Archives for the month of: February, 2014

Mayor de Blasio and Carmen Farina approved most of the Bloomberg administration’s charter co-locations, to the outrage and dismay of public school parents whose schools will lose space to the new charters.

Parents at the schools that will receive co-locations are furious and issuing press releases denouncing de Blasio for betraying them.

Of 49 co-locations rushed through in the dying days of the Bloomberg administration, the de Blasio administration approved 39, put one on hold, and denied 9.

Three of the new charters that were turned down belonged to Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain, and one of her existing charters was told to find a new home.

Eva is furious too. Unlike public school parents, her board has deep pockets. She has unleashed a blitz of TV ads and plans to bus thousands of students and parents to Albany for a rally on Tuesday.

Groups opposing Eva will hold a rally in front of the Department of Education to protest Eva’s TV blitz.

Interesting to note: In nations with successful school system, the community unites behind their schools. The schools don’t compete for space or money. They work together towards a common goal: educating the children of the community.


Parents to Demand Wealthy Charter School Ad Campaign Backers Use Money to Pay Rent


Outrage Grows as Moskowitz Tries to Sabotage City’s Pre-K Advocacy Day in Albany 




*TODAY, FRIDAY 2/28, 10:30AM, 

52 Chambers St./Steps of DOE*


WHAT: Following the charter school industry’s new multi-million dollar ad campaign, parents impacted by co-locations will join the city’s leading education groups in demanding wealthy charter school backers put their money towards paying rent.


The controversial ads come as a major charter chain operator, Eva Moskowitz, announced plans to close her schools next Tuesday, to lobby for more charter school funding. Her lobby day is scheduled to compete with an advocacy day for universal pre-K on the same day, a fact that has angered parents across the city who believe pre-K is an urgent educational priority.


*Facts on troubling funding sources for ads will be presented*


WHO: Parents and community members from New York Communities for Change and the Alliance for Quality Education.


WHEN: Friday, Feb. 28th – 10:30AM


WHERE: 52 Chambers St. Lower Manhattan, NY.


# # #

Due to budget cuts, half the elementary and middle schools of Los Angeles have been forced to close their libraries due to a lack of librarians or aides.

This is a disgrace. The district committed to spend $1 billion for iPads for Common Core testing but can’t staff its libraries.

“In the sun-filled space at the Roy Romer Middle School library, thousands of books invite students to stimulate their curiosity and let their imaginations soar. There is classic “Tom Sawyer” and popular “Harry Potter,” biographies of Warren Buffett and Tony Blair, illustrated books on reptiles and comets.

“But the library has been locked. The tables and chairs have been empty. That’s because budget cuts in the Los Angeles Unified School District have eliminated hundreds of library aides, leaving Romer’s library unstaffed for months at a time over the last four years.

“Principal Cristina Serrano said the situation has handicapped students — especially as new state learning standards require them to use more research in their papers and projects.

“The students need access to books; they need guidance on how to use the library for research,” she said. “But funding is not easy for us.”

“Romer isn’t the only L.A. Unified library that has had trouble. About half of the 600 elementary and middle school libraries are without librarians or aides, denying tens of thousands of students regular access to nearly $100 million worth of books, according to district data.”

Having fully staffed and open libraries are necessary for students. But they won’t make anyone rich.

Where are the billionaires of Los Angeles? Where is Parent Revolution? Where is Eli Broad? How about those movie stars who make millions for a single picture? Does anyone care?

For shame, Superintendent Deasy.,0,5992443.story#ixzz2uD79Nq8W

Jonathan Pelto points out that Connecticut is one of the wealthiest, best educated states in the nation, yet its politics and government are increasingly dysfunctional, driven by greed and indifference to the public weal.

Citing an article by Connecticut journalist Sarah Darer Littman, Pelto shows how state officials have been pushing to build a high school in Bridgeport on a polluted brownfield so as to make room for the expansion of Bridgeport Hospital.

He writes:

“In Sarah Darer Littman’s latest MUST READ column entitled “The Environmental Racism of Bridgeport’s Carnival of Corruption” in this weekend’s CT Newsjunkie, Sarah Darer Littman shines the bright light of truth on a complex deal in which Bridgeport ’s political and corporate leaders are conspiring to move Bridgeport’s Harding High School on to a severely polluted superfund site in order to make room for Bridgeport Hospital’s expansion plans.

“The political wheeling and dealing stretches from Bridgeport to Hartford and back again.

“By the time their effort is over, the cost to Connecticut taxpayers will exceed $100 million or more, and that doesn’t even begin to count the cost to Bridgeport’s public school students, teachers and parents who are but pawns in the deceit that has become the hallmark of Connecticut’s political environment.”

Be sure to read Pelto’s column and Littman’s shocking exposé, called. “The Environmental Racism of Bridgeport’s Carnival of Corruption.”

An experienced researcher saw a story in the Economist about charter schools. It was, as is typical among news stories, incredibly naive. The writer didn’t ask the right questions. Maybe he already believed in the charter “miracle” story and didn’t ask any questions.

So my correspondent–who requires anonymity– decided that it would be helpful to reporters and members of the public to explain how to read stories about charter schools. Mainly it involves the ability to decipher false claims.

They do not have a “secret sauce,” the phrase once used by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to describe the Noble Network of Charter Schools, each of which is named to honor a very rich patron.

They do have a secret recipe, however, for manufacturing the illusion of success.

Be wise. Think critically. Read carefully.

Here is expert advice:

How to Read News Stories about Charter Schools

Reports and stories about charter schools are in the media every day. The majority of these stories praise charters, while often demeaning public schools. We propose that every reader of such stories ask the following questions before taking the claims of such articles seriously.

Does the story compare the demographics of the student population served by charter schools to the demographics of local public schools? Does it include data on the charter school attrition rate? Does it include data on how the students who leave the charters compare to students who leave public schools? Does it include numbers of students expelled? Does it include numbers of students suspended? Does the story focus exclusively on test scores? If so, has someone, with educational expertise, visited the school to determine if the school focuses on test prep at the expense of a rich curriculum? Are the test scores reported outside of school assessments such as the SAT/ACT or does the story only report test scores of exams that are proctored in-house? Does the story account for the fact that, due to the need to apply to the charter school, parents of the students at charters are, on average, likely to be more engaged in education than the parents of students at public schools? Does it exclusively or primarily cite reports funded by pro-charter or conservative think tanks? Does it include quotes from academic scholars or does it just cite charter school advocates? Does it identify advocates or simply call them “experts” or “researchers”? Does it compare the resources available to charter schools to those available to public schools? Let’s call this approach “identifying charters’ bogus statistics” or the ICBS strategy.

It grows tiresome to dispute every tendentious article written on charter schools.  But let’s see how the ICBS strategy would help us evaluate a sample story. The Economist recently ran an article praising charter schools and attacking Bill de Blasio for proposing to charge rent to charter schools that use public space in New York City.

The Economist presents the Noble Network of charter schools in Chicago as a paragon of charter school excellence. “Around 36% of the…children enrolled with Noble can expect to graduate from college, compared with 11%…city-wide.” What does the data actually tell us about the Noble Network?  As is, unfortunately, standard practice across many charter schools, the Noble Network does not serve equal proportions of the neediest students. In fact they serve 35% fewer English Language Learners and 22% fewer special education students than Chicago Public Schools. This lack of inclusivity extends to other areas too, such as their ban on a Gay Straight Alliance student group.

An op-ed by Congressman Danny Davis noted that the Noble Network suspends 51% of its students at least once during a school year. This includes suspending 88% of the African American students who attend its schools. It might be hard to understand why a school would want to suspend so many of its students…until you realize that this encourages students to leave. And it specifically encourages the more challenging students, the ones most likely to bring down test scores and college graduation rates, to depart. This is not the only such strategy they employ. One exposé revealed that the Noble Network’s “discipline system charges students $5 for minor behavior such as chewing gum, missing a button on their school uniform, or not making eye contact with their teacher, and up to $280 for required behavior classes. 90% of Noble students are low-income, yet if they can’t pay all fines, they are made to repeat the entire school year or prevented from graduating. No waivers are offered, giving many families no option but to leave the school.” The data show that this strategy works. The Noble Network loses over 30% of the students in each class that enters its schools.

As has become all too common, the public school district officials refuse to acknowledge these facts. The former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools told a reporter that he’d turn over data showing that charters don’t “have policies that systematically weed out weaker students.” But as the story notes “the district didn’t keep that promise. WBEZ did obtain an internal CPS memo. It’s titled “Memorandum on Charter School Myths.” The four-page report actually finds that traditional schools held onto more kids than charters did for the year CPS examined.”

The other set of Chicago charter schools praised by the Economist had their contract shortened from 3 years to 5 due to poor performance. Despite the Economist’s claim that “charters have worked well in Chicago,” the actual data show that charters are not working well. As reported by the Chicago Sun Times, “The overall passing rate at two city charter franchises — Aspira and North Lawndale — was below the city average at every campus those two groups operate. Four other chains — Betty Shabazz, Perspectives, North Lawndale and Chicago International — saw the majority of their campuses with over-all pass rates that were below the citywide average.” Even the Walton Foundation-funded CREDO report cited by the Economist, which did not account for the numbers-gaming we noted above, showed mixed outcomes by Chicago’s charters. “In reading, 21 percent of charters performed worse than traditional schools, while 20 percent did better and 59 percent showed no difference. In math, 21 percent of charters did worse, 37 percent performed better and 42 percent showed no difference. Black and Hispanic students continued to lag behind white students in reading, and received “no significant benefit or loss from charter school attendance” compared to students in traditional schools.”

And let us not even mention Chicago’s largest charter chain, called UNO, which received a state grant of $98 million to build new campuses. Its politically powerful CEO–who was co-chair of Mayor Emanuel’s election committee–resigned after revelations in the media of multiple conflicts of interest in the award of contracts and jobs.

But enough about Chicago. The Economist also claimed that “New York City’s charter schools generally outperform their neighbouring district schools.” The data do not support this. According to the data set on the New York City Department of Education’s website, when compared to similar elementary and middle schools, charter schools rank at the 46th percentile in English growth, the 41st percentile in English growth for students who start with scores in the bottom third, the 53rd percentile in Math growth and the 45th percentile in Math growth for students who start with scores in the bottom third. Not only do they not outperform they don’t even match. This past year charter schools saw bigger drops in performance on the Common Core exams than public schools. Additionally charter schools performed worse on average than public schools in English and the same as public schools in math. As do Chicago charter schools, New York City charter schools have extremely high suspension and alarming attrition rates. In fact a recent analysis by the NYC Independent Budget Office found that charter schools selectively attrite students with lower test scores. “The results are revealing. Among students in charter schools, those who remained in their kindergarten schools through third grade had higher average scale scores in both reading (English Language Arts) and mathematics in third grade compared with those who had left for another New York City public school.”

A school from the Success Academy network was singled out for praise by the Economist. What does Success Academy do? They seem to employ the same strategies as the Noble Network in Chicago. In one neighborhood, Success Academy serves 18% fewer impoverished students, 9% fewer English Language Learners, and 13% fewer team taught and self-contained special education students (at a negligible .01% of their student population) than the local public schools. What’s worse Success Academy seems to push out the few special education students that they do admit. Success Academy suspends students at rates well in excess of other public schools in the same district. According to one newspaper report “at Harlem Success 1… 22% of pupils got suspended at least once… That’s far above the 3% average for regular elementary schools in its school district.”

Success Academy has very, very high attrition rates. The data show that over half of each entering class disappears over time. The 2012 data reveal that there were 482 third grade students tested in 2012 but only 244 students were tested at the highest tested grade. The 2013 data reveal that 487 third grade students were tested in 2013, but only 220 students were tested at the schools’ highest testing grade. Assuming similarly sized entering classes at each school and only looking at schools for which we have data across years (i.e. excluding schools that have had only one testing grade which would not permit comparative analysis) over 55% of Success Academy’s students are lost from each grade. Success Academy’s strategy for “success” seems to be to get rid of students who are identified as not succeeding.

The Economist cites a report by “the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think-tank” on the rent question. Bruce Baker, of Rutgers University, has debunked that report. His conclusion, “it makes little sense for the district to heavily subsidize schools [i.e. charters] serving less needy children that already have access to more adequate resources. It makes even less sense to make these transfers of facilities space (or the value associated with that space) as city class sizes mushroom and as the state indicates the likelihood that its contributions will continue falling well short of past promises.”

Using the ICBS strategy it appears that the claims made by the Economist are unsupported by evidence. Stories like this will continue to be published but, armed with the ICBS strategy, readers should not fall prey to such propaganda.

Ted Mitchell is CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund, one of the best funded and most aggressive organizations  promoting charter school chains and for-profit ventures in public education.

He is a key figure in the corporate reform movement to transform public education and transfer public funds to private management, as well as to spur entrepreneurial activity and the involvement of the for-profit sector in public education.

President Obama has nominated him to be Undersecretary of Education, the second most powerful job in the department.

As this article suggests, the choice of Ted Mitchell sends a clear signal about the priorities of President Obama.

The Network for Public Education national conference will meet in Austin, Texas, on Saturday and Sunday, March 1 and 2.

You can join us by livestream.

The direct link to the site hosting the livestream is here:

The conference hashtag is #npeconference.

Nearly 400 activist parents, educators, legislators, and other supporters of public education from across the nation have registered to plan for the future.

For more information about speakers and panels, check here.

I will speak Sunday morning and explain “Why We Will Win.”

Albany, Néw York, will be the scene of two competing rallies on Tuesday.

Eva Moskowitz is closing her charter schools on NYC and will bus thousands of children and parents to lobby for her charter chain.

On the same day, allies of Mayor de Blasio will assemble to urge the legislature to permit NYC to tax the richest–those who earn more than $500,000 annually–to pay for universal pre-K.

Place your bets, folks. Will it come down to a contest between which groups made the biggest campaign contributions? Or will the greater public good prevail?

Parents, teachers, administrators, and elected officials on Long Island in New York will rally to encourage families to opt their children out of the state tests.

If the children don’t take the tests, the state can’t rank and rate them; their teachers won’t be evaluated based on their test scores; their principals won’t be evaluated based on their test scores; their schools won’t be rewarded or closed based on their test scores.

The whole facade of corporate reform collapses if enough families say, NO. I REFUSE.






***For Immediate Release***

iRefuse – The Great American Opt Out Rally

Date: Saturday March 29, 2014

Time: 12:15PM – 4:00 PM

Location: Comsewogue High School, 565 Bicycle Path, Port Jefferson Station, NY

Contact: Mark Ferreris,, 516-306-6148

iRefuse is hosting its first annual New York State “Great American Opt Out” Rally on the football field at Comsewogue High School on Saturday March 29, 2014 at 12:15PM.

Join us as we make our voices heard and stand up for children against out-of-control education reform (Common Core) and high stakes testing in New York State.

Hosted by “America’s Superintendent” Dr. Joe Rella and emceed by Mark Ferreris, we will hear from notable guest speakers such as:

Al Graf, NYS Assemblyman
Yvonne Gasperino (co-founder of Stop Common Core in New York State),
Mary Calamia (psychotherapist who testified to the NYS Assembly about the dangers of Common Core),
Michael Bohr (founder of Bad Ass Parents),
Beth Dimino (teacher and PJSTA President),
Mercedes Schneider, National Blogger (,
David Greene, Teacher/Author/Activist, and
Tim Farley, Principal Ichabod Crane Elementary/Middle School.

For more information:

Event details:

Linda Darling-Hammond describes the possibilities for the transformation of assessment in the Common Core era.

Embodied in her analysis is a devastating critique of value-added measurement, which has been enacted by many states under pressure by the US Department of Education.

Did you know that the National Assessment Of Educational Progress used to test much more than reading and math, much more than academic subjects? Did you know that it was designed originally to assess student cooperation and behavior as well as skills? Did you know that the narrowing of NAEP testing is fairly recent?

Richard Rothstein knows what NAEP was supposed to be and he explained its history to the governing board of NAEP on the occasion of its 25th anniversary.

He wrote:

“Education policy in both the Bush and Obama administrations has suffered from failure to acknowledge a critical principle of performance evaluation in all fields, public and private—if an institution has multiple goals but is held accountable only for some, its agents, acting rationally, will increase attention paid to goals for which they are evaluated, and diminish attention to those, perhaps equally important, for which they are not evaluated.

“When law and policy hold schools accountable primarily for their students’ math and reading test scores, educators inevitably, and rationally, devote less instructional resources to history, the sciences, the arts and music, citizenship, physical and emotional health, social skills, a work ethic and other curricular areas.

“Over the last decade, racial minority and socio-economically disadvantaged students have suffered the most from this curricular narrowing. As those with the lowest math and reading scores, theirs are the teachers and schools who are under the most pressure to devote greater time to test prep, and less to the other subjects of a balanced instructional program.

“One way the federal government promotes this distortion is through its National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an assessment administered biennially in every state, but only in math and reading. Government officials spend considerable effort publicizing the results. They call NAEP “The Nation’s Report Card,” but no parent would be satisfied with so partial and limited a report card for his or her child.

“Twenty-five years ago, Congress created the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) to create NAEP policy. At NAGB’s conference today celebrating its silver anniversary, Rebecca Jacobsen and I describe (in a presentation drawn from our book with Tamara Wilder, Grading Education. Getting Accountability Right) how NAGB’s disproportionate attention to math and reading was not intended when NAEP was first administered in the early 1970s.

“In those early years, NAEP attempted to assess any goal area for which schools devote, in the words of NAEP’s designers, “15-20% of their time…, [the] less tangible areas, as well as the customary areas, in a fashion the public can grasp and understand.”

“For example, to see whether students were learning to cooperate, NAEP sent trained observers to present a game to 9-year-olds in sampled schools. In teams of four, the 9-year-olds were offered a prize to guess what was hidden in a box. Teams competed to see which, by asking questions, could identify the toy first. Team members had to agree on which questions to ask, and the role of posing questions was rotated. Trained NAEP observers rated the 9-year-olds on their skills in cooperative problem-solving and NAEP then reported on the percentage who were capable of it.

“NAEP assessors also evaluated cooperative skills of 13- and 17-year-olds. Assessors presented groups of eight students with a list of issues about which teenagers typically had strong opinions. Students were asked to reach consensus on the five most important and then write recommendations on how to resolve two of them. The list included, for 13-year-olds, such issues as whether they should have a curfew for going to bed, and for 17-year-olds, eligibility minimums for voting, drinking, and smoking. NAEP observers rated skills such as whether students gave reasons for their points of view and defended a group member’s right to hold a contrary viewpoint.”

For the full presentation, written with Rebecca Jacobsen, read this.