Archives for category: Texas

Jason Stanford attended a conference in Austin to mark the 50th anniversary of passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And don’t you know, the people who were responsible for No Child Left Behind think they acted in the tradition of civil rights leaders.

He writes:

“At the Civil Rights Summit celebrating the Civil Rights Act’s 50th birthday, everyone agreed that equal opportunity to education was a civil right. If that’s true, then who are today’s Freedom Riders and who is standing in the schoolhouse door? Education reformers see themselves as modern-day civil rights heroes, but the real continuation of non-violent protest can be found in the parents and students in the grassroots opt out movement that is refusing to take standardized tests.

“In this fight, the power is almost all on the side of those who assume you can make a pig heavier by weighing it a lot, to put it in terms LBJ would have liked. And without any sense of shame or embarrassment, those who created this testing culture see themselves as his descendents.

“On the issue of education, we’re dealing with the meaning of America, and the extent of its promise, and in this cause the passion and energy of Lyndon Baines Johnson still guides us forward,” said George W. Bush in his speech at the LBJ Presidential Library.

“Bush started it with No Child Left Behind, but Barack Obama’s Race to the Top is no better. Education Sec. Arne Duncan called Common Core “the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education.”

“One of the problems with this policy discussion is that the pro-testing crowd can’t understand how anyone could be against using tests to measure learning.”

Stanford writes that Bush, Margaret Spellings, and Sandy Kress can’t see any problems with the current round of high-stakes testing that can’t be fixed by more and better tests. One longs to see he three of them take the eighth grade math tests and publish their scores. I am willing to bet they might be less enthusiastic if they did.

Jason Stanford thinks that the true heirs of the cilvil rights protests are not the testers but the parents and students who opt out. They do not face the physical peril of the original civil rights movement, but they have demonstrated they are willing to stand on principle for what is right, without money or power to support them, just the conviction that the standardized testing industry does not hold the key to civil rights or equity or justice or better education.

Frankly, the people who brought us NCLB should stay quiet until it disappears into the mists of history, unlamented.

In Dallas, billionaire John Arnold is supporting an initiative to turn the whole district into a “home rule district” or a “charter district.”


The organization that is collecting signatures has a typical reformer name: “Support Our Public Schools.” When today’s reformers say they want to “support our public schools,” it usually means the opposite. Buyer beware.


But what is a home rule district?


Wade Crowder, a veteran Dallas teacher, explains that the goal is to remove the elected school board and replace it with an unaccountable appointed board. As is usual with today’s corporate reforms, the prelude to a sweeping plan for deregulation is claims of failure, failure, failure.


Actually, the supporters of the home rule district have been vague about their goals.


But Julian Vasquez Heilig says that what is happening is a “hostile corporate takeover.”


If you open the link in Julian’s blog, you will see the names of the extremely wealthy people who are behind “Support Our Public Schools.”


None of them has a record for having supported public schools in the past.


They have contributed to school board races, but not to Carla Ranger, who is the most outspoken supporter of public schools on the Dallas school board.


Early indications are that voters are suspicious of the motives of the monied clan that wants to control the public schools their children attend.


Julian writes:


“Home Rule is an emerging story currently flying under the radar in the national and statewide Texas media. Millionaires and billionaire(s) are quietly funding a “Home Rule” hostile takeover attempt of all public schools in Dallas, Texas. Yes, that’s right… ALL OF THEM.”


And he adds:


Who is Support our Public Schools?
Who are the behind-the-scenes players in the Home Rule takeover proposal?
Who is John Arnold?
What are the steps to the Home Rule takeover in state code?
What “rules” will Dallas not be “free” from as a Home Rule Charter District?
What “rules” will Dallas be “free” from after a Home Rule takeover?
Is the Home Rule takeover really necessary?
Is a charter district takeover more democracy and local control or less?
Have a politically appointed school board and mayoral control been a successful approach?
Have charters outperformed traditional public schools across Texas?
How does the Texas and Dallas investment in education compared to peers?
If not Home Rule, what reforms should DISD and SOPS commit to?
Some of the questions addressed in the brief are more specific to the Dallas community. However, several have import for the state of Texas and public education nationally such as: Who is John Arnold? and… Have a politically appointed school board and mayoral control been a successful approach?


Keeping up with the billionaires and millionaires’ education privatization hobby is a lot of work. Maybe we could suggest to them that they get a regular hobby like N-scale model trains or do more snow skiing?”



Sara Stevenson, librarian at O. Henry Middle School in Austin, published an article in the Austin American-Statesman, written as a warning to Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams. The article appeared on April 11, amd it is behind a paywall is I have no link.

Stevenson did an excellent job of reviewing the research literature on value-added measurement and warned Commissioner Williams that VAM is neither accurate nor stable. Further it is very demoralizing to teachers to be publicly shamed by these ratings. She mentions the suicide of Roberto Riguelas, a teacher in Los Angeles who committed suicide only days after his rating was published by the Los Angeles Times.

She writes:

“Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams is tasked with crafting a plan to tie teacher evaluations to STAAR test scores. The Obama administration requires states receiving waivers from this year’s impossible 100 percent passing rate on Bush’s No Child Left Behind law to incorporate student test scores as part of the state teacher evaluation formula. Williams should just say no.

“First of all, value-added measurement, or VAM, is junk science. It has been debunked in multiple studies. Researchers with the RAND Corp. concluded that there were so many cases of error and bias in the formulations that they reject using VAM for high-stakes decisions. Stanford professor Edward Haertel also warns against using these unstable measures for high-stakes purposes. Furthermore, a Vanderbilt study concludes that tying teacher evaluations to VAM undermined professionalism and demoralized teachers.”

And she concludes:

“Student success in school is multi-determined. For instance, the most important factor is socioeconomic status. This is not to say poor kids can’t learn. It’s just something researchers have proven over and over again. Therefore, you could, theoretically, take the worst teacher at Hill Country Middle School in the Eanes school district, where 2 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and her students would score higher than students of the most dedicated, selfless teacher at Pearce Middle School in East Austin, a school made up of more than 95 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

“Considering both research and common sense, it would be harmful for Texas to tie teacher evaluation to student test scores. Imposing these criteria on Texas teachers will force the best to flee and find other means of employment. Who will risk his career to teach our neediest students? This trend will not bode well for our youngest citizens, who will determine our future.

“Texas legislators need to say no to the VAM bandwagon.”

This superintendent posted a request for help. I will be posting a summary of research on value-added-measurement later today. I think it is fair to say that while economists like VAM (they measure productivity), education researchers overwhelmingly oppose VAM because they know that most of the factors affecting test scores are beyond the control of the teacher.



I am a Superintendent in Texas and I’m looking for some insight into a connection I just became aware of. The state of Texas has begun the process of revamping principal and teacher evaluations. Recently (in the last few months) the Commissioner of Education reached a compromise with the USDE about NCLB requirements. Part of the compromise required Texas to include test scores in the teacher evaluation tool.

Now I see, taken from the SEDL website (, that the states’ work on both the Principal and Teacher Evaluation systems are based on the priorities of the USDE. Unless I’m mistaken, the USDE priorities have been in place for several years. That would make the Commissioner’s “compromise” essentially a lie. He planned all along to implement a system like this. The best remedy to this kind of “in the dark” activity is sunlight.

Can anyone help explain these connections? I realize my explanation is short on details, best I believe the answers could be very enlightening when you consider the following points:
-Texas, especially our governor, has made a point of opposing EVERYTHING Washington
-Texas filed a waiver from NCLB and then pretended the result was the best it could do
– Educators are about to have an evaluation system imposed on them that will for all practical purposes, reestablish High Stakes Testing as a priority in this state by requiring student test scores be a SIGNIFICANT (emphasis TEA) portion of their evaluation

This stuff is not a coincidence, just look at the pattern of reform initiatives in other states. Its only just begun here in Texas.

My email is


This project relates to the following USDE Priorities:

Identifying, recruiting, developing, and retaining highly effective teachers and leaders
Identifying and scaling up innovative approaches to teaching and learning that significantly improve student outcomes


This is part 3 of Jeffrey Weiss’s series in the Dallas Morning News on the pushback against testing in Texas. In this article, the hero is a soft-spoken professor, Walter Stroup, who challenged the validity of Pearson’s tests. His doubts caught the attention of some legislators who were not wedded to the testing beast.

Texas is where No Child Left Behind was generated and blossomed into a myth that became federal law and lives on and on, the undead law that kills the love of learning.

In earlier articles in the series, Weiss showed how the angry moms got organized to fight out-of-control testing requirements.

And he showed how brave State Commissioner Robert Scott shocked everyone by denouncing the overemphasis on standardized testing as the “heart of the vampire.” This emboldened the moms, the school boards, the superintendents, the parents, and everyone else who hated to see what the testing industry was doing to children and education.

The missing heroes in Weiss’s otherwise brilliant narrative are the hundreds of school boards, who voted to oppose high-stakes testing, creating a wave of local opposition that the legislature could not ignore. Eventually, nearly 90% of the state’s elected local school boards said “Enough is enough.”

In this article, Weiss addresses the question: if not the current regime of high-stakes testing, then what?

Jeffrey Weiss here writes in the Dallas Morning News about “How the Texas Testing Bubble Popped.” 


One man, the courageous State Commisssioner of Education, Robert Scott, said what was on everyone’s minds.


Everyone thought he was a loyal soldier in Governor Rick Perry’s army, a slave to standardized testing.


But then he said the words that gave hearts to parents and educators in Texas and across the nation.

San Antonio is set for a major expansion of privately managed charter schools. Several national chains will open there, welcomed by the mayor and the business community. The San Antonio Express News published an opinion column by an advocate for the corporate charter chains, but refused to print Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig’s succinct rebuttal.

Despite the blue-sky promises of the charter industry, Heilig writes, the vast majority of Latino and African-American students are prepared for college in public schools. The Stanford CREDO study showed that charters in Texas underperform the state’s public schools. Don’t believe the tales of 100% graduation rates and 100% college-admission rates, he warns. They mask high attrition rates.

For example:

“Same story with BASIS. At the original campus of BASIS charter school in Tucson, Ariz., the class of 2012 had 97 students when they were 6th graders. By the time those students were seniors, their numbers had dwindled to 33, a drop of 66 percent.

“So what happens to families who get churned out of charters like KIPP and BASIS? They end up back at their neighborhood public schools, who welcome them with open arms as they do all students, regardless of race, class, circumstance or level of ability.”

Why not tell the truth about charters? They do not accept the same students. They have high attrition rates. When they enroll the same students, they get the same results, so they get rid of low-performing students. It works for some kids, who can attend a schol where there are few if any kids with disabilities, English learners, or troublemakers. But it creates a dual system that harms public education.

Jeffrey Weiss has a terrific story in the Dallas Morning News about the Texas moms who beat the powerful testing lobby.

Whenever anyone says that democracy can’t defeat the plutocrats, think of Texans Advocating for Meaningful,State Assessment. they said, “Enough is enough.” And they got busy.

The moms not only organized an effective opposition to Pearson’s lobbyists, they changed the minds of legislators who had blindly followed the ideology that tests improve schools.

Here is where the story begins:

“For 13 legislative sessions across 34 years, every time Texas passed laws about school testing, the numbers and stakes had grown. That ended in 2013, when a series of laws passed that not only demanded changes in testing, but also challenged the legitimacy of the test-based accountability system. All without a single dissenting vote.

“That enormous shift in attitude is still raising echoes nationally. And as legislators prepare for the next session, they’re discussing ways to further reduce the number and influence of tests.

“How did that happen? This is the story of how the Texas testing bubble popped.

“In weather forecasting, there’s a saying that the flapping of a butterfly wing can eventually cause a hurricane on the other side of the world. Small things can have huge and unforeseen consequences.

“The battle over testing in Texas public schools was upturned last year because of four lines in a 35-page law. That and a back-to-school night at an Austin high school.”

Learn how a group of determined moms made the difference. Many people call them “Moms Against Drunk Testing.” As do I.

They inspire parents everywhere.

Yes, we can. Yes, we can free our children and grandchildren from the maws of the testing industry.

Jason Stanford is a trustworthy guide to the politics of education in Texas.

He keeps close watch on who is paid to lobby for Pearson and notes how hard they work to convince the Legislature that more testing is needed. It is a neat circle. They say the schools are failing. The Legislature slashes the budget for everything but testing. The lobbyists say the test prove the schools are failing and need more testing.

Can’t they ever figure out that students need more time for learning, more arts, more libraries, more foreign language, more civics, more history, more time to make things and do things other than picking the right bubble?

This wonderful article in the American Educator describes the work of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, which has been conducting summer seminars for teachers for 30 years.

It opens the story through the eyes of a teacher named Keith Black:

“Instead of being subjected to what he disparagingly calls “PowerPoint drudgery,” Black spent eight hours each day dis- cussing classic works of literature, 17 in all, that he had read the previous three months on his own: Prometheus Bound, Agamem- non, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides, Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Peace, Lysistrata, King Lear, Othello, Hamlet, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Blood Wedding, Crime and Punishment, and Beloved.”

The Dallas Institute does not mention the Common Core or testing or rubrics:

“For 30 years, the Dallas Institute has treated teachers as intellectuals. To that end, the nonprofit educational organization, founded by former faculty members at the University of Dallas, offers teachers from all grade levels and all disciplines—not just English—an experience that either reacquaints them with or introduces them to the literature of Western civilization. The classic works studied are taught at the level of a graduate-school course and do not at all resemble typical professional development. Educators who attend this program rise to the challenge of engaging in insightful discussions about these complicated texts. In fact, they hunger to do so.

“Teachers work with human material, and the best way traditionally to gain access to human things is through the humani- ties, which are the foundation of a liberal arts education,” says Claudia Allums, who directs the Summer Institute. But a liberal arts education encompasses more than literature or philosophy or history courses, she says. It’s a particular spirit with which one approaches any discipline. “If a teacher has a broad, strong liberal arts education, then he or she is going to have a broad, strong foundation in human sensibilities. That’s the foundation we believe is important for any teacher’s wisdom.”

“Today, that belief is not widely shared. With the overwhelming focus on testing and measuring, it’s rare to hear words such as “wisdom,” “humanities,” and “human sensibilities” in relation to public education. Occasionally, reports like The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation,2 published last year by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, will decry the narrowing of the curriculum and call for a renewed emphasis on the liberal arts and their importance. But in the end, often little will be done to act on these ideas, however noble.”

I visited the the Dallas Institute a few years ago and was exhilarated by the spirit that permeates it: love of learning. Learning for the sake of learning, not for a bonus or a prize. This is a very small island of joy in a land where joy has been banned by federal and state authorities. Here there is intellectual freedom, which is endangered in our society by the powerful plutocrats who prize standardization and the ability to check the right box.

How ironic that the Institute flourishes in Texas, where the educational industrial complex was first launched. It is a small but important form of resistance to the status quo, a place where learning lives and thrives.


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