Archives for category: Teachers and Teaching

Reader Laura Chapman, retired consultant in arts education, often writes powerful comments. Here is her description of the Gates Foundation’s plans for teacher education.



Gates is not the only funder of specific content in EdWeek. Gates is also the major funder of the annual Quality Counts report in EdWeek, a report card.

Even more interesting is that Gates Foundation has recruited Lynn Olsen, a top EdWeek journalist, to replace Vicki Phillips whose farewell note included some self congratulations about getting the Common Core in place and so forth.

New initiatives for the Gates Foundation focus on getting rid of teacher education in higher education except as an authorizer of credentials, including a masters degree in “effective” teaching. More charter colleges of education are the next step. Relay is one model.
The aim is to dump scholarship in and about education within teacher preparation in favor of a bundle of “high leverage” tricks of the trade for raising test scores, with repeated practice In using these until they become automatic.
Practice could begin with teaching avatars followed by doing an on-the-job residency program, with lots of tests, online tutoring and such. Think Relay Graduate School of Education, with Doug Lemov’s bag of tricks, highly prescriptive teaching with no critical thinking allowed, 3.5 GPA for admission, content mastery tests, and so on.

Gates wants to control who gets to teach, where, and all of the criteria for credentialing teachers. He is certain that critical thinking and almost all scholarship bearing on education is an unnecessary distraction from raising test scores and getting kids launched into college and/or career. He has funded an “inspectorate” system for rating teacher preparation programs aimed at replacing existing state and national accreditations.

Look for lots of marketing of those ” high leverage” tricks of the trade via social media, especially the Twitter platform called “teacher2” or TeacherSquared. Gates is paying Relay Graduate a school of Education to exploit social media for recruiting and data gathering. Concurrently, the Foundation is also hiring a new manager to help exploit the Twitter teacher2 platform and others. The manager will be assembling a “portfolio” of social media sites united by some connection to education and, of course, the prospect of mining all of them for data.

The new slogan for the foundation’s work is the fuzzy and warm phrase “teachers know best”…(if they are not critical of the work of the Foundation).

Meanwhile the Foundation is still pushing charters and technology and teacher evaluations with VAM, observations, and student surveys, the latter from his $64 million investment in the deeply flawed Measures of Effective Teaching project.

Like many others, I refer to Bill Gates when the proper phrase should be the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. That is because Bill, far more than Melinda, is vocal about education and speaks as if had earned expertise sufficient to shape policy and practice on a national scale. He has lots of money and a lot of really bad ideas about education.

Peter Greene borrows concepts from sports and business to explain what teachers should be and what reformers want them to be.

He writes about the transactional coach and the transformational coach.

The transactional coach wants to win. He views each of the players for their capacity to contribute to a winning game and season.

The transformational coach tries to bring out the best in every player. The goal is developing every player’s potential, not racking up points on the scoreboard.

He writes:

“Advocates of education reform have, intentionally or not, worked to redefine teachers as transactional coaches. We are supposed to be there just to get that good test score out of each kid. We should use test prep, rewards, threats– whatever works to get the student to make the right marks on the Big Standardized Test so that we can have that easily measured, numerically-coded win. Charter schools have the additional freedom to sort students based on which ones can best complete the transaction and which ones need to be benched. And since the transaction is a fairly simple, we have no shortage of ideas about how to have it broken into short, simple competency-based transactions that can be handled by a computer.

“Transactional coaching is simple, clear and can provide distinct short-term rewards. It is also narrow, shallow, and ultimately subordinates humanity and the value of individuals to an artificial and ultimately meaningless excuse for a life purpose. Transformational coaching is way to see the pursuit of athletic excellence as a means of pursuing human excellence and giving an athlete the tools to pursue whatever goals they might set for themselves. A transformational approach puts humanity at the center, setting goals that recognize higher values than the simple pursuits in front of us. A transactional approach sets up an artificial goal and holds it up as a god to be worshipped and pursued at the expense of any human beings who stand in the way. Can there be any doubt that education should be transformational?”

I don’t often disagree with Peter, but in this case, I think the King of Metaphor is not right. If he refers to a life coach, he makes an important point. If he refers to a sports coach or a business leader, the metaphor fails. The business wants to make a profit, and the CEO has to produce or be fired. In sports, every school or university wants a winning team, and they care more about the results, the scores, than human potential.

Teaching is not sports, not business. It is the profession of developing children into responsible young adults.

Daniel Katz teaches secondary education at Seton Hall University in Néw Jersey. In this post, he warns his students not to join Teach for America and explains why.

He writes:

If you are tempted to join TFA, DON’T DO IT.

“I don’t come to this advice lightly, and while I respect that my students might be excited to join an organization that says it is dedicated to getting young and talented people into classrooms with our most needy students, there is literally nothing positive that Teach For America offers my students that they cannot do for themselves. And what they package with those positives is entirely negative for our profession. There are a number of truths about TFA that my students should consider before seeking an application….”

“First, Teach For America needs my students far more than they need TFA.” My students, he says, are fully licensed and certified. They don’t need TFA. It needs them.

“Second, Teach For America will challenge my students’ beliefs about quality education….but not in a good way.” They may find themselves in a charter school that is non-union and believes in a behaviorist approach to teaching.

“Third, Teach For America denigrates our profession, ultimately harming children in the process.” The claim that great teachers can be forged in five weeks of training makes a mockery of the profession.

He concludes:

“It is past time for young people to stop lining up to “Teach For America,” and there is no reason that my students – who have earned the title of professional teacher through years of hard work – should ever join them. I work with amazing and talented young people, many of whom are passionate about working with our schools’ most at risk children. They can do that brilliantly, and more effectively, without Teach For America.”

Allene Magill, writing on behalf of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, explains why teachers don’t want “merit pay” based on test scores. They have no objection to extra pay for extra work or other kind of performance, but tying their compensation to test scores is offensive to them.


“The most rewarding aspect of teaching occurs when a former student lets an educator know the difference he or she made in their life. After more than 40 years as an educator, I’ve experienced that many times. I assure you that not once has a former student told me how much he appreciated my contribution to his score on a standardized test. Students have, however, talked about the importance of their relationship with me as their teacher — the encouragement to work hard, the extra attention to help them grasp a concept, a kind word when life got tough, extra responsibilities that built confidence and leadership experience, and making time for the arts and non “core” subjects.

“We’ve committed a disservice to all students and educators over the past 20 years by focusing on performance on standardized tests and reducing opportunities for building great student relationships. Initially, standardized tests were reserved for core content every few years, and teachers could maintain enough flexibility to nurture and support students. Now teacher evaluations are tied to all content. No subject can be studied without the student taking an assessment that stamps her effort with a score while also passing judgment on her teacher.”


Pay for test scores is demeaning to teachers. Yet Governor Nathan Deal and his Education Reform Commission insist that every school district develop a plan to do it.



Please, someone tell Governor Deal that merit pay has been tried for a century and has never worked. Teachers need to collaborate, not complete.




This is embarrassing. I am on the faculty at the NYU Steinhardt School of Education as a Reseach Professor. But I did not know that the university would be preparing teachers online. However, the Center for Education Reform knew. It is one of the foremost advocates for privatization in the nation. It supports charters, vouchers, for-profit schooling, and every other form of schooling that is not a democratically-controlled public school. 
Here is the press release:


December 16, 2015 


Education School to Create School-Embedded Masters


A field marked by continual challenges in delivering rigorous programs to ensure quality teaching for every child is about to undergo a major transformation as the nation’s oldest university-based school of teaching, NYU Steinhardt, launches a path-breaking residency-based online teacher education program.
The yearlong graduate residency program aims to increase the number of teachers prepared for educating students in urban, high-needs public schools. Similar to residency programs in well-respected fields such as medicine, teacher residency programs combine a full-time immersive classroom experience with exhaustive coursework, with resident students gaining more responsibility as they build their expertise.
“We know that teachers, especially teachers going into high-needs schools, need better preparation,” said CER Founder and President Emeritus Jeanne Allen. “Harnessing the power of technology to not only create innovative ways of enhancing teacher development but to do so through such a prestigious institution is incredibly promising on so many fronts. The advent of blended learning programs to enhance both student learning and teacher preparation program is precisely where our nation’s leaders should be moving with policy and practice,” said Allen, who has worked on the program development.
“Now more than ever teachers matter,” said HotChalk CEO and CER board member Edward Fields, whose company has partnered with NYU to create the new school-embedded masters in education. “We are proud to support an outstanding institution with such a clear vision and commitment to educational outcomes.”
Partnering with HotChalk enables Steinhardt to conduct online video observations for teacher residents that provide invaluable real-time feedback, offering a continuous cycle of learning, measuring, and adjusting so that education outcomes are improved not just for teacher residents but their students as well.




The Center for Education Reform ~
ABOUT CER: The Center for Education Reform (CER), since 1993, aggressively pursues laws that demand flexibility, freedom and innovation, without delay. Visit for more information.
For More Information Contact: Michelle Tigani, 202-750-0016,


Tom Loveless, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has studied NAEP results for years. In this post, he discusses whether the recent flatlining of NAEP was caused by the adoption of the Common Core standards. He says it is too soon to know. We will have to see what happens in 2017 and 2019, maybe even 2021.


But what he does observe is a marked decline in teaching fiction, as compared to informational text. The decline has occurred since 2011, as implementation of Common Core intensified across the nation. The shrinkage of time for teaching fiction was equally large in both fourth and eighth grades. It seems reasonable to conclude that the Common Core standards are causing a decline in teaching fiction.


The Common Core standards recommend that teachers spend 50% of reading time on fiction and 50% on informational text in grades K-8. In high school, the standards propose a division of 30% fiction-70% informational text. When English teachers and members of the public complained about the downgrading of fiction, the CCSS promoters insisted that they referred to the entire curriculum, not just to English. But fiction is not typically taught in science, math, or social studies classes (and when it is taught in social studies classes, it has a good purpose).


Where did these proportions come from? They are drawn directly from NAEP’s guidelines to assessment developers about the source of test questions. The NAEP guidelines were never intended as instructions for teachers about how much time to devote to any genre of reading.


No nation in the world, to my knowledge, directs teachers about the proportion of time to devote to fiction or non-fiction. This is a bizarre recommendation.


I write informational text, so I am all for it. But I think it should be the teachers’ choice about whether to emphasize literature or nonfiction. I believe that learning to read and learning to interpret text can be accomplished in any genre. A student could study all informational text or all literature and be a good or great or poor reader. The genre doesn’t matter as much as other factors, like the student’s level of interest, the age appropriateness of the text, and how it is taught.






A reader who signs as “New York State Teacher” wonders why classrooms should be compelled to use more technology than they need. Why the push to put every student on a tablet and to buy online curriculum and online tests? Is there a comparison, the teacher wonders, between authentic education and “slow foods,” “organic foods,” “artisanal foods,” and the effort to maintain a classroom where teachers make decisions? Why are corporations pushing mass-produced lessons into public schools, but not into the elite schools attended by the children of the 1%? I recall a prediction by Forbes’ technology editor in the 1980s (sourced in my book “Reign of Error”) that in the future, the children of the poor will get computers and the children of the rich will get teachers.



Part of the problem with this manufactured necessity of technology in school is that we, as teachers, often buy into some of the fundamental lies. In our district, teachers clamor for a smartboard, etc etc etc etc under the pretense that it somehow DEEPENS the learning experience for students….a highly questionable notion when subjected to even modest amounts of rigorous thought. Nonetheless, being an earnest, eager, and enthusiastic lot for the most part, teachers, long accustomed to grabbing for any tool or aid, have also lunged for technology….without the requisite thinking. I would argue that a very firm “NO” from teachers on technology would have quite an impact. NO, I don’t want X, Y, or Z. No I will not teach via algorithm. NO, NO, NO. But, too often technology and its myths have become a norm because they were accepted nicely.


Perhaps what is needed is a counter-narrative coming from teachers that is a “return-to-authentic-roots” kind of thing. A return to the idea that with a teacher, some students, and a book, ignorance can be defeated and exposure to the enlightenment possible. A sort of artisanal classroom kind of thing, to appeal to all the Subaru driving parents who long for “authentic” food, clothes, homes, and experience everywhere else in their lives. Why is a Monsanto tomato bad and a Monsanto classroom for little Dylan good? “Technology in the classroom” is marketing-speak for a corporatized classroom, and we need to be the ones aggressively saying that. The problem is that we have to realize it first. We need to begin to understand that we need to create compelling counter-narratives. Certainly there is nobody else doing it for us! This is easy meat though for counter-narratives! Corporate food=bad. Corporate classroom where kids grow=good?? Come on. Too easy.


The entire thing of “technology in the classroom” is an invented need for an invented problem. The most astounding piece of evidence to this is the fact that, somehow, devoid of any technology save for pen, paper, book, art supplies, instruments, lab material, a library. etc, all of us born before 1990 had no technology to speak of and we (well alot of us, myself probably excluded) actually LEARNED. Shocking. We are evidence that technology in the classroom is a sham. However, that sham is only called out and destroyed if we attack its first principles and ideas.


I am not taking a Luddite position here, or a nostalgic one….but simply saying that learning is probably one of those landscapes of the human condition that does not require so much technological aid to participate in.

Bill Honig, former State Superintendent of Instruction in California, suggests a replacement for the current approach to schooling. “Build and support,” he writes, is a far better strategy than “test and punish.” Unfortunately, NCLB and Race to the Top locks most schools into “test and punish.”

Honig writes:

“I wholeheartedly agree with the importance of Alice’s question. As more educators, parents, community, political, and opinion leaders become aware of the harm done and the lack of results from high-stakes accountability based on reading and math test scores ( “test and punish”) and privatization (“choice, charter, and competition”), they are increasingly open to alternative strategies. A viable replacement is staring us right in the face–not primarily from the limited number of excellent charter examples but mainly from our most successful schools, districts, and states which follow a more positive, engaging “build and support” agenda.

Massachusetts could offer a powerful model. It performs better than just about every country in the world. Similarly, our nation’s most successful districts and schools such as Long Beach, designated as one of the three best in the country and among the top twenty on the planet should inform this alternative to the top-down, harsh reform agenda. Many comments on this blog describe such schools. Several years ago, a broad coalition in the state of California rejected the major tenets of the “reform” movement, used Massachusetts and high-performing districts as a model, and is pursuing this more positive “build and support” agenda.

What are the hallmarks of the alternative “build and support” approach? First of all, it is patterned after what the best educational and management scholarship has advised, irrefutable evidence has supported, and the most successful schools and districts here and abroad have adopted.

These states, districts, and schools have placed improving instruction and teaching as the main driver of raising student performance. Their policies and practices center on implementing a rigorous and broad based liberal arts instructional program aimed at not just job preparation, but also citizenship, and helping students reach their potential. Curriculum, instruction, and materials embody a shift to a more active, collaborative classroom incorporating questions, discussions, and performances. Implementation efforts build on and improve current practice and endeavor to deepen learning for each child.

Crucially, successful states have provided local schools and districts the leeway and resources to accomplish these improvement goals. They have substantially increased school funding. They attend to class size, teacher pay, and investing in building capacity to continuously improve.

In addition, these “build and support” entities stress fostering the capability and motivation of educators to support improvement efforts by emphasizing improved working conditions, respect for teachers, the value of teacher engagement, and school-site team building. They also encourage the use of significant information about each student’s progress to better school and student performance. Policies have broadened the definition of accountability from primarily relying on test scores. They have also divorced accountability from high-stakes testing measures and instead employ it primarily for informing collaboration and continuous improvement efforts in mutual fruitful discussions.

These successful schools and districts have also focused on student and community support, adopted enlightened human resource policies, and concentrated on hiring and training principals who can build teams, encourage distributed teacher leadership, and support instructional improvement efforts. They also have instituted effective recruitment, induction, and avenues of eventual teacher leadership for new teachers. Most importantly, these states and districts have avoided the more damaging initiatives proposed by the “reformers” to rely on measures that actually work.

Of course there are some healthy differences of opinion about some of the components of the “build and support” approach such as whether Common Core envisions the type of active, engaging curriculum students need (in California we think it does), the importance of an organized curriculum, the role of published materials both proprietary and open sourced versus teacher designed efforts, and the relative roles of teacher, principal, district, and state. Positive discussions about these issues need to occur and many legitimate different ways to proceed are warranted. But those discussions should not detract from the viability of the overall build and support approach as one anti-reformers should support and promulgate.”

Marla Kilfoyle is executive director of the BadAss Teachers Association (BATs) and a 29-year veteran of teaching.

In this post, she says that the #TeachStrong campaign is yet another effort to blame teachers instead of supporting them.

The groups aligned with #TeachStrong are recipients of Gates funding; she looks only at the last year of funding. Some of these groups have received many millions from Gates in the past.

She has her own ideas about how to improve teaching:

Here would be my humble, “teacher of 29 years in public education”, suggestion for a 5 point plan to challenge TeachStrong to do something that could actually help children and teachers.
1. Rehire the 7,000 teachers who were fired in Chicago over the last two years.
2. Return the over 7,000 teachers who lost their jobs in New Orleans after Katrina and use them to help rebuild the public school system.
2. Start to assist in the rebuilding of the Detroit Public School system and promote the return of its exiled elected school board.
3. Promote and create PUBLIC SCHOOLS with wrap around services in every community of need in America. End school closings and use teachers to set policies for schools that struggle.
4. Begin a campaign that promotes the hiring of teachers of color and an end to pushing out our veteran teachers.
5. Begin a campaign that includes all government agencies to eradicate child poverty, gentrification of neighborhoods around America, and address issues of systemic racism that not only exist in education policy but also in our communities.

I dare you to try that 5 point plan.

Peter Greene goes through the #TeachStrong proposals, one at a time.


He agrees with the first one.


For the other eight, it is just more of the old familiar reformster effort to remake teaching without any practical knowledge.


Why should there be the same entry standard for a high school teacher of physics and a teacher of first grade and a teacher of physical education?








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