Anthony Cody is looking for a candidate who will support public education. He discounts Hillary Clinton, believing she is too close to Bill Gates.

The only other Democratic candidate as of this moment is Bernie Sanders. Cody wonders what his K-12 agenda will be. He offers some ideas and hopes that Sanders will become the spokesperson for the resistance to corporate reform.

Read his seven big ideas. Do you agree?

I am not ready to write off Clinton. Since she is the likely candidate, I want to get a chance to talk to her and try to educate her about the education issues. I have met her several times over the past 30 years, I supported her in 2008, and I will do my best to persuade her to oppose the ongoing demolition and privatization of public education.

Bob Braun writes here about the ongoing privatization of public schools in Newark, under the leadership of Cami Anderson, who was appointed by Governor Chris Christie.

Braun writes that Cami ordered additional cuts to the remaining public schools:

Anderson’s demand that every school in Newark cut their spending plans by anywhere from $200,000 to $700,000 meets her needs–the further degradation of neighborhood schools that would allow further expansion of the privatized sector, meeting the $70 million deficit she ran up through wasteful spending on favored consultants, hopeless legal cases costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the assignment of fully paid teachers to rubber rooms, and creating a pretext for the state’s approval of a seniority waiver that is still sitting on the desk of state education Commissioner David Hespe. If Hespe signs that waiver, seniority is a thing of the past–and so are public employee unions.

Newark’s public schools already have been stripped of virtually every service and amenity that would distinguish them from the educational equivalent of an Apple factory inside China. Attendance counselors. Guidance counselors. Meaningful art and music and other non-testable offerings that create human beings rather than cogs for the machine.

And charters, by the way, are untouched by this. More money to charters, less money to public schools. More failure in public schools, more students sent to charters. The cycle isn’t just vicious–it’s racist and elitist. The people of Newark will have to decide whether it’s every family for itself and to hell with everyone else–the charter game–or whether all Newark’s children are the responsibility of everyone, of every family, in the city and deserve a public school system that serves everyone….

But, of course, more is at stake than employee rights. The Anderson budget cuts, combined with the continued draining away of public funds to privately-operated charter schools, move Newark’s children closer and closer to an educational wasteland in which only a select few will have even a moderately acceptable education, while the vast majority of kids–black, brown, and poor–will be warehoused, prepared only for lives of quiet desperation.

This is no drill. This is a crisis.

But, of course, Christie and Anderson and Cory Booker and their billionaire supporters and enablers will call it reform.

In a report on the powerful and profitable virtual charter school industry in Ohio, Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio documents the failure of these schools. 35,000 students are enrolled in E-schools.

Not a single virtual charter school is rated A or B by the state. Most earn an F.

The graduation rates at the state’s nine virtual charters are abysmal. The worst-performing district in the state has a higher graduation rate than all the E-schools.

Dyer writes:

Since 2000, E-Schools have received well over $1 billion from the state that was originally slated to go to school districts. In return for this money, E-schools have delivered extremely poor student achievement results. And while the statewide E-Schools perform only slightly better overall than they did in the 2011 report, the tepid improvement is significantly tempered by the $60 million annual increase in their funding over the same period. In fact, the sector has grown from a $115 million program in 2006 to a $250 million program in 2014. At the same time, local taxpayers have been forced to subsidize their substandard performance.

Why does Ohio continue to fund these low-performing schools? Why are they never held accountable? Because the owners of the two biggest E-schools make generous campaign donations to important elected officials.

Marissa Smock wrote her final college paper on May 5. She died of an asthma attack two days later. Friends asked if I would post it. Of course.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

This I Believe

Marisa Smock
5 May, 2015
Final Exam
Dr. Shutkin

This I Believe

We are a nation that prides ourselves in coming in first place, from the Olympics to our economy. Yet, if we take a step back and look at how successful this nation really is… we’re actually failing; we’re failing our students in the world of education. According to Person’s article called, “Cognitive Skills and Education Attainment, the United States is ranked number fourteen in the world for our education system. So what is our response to such a ranking?

Yep, that’s right, we create more rules and regulations that apply all schools are capable of coming out with the same results and success rates. Wrong. America is ignorant of the fact that we should follow another nation’s education system (for example, ranking #2 in the world, Finland), and/or ask the students what they would like to change. And if you’d ask me, I’d say our high school curriculum (that’s supposed to prepare us for college), is our nation’s Achilles heel.

I will never forget the feeling of disappointment when I would sign up for classes to take in high school. So many rules on what I could and could not take, required to have five main core classes only leaving one or two spots open in my schedule to finally add a class that I’d like to take. High school should be a place that preps you for the next level of education, not a place where you have no say in what you want to learn and how you want to learn it. According to the National Governors Association, nearly 60 percent of the jobs in the labor market, require post-secondary education, and that number is expected to continue to increase. Our education system is all tangled up in testing and “getting the grade” that we don’t focus on the individual needs and wants of each student. If a student could pick what he/she wanted to learn then drop-out rates would lower, more students would be motivated to go to college, and our educational ranking would possibly get us up to the top in the world. For example, my high required a minimum of two years of a foreign language and although that doesn’t sound like a big deal, it is because the students that were in the class just to take it in order to graduate didn’t try as hard and held back the class from advancing. And not to mention, teachers would actually be motivated to teach because they will finally have students that want to take their class. This system would be similar to that of a four year college which will significantly prepare one for the next level.

If the standard high school curriculum of core classes, placement testing, standardized testing, exit exams, etc., were to be eliminated, not only would the success rate of the school and a student’s personal performance increase but their health will increase. We are or have been a student before and we’ve all had stress over test taking, project finishing, and “busy-work” homework preventing us from activities such as exercise, social gatherings, and sleep. If teachers gave less homework in class and less tests to stress about then students would have the time to balance out their lives with positive outlets and relieve stress. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), American 15-year-olds spent an average of six hours a week on homework in 2012, yet teens from countries like Korea and Finland spent less than three hours a week on after-school work, and when you look at the world ranking of Korea and Finland, they place first and second with the best education system. In my honest opinion there is no way the average American teen spends only six hours a week on homework and performs well. If students were spending only six hours a week on homework then why are there so many sleep studies on teenagers not getting the recommended seven plus hours of sleep a night? Yes, cell phones and social media play a role but we all know it’s the busy work teachers give us that are preventing us from sleeping and relieving our stress. Other than inducing stress and anxiety on students because of excessive amounts of studying and homework, more and more teens are (according to the NSF poll), were likely to say they worried about things too much (58%) and/or felt stressed out/anxious (56%), and many of the teenagers surveyed also reported feeling hopeless about the future, or feeling unhappy, sad or depressed. Depression can lead to suicide which is not something we should brush off our shoulders like it’s nothing.
I believe that our education system is corrupt into thinking that students are just a number and that scores matter over the cognitive and mature development of a teenager (high school student), into a young adult college student. High school needs to allow students discover what they’re interests are by allowing them to select the courses they want to take. Also, testing should be spread out and not determine how smart a student is or how well a teacher can teach for a number on a piece of paper does not represent a student’s full potential.

Works Cited

Ourtimes. “OECD Education Rankings – 2013 Update.” Signs of Our Times. N.p., 10 Apr. 2008. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

Conklin, Kristen D., Bridget K. Curran, and Matthew Gandal. “An Action Agenda for Improving America’s High Schools.” National Governors Association, 2005. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

“Index of Cognitive Skills and Educational Attainment.” Index Ranking. Pearson, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

“Teens and Sleep.” Sleep for Teenagers 4. National Sleep Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.

Marisa Smock at 4:11 PM

Vicki Cobb, a prolific writer of science books for children, is offended by the simplistic idea that education practices can be “scaled up,” just like manufacturing processes. Standardized testing is the quintessence of “one size fits all.”

She writes:

“Let me explain why. The very nature of “standardized” testing runs counter to the work of educators and to the notion of America as a haven for the individual worth of each human being.

“There are certain professions that are considered “high touch.” Nursing, for example, is about patient care and “care” is the operative word. Nurses deliver human kindness to people who are not at the top of their game. A patient may want a glass of water, but getting it from a robot is not the same as interacting with another human being. Teaching is another “high touch” profession. Children learn because of the relationship established between them and their teacher. They see each other every day. They come to know each other intimately. A good teacher reveals herself to her students — her passions, her standards, her caring for her students. Students at first do their lessons to please their teacher.

“A good teacher ultimately teaches students to do the hard work of learning to please themselves. This is how good students are made.

“Think about it. If you remember the teacher who had the most influence on you, I’ll wager you remember nothing of substance that you learned from him. You remember how he made you feel about yourself and about the learning process. You remember how you worked and how you achieved.

“Independent schools know this and value it. Each student is hand-crafted. There is no mass production and they don’t take the standardized tests. These schools pride themselves on turning out individuals who are “college and career ready.” They know there are no short-cuts, no efficiencies, no one-size fits all.

“In other words, you can’t “scale up” education. Learning is hard work that must be done by each individual. Fortunately, children are born to learn. Just watch what they accomplish the first two years of life. The mass-production of education to take the standardized tests puts the fear of failure into students and teachers. Make no mistake, learning doesn’t happen without failure. When you embark on learning a new skill, you’re not going to be very good at it when you start. Yet the emphasis from the culture created by the standardized test is that only correct answers are acceptable. This is insane! Schools should not foster a fear of failure; schools need to be a safe place to fail.

“Finally, I want to challenge the assumption made by the corporate reformsters that there is a bell-shaped curve of teacher effectiveness. They can’t believe how such a high-percentage of teachers can be evaluated as effective. So they need some kind of process that will produce a bell-shaped curve. Why not use student grades on the standardized tests to evaluate the teachers? How could they possibly think this will separate the wheat from the chaff? Is it because they come from a culture where an external motivator — money and all that goes with it — shapes the behavior of its participants?

“Teaching is a profession that is self-selective. Most people don’t have the patience or interest to spend every day with 25 eight-year-olds. Only a certain kind of person has the talent and drive to develop the myriad interpersonal skills needed to shape the development of these children so they become fourth graders. A great teacher is not motivated by money, assuming she is paid a living wage. Her reward is the light she sees in the eyes of her students. It is pay-back for her revealed humanity, sacrifice and hard work.

“Such workers are to be cherished and supported and yet, (can you feel how hard I’m pounding these keys as I write?) these absolutely wrong-headed politicians are doing the exact opposite by imposing strict rubrics and punishments that are demoralizing teachers, destroying a generation of students and indelibly scarring the ones (both students and teachers) who manage to hang onto their souls as they barely survive.”

At a conference in Néw York Coty, Wendy Kopp praised the alumni of Teach for America, saying that most of them remained in education and were fighting for social justice in new leadership roles. Perhaps she was thinking of John White, state superintendent in Louisiana, who led the fight for vouchers and Common Core, or Kevin Huffman, the former state superintendent of Tennessee, who pressed to strip teachers of any job rights, plus charters and vouchers, or Michelle Rhee, who supported pro-voucher, anti-union candidates.

Some might think that the fight for privatization and union-busting is not the same as battling social injustice. One might study the history of the Néw Deal to understand how unions built a middle class in the U.S., lifting people from poverty into decent jobs whose hours were limited, jobs that paid a living wage. TFA has received $60 million or more from the Walton Family Foundation, which is vehemently anti-union and pro-privatization.

Kopp’s claims were contested by Andrew Hargreaves of Boston College, this year’s winner of the prestigious Grawemeyer Award.

“Dr Andy Hargreaves of Boston College compared teachers on the programme to Macauley Culkin’s character in the 1990 film Home Alone.

“Teach for America was, he said, symptomatic of the way education systems mistakenly prioritised confident individuals over teamwork.

“It’s the image of the 9-year-old boy in Home Alone,” he said. “Somebody with incredible competence and supreme over-self-confidence [who] believes he can fight off crime and intruders by dropping strange contraptions on their heads and propelling them back out into the snow just with his own individual gifts, abilities, grit and guts. A bit like Teach for America.”

“Such teachers might be “great” for schools lacking support, he said, but they only stayed for two or three years. Finding ways for teachers to work together was more important than supporting “heroic, overgrown 9-year-old individuals who want to save the system for us.”

Jeannie Kaplan plays the game of “Where’s Waldo?” to describe the curious absences of Denver’s Broad-trained superintendent over the past few months. Crises were handled by subordinates. It turns out that Tom Boasberg was busy lining up votes in the legislatures to reduce funding for the teachers’ pensions.

She writes:

“What was the true importance of this bill? Well, one could always dream it was about restoring the educational opportunities “education reform” has stolen from our kids but in spite of Boasberg’s declaration about two or three more teachers per building, we who have followed this Broad trained superintendent know better. The reality of his appearances at the Capitol and the reality of his lobbying efforts are not really about more teachers. After all, “reformers” don’t believe in smaller class size, so they only mention it when they think it will score points with the public, and obviously politicians. What is and is not important to the superintendent has become abundantly clear in these last months: grade changing, weapons in schools, reorganizations, not so important. Defunding a public pension, politics and winning, pretty important. The reality is if you are a businessman and privatizer masquerading as an educator you really only care about the bottom line. If you can sell paying bankers and lawyers hundreds of millions of dollars instead of putting that money into your company’s pension plan and then sell that scenario to the public and state legislators as somehow having “saved” money, you will be regarded by the business world as a success. Forget about learning, forget about the people, forget about safety, forget about data. Just show me the money. And silly me. I thought the head of a public school district should care about delivering an equitable 21st century education, care about the welfare of his constituents, not just in theory but in reality. This superintendent’s absenteeism and abdication of leadership can now be explained. Who knew that finding Waldo would be easier than finding the DPS superintendent?”

Uh-oh. Florida’s end-of-course exams suspended by hackers.

“Interruptions in Florida’s end-of-course biology, civics and U.S. history exams last week came courtesy of outside hackers, a Florida Department of Education spokeswoman told the Gradebook on Monday.

“It was an attempt by an outside party to somehow shut down the system,” spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said. “Pearson figured out what was going on and put a stop to it.”

“The state told schools to delay testing during the disruption, during which students could not log in to take their exams. The system was back up within about two hours.

“This event marked the second time this spring that Florida’s computerized testing fell victim to a denial of service attack. American Institutes for Research servers also were brought down in March, during the administration of Florida Standards Assessments.”

Last night, I watched a Nova program on PBS called “The Rise of the Hackers.” One of the most sophisticated hacks was the work of teenagers.

The only truly secure test is the one written and graded by the classroom teacher. Online testing is not secure, does not reflect what was taught, and generates profits that are extracted from instruction. They are so yesterday.

Elizabeth Harris and Ford Fessenden wrote an article that just went online in The Néw York Times about the stunning growth of the Opt Out movement in Néw York state. Its numbers have increased dramatically in only two years.

The movement is now a potent political force:

“As the vanguard of an anti-testing fervor that has spread across the country, New York’s opt-out movement already has become a political force. Just two months ago, lawmakers from both parties, at the behest of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, increased the role of test scores in teacher evaluations and tenure decisions.

“Those same legislators are now tripping over one another to introduce bills that guarantee the right to refuse to take tests. The high numbers will also push state and federal officials to make an uncomfortable decision: whether to use their power to financially punish districts with low participation rates.”

The federal government requires a 95% participation rate on tests. Two years ago, almost every district complied. Not this year.

“Only 30 of the 440 districts where data was available met the 95-percent test participation rate called for by federal requirements, a far cry from just two years ago, when almost every district complied.”

Critics of opt out say that without the test scores, no one would know which students, teachers, and schools are “failing.” But if the tests are invalid and unreliable, as many believe the Common Core tests are, then the information they provide is worthless. Are superintendents, principals, and teachers so untrustworthy that no one knows what is happening in the schools? Are the test makers better judges than professional educators?

Where will the Opt Out Movement go from here? It terrifies the Establishment. It is a grassroots movement that can’t be bought out.

Now that parents have found their voice and a means of expressing their displeasure, there is nowhere to go but up. The organizing will continue, especially as the state raises the stakes on the trsts. Next year expect even bigger numbers.

Amazing news!

Long Island Opt Out, led by parent Jeanette Deutermann, endorsed candidates in yesterday’s school board elections across the two counties that comprise the Island. Fifty-seven of the 75 candidates endorsed by LIOO won their races. This includes seven of Deutermann’s liaisons for Opt Out.

Their message was: “We are taking back our schools.”

Long Island is the national hotbed for opt outs. It is a model for the nation. Parents are organized and active; they have the support of many principals and superintendents.

Jeanette Deutermann has spearheaded this effective resistance to high-stakes testing. She belongs on this blog’s honor roll as a champion of public education.


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