You are invited to a discussion between journalist Errol Louis and me at The CUNY J School, 219 W 40th St, New York, NY 10018 on December 3 from 10-11:30 am.

We will discuss the uses and abuses of educational data. We will also talk about such topics as Gov. Cuomo’s recent remarks about breaking up the public school “monopoly”, teacher evaluations, Common Core, and respond to questions.

The event was organized by Professor Andrea Gabor, Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism
Baruch College/CUNY

To reserve a seat, please RSVP to Professor Andrea Gabor at

Colleen Wood of 50thNoMore in Florida sent me this message. Colleen is a member of the board of directors of the Network for Public Education:

Diane – I wanted to share this with you:

This effort was started by Ray Seaman, a constant supporter of public education and a progressive leader in Florida, and is proof of what local communities can accomplish when public school supporters work together across party lines.

Marion County is extremely conservative, but the grassroots leaders have been building support for public education over the last 6 years or so. It has paid off. This referendum will bring 1 mil of funding ($14 – $16 million) to their schools and it was the motion to put it on this November’s ballot passed unanimously by the School Board and the all-Republican County Commission.

They’ve put in countless hours of work to try to combat the attacks coming out of Tallahassee, and they have rallied the community to support their public schools.

Thank you!


PS: the referendum passedproducing another $14 million for the public schools of Marion County.


“Marion County voters gave a rousing yes to a property tax aimed at bringing an additional $14 million annually to the county’s public school system for the restoration of art, music and physical education programs, the hiring of teachers, and reduction of class sizes.”

There was once an ideal in American education, which held that the community public school would be a place where children of every background would meet, learn together, and learn to live amicably. This ideal was supposed to promote a sense of American citizenship, a realization that regardless of our origins, we are all Americans.


That ideal, as we all know, was frequently violated. It was violated by racial segregation, which assigned black and white children to attend different schools. It was violated–and continues to be–by class segregation, in which the children of the affluent live in communities with elegant facilities while the children of the poor attend cinder-block schools lacking the playing fields, the small classes, the arts programs, the foreign language classes, the laboratories, and the beautiful libraries found in the schools of the outer ring of suburbs.


And yet the ideal is not dead. There are schools that are racially and economically diverse and that are much admired in their communities. It is important not to forget the ideal, the belief that the common school would bring us together, teach us about what we share as human beings, and teach us the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. The ideal teaches that we are all in the same boat and that we have mutual obligations to one another.


Now we live in a time of growing racial and class segregation. Charter schools are facilitating that segregation. Where the media would once look askance at a segregated black or white or Hispanic school, they are now more than willing to celebrate the “success” of segregated schools.


Sacramento now has a charter school designed for the children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.


In their early years in Sacramento, members of the region’s fast-growing population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union clashed with public schools. Children had a hard time communicating with teachers, and parents, many of whom were evangelical Christians, expressed alarm over sex education, Halloween and laws forbidding religious instruction.


Today, these families have a public school of their own.


The Community Outreach Academy, an elementary school built inside the former McClellan Air Force Base, is open to all students, but its pupils come overwhelmingly from families that emigrated from the former Soviet Union. The children attend Russian language class twice a week. There’s a Russian library that serves parents as well as children. The principal, a Belarussian refugee, frequently appears on Russian radio.


School administrators say they don’t teach religion, and they follow state laws on sex education. But they’re cognizant of parents’ sensibilities. Halloween, for instance, is not promoted as a school celebration.


The school has high test scores.


Community Outreach is also one of California’s most segregated schools. About 98 percent of its 1,231 students are white. No other school in the state with more than 20 students had a higher percentage of white students in 2013, state data show. In a district with 4,800 black students and 12,000 Latino students, Community Outreach Academy enrolled three black students and six Latinos last year.


Futures High School, a Gateway school that also serves the area’s Slavic population, is 95 percent white, data show.


Charter schools are booming in California; more than 515,000 students attended them last year. And like the Outreach Academy, a growing number are drawing most of their students from a particular ethnic group.


During the 2008-09 school year, roughly 34,000 students attended California charter schools in which at least nine of every 10 students belonged to a single ethnic group, according to the state Department of Education. By 2013-14, that number had nearly doubled to 65,000.


Let us not forget that the public schools were supposed to make us one nation, not to provide a setting in which each ethnic, racial, and cultural group could self-segregate. That was the meaning of the Brown decision. It seems to have been forgotten.

Read more here:

I will be speaking this evening at 6:30 p.m. to Tennessee Mama Bears, Tennessee BATs, and TREES. If you want to come and talk education, check the press release, which will direct you to the Facebook page of the TREEs, which will divulge where I am speaking.


Tomorrow I will speak to the national convention of the Association for Career and Technical Education at 8:30 a.m. at the Gaylord Opryland Resort.


Hope I see you at one of these events.

Lloyd Lofthouse, a regular commentator on this blog, has written a succinct history of public education, bullet points that show the good and the bad, as well as the recent efforts by billionaires to destroy public education.

John Merrow notes that 5,000 students in Colorado opted out from state tests. Is this a harbinger of things to come? Will there be an. “Education Spring” in 2015?

The Wyoming Attorney General issued an opinion that parents are not legally allowed to withdraw their children from state testing.


They can do it in other states, but not in Wyoming.


Wyoming does not believe that parents should control the education of their children. Wyoming believes that the state may compel parents and children to take exams that they believe are harmful to their children.


Parents of Wyoming, don’t let the Attorney General bully you. When you grew up, there was no annual testing. There were no harsh consequences attached to test scores. This is all nonsense. Stop it by your determination. Stand up for your children.

Jeannie Kaplan, who recently retired from the Denver school board, knows how to read the reports and data from the district. Here is one of her best posts. She is a stalwart critic of the data-driven corporate reform culture and has often noted how little progress students have made after a full decade of corporate reform and constant testing. The latest bad news concerned test scores in science and social studies. But the district superintendent Tom Boasberg did not issue a press release acknowledging the low scores and proposing more time for instruction in science and social studies.


Kaplan writes:


So, what happens when test results are so awful that even a crack public information office, focused on test scores and accountability, can’t figure out how to put a positive spin on standardized test numbers? Denver Public Schools and Superintendent Tom Boasberg faced this situation in late October when, after several delays, the Colorado Department of Education released its first Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) Social Studies (grades 4 and 7) and Science (grade 5 and 8) results. This is a somewhat ironic name since the academic success was nowhere to be found. The superintendent writes regularly about the wonders of “reform” in DPS and has historically been able to spin even the worst “gains.” This time, however, he was flummoxed.


CMAS results were released at noon on Monday, October 27, 2014. Boasberg’s email went out later that afternoon. His 11 paragraph epistle waxed on about these new standards, how helpful they will be, how they set higher standards for our students, and how they will help ensure “our students graduate high school ready for college and career in the 21st century.” In paragraph six he briefly shifts gears and half-heartedly bemoans “the overall number of state assessments and the time spent on them” and asks very quietly for the state to find a way to make assessments precise, targeted and SHORT “to lessen the amount of lost instructional time” This from the quintessential Broad trained superintendent. There is hardly a standardized test he hasn’t supported.


What did this data-driven “reformer” not cite in his email? You guessed it. The data! Of the six links in the email, none of them links to actual data and test results. Instead there are PowerPoints and generalities about CMAS and the like. Again, no test results or links to test results. The actual test results for the state and more importantly for Denver Public Schools are nowhere to be found. But do not fear. I am here to shed light on that missing piece and help ensure the truth be told.


The scores were in fact abysmal. Read her post to see just how awful they were. Some charter schools with “science” in their names did poorly, as did most public schools.


Kaplan writes:


The superintendent is right about one thing: he always proclaims the kind of school – turnaround, innovation, charter, traditional – really doesn’t matter when it comes to academic outcomes. Whatever school is academically successful, he is all for it. In this situation he is right: no school has been successful in teaching Social Studies and Science. In this regard the kind of school is irrelevant. What he fails to understand is if you are not allowed to teach the subject, children in any kind of school will not learn the subject. And if you can’t speak, read and write English with fluency, you most likely won’t do well on a test in English.


This is all very puzzling to me. I truly cannot figure out how telling people they are failing is a good strategy. I truly cannot understand the long term purpose of testing all the time. Most of all I truly am saddened by how the education decision makers either never understood the purpose of public education or have lost sight of it. If you have solutions for stopping this madness, please share them.





This is a post by Justin Williams, an educator and resident of Uniondale, Néw York. Uniondale is a highly segregated school district on Long Island in Néw York. 98% of the students in the district are Aftican-American or Latino. Neighboring districts are 95% or more white.


Justin Williams writes:


Rising Violence in Schools Serving Predominantly Black and Latino Students


Over the last ten years, I have worked as a certified English teacher in a high school in Long Island, New York, a suburb of New York City. I am in my seventeenth year working in public education. I have taught various courses in four different school districts on Long Island that range from grades six to twelve. Children and adolescents, whether they are school shooters or gangbangers, do not become violent without cause. None of them were born violent.


I tend to connect the rise in school violence in my suburban school district, 95% of which is African American and Hispanic, to the recent economic downturn and education policy insidiously devoted to teacher, principal and school evaluations tied to standardized testing of students. These students have been exposed to school curriculum, said testing, and “raised” standards (Common Core) conceived by politicians, economists and billionaires, not professional and long-time education practitioners who would know much, much better how to make our public schools the envy of the world (again). They have also been victimized by inflexible “zero tolerance” policies with mandatory minimum suspension periods, as well as increased in-school surveillance and security measures that prepare chocolate and caramel students much more for the realities of prison than they do a safe existence.


I have noticed great family uprooting provoked by the trickle-down effects of the predatory mortgage-lending thievery that targeted chocolate, caramel and other relatively poor folks, all over America. This crime against humanity precipitated global economic catastrophe. American school children were affected too. My students were affected.


Largely (but not only) because of this dreadful event in our history, violence escalated in my community (I live in the town where I work), inside and outside of our schools, largely made up of the same demographic hoodwinked by bankers and lawyers who knew exactly what they were doing yet, remain unpunished. So many of these kids do not or cannot live with their parents (realistically homeless) that new categorical terms like “displaced” or “unaccompanied youth” have been recently coined for them in schools. These kids are angry, don’t feel protected by any adults, yet we’re asking them (forcing them) to do coursework and take tests they cannot and do not wish to do. They need therapy. And skills with which they can function in the workforce.



There have been numerous fights and assaults over the last decade in the secondary settings of my district, steadily escalating in severity. Adult professionals have been grabbed, groped or assaulted. A troubled young man, a recent graduate of our high school, shot himself in the head in a backyard next to mine. I heard the shot clearly. A kid was stabbed in a cafeteria. About two-dozen young men have been killed in our community or neighboring community, school districts with no more than seven thousand kids. I could not find many of these incidents in the local news. I’m talking about a middle class town where the median income is $70,000. This is not a stereotypical ghetto.


Presently and throughout the past two years, a huge influx of Central American kids with harrowing stories to tell of their journeys to New York have and are adding to the socio-emotional quagmire of the schools (students, teachers and administrators are emotionally, morally and ethically drained, strong as we try to be) in my district. Gangs like MS-13 are replenishing their ranks with Hispanic boys adrift in an American ocean of ambivalence aimed squarely in their direction. Others wish to learn enough English so they can work. Too many received little education in their native countries. Few of them are that interested in coming to our schools for anything else, save food. The Common Core has zero relevance to them. Z.E.R.O.


If my students find irrelevant the Common Core, as well as for-profit corporations like Pearson who greatly benefit from its ill effects, then Pearson and the Common Core are irrelevant to me.


I don’t need “the state” telling me how and what to teach. By paying close attention to the dreams, goals and/or likes and dislikes of my students (they always tell you or show you when they know you care), I know precisely what I need to teach, how I need to teach it, and when I ought to do so. When you can get ten or fifteen re-writes on a research assignment from kids prone to extremely disturbing, violent episodes, not only do you have fodder for great work, but you also have young people who are not thinking about being angry (for the time being).


Every teacher cannot and will not become a master teacher. Every doctor cannot and will not become a brain surgeon. Every lawyer cannot and will not become a famous defense attorney. Every mechanic or welder cannot and will not gain his or her own business. Every politician cannot and will not become Commander in Chief.


There is no profession, organization or country that thrives because of its talented tenth. Though often driven by the talented few, average, hard-working people are the engine that makes progress happen. Most teachers are average, hard-working, women committed to educating the children of others. You do not need to be a Marie Curie to teach, any more than you need to be Babe Ruth to be a professional baseball player.


The big failure of the current school reform debate is that creating great teachers is talked about much more than the creation of great homes. But even the very best teachers are unable to perform consistent miracles with our most angry, violent students; no more than a doctor can treat an emotionally volatile patient or a lawyer adequately interview a hostile witness. In these scenarios, the doctor and lawyer are not typically viewed as the areas to be addressed.


Angry, violent, aggressive students, on average, do not come from stable, healthy homes. Schools full of violent kids and fearful adults are rare in societies that are generally non-violent. But blaming professional educators is easy. Re-energizing and empowering the American family unit is harder.


But not impossible.


Justin holds a B.S. in English education and a M.Ed. in education administration from The Pennsylvania State University, a certificate of advanced studies (C.A.S.) in educational leadership from Hofstra University and he is working on a doctorate degree (Ed.D.) in educational and policy leadership at Hofstra University.

Yesterday, despite the strong objections of tens of thousands of parents across the state, the New York Board of Regents agreed to make field testing of the Common Core testing mandatory. This was supposedly to quell the uprising of parents who kept their children home last year. Making an unpopular policy mandatory seems likely to feed the parent rebellion.


New York has adopted the PARCC test, which some other states have rejected. PARCC is supposed to have at least 15 states signed on, but at present its numbers have shrunk to only 12 or 13 willing states.


Peter Goodman, a long-time commentator on New York education politics, here describes PARCC as “zombie testing.” It is dead, and no one is willing to give up the ghost.


He writes:


The only purpose of the current testing regime is to “measure” the effectiveness of the $55 billion New York State spends each year as well as to “measure” the effectiveness of individual teachers.

The governor loves to talk about turning New York State into a high tech center, creating high paying jobs in the new cyber industries and harasses educators and demeans parents, he is the troglodyte.

The governor should be leading our school system into the new age, not wasting time and money and resources testing kids in a meaningless exercise.


The Regents and Commissioner John King think they are in public office to compel the public to do what they want. They don’t understand that they are “public servants,” which means obviously they are supposed to serve the public. When thousands of parents rise up as one to say that their children are over tested and their schools have been turned into test-prep centers, the Regents should listen. They haven’t. They have added fuel to parent anger. It is not going away just because the Regents have passed a motion. The children belong to their parents, not to the state.


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