Thanks to the dedication of parents, students, and educators, the legislators in Néw Jersey are listening. Citizen action works! Protest works! Organize, mobilize, demand what is right for children and good education.

Reader LG reports:

“On Monday, the NJ Assembly voted YES in a landslide to delay the use of PARCC testing for three years. The uses cited would impact student placement, student graduation and teacher evaluation. Next the bill goes on to the senate for discussion and vote.

“This does not necessarily eliminate the PARCC in NJ, at least this year, but I predict a disaster after the PARCC results come in and then a parental pushback so large that the legislators will cave and dump the test.

“At our NJEA Legislative a Conference last Saturday, we heard from a senator who feels there needs to be a moratorium but who also feels that three years might be too much. The assembly sure didn’t feel that way. Regarding the opt out bill, we shall see.”

Peter Greene reports that the dream of one big national assessment is finished. States are dropping out of PARCC and SBA. Some are dropping out while quietly buying a new test that looks like PARCC. None is dropping in. Fifty states will not take the same test. Period.

The sponsors of HR 5 have withdrawn the bill from consideration, according to late reports.

Many groups, including the Network for Public Edication, opposed HR5 and sent thousands of letters to members of the House. They listened.

Members and allies of NPE sent nearly 10,000 letters. Read here about reasons we opposed HR 5.

David Sirota puts the pieces together in this investigative report about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s outside income.

“New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo likes to portray himself as a crusader against corruption in Albany, the state’s capital, taking a hardline position against allowing state lawmakers to collect outside income that may be connected to pending legislation. He has championed a bill that would require lawmakers to disclose more of their outside income lest they write bills that benefit special interests in pursuit of private cash….

“But the Democratic governor’s strong words don’t quite square with his own personal appetite for cash earned outside the confines of his state work. Cuomo has so far raked in more than $188,000 from HarperCollins, a News Corporation subsidiary. That is part of a book deal that could ultimately net him more than $700,000. With Albany’s transactional politics now the subject of a federal probe, the context of that April 2013 book deal is particularly significant: An International Business Times review of New York state documents reveals that News Corporation gave Cuomo a book contract after Cuomo’s administration backed a series of state initiatives that benefited the media giant.”

Not a bad return for a book that has sold only 3,000 copies, says Sirota.

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Bennett Kayser for re-election to the Los Angeles school board. Kayser is a retired educator. He is a strong supporter of public education. He has fought for reduced class sizes. He opposes efforts to deny due process to teachers. He opposes privatization of public education.

He is enemy number one to the California Charter Schools Association Advocates, the political action arm of the wealthy charter industry.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the charter lobby has far outspent Kayser in its effort to defeat him with a pro-charter candidate.

The charter association has distributed malicious flyers falsely implying that Kayser is a racist and anti-Latino. The flyers feature a picture of Governor Jerry Brown, falsely implying that the popular governor endorsed their candidate (he did not). Their TV ads have ridiculed Kayser’s disability (he has Parkinson’s). The anti-Kayser campaign has been scurrilous and shameful.

The LA Times says:

“Through Wednesday’s campaign filings, the charter group had spent $699,688 to support [its candidate] Rodriguez. UTLA had spent $384,109 for Kayser. Those totals far surpass donations directly to the candidates as well as the spending totals for the other contested board races.

“Since September, the donors to the charter PAC include Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings ($1.5 million), former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ($450,000), Jim Walton of the Wal-Mart founding family ($250,000) and local philanthropist Eli Broad ($155,000). All are longtime charter school backers with a broad interest in education.”

These billionaires have a specific interest in education: they want to replace public schools with charter schools, and in the case of Walton, with vouchers. They also believe in disruption as a strategy for change. Disruption is not good for children or education.

Billionaire Reed Hastings told the charter association that he looks forward to the day when local school boards are gone and almost all schools are charters.

Bennett Kayser wants to improve the public schools, not replace or destroy them. Every high-performing nation in the world has a public school system, not a system of privately managed schools.

That is why the Network for Public Education endorses Bennett Kayser for re-election to the Los Angeles school board.

This statement appeared on the blog of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition. I gladly add Tom Dunn to the honor roll for speaking out when the state is going in the wrong direction.

Another superintendent distressed by Ohio’s testing rage

Tom Dunn’s column in the February 22 The Troy Daily News should be requires reading for state officials.

How much of a bad thing is a good thing?

by Tom Dunn
Contributing Columnist

I have long contended that there hasn’t been an intelligent discussion held about public education in the Ohio legislature in years, and I have written more than fifty articles highlighting the many indefensible mandates lawmakers have enacted proving that to be true.

The recent hearings held by the Senate Education Committee on whether or not schools are testing their students too much (we are) and what to do about it is a perfect illustration of just how worthless political dialogue is. If their discussions weren’t so tragic they would be comical.

Before I go any further, let me say that there is no debating that properly used student assessments, otherwise known as tests, are a staple in an excellent classroom. Assessments, particularly those implemented in a way that provides immediate feedback, can help drive instruction, because the results can clearly show the teacher what his or her students know and don’t know. That teacher can then use this information to develop follow-up lessons to address those weaknesses … and kids actually learn what they didn’t know before.

There is also no debating that there are too many state-mandated tests, that the results from these tests are constantly used inappropriately, that the results, even if meaningful, are so long in coming back to schools that they lose their worth, and that this inappropriate use is dictated by lawmakers who apparently don’t know the first thing about how students are educated or how to use test data appropriately. Worse, they apparently don’t want to learn given the fact that there is plenty of scientific research that refutes their claim that student test results should be used to evaluate teachers, schools, and districts.

But something interesting has happened over the last few weeks that has given some lawmakers reason to reconsider their position on the testing epidemic, and I suspect it was the growing outcry they were hearing from parents who have finally had enough of their children being treated like human guinea pigs to satisfy political agendas. As a result of this push-back against excessive testing, State Superintendent Richard Ross was charged with researching if, indeed, we are testing students too much. Dr. Ross, after hours and hours of research, discovered what he should have known without doing any research at all; that being that, by golly, we are testing students too much. Nowhere in his report does he even so much as acknowledge the misuse of test data, which should be the crux of the discussion. But, true to their superficial view on education, politicians were focused on testing time, not testing effectiveness. So, instead of trying to engage them in meaningful dialogue, that is exactly what Dr. Ross gave them. God forbid he would try to engage them in meaningful dialogue about teaching and learning.

His stunning discovery resulted in legislative hearings where the folks who have created this mess listened with furrowed brows as superintendents from around the state trekked to Columbus to provide input on just how this dastardly problem could be properly addressed. And, this is where it gets really good.

Instead of focusing on something meaningful like the hours and hours of instructional time lost to testing, the unnecessary stress these tests place upon students, the fact that performance on a single test does not necessarily equate to future success or lack thereof, the narrow view of education these tests provide, and the rampant misuse of the data gathered from them, lawmakers focused on how we can reduce the time we spend assessing students and how much is too much.

In other words, they apparently feel that spending less time doing a bad thing rather than eliminating the bad thing altogether is real progress. As a result of this superficial view of life, they ignore the real issues that need addressed.

Isn’t it amazing that in the eyes of our policy makers that doing something that is wrong less often than we did it before is the blueprint for excellence? Do we need any more proof that they must be removed from all discussions on education if we ever hope to have meaningful conversations about what is best for our children?

Tom Dunn is the superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Paul McKimmy, a professor at the University of Hawaii, tells the story of his two children, one of whom was a very successful student, the other–Noah– fared poorly.

What to do? According to reformers, Noah’s teacher was a failure; she should get a low evaluation, en route to being fired. The education college she attended should be downgraded for Noah’s failure.

McKimmy shows how absurd this approach is. In fact, both children had excellent teachers. One, his daughter, had been raised with every advantage. Noah, a foster child, had been raised in squalor.

“Noah’s lack of progress in school is easy to pin on the “failure” of his teacher, his school and the education system — until you look at him as a person and not a test score. Every dollar we spend to increase his academic success by testing him, evaluating his school, and making a show of holding the public education system accountable is a joke. Noah doesn’t need a standardized test. He doesn’t need a more highly effective teacher, and he doesn’t need us to spend another billion dollars tracking his test scores with the goal of holding the teaching profession accountable for his success.

“Noah needed preschool. Now he needs a bed with a roof over it. His parents need employment skills. His school may be the only public institution that has done right by him, and as far as I’m concerned his teachers are heroes. He needs you and me to prioritize our social service systems while investing in education. It is an absolute embarrassment, that instead, we continue defunding, attacking and blaming our public schools for his lack of success.

“You may believe that Noah represents just one case, but he’s not alone. Just drive by our Kakaako medical college and witness the tent city nearby — there are many, many kids living on the edge right next to our luxury condos.

“Nearly every study that examines the factors contributing to student success acknowledges that poverty has the greatest impact, and that teacher effectiveness is elsewhere down the list. So why do we continually gloss over this obvious point and rush to find new ways to try holding teachers and schools accountable for results? Because it’s easier than fixing the real problem, and because it suits political agendas to paint our education system as “broken” so that some group or company can sell us their program (quick-fix circumvention of quality teacher preparation), product (textbooks and software) or service (test preparation).”

A comment from Néw Jersey:

“Just remember, in New Jersey the buzzword is “refuse” in stead of opt-out. It’s just a small semantic difference, but the schools are telling parents “there is no opt-out option.” HOWEVER (and the schools will not say) that a parent can REFUSE to have his or her child tested via the PARCC.”

Investigative reporter Rick Perlstein writes that Rahm Emanuel failed to reach the 50% plus one threshold against a crowded field because of the widespread perception of corruption.

Some saw him as “Mayor 1%,” taking care of the powerful. But there was more:

“Perhaps what turned some voters against Rahm at the last minute—or motivated them to go to the polls in the first place on a cold Chicago day that started out in the single digits—was an Election Day exposé that appeared in the British paper the Guardian by investigate reporter Spencer Ackerman. “The Disappeared” revealed the existence of Homan Square, a forlorn “black site” that the Chicago Police operate on the West Side.

There, Chicagoans learned—many for the first time—arrestees are locked up for days at a time without access to lawyers. One victim was 15 years old; he was released without being charged with anything. Another, a 44-year-old named John Hubbard, never left—he died in custody. One of the “NATO 3” defendants, later acquitted on most charges of alleged terror plans during a 2012 Chicago protest, was shackled to a bench there for 17 hours.

It “struck legal experts as a throwback to the worst excesses of Chicago police abuse, with a post-9/11 feel to it,” the Guardian reported. And for a candidate, Rahm Emanuel, who ran on a message he was turning the page on the old, malodorous “Chicago way,” the piece contributed to a narrative that proved devastating.

“Indeed, the mayor faced a drumbeat of outstanding journalistic exposés all throughout the campaign. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Deborah Quazzo, an Emanuel school board appointee who runs an investment fund for companies that privatize school functions. They discovered that five companies in which she had an ownership stake have more than tripled their business with the Chicago Public Schools since she joined the board, many of them for contracts drawn up in the suspicious amount of $24,999—one dollar below the amount that required central office approval. (Chicago is the only municipality in Illinois whose school board is appointed by a mayor. But activists succeeded—in an arduous accomplishment against the obstruction attempts of Emanuel backers on the city council—to get an advisory referendum on the ballot in a majority of the city’s wards calling for an elected representative school board. Approximately 90 percent of the voters who could vote for the measure did.) “

Mike Klonsky wrote about the resistance to charters in the suburbs of Chicago. But not every suburb repelled charters, according to this reader:

“There is a charter in the south suburbs; specifically Rich Township H.S. District 227. It was ok’d by the state as part of Race to the Top. The effects have been devastating to our district. More than $8 million (actual figure–I’m one of our union negotiators) dollars of our already diminished general state aid goes straight to the charter because it is a public institution serving students from our district. We have had our school day shortened from 7 periods to 6, This, of course resulted in fewer choices for our students, particularly in the areas of electives, and massive lay-offs in both our certified and classified staff groups.

“As for their results: they graduated their first class last May. Of the original 125 in the class, only 71 remained by graduation. They of course claimed huge success because all 71 were accepted into some kind of post secondary education. Not many people thought to ask about the other 54 students who came back to us.”

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