Archives for the month of: January, 2013

From a reader:

1, Dispose of Teach for America and alternative certification (except for vocational courses) or revise it completely as follows. Hire TFAs as paraprofessionals to work under experienced teachers for their first year.

2. Require a commitment of 5 years, not 2, so the schools get full benefit from them

3. Do not place them in schools with high percentages of disadvantaged and disabled students. Instead, put them in middle class schools and create incentives for the best teachers to go to the disadvantaged schools instead.

4. Expect that by the end of their second year they are taking education courses online or in person to earn certification if they intend to stay another year.

5. Charter schools: Hold them to the same standards as public schools and require them to hire ONLY certified teachers and to pay them at state rates and use approved curricula. Require them to provide full special education services including moderate and severe/profound/multihandicapped and autistic with NO quotas and taught ONLY by certified special educators (No first or second year TFA’s) and to follow IDEA and Section 504.

6. Require that all principals be teachers with at least 5 years in the classroom, a Masters or higher in Education and special ed. experience

7. Require that all superintendents have at least 10 years of classroom experience and special educaton certification, (original or add-on) and a Masters or higher. This includes and especially includes the state superintendent.

8. No taxpayer money for parochial or private schools. None for charters that do not meet standards.

9. Schools with high percentages of disadvantaged, disabled, ELL, or 504 students get 10% in extra funding beyond what other schools in the district receive.

10. School Board will consist of parents, grandparents or siblings of students in public schools in the district and teachers or retired teachers only.

11. State governing board consists of 1/2 parents, grandparents, siblings or students in the public schools and 1/2 teachers or administrators from the public schools who have been or are certified teachers.

12. The Mayor, Governor or other public official has no role in choosing the State Superintendent or other leader over the schools. The leader is picked by the school boards. The exception is when the Mayor or Governor IS a teacher (such as Zell Miller was in Georgia.)

13. Eliminate most standardized testing. Any standardized testing is normed on students of the area where the students who are tested live. Questions include equal numbers that are regionally based. In other words, don’t ask Louisiana children about mountains unless there are also questions about bayous. Include regional vocabulary among correct answers, i.e. “pocketbook” as well as “purse” and “soda” or “coke” as well as “pop” for a cold drink.

14. Include the teachers’ unions in policy development and require local and state boards to show evidence of their inclusion.

15. Universally available pre-k held in the public schools and taught by certified early childhood teachers.

16. Deemphasis on “on time” graduation. Emphasis on graduating whether the student is 16 and took some courses on-line or 22.

17. Special education diplomas, state diplomas, for all students with IEPS even if they cannot pass standard courses as long as they complete the work required by their IEPS. NO Certificates of Achievement for students who have been in school all their lives—Real Special Education Diplomas and a Vocational Seal on those diplomas if they completed a vocational program, even with accommodations—-as long as they know the material.

18. Require EVERY administrator and policy maker who is or was a certified teacher above the level of principal to go back to the classroom for 1 year out of every 7 and to spend one week of each school year as a substitute teacher. Require every principal to spend 10 days per school year as a substitute in their own or a nearby school.

Well, that is more than a few. If the schools do not comply the risk losing federal funding or being taken over by a compliant school.

Matt Di Carlo of the Shanker Institute demonstrates what bad ideas StudentsFirst (NY) has when it comes to improving teacher quality.

The organization discovered that most teachers with unsatisfactory ratings are in high poverty schools. SFNY has a strategy to solve the problem: punishments and rewards.

Di Carlo points out that the organization seems woefully uninformed by research, experience, or evidence. He writes:

“Look, almost half of new teachers in NYC schools serving lower-performing students leave their initial schools within two years. And this is primarily because these are very difficult schools in which to teach, especially when you’re just starting out. Yes, some of this turnover is inevitable and some of it is healthy, but much of it is neither. And there’s plenty of productive middle ground between massive, costly, undifferentiated efforts to reduce attrition across the board and an agenda that focuses solely on rewarding and punishing teachers with performance measures that have zero track record.”

Governor Jan Brewer has an idea.

It is a bad idea.

Someone please explain it to her.

She wants all schools to start with the same base funding (perhaps lower than what they have now). Then to give bonuses to schools that get an A or B!

As this blogger, David Safier, explains, the schools that get high marks are likely to be the school serving the students from affluent families.

Governor Brewer’s plan will increase inequity in funding and drag down poor kids whose schools need more staff and more resources. It will reinforce the Matthew Effect where those who have get more, and those who have not get less.

Safier proposes a way to make performance bonuses equitable, by factoring in family income.

Personally, I oppose funding schools in relation to their test scores because the tests are far too unreliable to carry that burden. And the more pressure you put on test scores, the less valid are they as measures because of the amount of time that will be squandered on test prep.

Really, someone on the governor’s staff should explain to her that there is quite a lot of research showing that bonuses tied to test scores do not produce higher test scores, although they often produce cheating and narrowing of the curriculum.

Eclectablog reports on a new Republican strategy: How to solve non-existent problems.

Read here.

“If you think the billionaires aren’t rich enough, women have too much control of their bodies and workers get paid too much, this GOP is for you.

“The 112th Congress prepares to go down as the least productive in modern history, we in Michigan can remind you that the only thing worse than a Republican legislature that won’t pass laws is one that will.

In an historically awful “inflamed duck” session, Governor Rick Snyder and the Republicans in our state houses have made their biases against workers, women and democracy perfectly clear.

They tackled the problems of workers being paid too much and too little poverty by passing union-busting legislation that guarantees workers won’t be able negotiate fairly with management. They replaced an undemocratic Emergency Manager Law rejected by the voters with nearly the exact same law. Then they took on the problem of women not having enough abortions by making it much more difficult to prescribe emergency contraceptives.”

Keep reading.

This is amazing. According to the Chicago education research journal Catalyst, the Chicago Public Schools received nearly half a million dollars from one of the nation’s most rightwing foundations to sponsor “community engagement” on school closings.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to close as many as 200 schools. He also wants to open more charters, which would be non-union and would mean another dramatic decline in the number of African-American teachers. Who better to facilitate the decimation of public education than the Walton Foundation, known for its love of voucher, charters, and privatization?

This is the resolution adopted by the Perrin-Whitt school district in Texas, where John Kuhn is superintendent. John is a fighter for children and a member of our honor roll as a champion of public education. He earns his spurs very day as he continues to inspire us.

WHEREAS, the State of Texas has established a system that funds public schools at levels that differ greatly from school district to school district, and

WHEREAS, the State holds all schools—whether high-funded or low-funded—to the exact same academic standards in its academic accountability system, and

WHEREAS, the State has chosen to let citizens mistakenly believe its accountability system compares apples to apples, and

WHEREAS, the State’s accountability system fails to forthrightly acknowledge the funding differences that exist between the school systems it purports to compare, and

WHEREAS, the Texas school accountability system effectively implies that certain schools are inferior academic institutions, and that this is due solely to the inferior practices of educators and not in any way related to state-created funding disadvantages, and

WHEREAS, lower-funded schools are forced by scarcity to invest less than their peers in student supports, teacher salaries, class size reduction, instructional materials, extracurricular programs, maintenance of facilities, and other investments that positively impact student learning, and

WHEREAS, ancient wisdom holds that “to whom much has been given, much should be required,” and

WHEREAS, schools which are higher-funded in Texas tend to achieve, on average, better passing rates on the State’s academic tests and higher state-assigned performance ratings than lower-funded schools, and

WHEREAS, students who reside in one school district are of no less value to their parents or their Maker than students who reside in another school district, and are no less deserving of nor less in need of a quality education, and

WHEREAS, as a direct consequence of its rigid academic accountability for local teachers and its lax accountability for state leaders when it comes to funding efficacy, the government of Texas has evaded true accountability for adequately and uniformly supporting the children of Texas who learn in diverse parts of this land, and

WHEREAS, Texas citizens deserve not only an honest accounting of schools’ performance but also an honest accounting of the Legislature’s fiscal support of schools as they strive toward the state’s own goals; therefore be it

RESOLVED that the ___________________ Board of Trustees calls on the Texas Legislature to tie the school funding system in Texas directly and transparently to the school accountability system in Texas; and, in so doing, to develop a shared accountability system that holds funders no less accountable for their actions than it holds teachers and students for theirs; and which does not unreasonably demand that schools with scarcer resources achieve identical levels of academic performance as schools blessed by this state with disproportionate funding.

PASSED AND APPROVED on this _____ day of _____________________, 2013.

By: ____________________ ​​By: _____________________
Name: ​​​​​Name:
Title: ​​​​​Title:

By: ____________________ ​​By: _____________________
Title: ​​​​​Title:

By: ____________________ ​​By: _____________________
Name: ​​​​​Name:
Title: ​​​​​Title:

By: ____________________

News from the Equity Center of Texas about the state’s unjust accountability system:

The EC Xpress

January 22, 2013 • An Equity Center Publication • Volume 4, Number 3

Take Two Kids…

Take two children. Dress one in street clothes and work boots. Dress the other child in competition track gear with the finest track shoes; give him starting blocks, more coaching; put him on a fast all- weather lane to run his race. Give the first child a lane that is uneven and difficult to navigate; then move him 10 yards behind the starting line. Start the race with a gunshot, photograph the finish, and publish the photo in the newspaper for everyone to see.

This is exactly what our state accountability system has always done and continues to do today. Grades are being assigned to school districts all across the state and anti-public school people are pointing to the child with all of the disadvantages and saying, “See, our public schools are failing.”

The truth is no race can be competitively run, nor accurately called, when the race is not fair to begin with. We would never tolerate such things at a district track meet, yet we do tolerate it when it comes to the most important thing schools do. And it is time for it to stop.

Legislators must either level the playing field with the same revenue at the same tax rates so all children have an equal chance to rise to their fullest academic potential—or change the accountability system to account for the disparity in funding.

We learned last week that one school district has set out to make a change. John Kuhn, Superintendent Perrin-Whitt CISD, shared a resolution that was recently adopted by his Board. The resolution points out that no matter if a school is high-funded or low-funded, they are all held to the same academic standards in the accountability system and the system fails to acknowledge the funding differences that exist among the school systems.

It also states, “Texas citizens deserve not only an honest accounting of schools’ performance but also an honest accounting of the Legislature’s fiscal support of schools as schools strive toward the state’s own goals.”

The resolutions calls on the Legislature to “tie the school funding system in Texas directly and transparently to the school accountability system in Texas, in order to develop a shared accountability system that holds funders no less accountable for their actions than it holds teachers and students for theirs. It also resolves that schools with scarcer resources achieve identical levels of academic performance as schools blessed by the state with disproportionate funding.

We are reminded of Margaret Mead, who once said, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” We could not agree more. We want to encourage all of you to be a part of the change movement and take a moment to view the sample resolution (based on PWCISD’s) that we have attached to the original email. This is yet another step in a very long process, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

The New York State United Teachers urged the state education department to slow down the rush to testing the Common Core because neither students nor teachers are ready.

NYSUT says: Don’t test what hasn’t been taught.

Sounds sensible.

But this is the strange thing.

Open the link. Look at the old math problem. Look at the Common Core problem.

What do you think?

I understand the old version. The new one–the Common Core example–doesn’t make sense.

Is that just me?

This reader says that federal intervention is appropriate on behalf of social justice: civil rights and gender equity. But it’s wrong when employed to close public schools and privatize them (charters and vouchers) or to impose curriculum (that orohibition is in federal law).

That is sort of unfair, to complain that only 2% of the Federal budget goes to Education. After all, education is a responsibility that, under our Constitution, has been delegated to the states and is under local control.

Also unfair, however, is leveraging that 2% of the federal budget — about 7% of education outlays overall — and forcing states to comply with unproven methods to transform our schools.

It is hardly a new thing — Title I and Title IX both do this and the Civil Rights acts passed in the mid-60s also used forms of leverage. But that was in the name of social justice, eliminating some of the most blatant forms of discrimination and at least reducing inequity.

But with the Bushes (and we have to include Jeb in this, since Florida pree 2000 was one of the prototypes for labeling a school as failing) this changed. There was talk of social equity — remember ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations”? — but the action was in testing and accountability presumably, once you looked at how difficult it was to not be a failing school, as a pathway to privatization via the dismantling of public education.

Never understood why Ted Kennedy was such a fan of NCLB, but at least at the beginning there was the promise of more money. And lest we forget, early in the W administration the Senate switched from Republican to Democratic control when Jim Jeffords did the same because of a lack of federal funding for special education programs. So you would think those Senators had figured out a way to make sure education would get funding. You’d be thinking wrong.

Of course, Ted supported Barrack, but is absolutely beyond me why the Obama administration has given lip service to criticizing NCLB and then continued with its substance. In some ways I think it is to show people how smart Arne Duncan is. Really. While we may not like the content of his plans, the way he has used that 2% — and esp. that 5 billion of RttT money as a lever to pry reforms from governor’s and state legislatures is perversely brilliant.

By the way, future DOE heads will never forget that.

I will speak at the Save Texas Schools rally on February 23 in Austin.

Help stop budget cuts and vouchers.

Join me in Austin.

Fight for the future of public education in Texas!


February 23, 2013

Dear Save Texas Schools Supporter,

As you know, our public schools are under attack now more than ever. With continuing brutal budget cuts to education, a broken testing system, and proposed private school vouchers that would further drain resources from public schools, it’s time to STAND UP for Texas kids and schools.

Here’s how to make your voice heard during the 2013 legislative session.

1. Be part of our “Fight for the Future” campaign, launching in early January. Every Texas legislator needs to hear repeatedly from you about key issues affecting our schoolchildren. We’ll tell you how with a different idea each week.

2. Join thousands of fellow Texans on Saturday, February 23, 2013 at the Texas Capitol.

11 am march on Congress Ave., noon to 1:30 pm rally at the Capitol.
Expected Attendance: HUGE! Let’s top 2011’s record of 13,000.
Confirmed Speakers: Supt. John Kuhn, Diane Ravitch. More soon!
Transportation: We can help you with buses from your area this year. Visit for information.

Become a Local Rally Organizer! See our website to sign-up!

What’s Wrong With Vouchers?

We need to let Sen. Patrick (Senate Education Chair) and other legislators know that vouchers are a BAD idea, because:

1. Vouchers would drain another $2 billion from public education on top of other cuts.

2. Taxpayer money should not be used to fund private and religious schools.

3. Vouchers have been tried in other states and abandoned after failing to improve educational outcomes.

Learn more .
. .
Texas is at a crossroads. The decisions made in the next six months will determine our children’s educational opportunities and our state’s economic prospects for decades to come. The fight for our future is now- please join us in standing up for Texas kids!


Save Texas Schools