Arizona has a teacher shortage. School will open soon, and there are at least 1,000 vacancies.

The reason is not hard to find. Low salaries, which results in high teacher turnover. Arizona has been in the forefront of corporate reform. State policymakers want to hire “effective teachers,” but they don’t want to pay a middle-class wage.

“And the situation is likely get worse, with 25 percent of the state’s roughly 60,000 teachers eligible to retire within the next five years, said Cecilia Johnson, the state Education Department’s associate superintendent of highly effective teachers and leaders.

“Heidi Vega, spokeswoman for the Arizona School Boards Association, said there are many factors in play behind the vacancies but, “First of all, of course, the budget.”

“Vega said some teachers haven’t had a raise in six or seven years. The state routinely ranks near the bottom when it comes to per-pupil spending, she noted.

“Johnson said the average salary for a teacher in Arizona is $47,000 – well below the $54,000 national average – and an average starting salary in the state is $32,000.”

With a starting salary of $32,000, the state’s associate superintendent of “highly effective teachers and leaders” will not have many people to supervise.

Most teachers have not had a raise in years. Enrollments in teacher education programs are dropping. Some schools have no one to mentor young teachers.

“Once in the profession, Johnson said, teachers face greater accountability requirements and more demands of their time than they used to. Those demands “require them to take less and less time in teaching what they believe as experts should be taught,” she said.”

What do reformers think when they see stories like this, echoing the situation in many other states? Do they recognize a problem? Do they see a connection between the loss of teachers and their relentless campaign to belittle teachers and blame them for low scores?

Bill Gates used to boast that his data-driven approach to measuring teacher quality would produce an effective teacher in every classroom. How’s that working out, Bill?

Denis Smith worked in the Office of Charter Schools in the Ohio Department of Education. In this article, he points out the paradox of tasking a state agency with both promoting charter schools while supposedly regulating them. This is a conflict of interest.


This explains, he writes, why it was predictable that David Hansen, who was supposed to regulate charter schools, got in trouble for cooking the books to make the charters owned by Republican campaign contributors look good, even though their schools perform poorly.


Hansen, the husband of Beth Hansen, Governor John Kasich’s chief-of-staff, was put in place by the governor’s team to head the Office of Quality School Choice. His background, as head of the right-wing Buckeye Institute, famous for maintaining a database detailing the salaries for thousands of public school teachers and devoid of salary information for CEOs of national for-profit charter school chains and other privatizers, is now being examined by charter watchdogs as they discover a series of conflicts-of-interest that raise basic questions about his actions.


Here are a few morsels:


“Hansen and ODE were ignoring the big fish,” Stephen Dyer observed. “And that was, unfortunately, Hansen’s undoing. None of these crackdowns were against schools run by big Republican donors — David Brennan of White Hat Management or Bill Lager of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow — whose schools rate among the worst in the state and who educate about 20% of all Ohio charter school students.”


Plunderbund readers, in fact, were informed several days ago that Hansen is a serial data offender.


“This isn’t the first time Hansen has been caught altering charter school data to improve the image of these charter school operators. Hansen was President of the Buckeye Institute in 2009 when they put out a report on Ohio’s dropout recover schools. Similar to the current incident, Hansen’s group altered data to improve the apparent performance of the charter schools. The shady data changes resulted in “a dramatic overstatement of the graduation rates at the charters.” Many of the schools in the 2009 report were owned and operated by White Hat Management. Meanwhile, White Hat owner David Brennan was quietly contributing tens of thousands of dollars to the Buckeye Institute through his Brennan Family Foundation.”


Hansen was a cheerleader for charters who was supposed to regulate them. Never happened, never will happen,

A reader sent this seventh grade question that was released by the New York State Education Department. It appeared on the 2014 English Language Arts test. Test yourself. How would you do?


Read this article. Then answer questions XX through XX.

On the Roof of the World by Benjamin Koch

A few summers ago, I was lucky to travel to Tibet, the “roof of the world.” Tibet is a small country surrounded on all sides by gigantic snowy mountain peaks. For thousands of years, these towering mountains acted like a fence, keeping people from entering the country. That’s one reason why explorers and writers have called Tibet the roof of the world. It’s hard to get to. The other reason is Tibet’s high elevation. When I climbed mountain passes over 17,000 feet above sea level, I gasped for air. I was more than three miles high!

Years ago, the people of Tibet were nomads—people without permanent homes. The ground in Tibet is much too rocky and thin to grow crops, so Tibetans centered their daily life and survival on the yak. The yaks provided the nomads with nearly everything they needed—milk, butter, meat, and wool for clothes and ropes. Even yak dung was used for fires.

Tibetan nomads would lead their herds of yak and sheep across pastures, valleys, and mountainsides in search of the best grazing lands. They did not live in permanent homes made of wood, brick, or stone.

Times are changing in Tibet, and more and more people live and work in villages and cities. But there are still nomads who survive on the high plateau just as their ancestors did. Becoming a Modern Nomad Some friends and I were traveling with our teacher, Dudjom Dorjee, to Kham, in the eastern part of Tibet. Dudjom was born in Tibet and lived the first years of his life as a traditional nomad. Because of political problems, Dudjom’s family had to flee to India when he was still young. We were following Dudjom back to his birthplace and getting a taste of that ancient, nomadic way of life—with a few modern updates. The yak provides the nomads with food and clothing. 1

We had the advantage of automobiles—a luxury that nomads have happily survived without. When it comes time for a nomad family to move, they pack all their things into large backpacks that they strap over their yaks. A typical family might need from 30 to 50 yaks to carry all their supplies. My friends and I had more than 50 bags to carry. We stuffed them into a bus, while we piled into four-wheel drives.

Problems Along the Way

When it comes to crossing rough country, yaks are the true all-terrain travelers. Many times, the nomads have to cross raging rivers. For the loyal and determined yaks, crossing is not a problem. But when we had to cross a river, our four-wheel drives turned out to be not so loyal and reliable. We got stuck in the muddy banks of the river, and it took at least a dozen people pushing to get us out. When nomads arrive at their destination, they are so skilled at setting up their large yak-hair tents that they have them up in minutes.

My friends and I, with our fancy supermodern tents, weren’t quite as quick. At one campsite, I remember wrestling with one of my tent poles trying to pass it through the loops of my tent. Some smiling nomad kids approached and had me set up in no time, though they’d never seen a tent like that before. It’s Cold Up There! The weather in Tibet is cold, and the brutal wind seems to show no mercy.

Sitting inside a nomad tent, though, you’d never know it. With a warm fire burning in the mud stove and the snug black walls of the tent, you are as comfortable as can be. This was not the case in the fancy modern tents my friends and I slept in. I remember shivering through my four sweaters, three pairs of pants, and blanket, listening to the chill rain hit my tent. Having the Right Attitude On this trip, I learned that it takes much more than snug tents and thick, hearty tea to survive. You need the right attitude.

Everywhere we traveled, the Tibetans were generous, happy, and curious. It might be a monk warming my frozen hands in his fur robes. It might be a family of nomads taking a break to dance and sing in a circle, or a handful of kids watching me with beaming smiles. Though their lives are full of challenges, the nomads never take their day-to-day problems too seriously. They know how impermanent things are, including their homes. We modern nomads learned some of these lessons. Perhaps when we cross the raging rivers or face the cold bitter days of our lives, we’ll do it with a lot more of the right attitude—the same attitude that shines from the bright smiles of the Tibetan noma

The superintendents of the Philadelphia public schools, William Hite, is a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. The BSA is a major proponent of charter schools, and a major critic of public schools, which it considers to be failing, failing, failing.


Superintendent Hite has filled up the top administrative jobs of the public school system with veterans of the charter school movement.


Guess that is what he learned as a Broadie.

Fairtest is the leading organization fighting the misuse and abuse of standardized testing. If you read these stories, you will get a strong sense that the tide is turning against test mania, a disease that afflicts politicians, some economists, and certain think tanks.

“The U.S. Senate has joined the House of Representatives in responding to growing, grassroots pressure by voting to overhaul “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB). The bills passed by both the Senate and House reflect widespread rejection of failed top-down, test-and-punish strategies as well as the “NCLB on steroids” waiver regime dictated by Arne Duncan. While neither version is close to perfect from an assessment reform perspective, each makes significant progress by rolling back federally mandated high-stakes, eliminating requirements to evaluate educators based on student test scores, and recognizing opt-out rights. FairTest and its allies will closely monitor the conference committee working on compromise language to make sure the gains remain in the final bill sent to President Obama — the alternative is to keep the yoke of NCLB-and-waivers in place for at least two more years, if not much longer. Meanwhile, organizers in many states are keeping the spotlight on the problems of test overuse and misuse, modeling better practices and winning additional policy victories.”

Remember that back issues of these weekly updates are archived at:

National End High-Stakes Testing to Help Fix Public Education: Key Civil Rights Leader

National U.S. Senate Rejects Proposal to Give Federal Government More Say in Identifying “Failing” Schools

National Both House and Senate NCLB Overhaul Bills Allow for Penalty-Free Test Opt Out

National “Race to the Top:” Lofty Promises and Top-Down Regulation Brought Few Good Changes to America’s Schools

California Exit Exam on Way Out

Colorado Two Small Districts Set Opt Out Records

Connecticut Opposition Coalesces Against Smarter Balanced Tests

Delaware Governor Vetoes Opt-Out Bill; State PTA Pushed for Override Vote

Georgia More than 10,000 Young People Who Did Not Pass Grad. Test Recently Received Diplomas

Hawaii Teachers Fight Evaluations Based on Student Test Scores

Illinois Why Common Core Tests Are Harmful to Students

Iowa Third-Grade Promotion Test Pushes Reading Down Into Kindergarten

Louisiana Fight to Make Charter School Disclose What Test It Uses for Kindergarten Entry

Minnesota Test Cuts Came After Thorough Debate

Missouri Exam Scores Don’t Tell Full Story of Teacher Preparedness

Ohio Time Allocated to New State Tests Cut in Half

Nevada After Testing System Breakdown, State to Hire New Assessment Vendor

New Hampshire Schools Can Replace Smarter Balanced Tests with ACT or SAT

New Jersey Be Wary of New State Teacher Ratings

New Mexico Court Rejects Suit Seeking to Strip Pearson’s Common Core Testing Contract

New York High School Models Authentic Assessment
New York Opt Out Movement Plans to Ratchet Up Actions Against Standardized Exam Overkill
New York Pending NCLB Overhaul Offers Hope to Reduce State’s Testing Obsession

North Carolina State’s Largest District Cuts Back Local Test Mandates
North Carolina Cautions About Test-Score-Based Teacher Pay

Oregon Students Can Meet Graduation Requirement with Work Samples in Their Home Language

Pennsylvania Questions Mount About Using Volatile Test Results to Evaluate Teachers and Schools
Pennsylvania Teachers to School Board: Standardized Testing is Harming Students

Rhode Island What Tests Like PARCC Do Not Measure

Tennessee Teachers School Governor on Testing and Evaluations
Tennessee Local School Board to Take Up Opt Out Resolution

Texas New Test Leading Fewer to Get GEDs

Washington State Testing Revolt Pushes State Into Uncharted Waters
Washington Over-Testing is a Flawed Strategy

“How Many Tests Can a Child Withstand?” — with apologies to Bob Dylan

The Beatings in Education Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468

Professor Yong Zhao is one of the most respected experts in the world on the dangers of standardized testing. I reviewed his latest book in the New York Review of Books. I urge you to read the book, as it explodes the myth that Chinese schools have mastered some secret methods of producing high test scores. Zhao shows in fascinating detail how those scores are produced, how they hurt students, and how they undermine creativity and individualism.


I recently received an email with a post by Emily Talmage of Save Maine Schools. She  warned about the big profits embedded in the revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. These days, we have become accustomed to the entrepreneurs and lobbyists who put their fingers into public education funds, stealing money from classrooms. The author was rightly skeptical of the corporate sales pitch for “personalization,” which all too often means that computers will replace teachers and students will advance at their own pace through scripted lessons. We have all heard tech companies selling product with the phony promise of personalization, customization, and individualization, when it’s all about selling software with a scripted curriculum and making money, not about meeting the needs of students.


But as I read on, I saw that the author accused Yong Zhao of being deeply complicit in the “personalization” claims and furthermore of being a profit-seeker. I was very dubious that this was true. I have read all of Zhao’s books and have found him to be a deeply humanistic scholar who is technologically adept. I found it hard to believe that he was promoting companies in which he was an investor.


So I sent the post to Yong Zhao, who is one of best informed critics of standardized testing.


He responded with the following comment:


Dear Ms. Talmage,

I read your post about the ESEA reauthorization with great interest. Thank you for pointing out the potential financial motives behind education policies and defending the interests of all children against potential damages.

However, your characterization of my views and myself in the post is inaccurate.

First, my view of personalized learning is not the one you criticize in the post. There are different interpretations of personalized learning. The version of personalized learning I support in the Department of Education’s Ed Tech plan is not the Skinnerian approach you point out: “students progress at their own pace, moving from one lesson to the next when they have proven “mastery.””

I myself have criticized such views and a blind faith in big-data driven Skinnerian approach toward education. For example, last year at the COSN conference, I questioned the value and promises of personalized digital learning driven by big data in a debate with Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia and now president of The Alliance for Excellent Education (, a DC-based non-profit organization that seems to an advocate of the type of technology in education you criticize (see its policy recommendations here: Some of the points made during the debate are summarized here:

I have also written about my views of education and personalized learning in various places; none would come close to the one you criticize. If you are interested, I just posted an excerpt of a chapter I wrote in a new book concerning personalized learning (the post is here: You can also find my views of personalized learning and student autonomy in my 2012 book World Class Learners. The essence of my view of personalized learning is to enable each and every child to pursue education opportunities that enhance their strengths and support their passion. I don’t believe in the idea of a one-size-fits all curriculum and approach.

Second, I am not the head an online learning company. Oba is not an online learning company. It is not even a company. It is the name of an online collaborative learning platform. It is designed to support learning communities organized by students and teachers. It does not deliver curriculum or instruction to students. Teachers and students use it to create lessons and collaborate with each other. It is an initiative within the University of Oregon. One version of it is completely free and the other version charges a very minimal fee of one dollar per student per year, which is much less than most commercial learning systems schools pay for. More important, I have no financial interest in Oba.

Third, my praise for China’s moving away from standardized testing is not to promote the version of personalized learning you criticize. It is to show how harmful standardized testing is and that a country that has long practiced the approach is moving away from it.

Fourth, my “touting” of ePals is specific about its work and intention to provide online learning communities across different countries to promote student-student understanding and mutual learning, not about it as an “online learning company.” The comment was made several years ago when it was about launch an effort for Chinese-English language learning. I do not know what the company does now. I never had any financial relationship with ePals.

Again, thank you for standing up for children. I hope this message helps clarify my stance on personalized learning.



Professor Janet D. Johnson and Brittany A. Richer of Rhode Island College surveyed teachers in the state about their reactions to PARCC, the federally funded test of Common Core standards. Their goal was to allow teachers to voice their assessment of the assessments.

The study can be found here.

Teachers are the experts when it comes to teaching and learning. See what they say.

TNTP, you may recall, was originally founded by Michelle Rhee .to recruit bright young staff for inner-city schools. In Tulsa, they took responsibility to turn around a troubled school. Their efforts failed.,

Teacher and historian John Thompson tells the sorry story. It begins with high hopes and boasts.

“At the beginning of the school year, after replacing 3/4th of the school’s faculty, McClure School Principal Katy Jimenez said, “I have never experienced a vibe and energy like we have right now.” Jimenez said, “The team has come together in an amazing way. My returning teachers gave up their summer to build a team they wanted to be a part of. Their investment is very deep. We are exhausted but so excited.”

“The principal borrowed a line from the corporate reform spin-meisters known as the TNTP and praised a second-grade teacher, Paige Schreckengast, as “an irreplaceable.” Ms. Schreckengast was featured the story’s photograph.”

Tulsa World reporter Andrea Eger “reports that even in this high-profile restart, “two vacancies went unfilled for much of the year because of a lack of applicants.” I’m not surprised by that, however, because many or most of the best teachers have heard the jargon before and many refuse to participate in such restarts because they know that the ideology-driven playbook is likely to fail. Neither am I surprised that “seven teachers bugged out mid-year; and then another seven left at the end of 2014-15.” [88% of the new teachers had less than three years’ experience.]

“The irreplaceable also left.

“Now, Tulsa says that the district officials learned from mistakes made in McClure’s faculty restart. The principal, Jimenez, says that she will no longer accept Teach for America candidates. According to Eger, Jimenez is balancing her remaining optimism with “a brutal, unrelenting reality.”

When will the so-called reformers understand that reviving troubled schools is hard work that requires experienced teachers with a long term commitment? When will they understand that disruption and chaos never saved a school or helped children? reports today that the General Accounting Office wants the U.S. Departmemt of Education to exercise greater oversight over teacher education programs. The question is how quality will be judged? Will it be the pass rates on Pearson’s EdTPA? Or the VAM ratings based on student test scores after graduation? If the former, expect to see a sharp decline in the proportion of African-American and Latino teachers? If the latter, expect to see teachers avoiding special education and schools in poor districts?

Incentives have unintended consequences.

As long as they are beefing up oversight at ED, why don’t they close down some of the predatory for-profit colleges that sell worthless diplomas and saddle young people with debt?

If the U. S. Department of Education had the capacity to oversee any sector,

North Carolina’s high court ruled 4-3 in favor of vouchers yesterday.


Even those who like the idea of using public funds to send students to private and religious schools, as well as to pay for home-schooling, may have trouble stomaching this bizarre decision.


Sharon McCloskey writes in NC Policy Watch just how bad this decision is, how it will set back the education of large numbers of children by using public money for home schooling and for schools that have no accredited teachers, no curriculum, no standards. This cannot be the way to prepare for the 21st century. It sounds instead like a headlong rush back to the nineteenth century.


McCloskey writes:


Chief Justice Mark Martin, writing for the majority and joined by Justices Robert Edmunds, Paul Newby and Barbara Jackson, couched the opinion in terms of judicial restraint and deference to the legislature, saying that the court’s role was “limited to a determination of whether the legislation is plainly and clearly prohibited by the constitution.”


Finding that the state’s “Opportunity Scholarship Program” did not clearly violate the state constitution, the court reversed Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood’s 2014 ruling reaching the opposite conclusion.


“The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything,” Hobgood wrote at the time.


The challenged law, enacted as part of the 2013 state budget, allows the state to appropriate more than $10 million in public money to award qualifying low-income families $4200 per child for use at private schools.


Those schools, which can range from religious schools with several students to a home school of one, are not subject to state standards relating to curriculum, testing and teacher certification and are free to accept or reject students of their own choosing, including for religious or other discriminatory reasons.


In reaching its conclusion — and despite the constitution’s language that state funds should be “appropriated and used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools” — the majority held that public funds may be spent on educational initiatives outside of the uniform system of free public schools.


As to the lack of accountability required of the private schools receiving public voucher money, the majority said that the constitutionally required “sound basic education” for North Carolina students, set down in the landmark Leandro decision, did not apply to private schools.


– See more at:




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