Archives for the month of: November, 2014

Mercedes Schneider reviews the botched charter application of Greater Works Charter School in Rochrster, Néw York. The lead applicant and CEO, Ted Morris Jr., was only 22 yet claimed to have 7+ years in the education field.

Schneider calls on the chair of the Regents–Merryl Tisch–to take responsibility for the incompetence of the State Education Department.

This charter school should not go forward.

Kevin Teasley, who is CEO of a small charter chain with schools in Indiana and Colorado, with new ones planned for Louisiana, admits that Indiana is overwhelmed by an explosion of charters and vouchers.


He writes:


After years of being in the minority, reformers suddenly found themselves in the rare position of actually being able to pass legislation during the Daniels administration, and now in the Pence administration.


These actions have been done with the best of intentions, but the result caused chaos, and reasonably so. Legislators added new charter authorizers; implemented new test schedules, new graduation measurements and tests, new standards, and new school accountability measures; and, yes, even created a new competitor called voucher schools.


All the while, schools and authorizers have had to adjust on the fly.


Adding to the challenge, groups wanting to “help” grow the movement work full time to raise scarce philanthropic dollars to create even more competition by recruiting out-of-state “best-in-class” charter models. Two groups approved to create multiple charters—BASIS and Rocketship—have announced they are not coming to Indiana after all.


Schools are opening with a fraction of the students they planned to serve. Phalen Leadership Academy planned for 300 but opened with 150. Indianapolis Academy of Excellence planned for 230 but opened with fewer than 80. Carpe Diem planned on 173 and opened with 87. The list goes on and on.


Inconsistent accountability measures contribute to the chaos. In the past 10 years, the state has gone from a “probation to exemplary” grading model to an A-F model. Neither is accurate nor helpful.


Many charters have too few students (see above) or grade levels to be graded accurately. For example, since 2012, ChristelHouse received an A, an F and a B. KIPP Indy received an A, a C, and this year, a D.


And now the Legislature plans to change the system again. The inconsistency, and some argue political, grading of schools has diminished what credibility the process might have had.


Hoping to stabilize the charter sector, he calls for time and patience. But these things are clear from his candid account: There are no waiting lists for charters; schools opening and closing; grading schemes written by politicians: This is chaos. It has nothing to do with improving education.


Twenty five years ago, when charters were a brand-new idea, advocates said they would cost less and get better results than public schools. Now, however, charter schools are suing for equal funding. The Arizona appellate court just ruled that the state is not obliged to provide equal funding to charter schools and public schools.

The Education Law Center reports:


At the beginning of the charter school experiment, charter school advocates touted their ability to provide a superior education at a lower cost than traditional public schools. Now, we are seeing the charter lobby abandon that claim and turn to the courts to demand equal funding for charter schools. In Texas, charter school advocates recently lost their claim for equal funding. In New York, charter school advocates have sued for equal facilities funding. In a ruling that may have wide ramifications, last week an Arizona appellate court affirmed a lower court’s ruling that the differential funding systems for public and charter schools do not violate Arizona’s constitution.

In Craven v. Huppenthal, parents of children in Arizona charter schools sued the state, claiming that Arizona’s school funding scheme was unconstitutional because it caused “gross disparities between charter public schools and other public schools.” The lower court had granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and defendant-intervenors the Arizona School Boards Association and Creighton Elementary School District No. 14. The plaintiff-parents appealed.

The appellate court first noted that charter schools are free from many of the regulations governing public schools. For example, Arizona charters are exempt from statutes governing teacher hiring, firing and management. Arizona charter schools may limit enrollment to a certain age group or grade levels. Their curriculum may emphasize a certain philosophy, style or subject area. The court also pointed out that charter schools are funded differently than public schools as well. Unlike public schools, charters receive additional state funding, and may accept grants and donations to supplement their funding. Charter schools owned by non-profits may receive funds obtained through certain facility bonds. Charter schools are also entitled to stimulus funds for start-up and certain facility costs.

The plaintiffs contended that the different funding schemes of charters and public schools violated both the general and uniform education clause of Arizona’s constitution and its equal protection clause. The court, affirming the lower court’s decision, rejected both claims.

Prior rulings of Arizona’s Supreme Court interpreted the general and uniform clause to require that the state provide a public school system that is adequate. The plaintiff-parents in this case admitted that their children were receiving an adequate education at the charter schools. In fact, parents testified that the charter schools had “quality academics” and an “exceptional education.” Thus, the court concluded that the state did not violate the general and uniform clause.

The court also rejected the equal protection claim, noting with approval the reasoning of a New Jersey appellate court, in J.D. ex rel. Scipio-Derrick v. Davy, 2 A.3d 387, 397-98 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2010), in a similar equal protection case brought by charter school parents. In that case, the New Jersey court pointed out that children’s attendance at a charter school is purely voluntary. They could withdraw at any time and enroll in their local public school; the school they claimed was funded adequately. Consequently, the court ruled that “the voluntariness of the program vitiates any asserted deprivation of a right to receive an education at a school that is fully funded to the same extent as other Newark public schools,” because the children in the charter school have the “unabridged option” to attend their district public school. The Arizona court applied this reasoning to this case, ruling that since the charter school students can at any time attend their district public school, they are not being treated differently than other students.

In a footnote, the Arizona court noted that the plaintiffs conceded that charter and public schools are not similarly situated, but claimed that those distinctions are irrelevant because the plaintiffs were attempting to focus on the treatment of the children in the charter schools. However, the court pointed out that it was the schools that received the different funding, not the students. Because the students themselves were free to attend their district public schools, their equal protection rights were not violated.

This ruling makes clear that the very nature of charters, as voluntary alternatives to public schools and free from some of the regulations constraining public schools, permits the state to treat charters differently than public schools in matters of funding. The reasoning of the Arizona court can and may very well be applied in future cases as we see charter school advocates across the country appealing to courts to force states to fund them on par with public schools.

Education Justice Press Contact:
Wendy Lecker, Esq.
Senior Attorney, Education Law Center
voice: (203) 329-8041

Copyright © 2014 Education Law Center. All Rights Reserved.

Education Justice Initiative | c/o 60 Park Place, Suite 300 | Newark | NJ | 07102

Barbara Torre Veltri is a professor at Northern Arizona State University who has mentored many TFA students. She wrote a book about TFA called Learning on Other People’s Kids: Becoming a Teach for America Teacher.


She wrote the following comments on a recent article about TFA:



1. The CEOs from TFA are not speaking the truth when they say that they only
fill slots where there are teacher shortages.


What happens is this: superintendents (many graduates of the Eli Broad
superintendent’s academy) terminate veteran teachers in Detroit, Kansas City,
Newark, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and then note that there is a teacher
shortage….its one that they created.


2. It’s been documented for several years, in the language of Multi-year
contracts, that districts who hire,and then are billed by TFA, set aside
positions across all subject areas, even those that are not traditionally hard
to fill such as,math and science positions.


TFA bills districts annually, in the millions.


3. The collective research, blogs, first-person accounts (YouTube and Internet),
articles and publications not managed by TFA network alliances, has been ignored
(squelched, buried, met with an avalanche of TFA directed PR), but cannot be
silenced totally, because of social media and the saviness of young people to
communicate with each other.


4. It takes a groundswell movement of those that are new to this information,
to collectively coalesce.


And while, change may be slow to occur, as Harvard and other universities are so
entrenched with Teach For America, that their university presidents serve on
TFA’s national board, most over or approaching 60something leaders, are
out-of-touch with the collective force of young people who organize.


5. For over a decade, researchers (including myself), corps member and alumni,
have singled out TFA’s preparation model, as one that needed to be fixed.


But TFA redirected criticism to the teaching profession,in general.
The non-profit spends twice as much in marketing and public relations, as they
do in preparation of their corps members as noted on their tax returns.
6. Pouting that TFA was attacked, by Linda Darling Hammond and others who had
the courage to publicly question the use of public dollars to fund America’s
teaching corps, TFA founder, Wendy Kopp wrote in her (2003) book, “I knew we
needed to find allies to support TFA.”


If the TFA organization was not acting like a rebellious teenager, thinking that
a) they knew it all, b) viewing suggestions as reprimands, and c) isolating
themselves and never actually listening to what the other side had to say,we
could’ve worked together to make basic changes that would at least not place,
mostly naïve, pre-novitiates in high poverty elementary and middle school
classrooms, where the effects of poor teaching on one’s educational foundation
are most profound.


7. While I am not certain that Teach For America listens to anyone, I do know
that young people, in colleges, listen to each other.


Last month, a father of a May Georgetown grad happened to mention that his
daughter was accepted into TFA, but declined their offer to teach in the
Mississippi Delta.


She was not prepared to teach, had never been to Mississippi, and her friends’
convinced her to reject TFA and opt to work in Manhattan.


TFA states, on its website, that it accepts only 14% of its applicants, which
makes them more competitive than Harvard or Princeton.


I’d like to know how many applicants seem to fit this growing trend: apply,
then, decline TFA’s offer.


A reporter’s daughter in New York City said “No, I’m not going to St. Louis with
Teach For America; I will finish my traditional program, and be a fully
prepared teacher.


A North Carolina graduate said, No,I’m not going to Houston to teach 7th grade
math, I never took a math course.


A California senior, whose parents are teachers, said, “No, thanks,TFA, I’m
won’t go to New Orleans to teach high school English. I intend to work on an
international project in-line with my training.


A midcareer male from Atlanta said no to Teach for America, after he researched
the level of pressure evident during the interview process, and in reviewing the
expectations during TFA’s five-week training, which he figured was not going to
prepare him to teach adequately. He opted instead to earn his credential through another pathway, and remain in
the profession.


8. And finally and more importantly, is the question surfacing now by the
students themselves, who have experienced schooling, content, and curriculum
presented by Teach For America teachers. Are the experiences offered to all
children, fair, appropriate, enriched?


Or, are students of TFA teachers presented with scripted, test focused


Teach for America’s Corps member teachers are quick to note, that full
compliance to an outcome model, through standardized assessments, was tantamount
to proving student success, and their own worth, as a TFA corps member


Even if students could not “demonstrate” success, through day-to-day performance
tasks such as reading, writing, reasoning, and communicating, they were expected
to prove something on a test, which was, and remains, the only


Corps members, over multiple years, have and continue to admit, that they were
never adequately trained in how to teach, yet they were schooled in the
importance of reporting student assessment data, even if they had no baseline
data from which to assess student growth.


9. As this article points out, students schooled by Teach For America teachers
are beginning to question why they were assigned TFA teachers, why the principal
didn’t make this information known to students and parents, and, and (as noted
by the college student from North Carolina remarks) why she was not prepared for
college, nor career, by her TFA teacher, and why this is acceptable policy.


There’s much research and anecdotal evidence from corps members who have share
similar comments to this one:


“You start to recognize during training, or within the first two months, that
this is not really teaching.”





Northern Arizona University
College of Education
Associate professor

Since the announcement of Race to the Top, schools have become even more obsessed with test scores than they were under No Child Left Behind (which still exists in law). To be eligible to get a portion of Race to the Top’s $4.35 billion, states had to agree to evaluate their teachers to a significant degree by the test scores of their students. Later, when states needed waivers from NCLB’s mandate that every child must be proficient by 2014 or their schools would be labeled “failing,” Secretary Duncan made the waivers conditional on states’ agreement to evaluate teachers by the test scores of their students. Unfortunately at the time the U.S. Department of Education insisted on what was known as “value-added-modeling” (VAM), testing experts did not agree that it was fair or reliable as a measure of teacher effectiveness. On October 5, 2009, the Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council wrote a letter to Secretary Duncan warning him of the pitfalls and limitations of VAM. Secretary Duncan ignored their advice and their caution. So now the entire nation is ensnared in an unscientific, unproven method to evaluate teachers.



John Ogozolek, who teaches in upstate New York, developed an analogy to try to make sense of VAM evaluations:




The analogy I was using this past week involves home repairs. Imagine your house needs a new roof or a new bathroom or even a new foundation. But then some big multi-national construction corporation shows up with a scheme of its own -not only to fix what your house might need but to renovate the entire place, top to bottom. Plus, they’re here to “fix” every other home in town, too -with the EXACT SAME “PLAN”.


So, you’re trying to have a rational discussion with the foreman of this alleged construction crew then you hear a chainsaw kick on down the hallway. You run down there just as some guy starts ripping apart your kid’s bedroom furniture, splinters flying. You can barely hear what the smiling worker is saying over the din but you get the idea when he hands you your own chainsaw and motions for YOU to join in, too. What the hell is the plan, you scream. “We…don’t….have….one”, he yells back, “We’re building the plane as we’re flying it”




They are destroying your entire house. But, of course, it doesn’t really matter to them. If they burn down the town from one end to another, they’d only be happier. They don’t want you, they don’t want your house.


Their plan to renovate the world reminds me of the wacky “modern” architecture that leveled entire neighborhoods in cities 50 years ago and left us with mammoth housing projects….the urban “renewal” that ended up being worse than the tragic problems it sought to cure. It was all so much about science and “progress” back then, too, you know. I reread Tom Wolfe’s critique of modern architecture (“From Bauhaus to Our House”) a few years ago, when the Race to the Top crap first really hit the fan. How could such madness grip an entire culture and come to shape our world? I just had to shake my head…..yup, here we go again.


The statistical argument about VAM is great….it’s powerful……I’ve used it myself since reading about it on this blog. We should shout it from the rooftops. But I don’t think some of the people who are attacking public schools and destroying what goes on in our classrooms really care.


It’s like a good carpenter thinking about how to use a specific tool…..meanwhile a giant, smoke-belching excavator is sidling up on its greasy tracks, crushing whatever is in its way and swinging the good ole wrecking ball……

Peter Greene reports that the National Association of Secondary School Principals is reviewing and likely to endorse a statement rejecting VAM. The NASSP recognizes a growing body of research that shows the inaccuracy of VAM.

They cite the research, then offer recommendations:

“NASSP recommends that teacher eval include multiple measure, and that Peer Assistance and Review programs are the way to go. Teacher-constructed portfolios of student learning are also cool.

“VAMs should be used to fine tune programs and instructional methods as well as professional development on a building level, but they should not be “used to make key personnel decisions about individual teachers.” Principals should be trained in how to properly interpret and use VAMmy data.”

This is an important step forward, toward professional responsibilty and common sense.

A blogger who calls him/herself “LiberalTeacher” explains how the requirements of the Common Core transformed a novel he loved: The 39 Steps by John Buchan. When he was a student, the book held him spellbound.


He wrote:


I tutor many students and two weeks ago one of my students needed help in analyzing an excerpt from The 39 Steps. Of course it was just an excerpt because as we all know Mr. Coleman feels it is a waste of time for students to possibly read and enjoy a whole novel. But what was even more amazing was the fact that this excerpt was in a 6th grade common core workbook. Obviously, I read it in high school and remembered that many concepts had to be explained to us at that time. I recall being fascinated learning about the cultural differences between us Americans and the British in the waning days of its Empire. The book is obviously beyond the scope of an average sixth grader. But I had to confirm this for myself. I decided to use common core’s favorite readability formula on this excerpt—Lexile. Lo and behold, but not surprisingly, the Lexile score was 960. To put it in terms that we old teachers understand, the book is on the 10th-11th grade level. After all, to Arne, David and Bill, rigor is the “code word” of the day.


The excerpt my student read was the first couple of pages from the book. The excerpt starts with the protagonist’s experience in visiting London from South Africa where he is mining engineer. Richard Hannay is described in this excerpt as being somewhat uncomfortable on this trip to his native land. He feels out of place and bored. All of a sudden, upon returning to his apartment, one of his neighbors barges in to his “flat” and after suspiciously checking all of the rooms say this sentence: ‘Pardon,’ he said, ‘I’m a bit rattled tonight. You see, I happen at this moment to be dead.’


What did this common core workbook want the student to do with the text? First, he had to read it twice. Of course, a close reading had to be done. His task was to circle key phrases that showed the “tone” of the passage. This was difficult for him because of two reasons. First, he had no understanding what was meant by tone and I had to explain and give him concrete examples of this common core concept. Next, the passage itself floored him because he had no background information to hook into. He had no conception that the main character was a colonial from a British African colony and that he felt out of place now in his mother country. Why should he know any of this when this curriculum forbids students from using any background information—especially in the area of social studies—when pieces of text are analyzed?


The teacher then explained how his student reacted to the excerpt and how little he understood of the novel, which he had–of course–not read.


But why did the book matter? The teacher still remembers how it affected the way he felt and thought. Analyzing the decontextualized text as a “close reading” missed whatever was important to him when he had read it years ago.


He writes:


When I read The 39 Steps, I recall so many lively discussions. It was the time of the Vietnam War. One discussion I distinctly remember centered on the theme of risking your life for your country when your nation in itself was deeply flawed. We also discussed some of the political issues brought out in the novel, such as powerful industrialists profiting from wars and conflicts between nations and that it was in the interest of such people to forment war. The discussions that we had over this book represent real higher level thinking skills. It is the type of critical thinking skills that create a citizenry that questions its government. It is the type of learning that creates a true educated citizenry that is able to participate in relevant political discourse. Forcing students to read and describe the structure of a passage five years above grade level is not education, but frustration that will lead to a hatred of learning because it is purposeless. Whereas this novel gave me a life-long love of spy novels and got me thinking about wider issues, the excerpt my student read led to confusion, misunderstanding and a feeling of inadequacy.





Which education policy or policymaker would you vote for as “turkey of the year”?


Julian Vasquez Heilig is running a poll on his much-celebrated blog Cloaking Inequity.


Here is your chance to cast your vote!

There will be Black Friday protests at many Walmarts in support of their workers.

Walmart’s stores have been a bonanza for members of the Walton family. Several are billionaires. The Walton Foundation spends $160 million each year to encourage school privatization and non-union schools, charters, vouchers, and TFA.

With all their billions, they pay low wages to their employees. Some Walnarts are accepting food donations for their employees. The Walmart workers are seeking $15 an hour. Too much for the billionaires of the Walton family

This is a heart-warming story about the public library in Ferguson. It stayed open when the schools closed. It was a haven for children. Teachers volunteered to teach. The staff kept the library as a safe place for learning, contemplation, and knowledge. With all the disorder in the town, the library stayed open. It has been overwhelmed with donations, receiving half its annual budget in just a few days.


The library has seen a wave of support online in the wake of its decision to stay open following Monday’s decision that state criminal charges would not be brought against police officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown on 9 August. “Many other orgs closing. But we will stay open to serve people of #Ferguson as long as safe for patrons & staff, up to 8p. Love each other,” its staff wrote on Twitter on Monday night. “Normal hours tomorrow. We will have teachers and volunteers here to help kids from 9-3 since FFSD [Ferguson-Florissant school district] is closed!”


Then on Tuesday: “WE ARE OPEN! Teachers and volunteers are here 9am-3pm to help kids who can’t go to school today. Library open 9-4, presuming it stays safe … Wifi, water, rest, knowledge. We are here for you. If neighbors have kids, let them know teachers are here today, too.”


The branch describes itself on its website as “your hometown library”, which “encourages lifelong learning and serves as a community information and technology gateway, dedicated to making the City of Ferguson a rewarding, attractive, and pleasant place in which to live, visit, and work”….


On Wednesday, staff at the library tweeted that they had been “overwhelmed” by “generosity from around the country”, with donations from more than 7,000 people. “Amazing and humbling,” they wrote.


Never doubt the value of the public library, whose uses are many, whose doors are open to all, a place to read, write, think, learn, and find respite.