Archives for category: Teachers and Teaching

Dr.Yohuru Williams and Maria Kilfoyle, NBCT, have a message for the corporate reformers: We will never surrender.

They write:

“Public education… is the cornerstone of democracy. It helps students acquire civic knowledge so that they can become participants in their democracy. It also requires students and communities to reflect on a continuous basis, through school board meetings, referendums and countless other exercises of local politics, on the nature of the democratic process. Public education further requires parents, teachers, and communities to work in partnership to solve problems on behalf of the public good. If we were to sit passively by and allow unscrupulous politicians and corporations to auction public education off to the highest bidder, we would also be complicit in its demise, but we, and scores of others do not intend to allow that to happen. For the future of our kids and these democratic ideals, we will fight.”

The corporate reformers claim the sky is falling, play on public fears, and advance “solutions” that have not a shred of evidence behind them.

They write:

“Even though democracy has been frustrated and many communities have fallen under the sway of the harmful machinery of Corporate Education Reform, we will not tire or retreat. We will stand and fight the deformers in the town hall meetings, in the governors’ offices and on the floors of state legislatures, on the local school boards, on the campuses of the nation’s colleges and universities, we will even fight at the gates of the White House and on the steps of Capitol Hill; we will never surrender.

“We will never surrender because the real issue that hinders education for children, poverty, needs to be addressed not ignored. The sound bites of education disaster that deformers thrust upon the public never mention child poverty. In fact, they go out of their way to marginalize it and ignore it. We will force the public and governments, at both the federal and state level, to address this.

“We will never surrender because the very social inequalities that deformers like Gates, Duncan, Rhee, and Broad are using to claim their agenda for public education are full of lies, a lack of research, and an alternate agenda that isn’t about equality or justice; it is about the dollar and continued oppression of the poor. Nothing they have presented as an agenda for education will cure child poverty or social injustice. We will never surrender until this lie is exposed and destroyed. Finally, yet importantly, we will never surrender because principle, morality, democracy, and justice are on our side. Our hearts are not bought by The Gates Foundation or The Broad Foundation – Our hearts belong to the children we teach, and the communities we invest in. For that, we will never surrender.”

I encountered this article on Twitter, and a reader was kind enough to forward it in the comments section.


I Just Want to Teach…..Not Give Useless Tests: The Current Plight of Alabama’s Hoover City School Teachers
Part One: Changes in the Elementary Program
by Deborah G. Camp, Ph.D


K-5 teachers at Hoover City Schools began the 2013-2014 with not only a classroom of new students but with new central office administrators espousing Draconian practices and attitudes, especially with regard to the use of what they call “formative assessments.” Prior to this year, an elementary assessment schedule had been in place for several years and had been constantly tweaked to provide the most bang for the amount of time taken for classroom-based assessments to avoid wasting precious instructional time that can never be replaced. . The assessments consisted of interview-type instruments that were administered individually by teachers since research indicates these type tests to be superior with regards to getting the most valuable information from students especially the youngest ones. Some math assessments consisted of a sample of paper-and-pencil computation problems so teachers could study student errors to diagnose how children may be thinking. A quick-scoring oral language assessment had been added at the lower grades since teachers reported that this area of the language arts seemed to be a trouble spot with many students.
At kindergarten teachers’ requests two years ago, the amount of testing at the beginning of the year had been significantly reduced so that teachers could better acclimate children to this thing we call school rather than wasting those valuable first weeks of school individually administering assessments. Only those students whose teachers’ judgments caused them to suspect serious learning problems were assessed early in the school year. Otherwise, classroom-based assessments began in the middle of the year, giving children time to adjust to kindergarten and teachers time to observe the children as they went about their classroom activities.

All decisions about classroom tests from grades K to 5 were made collaboratively with the district curriculum director, principals, teacher leaders such as reading coaches and math facilitators, and teachers at large. The assessment schedule was revisited every summer based on teacher feedback. Sounds pretty fair, huh?
Well, elementary teachers and principals were told – not asked – that these teacher-administered and scored instruments would be replaced with computer-based assessments at each grade level: easyCBM for grades K-2 and Global Scholar for grades 3-5. Both tests would measure reading and math. At the first reading coach meeting, one reading coach commented that her teachers liked the results that the former interview assessments yielded. One of the new district administrators commented, “Well, those teachers can continue to give those tests in addition to easyCBM, but if I hear any complaining from them about it taking too much time away from instruction, they will incur my wrath.” Wow! Great way to build relationships and rapport.
Suddenly kindergarten children were herded into computer labs during the first few days and weeks of school and expected to not only manipulate a computer (regardless of whether they had any experience with technology or not) and push keys on an inanimate object that could not look into their eyes to see if they understood the question, whether they were timid, or whether they were too restless to perform such a task. Teachers were told the easyCBM for both reading and math would be administered mid-year and end-of-year as well with the strict warning that “Your students better benchmark on the mid-year administration or else.” Again, really? This is how district administrators are treating teachers?

On January 23, 2014, one first grade teacher expressed her frustration this way. “This is probably the most discouraged I have ever been as a teacher. Doing the ‘easy’CBM testing this week on 6/7 year olds has absolutely killed me and more importantly my precious children. They hated every minute and it DOES NOT measure anything worth looking at in my opinion. Simply getting them logged into it is not a DAP (developmentally appropriate practice) for K, 1, or 2nd graders. How did we get here? I feel like this is a bad dream and even though they say they won’t put emphasis on our test scores, I know they will. I have already started to see signs of that. I have never once been questioned about my teaching or any method of instruction. However, if things appear a certain way to others, that is when noise will start being made. I am just exhausted. I have a constant stomach ache right now and feel so much pressure it makes me want to stop teaching.”
Another kindergarten teacher commented that some of her students did not understand what to do at all at the beginning of the year, so they just sat there the entire time and stared at the monitor. She also commented that easyCBM is nothing more than DIBELS on the computer. Research conducted by many educators suggests DIBELS is just a big ol’ waste of time. A 2nd grade teacher made some general as well as specific comments, “We have a lack of leadership outside the schools, and no value is placed on teacher opinions as professionals. Central office administrators are losing sight of the children and what is or is not developmentally appropriate just for the sake of obtaining a score/number. Teachers are being asked to do more than is humanly possible in the school day. EasyCBM and Global Scholar are being used as performance indicators rather than as formative assessments intended to give us diagnostic information. We teachers have been ‘silenced’ and are unable to voice our thoughts, opinions, and ideas. The people making the decisions are distant from the classroom and don’t spend time in them or talking with us teachers. There has been a massive shift in philosophy in the system, and no one at central office has any early childhood or elementary degrees or experience.”

Here’s another kindergarten teacher’s take on easyCBM. “The overwhelming opinion is that it is horrible for young children, particularly kindergarten. The expectations are unrealistic, the questions are deliberately confusing, and asking 5-year olds to take it in a computer is ridiculous. For example, my class performed particularly low, so I re-administered the test using paper and pencil, and the results were immediately and drastically higher – even on bad questions. Taking the computer out of the mix made a big difference. One of my student’s parents reported that her child came home and said, ‘I’m not smart.’ When the mother probed further, the child said, ‘I took a test on the computer today and I didn’t know many of the answers.’ In one hour time period this test managed to damage the child’s self esteem and taint his view of school.”

The 3rd – 5th grade teachers have expressed frustration with the Global Scholar computer-based assessment and question the results it yields. The central office administrators have provided little information about “how the test works” or item specifications of the assessment, but yet again kids are herded into computer labs to take a test neither they nor their teachers know anything about. The teachers know the standards that are tested but have no idea how the test questions are structured.
One 3rd grade teacher stated, “I hate Global Scholar with every fiber of my being. The questions are completely ridiculous and not grade level appropriate. For example, my 3rd graders had questions about algebraic equations with variables. This is not even in our curriculum. These questions basically stress these kids out because they have no clue what they are asking. How is that really assessing what they know? They don’t even learn it at this grade level! They ‘say’ the reading passages adjust to their reading level based on their answers. Well, I have a student who can barely read her name and she gets the same degree of difficulty and length passages as my kiddo reading on a 6th grade level. She doesn’t even read it! She looks long enough to keep it from kicking her out and then guesses. These are not appropriate for her to even be reading! And it frustrates her! The Fountas and Pinell Assessment is MUCH more accurate for me to ‘find their reading level.’ I just hate the whole testing thing! Every bit of it. These poor babies are just trying to do the best they can every day and we have to make them sit down and take hours long tests and tell them ‘just do the best you can.’ When in fact, some of their bests aren’t good enough. I think it’s another one of these one-size-fits-all tests that does not reflect true student performance. And to be completely honest, my kids do not take the computer assessments as seriously as paper and pencil ones. They just start clicking!!”

Another 3rd grade teacher said, “When I gave the test in the fall I was appalled at the level of the questions as reported by the students after the test. I knew the chances of my children performing well was slim. Several of my students who struggle (based on what I know and how I assess) scored in the high average range so I knew they guessed really well. Also, one of my students who is in the enrichment program and scored the highest score in 2nd grade when being screened for enrichment scored in the below average range. This is clearly an example of her freezing up and the test not looking at her as a whole. The ONE thing that I can say about Global Scholar that is somewhat positive is it does allow for some critical thinking and reasoning in the multiple choice answers. Many of the questions included two completely unrealistic answers so if the kids were able think logically about the question they had a better chance of succeeding. On the winter assessment my students performed a little more true to what I was seeing. I would like to think that this was because they have been taught to think and spent more time thinking about the questions! Or it could be because I told them before we went in that many of the questions would have unrealistic answers and for the students to eliminate them first! Having said all that, I obviously put very little stock in what those scores say. The number attached to the child tells me nothing about what that child knows/doesn’t know, and/or what that child is capable of.”

To add insult to injury, the central office administrators have been meeting with teachers and administrators to share the growth students have made on the easyCBM and Global Scholar since the beginning of the year. Any college measurement and evaluation course will teach you to NEVER judge student performance on merely one test or indicator but consider multiple measures, including, yes, teacher judgement. But obviously Hoover does not believe teachers have enough sense to determine on their own how well students are performing.
On March 4th, the central office administrators met with the elementary teachers to publicly share each school’s grade level scores on either the easyCBM or Global Scholar. The scores were shared in a PowerPoint, so teachers knew which teams’ students across the district scored well or not. You won’t believe this…..the teachers whose students had shown the most progress from fall to spring were given candy. Cadbury Easter egg because those schools did “EGGsactly what they were supposed to do,” said the curriculum administrators. One teacher reported, “In 20 years of teaching I have never been made to feel so small!! I am just sick to my stomach. I sent my husband a text and told him he had to find a way for me to leave because I cannot be a part of this!!” Only the candy teachers were identified by school and grade level. The rest of the scores were shown by grade level and if there was growth made and if it was enough growth. 4th grade was just barely on the edge of staying in the “high average” category.
Another teacher commented, “There were LOTS of people there, and I know many who felt the same as I did. And I was already prepared to turn down the candy should I or my school had been one of the ‘most improved’ schools. Lots of people are upset and contacting each other besides me. As I was looking around the room I kept thinking that I wasn’t the minority in the room. So many teachers in there that I have taught with and respect and feel and share the same thoughts. It was just so belittling!”



One teacher commented that the presentation was “creepy. She (the curriculum administrator) was like a preacher. She’d get really loud and then whisper. This was done to make people laugh and people were encouraged to clap. She said she was very concerned about 4th grade. I do love those darn Cadbury mini eggs though. I guess I should stop and grab some candy for my class for when they do well on an assessment since we’ve time traveled back to 1982.”



Stay tuned for Part 2: Changes in the Secondary Program



Deborah Camp served in public education for 30 years in Alabama before recently retiring. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Alabama, and a master’s degree in elementary education, an Educational Leadership certificate, and a doctorate in Early Childhood Education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her work experience includes 17 years of teaching assignments in special education, elementary, middle school, and reading specialist in Jefferson County Board of Education and Hoover City Schools. She served as the district director of curriculum and instruction in Hoover for 13 years. She was selected as the Alabama Elementary State Teacher of the Year in 1998 and inducted into the Jacksonville State University Teacher Hall of Fame, Middle School Division, in 1999. In 1997 she obtained National Board Certification in English Language Arts/Early Adolescence and was one of the first 25 teachers in the state to earn National Board certification and was one of the first 900 teachers in the nation. She has conducted workshops on numerous topics in education at the local, state, national, and international level. She has authored several professional articles and books. Although retired, she continues to advocate for fair work conditions for teachers and equitable education for all children.


Dr. Camp is also a proud Alabama BAT. Find out more about the BadAss Teachers at


Sara Stevenson, one of the heroes of this blog, reads the Wall Street Journal regularly, and she gets outraged every time the paper writes an editorial or publishe an article blasting public schools. That occurs frequently, as the WSJ supports privatization, not public schools.

When Sara read an article by a charter teacher in his second year of teaching, she wrote the following letter. In what other field would a person with so little experience pretend to expertise?

She wrote:

Dear Editors,

Almost daily you publish pieces lashing out against public schools. You give prime print real estate to a second year teacher, Nicholas Simmons– something you would never do for a newbie in any other profession.

I am grateful that you have published some of my letters through the years, but I am requesting a bigger platform. I would love the opportunity to write a short piece, along the lines of Mr. Simmons’s, about the selection bias inherent in high-flying charter schools and elite private schools. I’d also like to discuss the demoralizing effect your barrage of education bashing has on those of us working daily in our nation’s public schools. If you don’t want to hear from me, although I have twenty-two years of teaching experience (eleven as a public school librarian and ten as a private, Catholic high school teacher), please consider publishing a piece by Perrin-Whitt ISD superintendent, John Kuhn. I stayed up late last night reading his fabulous book: “Fear and Learning in America.”

Here is a review of his book that I posted on this morning.

John Kuhn, of the famous Alamo letter and rallying cry at the Save Texas Schools Rally in 2011, has written a book that will completely confirm or convert you to the cause of protecting the great democratizer, public education, from its assault by government, business, and so-called reformers. If I had used a highlighter to mark significant passages and hard-hitting barbs, every page of this book would be permeated yellow. The book is that good. It’s also highly personal with stories about how this good ole Texas Baptist farm boy woke up to the attack on teachers and public schools and how current policies play out in real children’s lives. This is the most important book to read on what is happening in education in this country. Get involved. Save our Schools! Read this book!

I am having a difficult time holding onto my WSJ subscription, which I have had since 1991. I love your reporting, your Personal Journal and other features. Your editorial pages are a trial for me, but I force myself to read them and respond. I know I can’t change your minds, but please listen to us. Give the other side a voice. I am not a union teacher. I’m in Texas, where we have no unions, no tenure. I’m 54 and just now passed the $50,000 salary threshold. I love my work as a middle school librarian. I am passionate about inspiring my children to become lifelong readers, who make the best citizens. On the other hand, I am disheartened by your editorial board’s continued assault on public schools.

Thank you for listening.


Sara Stevenson
O. Henry Middle School librarian
Austin, Texas

P.S. If you wonder why I’m able to write this during work hours, it’s because my library is shut down for the third day this week for state testing.

Deborah Meier brought to my attention this series of workbooks that contain 180 days of Common Core worksheets in math and English. What a relief for anxious teachers! No more worrying about what to do. Here are the daily activities you need. No more planning or thinking. A standard a day keeps the evaluator away! Not only problems, but answers too!

From: “Emily Self, Great Educators”
Subject: 180 Days of Common Core Worksheets: Math and ELA Available
Date: February 2, 2014 9:50:09 AM EST
Reply-To: “Emily Self, Great Educators”

Common Core State Standards:
Language Arts and Math Bellringers
Second Editions released for school year 2013-2014
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CCSS: Bellringers – Includes 180 days of worksheets!
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The Math bellringers focus on one standard a day and include examples (with the correct answer) to help your students understand the type of question tested under that standard. The bellringers also include 2-3 additional questions for your students to work through on their own.

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The Writing and Language bellringers focus on one standard a day and include an example (with the correct answer) to help your students understand the type of question tested under that standard. The bellringers also include 2-3 additional questions for your students to work through on their own.

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To order with a PO, click here>>
$100 per grade for Math a nd $100 per grade for ELA; includes access to two PDF files per set (one is the teacher book and other is the student book) and full rights to print, copy, and/or project as needed in your classroom.

It isn’t too early to start working with the common cores in your classroom and school for the upcoming transition. Our bellringers will allow you to expose your students to each and every standard for their grade – no research or searching for appropriate questions. Use these ready-made lessons to review the standards now!

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Bellringer Information: Now includes 180 worksheets!
What’s Included? We have studied the common core standards and created bellringers to test each standard up to three times. Each day, your students will work through a bellringer by first examining a sample question and answer and then working through several problems on their own. We’ve included a place for the student to write notes or reminders about that type of question.

Sample of student edition language>>

Sample of student edition writing>>

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The teacher’s edition includes the actual common core standard of the day taken directly off the common core website – no guessing or researching required! Also, we’ve provided all correct answers to all questions in the teacher’s edition.

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Sample of teacher edition math>>

What do I get with my purchase? With each purchase, you will receive access to two PDF files – one is the teacher version and the other is the student version. You will have full rights to print, copy, and/or project as needed within your classroom. If you or your school would prefer printed copies , please respond to this email for an appropriate quote.
Great Educators
Mailing: PO Box 4187, Waynesville, MO 65583
Phone: 573-336-3372
Fax: 866-317-2749
Why Use Bellringers?
1. They expose your students to each and every standard.

We’ve represented each and every math and ELA standard in these bellringers. No holes – no missing information! Be assured that your students will be exposed to all standards across the board.

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Use your time on something else – we’ve put together a comprehensive resource that will assist your classroom’s transition to CCS.

3. They are 100% applicable to your grade level.

Do you know what’s changing for your grade in the upcoming transition? These bellringers only cover the standards for your grade level – take the guesswork out of the equation.

4. They are quick and won ‘t interfere with your normal lesson.

We designed these bellringers to take no more than 5-10 minutes each, so you will still have time for your normal lesson while exposing your students to the CCS.

5. You can feel confident that your students have been exposed to all of the common core standards before the transition!
To unsubscribe, please click the following link: Unsubscribe me from this list Please be aware you may receive a few more emails as it takes a few days to fully remove you from our list.
Great Educators, PO Box 4187, Waynesville, Missouri 65584 P: 573-336-3372

If the answer is yes, please come to one or both of the two
sessions where I am speaking on April 3. I will give the
John Dewey Society lecture at the
Convention Center, 100 Level, Room 114, from 4-7 pm. (Lots of time
for discussion). My topic: “Does Evidence
Fair warning: The room holds only 600
people. Before the Dewey lecture, I will join Philadelphia parent
activist Helen Gym and Carl Grant of the University of Wisconsin
(chair) in a special Presidential session from 2:15 to 3:45,
on the same level in Room 121B The
title of the session is:
Rising to the
Challenges of Quality and Equality:

The Promise of a Public
If you join me at the early session,
you will have to race with me to the lecture, and the room may be

This week begins the make-or-break, do-or-die standardized testing that will label your child a success or a failure. I urge you not to let your child take the state test.


Opt out.


The best test for students is the test made by their teacher. Teachers know what they taught; they test what the students were taught. They get instant feedback. They can find out immediately which students didn’t understand the lesson and need extra help. They can get instant feedback about their own success or lack of success if the students didn’t learn what they taught.


The standardized tests are useless for instant feedback. They have no diagnostic value. The test asks questions that may cover concepts that were never introduced in class. The test is multiple-choice, creating an unrealistic expectation that all questions have only one right answer. The tests may have errors, e.g., two right answers or no right answers or a confusing question. The test results are returned months after the test, meaning that the student now has a different teacher. The test scores give no breakdown of what the student did or did not understand, just a score.


These days, the purpose of the tests is to evaluate the teacher;  most researchers agree that using student scores to evaluate teachers gives inaccurate and unable results. This year’s “effective” teacher may be next year’s “ineffective” teacher. “Value-added-measurement” has not proven to work anywhere. Most teachers don’t teach tested subjects and they are assigned rating based on the results of the school as a whole. A music teacher may be found “ineffective” based on the school’s math scores. This is madness.


Because the tests have no diagnostic value for students, they are worthless. If they can’t be used to help students or to improve instruction, they shouldn’t be used at all. We can learn all we need to know about states or cities by sampling (like NAEP, which compares states to states, and cities to cities). We can learn all we need to know about individual students by relying on teacher judgment and testing in specific grades, like 4 and 8.


The reason we have so much testing is because our policymakers don’t trust teachers. If we trusted teachers, we would let them teach and trust them to do what is right for their students. The more we distrust teachers, the less appealing is teaching as a job or a profession.


Another reason we test so much is the power of the testing corporations, which pay lobbyists in Washington and the states to push for more testing. This is big business.


Elite private schools rarely use standardized tests. They trust their teachers to evaluate their students’ progress.


We are trapped in a machine that is profitable for the few, but demoralizing to teachers and students.


Testing is not teaching. It steals time from instruction. Making it so important leads schools to narrow the curriculum, cutting funding for the arts, eliminating social workers and counselors, cutting recess and physical education. Making testing so important leads to states and districts gaming the system, to schools shedding low-scoring students, to cheating, to teaching to the test, and to other anti-educational actions.


How to stop the machine?


Opt out.


Don’t let your children take the test.


Deny the machine the data on which it feeds. There are corporations ready to mine your child’s data. Don’t let them have it.


I am reminded of the famous speech by Mario Savio, leader of the Free Speech Movement, during a protest rally at the University of California at Berkeley in 1964. He said:


There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!


Assert your independence. Protect your child. Stop the machine.


Opt out.

As is well known, the U. S. Department of Education zealously believes–like Michelle Rhee–that low test scores are caused by “bad” teachers. The way to find these ineffective teachers, the theory goes, is to see whose students get higher scores and whose don’t. That’s known as value-added measurement (VAM), and the DOE used Race to the Top to persuade or bribe most states to use it to discover who should be terminated.

As we also know, things have not worked out too well, as some Teachers of the Year were fired; some got a bonus one year, then got fired the next year. In many states, teachers are rated by the scores of students they never taught. The overall effect of VAM has been demoralization, even among those with high scores because they know the ratings are arbitrary.

For some reason, teachers don’t like to “win ” at the expense of their colleagues and they can spot a phony deal a mile away.

But the U.S. DOE won’t give up, so they released a research brief attempting to show that VAM does work!

But Audrey Amrein Beardsley deconstructs the brief and shows that it is a mix of ho-hum, old-hat and wrong-headed assumptions.

It’s true (but not new) that disadvantaged students have less access to the best teachers (e.g., NBCT, advanced degrees, expertise in content areas (although as Beardsley says, the brief doesn’t suggest such things matter).

It is true, that “Students’ access to effective teaching varies across districts. There is indeed a lot of variation in terms of teacher quality across districts, thanks largely to local (and historical) educational policies (e.g., district and school zoning, charter and magnet schools, open enrollment, vouchers and other choice policies promoting public school privatization), all of which continue to perpetuate these problems.”

She writes:

“What is most relevant here, though, and in particular for readers of this blog, is that the authors of this brief used misinformed approaches when writing this brief and advancing their findings. That is, they used VAMs to examine the extent to which disadvantaged students receive “less effective teaching” by defining “less effective teaching” using only VAM estimates as the indicators of effectiveness, and as relatively compared to other teachers across the schools and districts in which they found that such grave disparities exist. All the while, not once did they mention how these disparities very likely biased the relative estimates on which they based their main findings.

Most importantly, they blindly agreed to a largely unchecked and largely false assumption that the teachers caused the relatively low growth in scores rather than the low growth being caused by the bias inherent in the VAMs being used to estimate the relative levels of “effective teaching” across teachers. This is the bias that across VAMs is still, it seems weekly, becoming more apparent and of increasing concern.”

VAM in the real world is Junque Science.

A reader posted the following comment about “Whole Brain Teaching.” By the way, I too recommend Elisabeth Bruehl-Young’s book Childism. It is an informative and in some ways a frightening book about how adults abuse children and think it is normal behavior.


This method of “conditioning” children with authoritarian fear and intimidation is “abusive”. It is the same as “bullying”. It’s purpose is to “break” children. Adults who use and teach this method obviously grew up in a dysfunctional environment of “bullying”, so it is “normal” for them, but it is NOT normal by society’s standards.

In Marine Boot Camp it is effective for training adults to be “killers”, but with young children it will condition them to become obedient and loyal to abusive authority. It will
condition children to become “slaves” or robots.

When young children are trapped in an environment of authoritarian fear and intimidation, they can be trained to do anything that the ‘master” demands. They can be “conditioned” to memorize facts to pass test, or clap their hands in unison, or become sex slaves.

Since “conditioning” is on a spectrum, the damage is determined by the amount of “control”. If children have this authoritarian method used both at home and at school, the psychological damage will be severe.

Another name for this method is “dominance” or the slave/master style of conditioning. Children will become “self-punishing” or masochistic. Many New York psychologists have started calling this “self punishing” behavior in children the “Common Core Syndrome”.

When these “broken” children become adults, they will have a “fragmented self”. They will not have their own identity or a strong sense of self, since they were forced as children to model after their abusers. Their identity will be codependent with their abusers. Their behaviors would most likely become in adulthood the psychiatric disorders of Borderline, Narcissistic, or DID.

This harsh authoritarian management style for training children is like a psychological plague that has become increasingly pervasive in schools for three decades. We can now see the products of this poisonous pedagogy in our adult society.

People who are in charge of children and are insecure with themselves (have paranoia and fear the children will get out of control), will have an obsessive need for control. This is the hallmark of a bully. It has caused our teachers and administrators to be more like gestapo than empathic humans. Unless we learn to recognize “bullying”, and call it what it is, we will allow this paranoia of “managing” and “training” children to bring on

A book that describes this method of”scapegoating’ children is called CHILDISM, by the Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth young-Bruehl. I strongly recommend everyone read it.


No Child Left Behind became law in January 2002. Twelve years later, it is a discredited law that remains on the books only because Congress can’t agree doesn’t know what to do next. They are trapped in the quagmire of a failed accountability system and they don’t know how to get out.

But Race to the Top compounded the basic error of NCLB–relying on testing and accountability to “reform” schools–and it added a new ingredient: a frontal attack on teachers as the primary cause of low test scores. Its effort to quantify the value of teachers by the test scores of their students has not only made testing the sine qua non of daily education but has destroyed the joy of learning and harmed the teaching profession. Race to the Top made teaching to the test a necessity. Every time you hear either President Obama or Secretary Duncan say that teachers should not teach to the test, but they should be rewarded for higher scores and fired for lower scores, remember that this is what hypocrisy sounds like.

To see the harm of Race to the Top through the eyes of disillusioned and disheartened teachers, read this comment:

I met a friend for lunch today. She was a colleague with whom I taught, up until last year, before I moved to another school within our district (an urban Title I District which serves a demographic of primarily Hispanic, English Language Learners). As we talked, we both discussed our disenchantment with a broken system and mused about moving to a mythical place where we would be afforded more creative freedom to teach in way that was deeply impactful and meaningful. We talked about how our anger had turned to apathy, and how we feared getting lost in the oblivion of bitterness and burn out. We talked about how the instruction of our students had been reduced to district directives putting our students at the mercy of mind-numbing computer tutorials and scripted skinnarian intervention programs. But mostly, we talked about how, through all of this, we have been slowly and systematically robbed of the relationship we have with our students.

Let me explain how I came to know this colleague. She is a middle school social studies teacher and, hands-down, one of the finest teachers with whom I have ever had the pleasure of working. I have drawn from her strength, as I witnessed her question the “status quo”, stand up against arbitrary policy, and show a depth of understanding for each and every student that crosses the threshold of her classroom. I was the special education teacher who supported the identified students on her team, for which she was the team leader. Never, in my twenty-four years of teaching, had I heard so many students express such a love of social studies, or a specific teacher, for that matter. When I would ask why, the response was generally the same. “I don’t know, she just makes it fun.” Or, “It’s just really calm in her classroom and you want to learn.” Or, “She just cares about us.” This came from Middle School Special Education students, many of whom were reading between a first and third grade reading level, but nonetheless, experienced success in her classroom.

So, why is this story significant? This year our district has taken Special Education and intervention to new heights. We have been directed to pull out our lowest twenty-five percent during science, social studies, and elective classes when providing support. Consequently, many students get one day per week in the classes that many typically thrive in and enjoy the most. We are over-dosing, yet essentially depleting, our most vulnerable, struggling students. When I questioned my administrator on this directive last year before leaving, her response was something like, “Well, who really needs social studies in life? Who needs to know where this country is on a map? It’s just not that important.” After attempting to recover from her flippant, uninformed comments, my response to her was, “But it’s the only class many students like and she teaches reading and writing through her content. Plus she is masterful at meeting the needs of every level of student.” She hemmed and hawed and finally conceded that that was just the way it was.

Now that I think about it, I believe the students just like my friend and feel safe in her classroom, regardless of what an excellent teacher she is. They are learning despite themselves. This, my friends, is not quantifiable. This is about relationship. Yet, given the new teacher evaluation mandates, she will be measured and evaluated on the progress of students who spend eighty percent of their week in front of a computer or being read scripted questions, verbatim, which must be answered on the cue of a bell or clicker; pre-packaged programs which, by their very nature, prevent inquiry, creative thinking, and most importantly, a relationship with a trusted teacher.

“Where do we go from here?” we asked each other. I don’t know. I do know that we have both found ourselves mourning a profound loss. Then my friend shared her own personal insight. “It’s like when you are in a bad relationship”, she said. “You start to compromise who you are. First, you let go of this. Then you let go of another thing. Pretty soon you realize that you just can’t go on because you aren’t being true to yourself anymore.” I am glad I met my friend for lunch, because she continues to give me the courage to find my own voice. She once said to me that people who have a gift for teaching urban middle school students have a moral obligation to continue the work. Now I see her wavering, not because she does not love her students, but because she cannot be true to the relationship, and ultimately herself. I am terrified that this will be yet another a piece of the carnage left behind in this battle–just one more casualty soon forgotten in the sweeping, dispassionate corporate take over of our American Public Education System. But even more, I am soul sick for the students who may never have the opportunity to cross the threshold of her classroom.

Prepare yourself.


Thousands of readers opened the “Confessions of a Teacher in a No-Excuses Charter School.”


Many were horrified. Some couldn’t believe what she wrote.


Some said that there are certain kinds of students who come from dysfunctional homes and need this sort of structure.


She sent me this video, which is a demonstration of robotic responses in “Whole Brain Teaching.” 


What do you think of this as education?




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