Archives for the month of: April, 2014

John Thompson raises a provocative and important question: who is inflicting more damage on teachers and students? Tea Party extremists like North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory or Secretary of Education Arne Duncan?

Thompson, a teacher and historian, describes the assault on teachers in North Carolina, whose governor and Legislature seem determined to destroy public education by expanding vouchers and charters and to dismantle the teaching profession by eliminating tenure, laying off teacher aides, and keeping salaries stagnant.

Thompson writes:

“Which sets of school reforms are inflicting the most damage on teachers and students? Has the right wing Tea Party’s most extreme assaults on public education hurt schools the most? Or, has the Duncan administration’s ill-conceived corporate reforms done the most harm?

“North Carolina was once touted as an exemplar of standards based reforms, and Wake County was praised for its socio-economic integration. Tea Party Governor Pat McCrory and Republicans are phasing out tenure and gutting salaries. As a result, mid-year teacher resignations in Wake schools have increased by an “alarming” 41% this school year. The number of resigning teachers who said they are moving to other North Carolina schools dropped, as there was an increase in teachers leaving for other states. Early retirements have tripled.

“The problem is so extreme that Doug Thilman, Wake’s assistant superintendent for human resources, said at a press conference, “Good teachers are having to make hard decisions to leave our classrooms for a better future somewhere else or in another line of work, in another profession – not in our public schools and not in our state.”

But then there is Arne Duncan’s mad idea that the way to “fix” schools is to fire half or all the staff.

Thompson writes:

“The mirror image of Wakes’ crisis is found in Chicago “turnaround schools.” Chicago’s Catalyst quotes Michael Hansen, senior researcher for the American Institutes for Research, who explains that the Duncan administration’s School Improvement Grant (SIG) are “under-researched.” High attrition following a turnaround has the potential to produce “more harm than help.” (emphasis by the Catalyst)

Ignoring educational research, these expensive turnaround campaigns begin with the mass dismissal of teachers. This immediately reduces the number of African-American teachers serving African-American communities, as well as reducing the experience levels of teachers. Catalyst reports, however, that “large chunks of the new staff–teachers who were hand-picked and spent weeks over the summer getting to know each other, becoming a team and learning how to spark improvement when the school reopened–leave within a few years.”

Catalyst reports “At 16 of the 17 schools that underwent a turnaround between 2007 and 2011, more than half of teachers hired in the first year of the turnaround left by the third year.” Moreover, “Among all turnarounds, an average of two-thirds of new teachers left by year three.” (emphasis in the original)

As the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) explains, such high levels of attrition is problematic because, “It can produce a range of organizational problems at schools, such as discontinuity in professional development, shortages in key subjects and loss of teacher leadership.”

I say that the answer to Thompson’s question is clear. McCrory is gutting public education in his state, and only in his state. Duncan’s idiotic idea of “turnaround” is harming schools and communities across the nation, laying off veteran teachers, reducing the number of African-American teachers, and generating harmful turmoil.

Let’s face it. Duncan has inflicted incalculable harm on public education, especially in urban districts. He became Secretary of Education after eight unsuccessful years as superintendent of schools in Chicago, which was and remains a low-performing district. He was unqualified to be Secretary of Education. In the past, we have had governors with no education credentials, but they at least had the good sense to recognize the reality of federalism, the limitations on their powers, and fact that control of education is a state and local function. Duncan has recognized none of these factors and has used federal funding to impose his will and his bad ideas on districts across the nation. It seems he won’t be satisfied until every teacher is inexperienced (preferably certified by Teach for America), every public school has been turned over to private management, every decision is tightly tied to test scores, and every teacher education institution is run by charter school teachers who grant advanced degrees to one another.

Duncan is a terrific basketball payer but a disastrous Secretary of Education. The real test of public education is whether it can survive two more years of his failed and harmful policies.

A letter from a teacher. He echoes my sentiments exactly. Stay and fight. Resist. Don’t let the teacher-bashers win. Not only are teachers “in the trenches,” but now teachers are engaging in trench warfare, holding on to their professional ethics and fighting for their students against powerful forces. Be there when the whole phony “ed reform” ideology collapses, as it will.


Here is good advice:


As a teacher of almost 20 years I am kind of getting tired of all of these “resignation letters”. Don’t these teachers realize that quitting is EXACTLY what the ed-deform crowd wants them to do? The ed-deformers want a constant churn of young, cheap labor. They want easily manipulated new teachers who will never become vested in a pension. They want teachers who will keep their mouths closed and do what they are told. They don’t want anbody to stir the boat. Most of all, they want QUITTERS. I say stick it out and fight the good fight! Be a thorn in the side of the ed-deform crowd. Never quit. Make the ed-deformers quit.

Good news! Obnoxious TV program –“Bad Teachers”-/slandering an entire profession was canceled. One reader described it as the TV equivalent of “Waiting for Superman.”


Randi put out this statement, which is how I learned about it.

For Immediate Release
April 29, 2014

AFT’s Weingarten on Discovery’s Decision to Cancel ‘Bad Teacher’

Washington—Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten on Discovery Communications’ decision to cancel the television show ‘Bad Teacher.’

“I was surprised to learn, through a barrage of tweets Sunday night after “Bad Teachers” aired, that Discovery would use its brand to promote such an offensive program. However, I am heartened that it has taken steps to cancel the show and publicly affirm that Discovery Education’s mission is to celebrate and support educators.

“Every day, educators go into the classroom to make a difference in the lives of our children. Their work should be honored and valued, not bashed, and we hope to work with Discovery to showcase the real work teachers do every day to help kids achieve their dreams.

Louis C.K. Is a comedian with a huge following. He has more than 3 million followers on Twitter. More important, he has two young daughters in the New York City public schools. He vented his rage against the Common Core tests in. Series of tweets that have now been reported in many new après. This one appeared in Salon

Here is a story in the New York Daily News.

Here is the New York Post.

I noticed the flare-up on Twitter but had no idea of Louis’s following. Sometimes it takes the righteous indignation of a celebrity to get the attention of the mainstream media. Otherwise, they just print Arne Duncan’s press releases.

This was his first tweet, which appeared yesterday morning.

“My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!”
9:00 AM – 28 Apr 2014

When the comedians get angry at Common Core, watch out!

There are two groups that can’t be attacked by corporate reformers as greedy and self-interested: parents and students. The fake reformers automatically dismiss the voices if educators, but they can’t dismiss parents and students.

No, wait, Arne Duncan ridiculed parents in Néw York as “white suburban moms” who were disappointed to find out their children weren’t so bright after all.

But so far he hasn’t tried to dismiss the students, and no voice is more powerful than that of knowledgeable students.

In Providence, Rhode Island, high school students have stood up bravely against the misuse of a standardized test as a graduation requirement.

The Providence Student Union held a mayoral forum, and every candida date, from both parties, endorsed the student platform. We can all take lessons from these brilliant young people.

They wrote:

Having trouble viewing this email? Click here

“Did you hear?

“Last week, the Providence Student Union partnered with Young Voices and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to organize a 100% youth-led, youth-moderated Mayoral Forum.

“As Friday’s front-page Providence Journal story put it – students “grilled” Providence mayoral hopefuls on the issues important to our city’s young people.

“With a packed house, critical discussion, and a Twitter conversation on the forum’s #pvdymf hashtag that trended top 10 nationally, it’s safe to say students successfully pushed their concerns into the conversation around this year’s election.

“More than anything, however, this forum illustrated just how far we have come in building student power in our community. Three things we learned:

“1. Every mayoral candidate – Democrat and Republican – announced their opposition to using the NECAP as a graduation requirement. It would have been hard to imagine when we began our “More Than a Test Score” campaign, but in the course of a year PSU youth leaders have truly turned this into a consensus political issue.

“2. Every mayoral candidate voiced their support for the Providence Student Union’s campaign to reduce the district’s walking distance and provide bus passes to more students.

“3. Every mayoral candidate agreed to sign our youth platform, The Schools Providence Students Deserve, pledging their commitment to fighting for more student-centered and hands-on learning, support for the arts, an emphasis on restorative practices versus punitive discipline systems, and more.

“The forum was a success, but it was just the beginning. Whoever wins this election, our task remains the same: bringing together impassioned student leaders who can hold adults to their promises and deliver the schools Providence students deserve.

“Thanks for all of your support. And if you want to be a part of this critical work, please make a donation and help students as they stand up, again and again, to have a fair say in their education.


Zack Mezera
Executive Director”

To learn more about the Providence Student Union, get in contact, or make a donation:

The blog has had a few posts about Vivian Connell (see here and here and here,) who left teaching in North Carolina to go to law school; graduated with honors, then learned she had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and only a few years to live.


Vivian has returned to teaching and decided that she wanted to make her time count. She started a fund to take a class of 32 children to the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C.


Vivian was trying to raise $20,000. She met her goal and then some. Thanks to all who sent a gift to this wonderful project.


I received the following email from Vivian:



We made it and then some!

An angel donor funded the balance of all the basics, and we are receiving a couple of thousand more that we will put toward “treats” – perhaps souvenirs, ice cream and T-shirts?

Moreover, I received an unbelievable honor today: as a result of this project and all of the publicity, a local donor/supporter of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum contacted the director, and she has invited me to be her guest next week at the museum’s events to commemorate the Day of Remembrance. I am just gobsmacked.

I owe you so much-your blog started it all, and every article quoted your kind words.

I can’t wait to welcome you to Raleigh next year for NPE2015, and I plan to make more waves for our causes before then!

Love and respect,


Mercedes Schneider continues in her task to determine who wrote the Common Core State Standards. The first work group had 24 members; the second had 101. Very few in either group were teachers. The standards were produced in remarkably short order. Typically, it takes years to write state standards when major stakeholders are part of the process. So was ther. Secret 24? A secret 101? Or, as some think, a secret 60? Many unanswered questions, but one fact stands out: very few classroom teachers were involved in writing the nation’s presumed academic standards.

Someday we will have the answers to all these questions.

But for now, we will have to rest content with the likelihood that the national standards were written with large input GotMichal the testing industry, and small input fro working teachers.

For what it is worth, I think the CCSS are dying the slow death of a thousand cuts. This sad denouement illustrates the necessity of transparency, inclusion, and a democratic process. Just becauseBill Gates and a handful of other powerful people want national standards is not enough to put them over. What they lack is legitimacy. And that is a big problem.

The charter sector is riddled with fraud. The fraud gets uncovered whenever you see a charter claiming a miraculous success with poor, inner-city kids who are identical to the kids in the neighboring failing public schools. When they boast of their 100% graduation rates or their 100% passing rates on state tests, look behind the curtain.

Watch a master at work as Bruce Baker pulls back the curtain on Newark’s awesome North Star Academy. 100% of the seniors graduate! (But half the kids drop out before senior year.) 100% of the students pass the state tests! (But North Star has remarkably few students with disabilities or English language learners, compared to the neighborhood schools.)

Schools like North Star are so bleeping awesome that they have their very own “graduate” schools of education, where they learn to be driven by data and how to “teach like a champion.” Really cool “graduate” schools with no researchers or scholars. Just charter teachers giving masters’ degrees to other charter teachers. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. What will they think of next?

Doctored data, make-believe degrees, pretend teachers.

This is called “education reform.”

What a world.

Jersey Jazzman heard NPR describe the reason that Washington State refused to bow to Arne Duncan’s demand that the sate use test scores to evaluate teacher quality.

It wasn’t because the methodology has no evidence behind it.

It wasn’t because the method has been questioned by theNational Academy of Education, the American Educational Research Association, the American Statistical Association, and leading scholars.

No, Washington State said no to our omnipotent, omniscient Secretary of Education because of those terrible unions who are afraid of being evaluated.

Or could this explain NPR’s rationale:

“So, as I was sitting at the kitchen table this evening, my ears perked up at the 5:30 break for WNYC, the NPR outlet here in the greater New York area. The announcer let us know that All Things Considered was proudly sponsored by the Walton Family Foundation, which was supporting (I’m paraphrasing here) educational “choice” for families.”

– See more at:

Sarah Darer Littman is a journalist in Connecticut who writes frequently about education. She is a public school parent. She wrote this post in response to an email sent to all public school parents by the superintendent of schools in Greenwich:

“When I was growing up, my parents had Dorothy Law Nolte’s poem Children Learn What They Live hanging in the wall in our house.


A few lines:

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

If children live with fairness, they learn justice.

If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.


“Last year, when Greenwich Superintendent William McKersie proposed to implement the SBAC field tests for juniors smack in the middle of AP’s, SAT’s and Junior Prom, my then junior daughter commented, “That’s just disrespectful.”

“I agreed. As wrote I in a blog post at the time, “Teenagers are human beings. They are not data points.” Furthermore, “as adults, we should be modeling balance for our kids, not cruelty and insanity. The rate of suicide for the 15-24 age group has nearly tripled since 1960. Is it any wonder when the State Board of Ed treats our already stressed out teens like lab rats instead of human beings?”


“Parental uproar forced Superintendent McKersie to back down in less than 24 hours last year.


“Apparently, that has driven him to take stronger, less truthful measures.

“On Thursday, I received the following email:




“I received this email just as I was leaving to meet with my Congressman, Jim Himes, (D-CT4) to discuss education policy issues. Congressman Himes said he wanted to understand why edreform has become so polarizing. At the end of our meeting, in which I showed him data and research about how many claims of charter “success” are actually misrepresentations, I showed him this letter and explained that when public figures are disingenuous and condescending to parents and students, it tends to make people angry – even “white suburban moms,” who might have previously been active participants of the Democratic base.


“Upon returning home, Thursday afternoon, I sent this email to all the members of the Greenwich Board of Education:




“Dear Members of the Greenwich Board of Education,


“I would like to draw your attention to the underlined phrases in Superintendent McKersie’s email, which was sent to parents of Greenwich Public School students earlier today. I assume you are aware of this memo. Are you also aware that the information Supt. McKersie gave out to parents is patently untrue?


“Let me be crystal clear: There is NO legal provision to prevent parents from opting out of the SBAC field tests. If you would like confirmation of this, please watch the video below, in which State Board of Education Chairman Allen Taylor confirmed this point.




“I question why the superintendent, who is being paid with our taxpayer dollars, is lying to parents, and my question to you is: Did the Greenwich Board of Education condone this dissemination of false information?



“On Saturday afternoon, I received this reply from Barbara O’Neill, the Chairwomen of Greenwich Board of Education:


Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 11.46.58 AM


“Perhaps the most distressing part of this was a report to the Board of Ed Thursday night by GHS Student Body President, Guillermo Perez, about a student meeting at the high school.


“We had a mass meeting today that got pretty heated. The juniors are not happy that they have to take SBAC. We’re trying to stay really positive, but they do get slammed with a lot of tests this year –- the SAT, the ACT and this SBAC field test is definitely not something they’re a fan of.


“But we’re trying to stay positive. We know it’s not necessarily the best of situations, but we did explain to them that unfortunately there is no opt out.

“It’s sort of a responsibility to the grades that come after you. Just because it doesn’t count for you doesn’t mean for them it won’t count. We want to gather this data. We want to see how does this test really affect us. How do we teach to the test, so that we can really show the state and everyone else what we’ve got.”



“So now the Powers That Be have students misleading other students. I feel like I’m living the Dystopian unit Mrs Price taught us in 10th grade honors English.


“I know Guillermo – he’s a bright young man and not someone who would purposely mislead his fellow students. So I emailed him, making clear I was writing in “journalist” rather than “Mom” mode, to ask him where he obtained the information on the opt-out.


“As for the SBAC testing, in a lunch meeting that student government’s Excomm had with Dr. McKersie and Dr. Winters, he made it very clear that there wouldn’t be an opt out. The decision comes from above them and it was communicated to us.”



“Last December, recognizing the growing strength of the opt-out movement, CT State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor sent out a memo to Superintendents giving them instructions to dissuade parents from opting out.


“But when confronted in a hearing in March, State Board of Ed Chairman Allen Taylor admitted there was no state law preventing parents from opting out their children.



“Why are public officials modeling to our children that being disingenuous is acceptable? I don’t lie to my kids. I don’t expect the Superintendent of schools and the principal of their school to lie to them either – or to persuade another student to do it.

” Children learn what they live. I worry about what the purveyors of our current education policy are teaching them. “