In a major story today in the New York Times, Governor Cuomo of New York is said to be backing down from his rigid stance on evaluating teachers by test scores. This represents a huge victory for the parents of the 220,000 students who opted out of state testing last spring.


Kate Taylor, the reporter, says that Cuomo may not only reduce the role of testing in teacher evaluation, but eliminate it altogether, which has been the main demand of parents. Parents have been outraged to see their teachers rated by their children’s test scores, which has made the testing more important than any other aspect of schooling. They are outraged to see their school’s resources diverted to test prep and time stolen from the arts, physical education, and everything but the tested subjects of reading and math.




But beware, parents. This may be a hoax, a temporary moratorium intended to deflate the Opt Out Movement and cause it to disappear. Do not rest until the law is changed to delink testing and teacher-principal evaluations. The new federal law–not yet enacted–eliminates the federal mandate that Duncan imposed without authorization by Congress. New York may now permanently eliminate this punitive, anti-educational requirement.


New York parents: As Ronald Reagan said,  “Trust, but verify.” I suggest turning that saying around: “Verify, then trust.” Meanwhile, to quote an even older saying, keep your troops together and “keep your powder dry.”


The leaders of Long Island Opt Out and the New York State Allies for Public Education have proven to be effective, organized, strategic, and articulate. They have attended every meeting of the Regents, of legislative hearings, of Cuomo’s Common Core task force, and show up wherever they can inform other parents and policymakers. Their dedication and relentlessness made a difference.


I travel the country, and parents everywhere are in awe of the organized parents who opted out in New York. One of every five children did not take the tests, and that number could only go up.


Let’s remain watchful and wait to see what happens. In the meanwhile, this is reason for joy on the day before Thanksgiving.


Democracy works. It can even overcome billionaires when the public is informed, alert, and organized.

I am not sure why one of the largest charter chains in the U.S. is run by foreign nationals. But the Gulen chain has over 100 schools, which operate in many states under different names. One way to tell a Gulen school is that every member of the board is a Turkish man.


How did they proliferate? The old-fashioned way: By making friends in key places.


USA Today reports that Turkish men with modest incomes working for the Gulen chain made donations to members of Congress and Presidential candidates. If USA Today digs deeper, it will find contributions to state legislators as well as free trips to Turkey, all expenses paid.


USA TODAY has identified dozens of large campaign donations attributed to people with modest incomes, or from people who had little knowledge of to whom they had given, or from people who could not be located at all. All the donors appear to have ties to a Turkish religious movement named for its founder, Fethullah Gülen. USA TODAY reported last month that the movement has secretly funded more than 200 foreign trips for members of Congress and their staff.


In response to USA TODAY’s queries about suspicious donations she received on April 30, 2014, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. refunded $43,100 to the donors. “Out of an abundance of caution, the campaign has refunded the contributions in question,” said Ayotte campaign manager Jon Kohan. Ayotte also called on others who have received money from the same donors — including President Obama and Hillary Clinton — to return that money as well.


Some of the 19 Turkish Americans donating to Ayotte that day, who all lived outside New Hampshire, seemed to know little about the first-term senator, who is a woman. “He’s a good guy. He’s doing good so far. … I know him,” said Iman Cesari, a 30-year-old Nassau County employee on New York’s Long Island, who gave Ayotte $1,200.


“I just liked what he said at that time and wanted to make a donation,” said Hayati Camlica, who owns a Long Island auto repair shop and donated $2,400 to Ayotte on the same day.


Five of the Turkish Americans who donated to Ayotte that day could not be located at all, and in some cases, neither could the employer listed in Federal Election Commission records. Others did not return calls and emails seeking comment.


USA Today also reported that more than 200 members of Congress have accepted free trips to Turkey from the Gulenists.


Another article reports that Hillary Clinton has received large donations from Gulenists, as well as major contributions to the Clinton Foundation.


Maybe all this cash is meant to protect the Gulen charters, which have been a major revenue source for the Gulenists. The FBI has raided Gulen charter offices in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and in Louisiana.


Is it even legal for elected officials to accept contributions from foreign nationals?

John White is State Superintendent of Schools in Louisiana. He had a meteoric career after his stint in Teach for America. He worked for Joel Klein in New York City, quickly rising to become Deputy Chancellor in charge of closing public schools to make room for charters. As Klein’s tenure ended, White landed the job as superintendent of the New Orleans Recovery School District. After a few months, he was selected as state superintendent. There, he was a champion of Bobby Jindal’s program of privatization: vouchers, charters, tuition grants to private entrepreneurs, virtual charters, Common Core. He is the corporate reformer par excellence, ready and willing to privatize and extinguish public schools.


Things went well until Jindal realized that the Common Core had turned toxic and threatened his presidential ambitions. Jindal abandoned it, White stuck with it. They had a celebrated feud. But the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education backed White, and he survived.


Mercedes Schneider predicts he won’t survive the new Governor-elect, John Bel Edwards, who said during his campaign that White must go. Edwards is a supporter of public education; his wife is a teacher.


How can Edwards get rid of White when he has the support of the BESE? As Mercedes explains, the governor controls the budget. He also has the power to push through an ethics bill that would knock two members off BESE, including the state director of TFA, whose organization receives contracts from BESE.


Edwards spoke to a meeting of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and told them that he would not close charters or end vouchers. But he says he will insist on greater accountability. That is not a great message, but at least the war on teachers will end.

Mercedes Schneider posted a transcription of his remarks and video to clarify what he said. On charters, he said that the decision to open charters should be made by local school boards, not the state board. As he spoke, the BESE is preparing to impose more charters without any local control. Edwards wisely noted that when a state bypasses the community, the voters are less likely to support bond issues for their schools, which are no longer theirs. Edwards also noted that some of the worst schools in the state are voucher schools. In a somewhat contradictory point, he says voucher schools should only serve only kids trapped in failing schools, but why send a child from a low-performing public school to a failing voucher school?

Note to Governor-elect Edwards: Please hire Mercedes Schneider, experienced teacher, dogged researcher, and skilled writer, as your education advisor.

Peter Greene writes about the reformers’ panicked reaction to Hillary’s factually correct statement about privately managed charter schools.


She dared to say:


“I don’t want to say every one – but most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them.”


This is is a matter of fact, not opinion. The U.S. General Accounting Office issued a report chiding charter schools for their low numbers of English language learners. The report said that charters enroll only 8% of ELLs, compared to 11% nationally. However, in urban districts, ELLs are typically well above 11%. And as Peter points out, citing EduShyster, some of Boston’s high-performing charters have no ELLs, nada, zip, zero.


In city after city, charters have been sued for excluding students with disabilities. The GAO found the same gap that existed for ELLs. And again the actual gap was understated because charters were compared to the national average, not their own district. In addition, charters prefer the mildest disabilities and leave the most severely disabled students to the public schools. In Minneapolis, a public school was handed over to a Gulen charter, which promptly excluded 40 students with autism.



The Washington Post editorial board, one of the nation’s most persistent supporters of charters, cited “evidence” from the Center for Education Reform, whose organizational raison d’etre is promoting charters and vouchers.


Reformers may be willing to abandon some of their failed policies, but not charters. They are the Holy Grail, the sacred cow, the replacement for public education. They are the linchpin of privatization.




Jamaal Bowman wrote a powerful and important letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo. Bowman is a Néw York City middle school principal.

Please read and share. Help it go viral. It is an incisive critique of corporate reform. When did it become “liberal” to attack unions, career teachers, and public education? This used to be the agenda of the far rightwing of the Republican Party.

He writes:

“I hope this letter finds you and your family in good health and good spirits. I write not only to you, but also to those who share your view of public education….

“I also want to personally thank you for allowing me to provide testimony to the common core commission at the College of New Rochelle…..The work of the commission, along with your hiring of Jere Hochman as Deputy Secretary of Education, has me very excited about the direction in which we are moving.

“My excitement turned to devastation however as I watched your November 17th interview with David Gergen at the Harvard Kennedy School of Public Leadership [link to video is in Bowman’s post]. As an education practitioner for sixteen years, it was both frustrating and disheartening to watch the two of you pontificate about public education in what I consider to be a dangerous and irresponsible manner.

“Your discussion was wide ranging; covering topics from police reform to the new construction at LaGuardia Airport. As the conversation shifted to education, you told the audience that you are in constant conflict with the teacher union. You shared that your “unabashed” support for charter schools, to which you refer to as “laboratories of invention,” as well as your teacher evaluation mandate, are two of the causes of this conflict. You also went on to share your excitement around the possibilities of technology as a means to help circumvent the “machine” of the teacher union bureaucracy.

“Mr. Gergen, to whom you refer to as one of the experts and craftsman of his generation, recklessly framed the conversation in a way that greatly mis-categorizes the public education narrative. Mr. Gergen stated that teacher unions don’t want “young smart” people from Teach for America entering the profession. He then went on to praise charter schools as places that provide “24/7 support to children and families,” and “really work with the children themselves.” While Mr. Gergen made these comments, you nodded your head enthusiastically in agreement.

“There are two things that are incredibly careless about this conversation. First, it lacks a valid and reliable research base. Second, the two of you have a platform to really shape public discourse. As such, you must take extra special care to avoid facilitating misinformation regarding public education or any other topic. If you don’t, the perpetuation of child suffering will continue in schools throughout the state — as it does in schools all over the country.

“What does the data tell us about these widely discussed topics? First, public schools as a whole “outperform” charter schools. I place the word outperform in quotes because of our narrow view of what it means to perform in public schools today. The few charter schools that are celebrated for closing the alleged “achievement gap” have faced extreme criticism and scrutiny for their draconian test prep and recruitment practices, and boast incredibly high student and staff attrition rates. Some may argue these practices are the price to pay for achievement, but consider these questions:

“Are we ready to accept the instability and emotional trauma that comes with schools designed around draconian test prep practices?

“Does high performance on standardized assessments truly equate to what we all mean by achievement?
Research shows otherwise: In 2003, the “gold standard” of charter schools, KIPP, had a graduating class that ranked fifth in New York City on the math standardized tests. Six years after entering college, only 21% of that cohort had earned a college degree.

“In the landmark book, ‘Crossing The Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities,’ former college presidents William G. Bowen and Michael S. McPherson found that student high school G.P.A. was more predictive of college success than S.A.T. scores.

“As you can see Mr. Governor, high performance on standardized tests alone do not equate to a quality education. What research identifies as a determinate of quality schools, lies in a well rounded curriculum inclusive of both academic and adaptive skills, where students get to solve problems creatively, work with their peers, and experience both teacher and student centered pedagogy.

“As to your comments regarding charter schools serving as “labs of invention,” allow me to remind you that some of the most innovative schools in the country are public schools right here in your state. From the NYC iSchool, to Westside Collaborative, to Brooklyn New School, to Quest to Learn, there is amazing work happening in unionized public schools that we all can learn from. Charter schools that promote silent breakfast, silent lunch, silent hallway transitions, and have teachers walking around with clipboards to give demerits to students who misbehave, do not sound like labs of invention to me — they sound like labs of oppression.

“Your statement related to wanting teacher evaluations because “right now we have none” is categorically false. Teachers have been evaluated throughout my entire career. With regard to the new evaluation system, the issue isn’t that teachers are averse to evaluations, they just want evaluations that are fair and just. An evaluation that is 50% aligned to invalid and unreliable tests, created by a 3rd party for-profit company, aligned to new standards and curriculum with minimal teacher input, is both unfair and unjust. What makes matters worse is by continuing to turn a deaf ear to the research on child and brain development, we continue to have an achievement gap that will never be closed by an evaluation system tied to test scores.

“Furthermore, why are charter schools exempt from your teacher evaluation plan? That also doesn’t seem fair or just.

“Regarding Mr. Gergen’s comments, teacher unions aren’t afraid of “young smart” teachers entering the profession. On the contrary, that is what they want! Teacher unions oppose Teach for America (TFA) because the majority of TFA recruits leave the classroom within three years, with most leaving the profession entirely. This obviously creates a continued vacuum in our most vulnerable communities and has indirectly undermined the recruitment and stability of teachers via traditional pathways. Further, Teach for America has been around for 25 years and our so called “achievement gap” has grown. Their impact has been a net zero at best for the profession.

“Mr. Gergen also seems to think only charter schools support students and families 24/7. To this I say check my phone records, and the phone records of educators throughout the country. We all love our students as our own children and we are constantly in touch with families into the evenings and on weekends to support them with whatever they need. Mr. Gergen disrespects and undermines the profession with these nonsensical statements.

“Lastly, regarding your excitement for technology, technology is simply a tool to help us get things done more efficiently and effectively. It will not in and of itself “revolutionize public education” as you say. The education revolution begins with a paradigm shift driven by the needs and brilliance of the children we serve.

“If we really want to transform public education, Mr. Governor, we have to stop investing in purchasing, administering, and scoring annual assessments from grades 3-8. We know 3rd grade reading scores predict future outcomes, so let’s invest heavily in early childhood education, teacher training, and school support. Lets focus on birth to age eight programs, implement a strong literacy and Montessori curriculum, and institute portfolio based assessments and apprenticeships in grades 6-12. If we do this, you will have a model education system for the world to aspire to.

“Mr. Governor, you, like many of your elected colleagues, are lawyers, not educators. I am an educator. I have been throughout my professional life. I do not know the law, and would never try to speak with any conviction about what should happen in a courtroom. What’s most dangerous about the public education discourse is the fact that finance, tech, government, and the “elite” are all driving the conversation without educators included. They have the audacity, to make life-altering decisions for other people’s children, while sending their children to independent schools.

“The masses of people, which are our most vulnerable, continue to be handled without empathy or care. Empathy requires that we walk in the shoes of others; something that charter reformers, common core advocates, and Teach for America has never done.

“In closing, I want to turn your attention back to your announcement of the Common Core commission. Do you realize that in that speech you mentioned the word “standards” ten times, and the word “tests” fifteen times, while only mentioning the word “learning” one time? Standards and tests are meaningless if they aren’t grounded in learning. Learning is innate, natural, and driven by the needs of children. This is why we must change the conversation from standards and testing to teaching and learning. This fundamental flaw in ideology continues to lead our education system down a destructive path.

“Further, although you and Mr. Gergen discussed innovation as essential to moving the education agenda forward, during your Common Core commission announcement the words creativity, collaboration, and communication, which many experts believe are pillars of innovation, received a total of zero mentions. Innovation is not just about using a computer, tablet, or smartphone; innovation is a way of thinking, doing, and being.

“Thank you Mr. Governor for all that you do for our state. In the future please be mindful to handle the topic of public education with extreme care. Be weary of your pro charter school advisors. The charter school money train and gentrification plans are well documented. Our work isn’t about teacher unions, charters, or technology; our work is about children — and the future of our democracy.”

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final say in reality.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

In this post, a high school history teacher says that his students are utterly confused by the new requirements for high school graduation.

So is the teacher.

“Fortunately for our students, the ODE has made the path to graduation simpler by making it more complex. Students may graduate through an acceptable score on a certification in a vocational field. OR They may graduate through receiving a remediation free score on a college entrance test (scores not yet verified). OR They may graduate by earning 18 combined points on the aforementioned state assessments with a minimum of 4 points from 2 assessments in mathematics, a minimum of 4 points from 2 assessments in English Language Arts, and a minimum of 6 points from assessments in Biology, American History, and American Government equaling a total of 14 points with the 4 additional points picked up when students score 3 or higher, which is to say “Proficient or Above.”

“Does that make sense? My sophomores couldn’t explain it to me either, and they’re expected to graduate under that system. Fear not, I provided a thorough and engaging explanation replete with visual aids and low brow humor that seemed to do the trick. I could not, however, provide them with a satisfactory explanation as to why they “have to deal with this sh*t.” (Their words, not mine)….

“Look, maybe my scenario here is confusing. On a very basic level, this new testing system is terribly problematic. The issues lie in the fact that it is new, and being created as we go, but also in the nature of the convoluted paths to graduation themselves. The sheer number of variables at play here are impossible to fathom, from student strengths to test performance, low scores in these areas, but not those, 2 points here, other scores there, nothing formalized until very late. Now, take this level of absurdity and factor in real problems like hunger, poverty, instability in the home, disability, health problems, you name it, and you have a recipe for disaster.

“What seemed like a more humane system to someone is turning out to be nothing short of a nightmare. And now the tests are changing again in ELA and Math. Who knows what new issues may arise?

“How many students will be adversely affected? I don’t know. The ODE deals in percentages, I deal in human beings, the 140 plus sophomores I’m teaching. Like the one who told me, “I left half that math test blank. We hadn’t even learned that stuff yet.” Or the other kid who said, “There were some questions…I didn’t even know what they were asking.” These are good people, hard working kids that we’re simply grinding through this machine for some political rhetoric regarding career and college readiness….

“I have no interest in a punitive high stakes testing system. I am only interested in “Proficient and Above” percentages inasmuch as they impact the kids I teach. I am ashamed to be a part of the implementation of such a system, and I work every day to attempt to remediate its terrible impact. Like many of you, I am angry.”

This comment was posted today. I don’t usually disclose the names of writers unless they disclose it themselves. I googled the author and she is real.


Having worked for Eva from 2006 to 2012* I got to know Paul Fucalaro and saw him in action. I saw him belittle and undercut teachers, and browbeat students with merciless drill. Since Harlem Success was not open in 2002, his methods preceded Eva’s adoption of them. If the Queens School you mention was PS 65, its principal was also brought on board for HSA”s start. Mr. Fucalaro is a large man, not subtle or gentle in his methods, probably significantly scary to young children. Avuncular maybe, but a little sinister too. Early on, ( 2008, 9?) he and I were asked to evaluate a young teacher who was up for re hire. She was one of those young people who genuinely love children and interacted with them intuitively and effectively. She was also knowledgeable in science, the subject she was being hired to teach. We both walked out of our observation agreeing how impressed we were. The next thing I knew, she had been fired. The word in those days when people were let go was that they ” didn’t get the school culture.” We now know that means they wanted to treat children as human beings rather than “test taking machines,” or robots who cannot question, talk, play, laugh, or, God forbid, enjoy learning.
If tests were NOT used as a measure of success, or Success, it is doubtful Eva would have gotten this far. Not until schools, charter or otherwise, are judged by their success as places of learning, creativity and joy, and the scourge of test prep and drill is gone, will real teachers, not taskmasters like Mr. Fucalaro, feel welcome in them.

Annette Marcus


* I worked on setting up an inquiry based science curriculum for Success Academies. It was fairly free of test prep until 4th grade. When Eva extended HSA into MIddle school and wanted students to take high school regents exams in 6th and 8th grade, I quit.

This morning, has a roundup of reactions to the new legislation–the Every Student Succeeds Act–that will replace the disastrous No Child Left Behind, under which almost every public school in the nation was a “failing” school. Please note that former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is very unhappy that NCLB has been rewritten to remove the punishments. So now we have ESSA, and now we wait for that happy day to arrive when “every student succeeds” because of federal legislation.



GETTING TO KNOW ESSA: The education world is eagerly awaiting a bill expected early next week that could replace No Child Left Behind – and waivers, too – by the end of the year. So what’s going to be in the Every Student Succeeds Act? A lot has been written (some of it by us) but Morning Education will be laying out even more on the forthcoming bill, based on information currently available, in the days to come. Spot something interesting and wonky in an outline or draft bill? Send it our way.


– The new SIG: The framework for updating NCLB includes a 7 percent set-aside in Title I for school support and improvement. Schools will receive the funds for plans that are “evidence-based,” and the framework has language laying out the bar those plans will have to meet in order to qualify as “evidence-based.” Districts and schools will also have to consult with teachers, parents, principals and others when they’re putting together plans for school improvement.


– The new tests: The framework allows for computer-adaptive tests that were hard to use under NCLB, which required all students to take the same tests. That made it difficult to measure progress made by students who were either above or below their grade level. Fordham Institute President Michael Petrilli said he’s “especially glad” to see this provision because it “should open the door to true adaptive tests, which will lead to lots more accuracy for kids way above or below grade level (and thus more accuracy in their growth scores – important for schools and teachers).”


– Joel Packer has the roundup of which programs are funded, and by how much, based on details currently available:


– Mailbag: Maggie Severns’ story about how many on the left fear that the bill could hurt poor and minority kids [ ] elicited this response from an education advocate who’s been involved with the reauthorization process: “There seems to be collective amnesia about waivers among the chattering class,” the advocate said. “Under waivers, individual groups of students don’t have to matter at all in school ratings. And when it comes to improvement action, states and districts are invited to ignore all but a small fraction of schools with under-performing groups.” Ultimately, the new agreement “gets us back closer to the intent of Title I: Expectations and support for vulnerable students.”


– Bush-era Education Secretary Margaret Spellings slammed the rewrite while in Austin earlier this week, Houston Chronicle reports: But Sen. Patty Murray sang its praises at a Seattle elementary school last week. The Columbian:


And then there is a wail of anguish from the once-liberal, now conservative Brookings Institution about the AERA blast at VAM. For VAM-lovers, who want to use test scores as both the measure and goal of education, the AERA statement (as well as a statement by the American Statistical Association) is a punch in the gut:


TEACHER EVALUATION NIRVANA: Brookings is critiquing a recent policy statement from the American Educational Research Association that was skeptical of using value-added scores when making decisions about teachers. AERA said the conditions needed to make VAM scores accurate can’t be met in many cases: [ ]. But Michael Hansen, deputy director of the Brown Center on Education Policy, said VAM should be measured in the context of other performance measures, “not relative to a nirvana that does not exist.” Alternatives to VAM like teacher observation have their own problems, he wrote. He agreed with AERA that more research would be valuable, but argued, “If we are looking for a performance measure that has zero errors, we ought to abandon performance evaluation altogether.” More:


Brookings turned rightwing when it hired Grover Whitehurst, the George W. Bush education research director, as leader of its education program. Instead of being a neutral referee of education policy, Brookings became an advocate for choice and high-stakes testing.



A reader sent this link to a speech about Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools, delivered at the Manhattan Institute, which is New York’s premier conservative think tank. The speaker is named Charles Upton Sahm. I googled him and could not find any information about him, other than a piece in the Daily Beast defending the Common Core.


Sahm here defends the Success Academy schools against their critics. He describes them as idyllic. The children are happy and highly motivated. The teachers are well-trained, enthusiastic, and cheerful about their work. The curriculum is rich with literature, history, constructivist math, and projects. The attrition rate is no different from city public schools. Despite published reports, the teacher turnover is very low because they are so happy. The charters not only take a fair share of students with disabilities and ELLs, but many of them leave that status because SA remedies their needs. He admits that the schools don’t take the most disabled children.


He makes it seem as though Eva should be chancellor of the public schools, so every school could be equally rich in learning and joy, and of course, the millions that the hedge fund managers give to her.


One new fact that I had been searching for: He acknowledges that in the first two eighth grade graduating classes not a single student was able to pass the admissions test for entry to one of the city’s highly selective high schools. Now, this is puzzling. If these students are so well educated in math and science and literature, starting in the earliest grades, if they knock the socks off the state tests, why are they not acing the test for schools like Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Townsend Harris, Brooklyn Tech, Bard, and a few others? These schools have small numbers of black and Hispanic students, and the general assumption is they were ill-prepared. But why are Eva’s graduates unable to pass this test? If you are well educated, if you have mastered the tested subjects, you should be prepared for any test, not just the one you prepared for.



It is a puzzlement.


Patrick Hayes of EdFirst SC


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