Archives for the month of: July, 2012

Marcus sent a comment and disagreed with the “Confessions of a Teaching Fellow”:

This is absolutely a misrepresentation of the summer training. Diane, I have a lot of respect for you and have followed you for many years. If you can push this out with such disregard for the truth, I have to question the rest of your platform and ideas. You are a published author and while you may not have the responsibility to fact check here, you do know journalistic best practices.

There is no such thing as Do it Now. Do It Again is a technique that helps students practice routines and asks them to stop it and repeat as soon as it goes wrong. How many teachers have told a class to sit back down and try again when they are noisy lining up for dismissal? SLANT is an acronym that sets the expectation that students sit up straight and pay attention to their teacher when they are talking.

These are some of the techniques from Doug Lemov\’s book, Teach Like a Champion. Heres the link:

The book offers the magic formula that the best teachers already know and should be read by all teachers – especially those who wallow in schools with unskilled administrators and no professional development. It would take a teacher a dozen years to learn these through trial and error and observations. These Fellows will be ready with these skills on day one.

I agree the tone of preservice training can be intense sometimes. But with such a momentous goal and the gravity of preparing bright, talented and energetic teachers for the challenges of teaching in an tough urban school in seven weeks, it is justified.

And these Fellows – the ones that can hack it- will be ready to teach day one and will truly be master teachers by 2013-14. Then it\’s up to the city and administration to pay and retain them after that.

This just in from California educator Robert Skeels:

What do you call plutocrat funded “research” that isn’t peer reviewed and is conducted by an organization that has already drawn a priori conclusions? Answer: A policy paper.

Pretty much everything one would ever need to know about The new Teacher Project (TNTP) is summed up here:

TNTP is “a leading voice on teacher quality.” – American Enterprise Institute

With extreme right-wing credentials like that, how can TNTP go wrong with Arne Duncan? Nice the ED department is shilling for private corporations like TNTP. Glad my community’s tax resources are being used to promote junk science like VAM/AGT instead of being using in the classroom or school libraries. You know, stuff that actually promotes learning, instead of testing.

TNTP’s board features members from reactionary Ed-Trust and even Bain & Company, Inc.. The former, of course, being Mitt Romney’s “sister” company from which we get Green Dot Charter Corporation’s nasty little Marco Petruzzi from.

This just arrived in my email box. The writer signed her name:

There has been so much debate about educational reform and about Michele Rhee and her Students First organization. I am compelled to describe my experience this past June with the Rhode Island Teaching Fellows Program, a Rhee brainchild. The Teaching Fellows work along the same lines of The New Teacher Project but the Teaching Fellows is an alternative route to teacher certification. The premise is to attract people from the public sector and after 5 weeks of training they will be employed as first year’s teachers in high needs urban schools. The catch phrase is “Let’s close the achievement gap” and get your teaching certification in an alternative route program-well yes I know all about the achievement gap and only starting to realize all the components at work and I decided to re-enter school to become a teacher and this program sounded perfect. I could not have been more wrong!  

We start week one learning this militant type tactics of behavioral control-such as “Do it again” “Do it now” and “Slant” to name just a few-we practice this over and over again in a highly structured environment where our every move is scheduled and monitored. We are told where to sit, when to stand and when to speak-they occasionally mix up the tables I believe so friendships are not formed and “talk” starts.  We have lunch in groups with our coaches. We are actually scheduled to meet with our coaches for “debriefing” where we are told not to talk and only answer with yes and no. We watch videos of children in which these tactics are employed in other States.

Students are drilled on how to line up, hands by side, mouths closed-told which way to turn and what muscle to move next. They are instructed like they are in the military or prison. All the kids in the video are of course black-these behavioral control tactics are of course not utilized in white schools. A strict agenda is posted in the morning requiring us to adhere to it without question. We are at this point working 16 hours a day and not thinking clearly at all. We are then told to start working on lesson plans that we will implement in the field experience component in the evening and e-mail them to our coach for a review. This lesson planning has to be evidently self-taught as I have taken no education courses, which is one of the requirements of the program.

The second week of the program we begin the field experience component is a 4 week 2.5 hour class consisting of students requiring summer school to recover credits. These are the very students we are supposed be so concerned about with the achievement gap. After 1 week of training we are individually thrown in front of this class of 22, still being monitored by training team members. I will argue that I am NOT an effective teacher after one week of training and these kids WILL suffer because of it. By the third day, 6 of my students were not in class and I believe they will ultimately drop out and as an inexperienced RI Teaching Fellow I am completely responsible; it is reprehensible what we are doing to these kids.

At the end of this 5 week period we are then placed in an urban school where we are allowed to teach under an emergency teaching certification. At this point we are required to join the TNTP academy where throughout out the year we attend classes and workshops to get our own teaching certification after one year. So the premise is that to qualify for the $5500 educational grant through AmeriCorps you must work in a high need urban school in Rhode Island, what is called the urban4-Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, and Central Falls. These are exactly the only districts we are allowed to apply to. We are also enrolled in AmeriCorps and will receive our educational grant of $5500 after one year of service.

The cost of this TNTP academy is $6ooo-hmmm…so I will argue that the Teaching Fellows Program doesn’t care one bit about closing the achievement gap but in fact victimizes our low income minority students to achieve their own agenda which is enrollment in the TNTP academy and to fill their own pockets with outlandish salaries. . I saw advertisements on employment agencies sites for jobs within the Teaching Fellows organization paying anywhere between $60-and $78,000.00 per year-a lot of income to certify perhaps 20 teachers a year in the State of Rhode Island and my guess is less than half of those will stay in the high needs urban public schools. When I began the program there where 28 fellows; I was the fourth to drop out by the eighth day. I believe this organization is syphoning money from public education grants to serve their own purposes and the students that are being harmed are the low income black and brown students in these high needs urban schools. Michelle Rhee and this organization need to be stopped. I have decided to continue on and obtain my M.A.T. and become an effective teacher the proper way in two years and not destroy the lives of unsuspecting students on my way. I am continually looking for ways to expose this organization for what it is and hope it’s days are numbered before any more harm is done to these students.

–Theresa Laperche


A thoughtful comment by  a reader about consultants, parents, and the responsibility of schools:

Amazing that so many private and parochial schools work well with NO consultants.Ditto that!

Our typical son graduated from his Jesuit high school in June….a brilliant school with no consultants.

Disagree, though, that public schools have become parents, medical facilities, etc. That is not the case in my own very well funded school district ($29k per pupil).

In my experience, private & parochial schools are more likely to adopt a parental role vis a vis students than public schools. Our son’s Jesuit school has a strongly ‘parental’ culture, which I think can be fairly described as in loco parentis.

In contrast, our public high school frankly rejects any form of in loco parentisresponsibility for students. Students are “young adults” who are expected to “learn from their mistakes.” This is the formal, directly stated philosophy.

If a student does not learn from his or her mistakes, that is sad, but it is not the school’s responsibility.

btw, one of the most useful books I’ve read re: education and parenting is Laurence Steinberg’s Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need to Do.

Steinberg describes 4 modes of parenting (based in research going back to the 60s and 70s):


“Authoritative” parenting is by far the most effective, and the word “authoritative” applies to the culture of our son’s Jesuit high school.

“High joy/high discipline”: that’s the atmosphere inside the school.

To some degree, our high school’s ‘parenting style’ corresponds to permissive parenting. Permissive parents, like administrators here, believe that children should learn from their mistakes.

A new report was released by The New Teacher Project, asserting that our schools were losing the very best teachers. They are the “irreplaceables.”

The report got the red treatment, with Secretary Duncan there to salute its findings. And it was funded by three billionaire foundations: Gates, Walton, John and Laura Arnold (big supporters of Michelle Rhee).

It seems that schools are losing their “best” teachers (the irreplaceables) and holding on to the ones who should have been fired.

Context helps. After Michelle Rhee left her brief teaching stint for TFA, she became an entrepreneur, as most good graduates of TFA do.

She created The New Teacher Project to find and place new teachers in urban districts where they are needed.

An altogether laudable idea, but in true TFA-style, having a good idea and making it happen is never enough.

It has to be the best idea in the universe. And the people who do it are the best ever. And those who don’t agree are awful people.

TNTP began issuing studies and reports to prove that their brand-new teachers were miles better than those jaded old veterans in the classroom. As time went by, there would be no doubt that the very best of all teachers was the one who had never taught before but came armed with enthusiasm and desire and a readiness to stop at nothing in the pursuit of higher test scores.

This is what Shanker Blog said about this latest report.  In three of the four districts in the report, the data are based on only one year of data. As we have seen in many  studies, one year of data is not reliable. The ratings are unstable. A teacher who somehow gets big score gains from her students in one year will not get them the next year; the teacher who look like a do-nothing this year is “irreplaceable” the next year.

Are there wonderful, outstanding, star teachers? Yes. Are there awful people who shouldn’t be there? Yes.

Is it necessary to turn all of American education upside down to root out the small number who are awful?

This is just one more useless salvo in the ongoing attempt to prove that America’s teachers are responsible for low test scores.

The current obsession with using test scores to find the best and fire the worst is wrong. Start with the fact that the tests weren’t designed for this purpose. Recognize that some excellent teachers don’t see huge gains year after year because they teach the gifted or the slowest or ELLs. Some very bad and uninspiring teachers can get score gains by doing endless drill and rote. And you have a formula that produces no improvement, just demoralization.

Someday these bad ideas will go away. Whenever it is, it won’t be a moment too soon.


I got a tweet from Britain saying that Michael Gove, the minister of education, has approved three new schools for state funding that teach creationism as science.

We know that Gove has been consulting with Joel Klein and the leaders of KIPP and has expressed great interest in charter schools. This seems to be the next step.

It does make you wonder if the world is spinning backwards. When will we see a replay of the Scopes trial?

I was re-reading Albert Shanker’s columns from the late 1990s this morning, and he warned that the greatest danger of the charter school idea was that each would “do its own thing,” have its own curriculum, and even its own version of truth. He was right.

UPDATE: Here is another view of creationism in UK schools:

We must remember that US debates are different from those played out in other nations.

A new book that explains how demanding parents ruin their children’s lives with unbearable pressure to be the best at everything:

An antidote to the Tiger Mom complex.

Mark D. Naison is a professor at Fordham University, where he teaches African-American studies. He is principal investigator of the Bronx African American history project. He writes a blog, “With a Brooklyn Accent.” This is his latest:
Not Every Bronx Tale Has a Geoffrey Canada Ending

In his memoir, Fist, Knife Stick Gun, Geoffrey Canada describes growing up on Union Avenue in the Morrisania section of the Bronx as a harrowing experience- a place where bullies terrorized young people and where no institutions , certainly not the local public schools, offered refuge or protection. It was only when Canada’s family moved to the suburbs that he was able to find a modicum of safety and was able to find a school which could inspire him and where his talents could develop.

This Bronx experience, Canada claims, inspired his future work as an educator, including his pioneering efforts to develop a holistic model of child development through the Harlem Children’s Zone which insulated young people from the violent world ready to claim them and gave them a mixture of education and social services which would enable them surmount numerous hurdles, academic and personal, and emerge college ready upon graduation from high school.

As a coach, and community organizer as well as an historian, I find much to admire in Canada’s model. But unlike Canada, I am not as quick to write off our urban public school system as a failure, and the teachers in it as heartless, insensitive, and more concerned with protecting their jobs than helping the young people they work with.

And ironically, some of my reluctance to accept Canada’s analysis comes from having done extensive oral histories from people who grew up in the same neighborhood that Canada did, and sometimes on the same block.

To put the matter bluntly, I have interviewed at least 40 people who grew up within 
5 blocks of where Canada did, who attended local public schools, and participated in after school programs in local schools, churches and community centers, who became successful professionals in a wide range of fields ranging from journalism and the arts to education and social work. Among those I interviewed who fit that category are Amsterdam News sportswriter Howie Evans, musicians Valerie Capers and Jimmy Owens, film maker Brent Owens, community center director Frank Bolden, insurance executive Joseph Orange, talent agent Bess Pruitt, and current and former school principals Harriet McFeeters, Henry Pruitt, and Paul Cannon ( current principal of PS 140)

All of these individuals, in their oral histories, describe encounters with very tough kids and neighborhood gangs, one of them, Evans, was actually in a gang; but each of them were able to find teachers in the local public schools who nurtured their talents and when necessary protected them from harm. Some were regular classroom teachers, others were coaches and music teachers, a few ran after school programs in public schools or local parks. One individual, Vincent Tibbs, the director of the night center at a local elementary school, PS 99, received mention in numerous oral histories for running a program which sponsored dances, talent shows, and sports leagues; Howie Evans actually credits Mr Tibbs with saving his life by refusing to let him leave the center to participate in a gang fight. 

The positive experiences these individuals had in schools and community centers led a number of them to decide to become teachers, social workers, and school administrators when they grew up, many of them in neighborhoods similar to the ones they grew up in.
One of them, Paul Cannon, runs a remarkable public school about 6 Blocks from where Canada grew up which is open 7 days a week, has Sunday basketball for neighborhood parents, and where the entire school culture, including an innovative “Old School Museum” is organized to honor community history.

In short, not everyone who grew up in Morrisania felt so abandoned by the local public school system that they had to circumvent it entirely in order to nurture, inspire and protect young people living in low income communities. The Canada model is an intriguing one, but it is not the only vehicle we have to educate children in poor and working class families. Some public schools were effective when Canada was growing up and some are as effective, or more effective, right now than Canada’s Promise Academy, even without the extra funding.

Lance Hill of New Orleans responded to blogger Mike Deshotels, who noted the double standard for charter schools and public schools. Public schools must meet standards, but voucher schools do not? Lance writes:

Mike, excellent post on the contradictions of the Louisiana accountability

This isn’t even a policy debate: it’s a debate on simple logic.   Imagine a
hospital that graded doctors on mortality rates. If a hospital administrator
transferred all the critical care patients into the maternity ward, suddenly
the maternity ward doctors would go from an A grade to an F grade.    

If  a policy defies simple logic, there has to be some motive for it other
than its declared purpose.  In this case, I believe the hidden agenda for
grading teachers and schools is to use it as a means to privatize schools
and control the labor force.  The corporate reformers don’t care that a few
good schools and teachers lose out:  it is acceptable collateral damage.  I
predict that once control of public education is transferred to the private
sector,  then meaningful assessment policies will be implemented.  Indeed,
in the 2005 Gates-funded draconian “Tough Choices or Tough Times” report
which advocates “contract schools” and also advocates abolishing high-stakes
testing.  It is implicit that this federally-imposed plan would only
possible if public education were privatized and controlled by state or
federal government. 

Skills Commission member Anthony Carnevale’s dissent. This is the only
dissent I found on the net-amazing given some of the commission members.
It’s also a good short summary of the report’s recommendations:

Skills Commission 2005 Report. A little-read report but a blueprint for what
is happening all around us:

The proof that the “accountability” plans are, in truth, “power and control”
plans is that the Jindal/White voucher plan initially imposed no
accountability standards for voucher schools nor performance standards for
teachers.  Why?  Because the non-public schools are already in the private
sector.  Vouchers were simply another way of undermining public schools so
the state could privatize them.  What at first appeared to be a double
standard-regulation for public schools but not for non-public schools-now
makes perfect sense as a means to an end.   

Lance Hill

Earlier this year, there was a big push to get charter legislation passed in Alabama. It failed. One of the pronents for charter legislation was StudentsFirst, which sent in an organizer from Florida to build support. She said that StudentsFirst has 17,000 members in the state, but when SF called a meeting in Montgomery, only 25 people showed up, some about half were anti-charter. A writer from Alabama sends this account:

So here is the deal with StudentsFirst.  I can become a member by going and signing a petition that says nothing about this organization and if I write favorable comments about “pro reform” then someone with StudentsFirst  may even send me a gift card to my favorite restaurant.
And how do I know all of this?  Because a good friend signed a petition at and soon got an email from StudentsFirst welcoming her as a member.  And because I’ve met the field rep from Florida who is offering the chance at a free meal.
The Alabama Legislature went through a vigorous battle about whether or not to allow charters schools last spring and the lady in question was one of six lobbyists StudentsFirst registered with the Ethics Commission to support this bill.
I well remember the day I went to a brown bag luncheon at a local church to learn more about StudentsFirst.  At least that’s what I thought I was doing, but actually, I was instead encouraged to write letters, visit legislators and do whatever I could to pass the bill.  The free lunch lady referred to above ran the meeting.
She was nice, but hardly a warm person.  Said she lived in Florida where she taught school for eight years.  There were maybe 20-25 folks at the gathering.  She told us StudentsFirst had 17,000 Alabama members.  I wondered why none of them bothered to show up since at least half of the crowd did not seem to favor charters.
I’m on the state advisory board of a pre-K program.  The state director of this organization was also at the meeting and at one point distributed copies of an article detailing info about the Gulen Charter movement.
The lady from Florida did not appreciate this and quickly said this was just a scare tactic and that my friend should not be a bigot.
Well, being Alabama born and raised, I can probably spot a bigot about as well as the next guy.  And the one Ms. StudentsFirst accused of such ain’t one in no form or fashion.  You don’t work with high-poverty families for 20 years in this state if you are.
So I find it quite interesting that the lady who did the accusing that day in the church dining hall is now saying that her character is under attack because someone forwarded one of her emails!!!!
One other thing I remember from that meeting was that the lady told us StudentsFirst was in Alabama because the Governor and the Legislature invited them.  A few days later the Gorvernor’s chief of staff told me that the Governor DID NOT invite them.
I’ve never owned a new car in my life.  Which means I always buy used ones.  But I can gurantee you that if StudentsFirst was in the used car business, I would never been one of their customers.
Oh.  The charter bill failed and the Governor recently said he will not push this legislation next year.