why she is bringing a Vergara lawsuit in New York. Campbell Brown was once a CNN anchor; her husband advised Romney and is on the board of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst New York. She is a fierce critic of teacher unions, tenure, and seniority. The lawsuit gives her an opportunity to act on her passionate hatred for veteran teachers while claiming to defend the “rights” of students, as the California sponsors of Vergara did.

Brown has thus far found six families to act as plaintiffs. She says that one of the students wrote an essay complaining about the quality of education she was receiving and was harassed by multiple teachers and had to change schools. Brown assumes that by getting rid of tenure, seniority, and due process, there would magically be a great teacher in every classroom.

Greene writes:

“It’s a good story because it underlines exactly what is problematic about this sort of narrative as a model of teacher evaluation. This could in fact be the story of a student who made a reasonable request, wrote an essay about it, and was unfairly hounded by multiple teachers. While I’d like to say that I can’t imagine that ever happening, it’s certainly not impossible (though the harassing phone calls from plural teachers is hard to imagine).

“But this could also be the story of a student who decide she knew better than a trained professional how the teacher should do his job, got called on it, and had the whole thing blow up when the school tried to deal with her insubordination and disrespect.

“Either version of the story could be the truth. If we put in student hands the nuclear option of ending a teacher’s career, we are certainly, as Brown says she wants to, changing the balance of power. But I’m not sure how we get to excellence in teaching by way of a student smiling and saying, “Mrs. DeGumbuddy, my lawyer and I think you really want to reconsider my grade on this essay.”

He writes:

“Tenure– NY makes teachers wait three years and eighteen observations for tenure. This is the most obvious difference between the New York case and Vergara (California was awarding tenure after less time). This is a hard argument to make– if an administrator can’t tell whether or not she’s got a keeper after three years and eighteen observations, that administrator needs to go get a job selling real estate or groceries, because, damn!

“On the plus side, I look forward to Brown’s accompanying argument that all New York schools should be barred from ever again hiring Teach for America two-year contract temps. If it takes more than three years to determine if a teacher is any good, then clearly TFA is a waste of everybody’s time. Do let me know when Brown brings that up.

“Dismissals– Too long, too hard. I’m not in New York, so I don’t know the real numbers here. This was the weakest part of the state’s case in Vergara– while you can’t rush through these proceedings, there’s no excuse for dragging them out for months and years. It’s not good for either party.”

And he concludes:

“In the meantime, teachers here in the East can now look forward to a PR blitz tearing down teachers in support of a lawsuit designed to dismantle teaching as a profession. We can only hope the ultimate result will be better than the California version of this traveling circus.”

Mother Jones published this article in 2013 when Campbell Brown started her campaign against “sexual predators” in the New York City public schools (there are none, apparently, in charter schools, thank goodness!).


Campbell Brown is now leading the lawsuit attacking tenure, seniority, and due process for teachers in New York state. Her organization has found half a dozen student plaintiffs who claim that their teachers were “bad” teachers, which denied them a quality education.


The big difference between then and now in Campbell Brown’s group is that in 2013 her public relations firm was connected to Republicans.


Her current PR spokesman is Robert Gibbs, who was President Obama’s White House press secretary.


What Ms. Brown seems not to know is that there are sometimes false accusations made by students. I recall that when I lived in D.C. in the early 1990s, a junior high school teacher was accused of sexual misconduct by several girls in his class. The evidence seemed overwhelming given the number of complaints. The teacher was pilloried in the press. But when the police interviewed each girl individually, they did not corroborate the other stories, and in a matter of days, they all admitted they had trumped up the charges to punish a teacher who had given them too much work and had too high standards. That was an elementary lesson: an accusation is not a conviction. Everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.


One curious aspect to this copycat case is that no one has been able to establish the basic claim that every child would have a “great” teacher if no teacher had due process rights or any job protections whatever. What seems more likely is that teachers will flee to affluent districts, if they can, to avoid the low value-added scores that are attached to teaching the most challenging students. Inner-city schools attended by the poorest children will find it more difficult to maintain a stable staff. Some victory that would be.


If people like Campbell Brown really cared about poor kids, they would fight for small class sizes, arts teachers, school nurses, libraries, and improved conditions for teaching and learning. They don’t.



Bruce Baker reviews the Vergara claim that teacher laws in Néw York deny students a quality education and shows that it is fallacious.

He writes:

“VergarGuments are an absurd smokescreen, failing to pass muster at even the most basic level of logical evaluation of causation – that A (state laws in question) can somehow logically (no less statistically) be associated with selective deprivation of children’s constitutional rights.

“Are children in New York State being deprived of their right to a sound basic education.



“Most certainly.

“Are VergarGuments the most logical path toward righting those wrongs? Uh… no.”


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