Archives for the month of: June, 2014

Here is a good example of taking facts to the public: Frank Breslin, retired teacher, writes an opinion article that explains the flaws of Common Core and standardized testing, as well as teacher evaluation based on flawed tests.

At the Vergara trial, a student identified one of her teachers as undeserving of tenure. She named Christine McLaughlin of Blair Middle School. Ms. McLaughlin had been selected as Pasadena Teacher of the Year. So which is she?

This reader writes:

“Here’s a video of one of the “grossly ineffective teachers” and “2013 Pasadena Teacher of the Year” named in this lawsuit (by her former student and plaintiff Raylene Monterroza):

Mind you, this above video was played during court, and Ms. Monterroza was questioned about how it felt to watch the video of students praising her “grossly ineffective teacher” (starting at 00:49). She replied that watching it was upsetting, and that those students must have been lying as that wasn’t Ms. Monterroza’s experience.


Watch the “teacher of the year” video again, starting at 00:49, where the students give their opinion of the teachers.

Do these kids sound like they’re lying? Do the kids’ description of their teacher Ms. McLaughlin align with the criteria of the stereotypical “grossly ineffective teacher” that the Vergara legal team claims that Ms. McLaughlin is?

Again, this is a video portrait, as you see, celebrating and profiling Ms. McLaughlin’s award-winning teaching, as the “Rotary’s Pasadena 2013 Teacher of the Year.”

The student plaintiff, Ms. Raylene Monterroza, claimed in her testimony that those students in the video can’t be telling the truth, as it conflicts with her own experience. She said that watching that video prior to her testimony, “upset” her… as it included countless students contradicting her and the entire Vergara team’s claims that Ms. McLaughlin is… again… “a grossly ineffective teacher.”

Again, watch the video portrait of Ms. McLaughlin (who was also won the Pasadena NAACP’s “2008 Star of Education” award, by the way) and ask yourself…

So which is Ms. McLaughlin?

a deserving, multi-award-winning “Teacher of the Year”, praised to the hilt by countless students in the video?


“a grossly ineffective teacher” according to JUST ONE student, and a teacher who taught the (Vergara plaintiff) Ms. Monterroza “nothing,” and thus destroyed Ms. Monterroza’s education?

“Indeed, this whole Vergara trial was like something out of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” in China during the 1960′s. For those not acquainted with this, here’s primer: zealous students, under party leaders’ directions, would persecute their teachers. Kids would get their jollies as they put their teachers on a stage, put dunce caps on them, then screamed at them while forcing their teachers to bow their heads, kneel down, and confess their “crimes” and on and on…

These kids—appointed and empowered as “Red Guards” by Mao’s henchmen— would parade their former teachers through the streets…

Hey wait… there’s a scene from THE LAST EMPEROR that shows this way better than I could describe it…

Watch from: 01:19 – 04:19

(at which point—04:19—some female Red Guard students start performing an inane Commie “line dance” of sorts… creepy…)

At 02:45, watch “Pu Yi”—the former-Chinese-emperor-now-gardener—as he tries to stand up for his former teacher (for clarification: years ago, while Pu Yi’s was imprisoned, his teacher was referred to as “governor.”)

In response to Pu Yi, a teenage “Red Guard” zealot screams in his face:

“Join us (in the persecution of teachers), Comrade, or f— off!”

Next, the students force Pu Yi’s former teacher to his knees and demand that he “confess his crimes.” Amazingly, he refuses.

Pu Yi then chimes in, shouting:

“But he is a teacher! A good teacher! You cannot do this to him!”

… before Pu Yi is violently subdued by the student fanatics.

Anyway, this scene is all happening AGAIN, and it’s happening HERE in the Vergara case courtroom, and soon will in countless more “Vergara” courtrooms to come. It’s a less intense version, to be sure, but THE overall situation is the same:

we know we have kids—directed by and empowered by evil adults with an evil agenda—enthusiastically persecuting their innocent teachers.”

Charter schools have been the beneficiary of a myth, the myth that a free market in schooling will produce miraculous results. Unfortunately, like most myths, it is not true. Deregulation translates into lack of supervision and oversight. In the absence of supervision of public funds, scams, frauds, and corruption flourish.

Jeff Bryant here reviews some of the egregious examples of charter school corruption in Ohio, Michigan, and Florida. Billions of taxpayer dollars are being transferred to the private sector, where no one supervises how those dollars are spent. Worse, the businesses that get the money spend large sums to hire lobbyists and to contribute to key legislators to make sure their charters remain free of oversight.

It is alarming that Congress is about to hand more money over to the same shady entrepreneurs and to encourage more of them to jump into the unregulated, very profitable charter industry.

In 2013, the National Council on Teacher Quality offered its advice on how to fix Philadelphia’s financially beleaguered public schools. Retired teacher Lisa Haver reviewed its counsel to the city. Haver is a founder of the grass-roots advocacy organization Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.

In this article, Haver wrote:

“”Thank heavens,” you’re thinking. The district is so broke it’s looking for loose change in the corner of desk drawers; thousands of students and teachers whose schools will close forever in June don’t know where they’ll be in September; parents wonder whether their children will have access to a nurse or counselor, or remember what a school librarian is; Harrisburg says don’t call us – we’ll call you.

“What does the Council [NCTQ] recommend that the district do to solve these problems? Crack down on teachers who get too many sick days, don’t deserve collective-bargaining rights, are too hard to fire and waste time getting advanced degrees in their field.”

This is the same organization that recently “rated” the nation’s teacher preparation programs without going to the trouble of visiting the campuses.

I am late in reporting this story, but did not want to miss the opportunity to correct my oversight.

One of the truly bad ideas that has been adopted in various states is that third graders must pass a reading test or flunk. They can’t advance to fourth grade. This is part of the punitive test-based accountability of our times, which hurts children and trusts standardized tests more than teachers.

In Oklahoma, parents got so outraged by this damaging proposal that they communicated their views to their legislators. The legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of their bill to stop the test.

“The governor on Tuesday vetoed a bill allowing a student who fails the test to still be promoted if a team of parents and educators approve. Lawmakers applauded and cheered when the veto override passed 79-17 in the House and 45-2 in the Senate.

“Some parents had approached lawmakers to complain about the high-stakes testing, which was to be implemented for the first time this year.

“The legislative action means the bill immediately becomes law, directly affecting nearly 8,000 Oklahoma students who scored “unsatisfactory” on the test.”

Children who are flunked get badly discouraged. It is better to give children extra help, tutors, and reduced class sizes than inflict the pain and humiliation of leaving them behind their peers. Given the appropriate support, they will catch up.

Peter Greene proves himself a man of infinite patience. In this post, he analyzes and deconstructs a speech that Arne Duncan gave to the annual meeting of the PTA.

He writes:

“Arne opens up his speech as pretty much anybody would (Glad to be here! Your organization is great! Let’s here it for your leaders!) and then moves on to tales of his children’s schooling. Their experience was not the typical 25-30 desks in a row. His son got to work ahead in math because, technology. His daughter got to attend a constitutional convention and Civil War day.

[Duncan says]: “But it’s those kinds of opportunities that I think are so special. And why are those experiences so important? Because I think all of us – all of us as parents – want our children to be inspired, to be challenged, to be active participants in their own learning.

“This is not the last time that Arne will say something that is true, but also completely disconnected from the kind of schooling promoted by his department’s policies. I’m pretty sure we can make it a drinking game; every time Arne says something that would make a great basis for educational policy, but US DOE actually does the opposite–drink! Do I need to point out that Arne’s kids attend a school that remains untouched by the policies that are being inflicted on the rest of us?”

See if you can actually wade through this speech.

Chinese students live (and sometimes die) for their test scores.


Here is a portrayal of the “insanely stressful” examination system that rules the lives of all Chinese students.


This is the system that American policymakers like Arne Duncan hope to import to the United States.


This is the dream of “tiger moms” like Amy Chua and Michelle Rhee, to subject children to higher and higher stakes until they think of nothing other than their test scores.


Sorry, guys, but your dream is not the American dream. The American dream is one where everyone has a fair chance to realize their ambitions, whatever they may be–not just test scores, but in sports, music, or some other endeavor. The American dream celebrates those who tinker, who create, who improvise, who invent new ideas while “messing around” with stuff that interests them. This is the dream that made this country great, not a one-size-fits=all examination hell that ranks kids according to the whims of the testing industry.


This is what happens when your life depends on one test on one day:


Nearly 9.8 million Chinese high school students took the National College Entrance Exam, called gaokao, on June 7 and 8.



The emphasis on a two-day test has sparked criticism from some educators because of the incredible amount of pressure it places on students leading up to just one test. Gaokao has also been linked to China’s rising suicide rate because of mounted pressure and poor test results.


Hengshui High School, the highest achieving secondary school in gaokao over the last 14 years, has these as its two mottos: “Life is not a rehearsal, because you won’t have the chance to live it all over again,” and “If you haven’t died from hard work, just work harder.” At Hengshui, students study from 5:30 a.m. to 9:50 p.m., cannot have cell phones and are allowed just one day of vacation every month. Cameras are placed in each classroom to monitor students for laziness. These types of tactics are increasingly common at what many are calling gaokao-sweatshops — schools that exclusively prepare students for gaokao.


Read more:


Does anyone know an authoritative source for the number of public schools closed because of NCLB and Race to the Top? Either turnarounds, turned over to charters, or just closed?

In one of the most powerful posts I have ever read, veteran journalist Bob Braun (retired after fifty years as an investigative reporter in New Jersey) bluntly declares that state policy in Newark is racist.

He writes:

“The eighth-grade graduation ceremonies at the Hawthorne Avenue School this morning–the last of their kind–provided an island of sanity and goodwill in the ocean of madness that is state educational policy in Newark. One of the best-achieving schools, not just in the city, but also in the state, has been stripped of its leadership, declared a failure, and is ready to be turned over to Chris Christie’s corporate wolves who devour the poor and what little they have. Parents and teachers and even some students shook their heads and wondered how this could happen. There is an explanation. It’s called racism.


“Racism. The implementation of policy based on race–implemented in such a way that members of a dominant race realize an advantage over members of a less powerful one. Just 12 hours before the graduation ceremony, Deborah Gregory Smith appeared at yet another useless school board meeting and used the word. Racism.

“I know I have been told not to use the race card,” said the head of the Newark NAACP. But she did. Giving Cami Anderson another contract, she said, was racist. Gov. Christie, who refuses to come to Newark to face the people his family ran from 30 years ago, is racist.

“That is racism,” she said. And she is right.

“What else do you call it when Lamont Thomas, the principal of one of the most spectacularly achieving high schools in the country (yes, I said country)–Science Park–gets a “partially effective” evaluation, probably because his students were the core of the Newark Student Union? What else do you call it when Regina Sharpe, the principal of the highly successful University High School, is fired?

“Racism. I call it racism. Anderson certainly hasn’t offered any alternative explanations.

“Racism. General and specific. Generally, not following the law to insist that New Jersey schools be integrated. Not following the law to insist that New Jersey schools be fully funded. Not following the law to provide decent jobs, housing, and health care in areas that are predominantly black and brown. Not following the law and allowing a return to local control. Not following the law and allowing Newark to become, in the words of Cory Booker, the “charter school capital of America.”

“And here are the specifics in Newark:

“Let’s face facts. Cami Anderson is a white woman living the life of white advantage thanks to her $300,000 salary and to her friends in Montclair and Glen Ridge like the Plofkers and the Cardens and the Cerfs. Her sponsors and bosses, Chris Cerf and Chris Christie and David Hespe, are white men, also well advantaged, enjoying the advantages provided by the politics of racism to help ensure their maintenance of power.”

Read it all.

And read about the resignation of Lamont Thomas. Cami Anderson insulted him by rating him “partially effective,”, and he resigned.

Braun writes:

“Anderson, who believes in the powers of disruption theory, had done things like this in the past. She is especially fond of humiliating strong black school leaders. She had just told the principal of Hawthorne Avenue School, the highest achieving neighborhood public school in the system, to reapply for his job–although all the teaching staff members were allowed to stay without reapplying. Earlier in the year, Anderson had suspended James and four other principals for raising questions about the “One Newark ” plan to replace neighborhood schools with charters and other privatized schools.”

Jesse Hagopian of Garfield High School in Seattle wrote this speech for the protest at the gates of the Gates Foundation a few days ago:

“Comments from Jesse Hagopian For the Gates Foundation Protest:”

Teaching in the shadow of the Gates Foundation is an ominous and treacherous endeavor. Everywhere you turn there is another so-called “expert”, funded by the Gates foundation–with very little, if any classroom experience—who believes that their dollars have given them sense.

Gates believes in the right of the rich to control the schools and even the very idea of what knowledge is. We believe that education and knowledge should be democratic pursuits and that only through collaboration—not market competition—can we fully become complete human beings.

Gates believes the intellectual and social-emotional processes can and should be reduced to a test score. We believe standardized testing can’t begin to quantify the things that matter most in education: imagination, collaboration, civic courage, empathy, and creativity.

The problem for us is that Gates has a few more dollars than we have.

The problem for Gates is that we have a few more friends, co-workers, and students than he has.

The power of solidarity to defeat the powerful was on full display when teachers at Garfield High School—and then teachers around Seattle—refused to administer the Measures of Academic Progress ( or MAP) test. That struggle defeated the MAP test for high schools in Seattle and helped to ignite a movement around the nation, not only against high-stakes testing, but also to redefine the purpose of education beyond the confines of “career and college ready” to talk about education in pursuit of social justice.

I am sorry I cannot be with you in person today as I am in Omaha sharing the lessons of this growing movement and meeting new people who want to join it. I am excited to say that we are currently in the midst of the biggest uprising against high-stakes testing in U.S. history.

And when the last bubble test is thrown into the dumpster; when our libraries and computer labs are liberated from Pearson tests and can again be used again for research, inquiry, and incubators of imagination; When our schools cease to rank and sort our children and instead become centers of empowerment; you all here today will be remembered as having stared down the self appointed Testocracy Tsar, Bill Gates, and having said to him loud and clear: “our schools are not for sale!”
Jesse co