Archives for the month of: October, 2014

You can now read the full review in the New York Review of Books of Yong Zhao’s book, “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and the Worst) Schools in the World.”

It is no longer behind a paywall.

Ron Chandler, head of technology for LAUSD, abruptly resigned.

The Los Angeles Times said that Chandler oversaw two of the disrict’s most controversial and troubled programs: the $1.3 billion iPad purchase, which was former Superintendent John Deasy’s signature initiative, and the botched MISIS computer system.

“Chandler, 52, became associated with two major troubled projects. The first was a $1.3-billion effort to provide every student, teacher and campus administrator with an iPad, a flagship initiative of former Supt. John Deasy.

“Chandler was responsible for some of the problems that accompanied the iPad rollout at 47 schools last year. For example, immediately after receiving iPads last year, students at three high schools figured out how to delete the security filter and freely browse the Internet.

“Officials immediately took back the devices and some schools made little use of them for the remainder of the year….

“But Chandler’s position apparently became untenable in the wake of a second technology project called My Integrated Student Information System, or MISIS. The system eventually is expected to integrate all student records, keeping parents informed, allowing educators to tailor instruction and helping students stay on track with graduation and college requirements. But the system wasn’t ready and caused chaos across the sprawling district of about 600,000 students.

“As if to underscore the link between Chandler’s departure and MISIS, new Supt. Ramon C. Cortines tersely announced the resignation at the beginning of an update on the records system.

“There will be a change of leadership … Mr. Ron Chandler, Chief Information Officer, has resigned,” Cortines said. “We thank him for his service.”

Ramon Cortines, the new superintendent of schools in Los Angrles, is moving swiftly and decisively to clean up the district’s technology mess. Today he fired the chief of technology, who was responsible for the malfunctioning MISIS system, which left students without programs and scrambled schedules.

No excuses, no delay. This 82-year-old has taken charge.

Philip Kovacs brought his kindergarten child to school, and his teacher was dressed as a scary witch, dispensing candy, really terrifying!

Kovacs thinks what would be even more frightening would be to see people dressed as bankers (or hedge fund managers or tech billionaires), as destroyers of teachers and public schools.

“Witches, ghouls, goblins, astonishingly real zombies, the teachers were in full gear, dressed to distress the children they’d spent all day with. The principal and staff were there as well, greeting parents, shaking hands, occasionally jumping out of darker corners to the delight of students and parents alike.

“The mainstream media would have the American public believe that teachers are THE problem with our public schools. That they are the witches conjuring up the destruction of America’s competitive edge.

“I’d say the people to fear are the banksters, and if you want to scare the bejeepers out of thinking adults this year dress up as one of those. You’ll need a suit and a deck of cards. When people ask about the cards tell them you are gambling with their pensions. Tell them you’ve been “all in” since the beginning.”

He adds:

“No, I’m not afraid of the witch, but the people peddling fear of teachers scare the life out of me. If their voices continue unchallenged, we shouldn’t expect our best and brightest to enter the profession. You can’t spend millions of dollars hating on teachers and expect future prospects to want to become one.

“And if we continue to pile on the hate, to invoke “fear of teacher,” we will truly have something to be afraid of, a nation where the most qualified avoid teaching like the plague because we’ve made teachers the enemy.”

Next time you want someone to care for your children, call David Welch, tech zillionaire, or Bill Gates,Campbell Brown, or Arne Duncan. Would you?

Conservatives are supposed to conserve. however, these days conservatives are intent on smashing their community’s public schools and substituting a market-based system. this is Wall Street, not Main Street.

From a parent activist in Indiana:

“When it comes to public education, Indiana Republicans have been good at one thing – the deception of their own base of voters.

“Republicans lawmakers found themselves torn this year between traditional Hoosier conservatives and corporate sponsors who finance their campaigns. Conservative voters protested Federal overreach in education. Demanding Indiana maintain local decision-making for their schools, Hoosiers asked lawmakers to abandon the Common Core State Standards. However, the corporate ownership of the Common Core is pervasive.

“Republicans needed to quell conservative voter outrage at a Federal initiative taking away local control and costing taxpayers millions in compliance. Yet, they also needed to appease the big businesses that not only funded the Common Core, but funded their election campaigns as well. What were Indiana Republicans to do?

“Deceive us Hoosier Conservatives.

“Remaining loyal to their corporate sponsors, Republicans devised a scheme – rebrand the Common Core State Standards as the new Indiana College and Career Ready Standards. Confident they had cornered the voting booth, they stuck a new sticker over the Common Core and sold us out.

“State Republicans continue to deceive the public with their education platform of “supporting high state-based standards”. In fact, much of the Republican platform on education is written in deceptive terminology.

“The ancient Chinese general, Sun Tzu, said, “All warfare is based on deception.” The Republican Platform on education is nothing more than a declaration of war on our public schools. Unfortunately, Hoosier students are their casualties.”

Yesterday, I posted about the plan by Massachusetts to strip teachers of their licenses if their evaluations were poor.

As it happened, the Massachusetts Teachers Association had already issued a forceful response to this misguided proposal. President Barbara Madeloni posted this as a comment on the blog. It was released on October 27:

MTA to BESE: How can anyone in good conscience connect an employment evaluation to licensure?

In response to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s proposed changes to initial licensure and relicensure, MTA President Barbara Madeloni and Vice President Janet Anderson sent the following letter to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester. More information and recommended actions are forthcoming.
October 27, 2014

To: Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Education

From: Barbara Madeloni, President, Massachusetts Teachers Association
Janet Anderson, Vice President, Massachusetts Teachers Association

Re: Changes Proposed by DESE to initial licensure and relicensure

On Monday, October 20, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released proposed changes to requirements for both initial licensure and relicensure. A day later, the DESE held its first “town hall” hearing about these proposals. These hearings were facilitated by the Keystone Center, but DESE staff were present.

While there are many questions to ask about these proposals that would allow us to gain some clarity of meaning (e.g., what does “grit” mean as a requirement for initial licensure?), the primary question is: How can anyone in good conscience connect an employment evaluation to licensure when these are entirely different areas of authority and oversight? We know of no other profession in which licensure is contingent on employment evaluation. More insidiously, the employment evaluations include student learning outcomes, thus connecting relicensure to student test scores.

“ How can anyone in good conscience connect an employment evaluation to licensure when these are entirely different areas of authority and oversight?”

We are asking the commissioner to rescind these recommendations in whole for the following reasons:

1. The DESE is advancing policy options that almost exclusively base license advancement and license renewal on the summative performance ratings in the educator evaluation framework and the student impact rating derived from MCAS growth scores and District-Determined Measures. This is a misuse of measures of student learning and is counter to the DESE’s own assertions about how student learning measures would be used.

2. As a professional organization representing approximately 80,000 licensed preK-12 practitioner-members, the MTA does not support either the design principles or the policy options outlined in this document. To connect licensure to evaluation is a serious breach of lines of authority and responsibility. The state’s determination of having met requirements to teach should not and cannot extend into performance on the job, which falls under the authority of school administrators. Further, linking performance evaluations to licensure puts all educators on notice: Be careful what you say and do or you risk not only your job, but also your ability to teach or administer in Massachusetts schools.

3. The MTA does not support short-track preparation programs that allow unqualified and underqualified individuals to enter classrooms as teachers of record without the requisite knowledge and skills to be “classroom ready” on day one. Too often, these underqualified individuals enter high-poverty, low-performing schools, thus contributing to existing achievement gaps and the inequitable distribution of highly effective practitioners.

4. The MTA decries the use of $550,000 in public funds to pay private vendors for this project. The process employed by these vendors shows little or no interest in engaging in meaningful dialogue about what is and is not effective in the current licensure and relicensure processes. Educators report that they have attended tightly controlled “town halls” in which the outcome seems predetermined and voices of dissent are not welcome. We need meaningful opportunities for input into the development of licensure regulations.

We urge the commissioner and the board in the strongest possible terms to heed the overwhelming opposition to these proposals from the people most directly affected and to act immediately to withdraw the policy options currently being considered.

Katie Osgood is a special education teacher in Chicago who has worked for years with children in high need. She has been critical of Teach for America on her blog for sending inexperienced recruits to work in schools with vulnerable students who should have experienced teachers.

She wrote a comment on this blog today about TFA’s leaked memo on how to respond to critics:

“In TFA’s memo, they cite me BY NAME, as a “known detractor”. So, apparently your tax dollars are also going to spying and unsuccessfully debunking tweets/blog posts from a simple special education teacher in Chicago. I have no media team or PR strategy, I’m just writing the truth of TFA and its devastating impact on my city. I am pretty upset how TFA has singled me out and targeted me. I feel violated and even unsafe given the vast power and resources TFA has at its disposal.”

Steven Singer, teacher, was outraged by the cover of TIME that said it’s nearly impossible to fire bad teachers but tech millionaires have figured it out.

He writes:

“It is IMPOSSIBLE to fire a bad teacher.

“Unless of course you document how that teacher is bad.

“You know? Due process. Rights. All that liberal bullshit.

“Thank goodness we have tech millionaires to stand up for the rights of totalitarians everywhere!

“A slew of Microsoft wannabes is taking up the mantle of the bored rich to once again attack teacher tenure.

“They claim it’s almost impossible to fire bad teachers because of worker’s rights.

“You know who actually is impossible to fire!? Self-appointed policy experts!

“No one hired them to govern our public schools. In fact, they have zero background in education. But they have oodles of cash and insufferable ennui. Somehow that makes them experts!

“I wonder why no one wants to hear my pet theories on how we should organize computer systems and pay programmers. Somehow the change in my pocket doesn’t qualify me to make policy at IBM, Apple or Microsoft. Strange!”

And be sure to read the imaginary editorial meeting where they decided to let know nothing millionaires tell schools how to do their job.

Brian Ford, teacher and author, wrote this letter to the editor of TIME magazine, in response to the demeaning cover about teachers as “Rotten Apples” who cannot be fired. The cover said that “tech millionaires” had figured out how to deal with those teachers.


Ford writes:


To the Editors of Time Magazine:



“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” – Malcolm X


I hope Malcolm X was wrong about media controlling ‘the minds of the masses,’ but the Time cover on teacher tenure with the phrase ‘Rotten Apples’ emblazoned across it shows that his other points were spot on. Irresponsible media can accuse with impunity, they can treat as hereos tech millionaires who lambast teachers by not only encouraging the use of, but use the courts to compel the use of techniques such as ‘Value-added measurement.’


Having written extensively on VAMs, I am aware of what a troubled and inaccurate method it is. I am not going to enter into all the reasons –I have a book about that–, but the “flood of new academic research on teacher quality” is dubious at best, deliberately misleading at times, often relying on a single study of a single school in a single year and then generalizing that to all schools everywhere in all years. Furthermore, this research is often miscategorized and misrepresented by advocates for a quick fix. But there is no quick fix – the problems of our schools are rooted in social pathologies, not teacher quality.


It is concentrated poverty, not teacher quality that plagues our system – or, more accurately, those parts of the system which serve the poorest quarter of our population. Even Eric Hanushek of Stanford, who is known for saying we need to “replace the bottom five to eight percent of our teachers in terms of effectiveness,” stresses that “an average teacher is quite good in our schools” and would rate well against teachers anywhere in the world. And almost no one suggests what seems obvious – that tenure draws people into the teaching pool who might go elsewhere, thus very likely making the average teacher significantly better.


On the other side, the so-called fixes would make things worse, much worse. What none of the advocates admit is this: it narrows the curriculum. The ‘value’ measured is not that that of character or creativity, but is based on standardized tests and how students perform on them. It has nothing to do with their dreams or aspirations, on their unique gifts or their personal histories and, as one might expect, since the advent of high stakes tests in the early 1990s, young people have had documented declines in creativity. Administrators and teachers are pressured to teach students to do well on the short list of skills the tests measure, not on how to have a meaningful life.


Those tests are themselves narrow in many ways, but in one way they are not: they are sweeping in their ability to make money. Pearson education has a nearly half a billion dollar contract to provide testing services in Texas. As for venture capitalists, the money has gone up 30-fold, from $13 million in 2005 to $389 million in 2011. As former Massachusetts Governor William Weld said some years ago, the “fundamentals are all aligned for a great number of people to make a whole lot of money in this sector.”


Weld finished his statement, “and do well by doing good.” That is always the claim. Dismantle the public system to serve the students. This is done in the strangest way — teacher autonomy declines and long term professionals are pushed out not because they are ‘bad,’ but because they have higher salaries. The problem is that far too many advocates of this position are trying to make room in the budget for their own payments; ranging from Rupert Murdoch to purveyors of virtual education to TFA to Pearson to the Gates-funded, Michelle Rhee-founded organizations the New Teacher Project, have an interest, financial and professional, in labeling the system as failing.


Add to this those with political interests to do the same, from the Bushes to Chris Christie to Scott Walker to Kevin Johnson, and you have a potent force able to craft messages that are in their own interests, but not those of a democratic nation the most important foundation of which is its public education system.



Brian Ford
646 713 8285



First, my own book, Brian Ford, Respect For Teachers or The Rhetoric Gap and How Research on Schools is Laying the Ground for New Business Models in Education, Rowman and Littlefield, 2012.


Eric Hanushek speaking, “Class Size and Student Achievement,” Diane Rehm Show, 8 March 2011; accessed June 2011 at


Luke Quinton & Kate Mcgee, “What’s in Texas’ $500 Million Testing Contract with Pearson?” KUT.ORG News, Austin, Texas, July 16, 2013; accessed October 2014 at


Stephanie Simon,”Private firms eyeing profits from U.S. public schools,” Reuters, New York, 2 August 2012; accessed October 2014 at


Kyung Hee Kim, “The Creativity Crisis: The Decrease in Creative Thinking Scores on the Torrance
Tests of Creative Thinking,” Creativity Research Journal, 2011, Vol. 23:4, pp. 285-295.


Weld quote was from Walsh, Ed Week, 19 Jan 2000, p. 13

George Joseph, writing in The Nation, describes how Teach for America deals with critics. It has a rapid response team to debunk criticism, and it uses its extensive network in the halls of power to head off critics long before they publish. As more and more ex-TFA publish their criticism of the organization, the rapid response team is kept very busy. One of those critics–Alexandra Hootnick– wrote an article for The Nation. She filed a Freedom of Information Act with the U.S. Department of Education to get information about TFA; an operative inside the DOE immediately informed TFA. TFA knew about the article long before it was published, and the response was ready when the article appeared. The brand must be protected.


TFA has installed friendly allies in key places in D.C.:


With this extensive organizational infrastructure behind them, Teach For America alumni have climbed to prominence in the education policy sphere. As Hootnick noted in her piece for The Nation, “More than seventy alumni currently hold public office, including two state senators. Within the federal government, their ranks include two assistants to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as well as education policy advisers and associates in the offices of Senators Harry Reid and Al Franken and Representative George Miller.” And despite its non-profit status, which prohibits partisan political advocacy, from 2010 to 2013 TFA poured nearly $2.4 million into lobbying and “direct contact” with political figures to pass state legislation recognizing TFA’s five-week summer training as an alternative to traditional teacher certification, and to secure “adequate federal funding.”


Joseph writes:


While Teach For America has failed at providing the nation with many long-term educators, they have provided a stream of political operatives, who have gone on to help fuel their former organization’s expansion and codify its narrow, corporate vision of education reform. Though TFA corp members often complain of a lack of institutional support in the classroom, TFA has been proactive in setting up regional professional networks and leadership organizations to groom corp members for influential political platforms after their classroom stints. TFA’s “Leadership for Educational Equity,” “a nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Teach for America corps members and alumni to grow as leaders,” has helped groom numerous policy makers, policy leaders, and education reform lobbyists; in fact, according to the latest IRS documents available, in 2012 alone TFA’s Leadership for Educational Equity, a 501c(4), spent nearly $3.2 million on “leadership development,” the vast majority of which came from five undisclosed donors. Furthermore, TFA’s tax records from 2010 to 2013 reveal the organization gave over $7.3 million to Leadership for Educational Equity.


Among TFA’s prominent alums are John White, who has promoted charter schools in Louisiana and Cami Anderson, now pushing charter schools in Newark. TFA alums were also engaged in Chicago, where the closure of 50 public schools was premised on the creation of new charter schools, whose teachers would be largely TFA.


Joseph concludes:


The anti-TFA movement appears to be picking up steam. Last month, the national student labor organization, United Students Against Sweatshops, announced a national campaign to kick Teach For America off campus at 15 colleges across the country. While the campaign will not immediately affect the organization’s corporate funding, the ongoing PR toll could damage TFA’s brand. As organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) Leewana Thomas explained, “By disrupting TFA’s campus recruitment efforts, we can cut off their efforts to capitalize on universities’ academic prestige.” At Harvard, for example, this September, USAS activists delivered a letter asking administrators to cut ties with TFA.


“We’ve asked schools to cut ties with TFA because our schools are a major source of corp members for TFA,” said Harvard USAS activist Hannah McShea, “The idea is that these kids [recruits] are going to be super energetic and passionate, but honestly they [students] need more than that. On the national level, Teach for America hasn’t been receiving a lot of criticism for about twenty years. This is a new thing for them.”


In a statement to The Nation, Teach For America claimed, “Most organizations have a media response strategy and TFA is no different—we work to correct the record when things are inaccurate. We also work to proactively share the stories of our teachers, students and the communities we partner with.” But as more and more of these same teachers, students, and communities speak out against their experiences with Teach For America, the organization is less able to “correct the record,” salvage its brand, and thereby justify its continued expansion.