Archives for the month of: August, 2013

Voters approved Proposition 30 in California to raise taxes to fund schools. Where will the money go?

This teacher thinks she knows:


California districts will pay for the gigantic costs associated with Smarter Balanced CCSS testing using the Prop 30 money that the voting public intended should go to actual instruction. Teachers put in countless hours and much energy convincing the public to vote for Prop 30, and the joke is on us. In five years we’ll wonder where all that money went… and the answer will be ‘in Pearson’s coffers’.

Randall Hendee is a English teacher in Illinois. He wrote the following comments about E.D. Hirsch’s views about the Common Core. Hirsch is the founder of the Core Knowledge curriculum and author of several books on the importance of establishing a sequential, specific, knowledge-based curriculum.

Hendee writes:

“I hope everyone who reads Hirsch’s article on Common Core testing also reads his strong endorsement of the CCSS in his previous piece:

“Part of that endorsement hinges on a belief that we can’t predict whether the standards will work or not. To which I’d answer 1) That’s what pilot projects are for, and 2) there’s such a thing as “highly predictable unintended consequences,” such as the ones that played out in Iraq, and in the implementation of NCLB. It’s not just that well informed people predicted them in advance but were drowned out by the poorly informed herd. It’s that we can analyze the assumptions behind the Common Core Standards right now and identify the logical–and ideological–fallacies that point to failure.

“Check out this paragraph from Hirsch’s earlier piece (dated August 27):

“Not even most prescient among us can know whether the Common Core standards will end in triumph or tragedy. That will depend on what the states actually do about developing rich content knowledge ‘within and across grades.’ To do so will take the courage to withstand the gripe-patrols that will complain about the inclusion of say Egypt, in the second grade. But who can be sure that the required political courage to withstand such gripes won’t be forthcoming once the absolute need for specific, cumulative content is understood. As Niels Bohr said: ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.’ If just one state or district shows the way, with big, unmistakable gains resulting, those results will influence many others.”

“Gripe patrols? Is he referring to the early childhood experts that had no role in writing the standards? Anyway, Hirsch is saying that the Common Core Standards might not work, but if somebody CAN get them to work, everyone else should follow their lead. This might have been a tenable position BEFORE almost every state adopted the standards (if you believe in standardization, that is). Still, he has no problem at all with running a long-range experiment using the bulk of the nation’s kids as test subjects!

“Also note his reference to Egypt for second graders, which I take to be a slap at Diane’s blog post that questioned a crazy list of outcomes expected of six year olds from their study of Mesopotamia, Egypt, comparative religion, ancient languages, and what all: based on this…

“I don’t share Mr. Hirsch’s belief that intense, sequenced instruction in all prescribed content areas is the key to helping young children improve their reading comprehension, or to inspiring a lifelong love of learning, for that matter. I don’t believe in “the absolute need for specific, cumulative content.” I think it’s impossible, and counterproductive, to conjure up a body of knowledge that every child has to master–that is, a detailed scope and sequence of facts, concepts, and vocabulary–in order to be considered educated. (Now, if we’re talking about training–in neurosurgery or air traffic control–that’s a different story.) Admittedly, that’s a philosophical difference. But I think we should look at research, too. Here’s the comment I left on his Huffington Post entry on Common Core Testing:

“Where did you get the idea that forcing advanced subjects on young kids is the best way to improve reading comprehension? I got good at English by reading what I liked. This has been borne out by research. Stephen Krashen reports on the value of “sustained silent reading”: and the importance of “narrow reading”:

“Looks like background knowledge is more effectively built when a student selects his own reading material within a limited range (than when the teacher assigns a variety of unfamiliar short passages). I went through phases as a kid: mystery, adventure, nature, war. Sure, I also read the encyclopedia, but it wasn’t just learning academic subjects that built my background knowledge. It was all those Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and We Were There books.

“You’re right that “value added” models shouldn’t be used to evaluate teachers, but really good teachers will finesse the bad mandates as best they can. Their main concern isn’t to keep their jobs. It’s to help children learn. The “many teachers” that you report “were still going to do test prep, as any sensible teacher should” might not represent teachers as a whole. I’ll bet there are just as many trying to subvert the ill-conceived testing regimes and other bad practices. Lots of teachers will either keep trying to do right by their students, or reluctantly quit.”

This came from a reader:


A talking pineapple standing on a ziggurat sees a half built plane flying through the air and losing altitude. The plane has three people, the smartest man in the world, a hippie, and a pilot, but only two parachutes. Who should go? Obviously the smartest man says he should. That leaves the pilot and the hippie and the pilot asks if they should flip a coin. The hippie says, “we can both go, the smartest man in the world just jumped out with my backpack.”

Joy Resmovits has posted an admiring article about David Coleman, architect of the Common Core standards and now head of the College Board.

It tells you much of what you need to know about the man whose ideas are reshaping what almost every public school students in the United States will know and be able to do.

Note that Coleman tried to be a teacher, he says, but didn’t get hired. And now he will direct almost every classroom in the nation!

Since he couldn’t be a teacher, he went to work for McKinsey, where Big Data is a religion.

Then he founded the “Grow Network,” a company that provided data analysis about assessments.

McGraw-Hill purchased the Grow Network, for what insiders say was $14 million.

Then Coleman founded Student Achievement Partners, which played the leading role in writing the Common Core standards, which received $6.5 million from the Gates Foundation for this work.

At the same time that he was writing the Common Core standards, Coleman was treasurer of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst in its first year of operation. The board had two other members: Jason Zimba, who wrote the Common Core math standards, and a third person who was an employee of David Coleman’s Student Achievement Partners.

Now, Coleman is reshaping the SAT and the AP tests to align with the Common Core.

Obviously, Coleman is an incredibly brilliant and well-educated man. He went to the very best universities. His parents were highly educated (his mother is president of Bennington College).

Since he has never been a teacher, what we must wonder about is his ability to understand that not all children will score over 700 on their SAT, no matter how hard they try. Not all children will go to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. Not all children will go to Oxford.

We have a federal policy today that seems to have been written by people who got very high scores on their standardized tests and lack empathy for those who can’t do the same.

A reader in North Carolina reflects on the Legislature’s
many punishments imposed on teachers: “As a teacher in NC, I am
disappointed yet not surprised by the recent cuts. Another year
without a raise while our health insurance premiums continue to
rise, the demand increases, leadership decreases, and class size
balloons. The people who make the most money on the district and
state level are so disconnected from the daily operations of the
classroom, that they have no idea what it means to teach. I have
never been so discouraged in my professional life. If an
exceptional teacher can not earn enough income to support his or
her family, then they will undoubtedly leave the system. And then
who is left to teach the children…..NC should think about

Governor Cuomo likes to complain that New York spends too much for education. That was one of his reasons for wanting a “death penalty” for schools with low test scores.

Instead of doing anything to help them improve, like expanding Pre-K or reducing class sizes, he wants to “kill” those schools by eliminating democratic control of education–that is, by state takeover, mayoral control, or privatization. None of these three measures will help the kids. They just wipe out local control. Where is the logic?

Makes no sense, but that’s his story and he is sticking to it.

This reader has a different take on the Governor’s use of data:


Governor Cuomo complains that New York spends more per child than any other state.

He advocates data driven instruction.

Here are two pieces of data that our esteemed governor should consider before he “executes” failing schools and fires teachers based on unproven standardized tests.

Average cost per year to educate a child in New York State – $18,618.

Average cost per year to incarcerate a prisoner in New York State – $60,000.


If you read about education, you are sometimes tempted to think that all common sense has departed this nation, its leaders, and its mass media.

They keep looking for quick fixes, miracles, turnarounds, and magical answers as “solutions” to education problems.

Here is Ray Strabeck, a retired school superintendent in Mississippi, who reminds us that there are still people who know what they are talking about and who are willing to speak up.

He reminds his readers of the fads that came and went over his 50 years in education.

He reminds them of the limitations of standardized tests.

As for all the weeping and wailing about how “our schools are failing,” “we are losing the race to nations with higher test scores,” Strabeck has a few wise observations about the goal of “beating” other nations:


I find such a motivation ridiculous. Who first landed on the moon? Americans trained in American public schools. Who has orbited Earth more times than any other nation? Americans who were educated in public schools. Who has probed deeper in the sea than anyone else — maybe excluding Jacques Cousteau? Again the answer is Americans who began their learning in public schools. Solar energy, fossil fuels, electronic technologies, social programs, jurisprudence — and the list goes on and on.

If history is to be examined regarding Common Core, it is a program that might last some four to eight years. Having been involved in public education for nearly 50 years, I have watched this timeline remain fairly constant across the years: both politicians and educators finally conclude that the latest fad is not working, and something new arises they want to try.

What, then, assures good schools and higher student achievement? Economics, pure and simple. Find me a good school, and nine times out of 10 there will also be found a flourishing economy in that school community.

Our plea that good schools bring good industries is a misnomer, a case of getting the cart before the horse. Make sure that parents have good jobs, that small businesses are flourishing in the neighborhood and that people take pride in where they live and one of the unfailing outcomes is good schools.

And he adds:

If we would spend the money currently being spent on Common Core on economic development and sustain that kind of effort for, say, four or five years, we would soon see “good” schools emerging. 

Please read the whole article.




Howard Schwach taught for more than 25 years, developed
test items for the state, and worked on curriculum development for
special education students. He
recently reviewed sample items from New York’s Common Core tests
and professed astonishmen


He wrote:


From the
first moment that I looked at some practice tests for the English
Language Arts tests that were given recently, I knew that the kids
and their teachers were in trouble.
In his long
experience as a teacher and test writer and curriculum developer,
he said, “there was one guiding principal: never test
students on skills or material that you have not taught and
To do so not only would have been
unfair to the students, but it would have made the tests unreliable
and downright useless at a measure of student ability and
That is why, when I looked at the
practice test, my first thought was that the questions were in the
deep end of the pool when the kids were just learning how to
One that stuck in my mind was a passage
from a 1920’s magazine about aspirin.
the source article was written nearly 100 years ago, it contained
some archaic language and syntax that would have been confusing to
today’s adults, nonetheless eleven-year-olds.

So the kids were at a disadvantage right away, trying to
figure out the words they had never seen before, working them out
through context. Then, the question called for skills that have
never been tested before, nor taught by the teacher who showed me
the sample questions. She admitted that she had been “teaching to
the old test” for the past several years, trying to keep her kid’s
all-important test scores up while trying to keep her
“Education has nothing to do with what we
have been doing for the past couple of years,” the teacher admitted
with a nervous laugh. “It has been all about the


He found questions that had two right answers.
He found questions that would send the kids into tears. And he
wondered, “What in the world was the state thinking?” Indeed, what
were state officials when they tested students on material they had
not been taught, using unfamiliar vocabulary, having ambiguous
answers, with the certainty that most students would fail? Was it
John King’s inexperience that led him to align the state cut scores
with NAEP’s proficiency levels? Did he not understand that NAEP
proficiency is not a “passing” mark but a measure that connotes
“solid academic performance”?


What were they thinking?

Ohio is the for-profit Capitol of US education. Here is one of the profiteers’ secrets: They collect tax dollars for no-show students.

This is from Bill Phillis of the Ohio coalition for education and adequacy.

Ghost schools


About five years ago, Scripps Howard News Service published, Ghost Schools-A special investigative report by Scripps Howard News Service finds taxpayers paying millions for students who never show up for class. For-profit “ghost schools” collect money even when students are absent.

Although the Scripps Howard investigations of charter schools took place in several states, one of the Ohio for-profit charter school operations is featured in the report. A Salem, MA for-profit company owner is quoted in the report as saying, “Ohio is the profit-making EMO capital of America.”

Investigators learned that during the 2006-2007 school year, Ohio, by extracting money from school districts, paid $29.9 million for absent students who were enrolled in 47 dropout recovery schools. In one such charter school, 64 percent of the enrolled students were not in class on a daily basis during the 2004-2005 school year.

A former principal of a Life Skills Center is quoted in the report as saying “It’s a cash cow. I spend less than $1 million on a $3 million operation. What in the h*&$ are they (executives at his former company) doing with the other $2 million?”

Anyone interested in receiving this Scripps Howard News Service report may contact this office.

When this report was published, those responsible for the documented fraud should have been held accountable. Where was the outrage from the public or education community? At least the state should have followed up on the findings reported. Scripps Howard reporter Thomas Hargrove, a member of the investigative team, indicated in a recent telephone conversation that he was shocked that such fraud in Ohio could exist without somebody going to jail.

Is this type of fraud still practiced in Ohio? Who would know? The charter school lobby is so powerful, primarily due to campaign contributions, that the political environment thwarts any attempt to hold for-profit charter schools accountable. A few years ago the governor attempted to right this wrong but was blocked by powerful political forces.

The money paid for the phantom students comes right out of school districts’ budgets. Hence, educational opportunities for students enrolled in the public common school system are diminished due to that “cash cow” approach that Ohio political leadership has established and maintained.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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

This teacher left a powerful comment about how he
educated about real life by teaching. The myths
he had learned in
his youth fell away when confronted
by the children whose lives are
burdened by poverty.
Please tweet this comment. It should go viral.
Add your
voice. This reader said in a comment: “People harass me
for talking about poverty all the time. I come from a middle
white family, and I was sheltered away from the
poor and needy. I
attended a middle class and upper
class private school just south
of Detroit. “After
teaching in public schools since the late 90’s
having never walked in one until I began to teach), I now the
see the world I was sheltered from. It is a world of poverty.
agree that people should be responsible, but when
the game is
rigged, even responsible people falter in
finding work. Once the
jobs are gone, families suffer,
and this seemingly “responsible
behavior” becomes a
smoke and mirrors argument. “Public schools
saved me from the closed mindedness that comes from
this conservative mindset. I understand now what we need. We
strong public services (including education),
strong labor unions,
and a government not run by
corporations. “Shame on my family for
raising me to
believe I was something special, and everybody else
not because they were not willing to work as hard as I was.
What a crock.”