Archives for the month of: February, 2015

We are now in Alice in Wonderland territory. Republicans want to relieve states of onerous federal mandates.Democrats insist that testing is somehow part of civil rights.

Nothing good can come from this nonsense.

I spoke at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania on February 10. Originally Lehigh invited me and Michelle Rhee to debate, but after long and fruitless negotiations, she dropped out. (First she wanted a second on the stage; I agreed. Then she wanted a third on the stage; I agreed. Then she said she couldn’t find a third, and she canceled). So I decided to present a mock debate between me and “Mr. Reformer.” Of course, I had all the best lines and more of them; as I explained, that’s what happens to the side that doesn’t show up.


Lehigh made a video, which Is here. If you prefer to read instead of watch, this is a very good summary of the main points.


Lehigh plans to invite Mr. or Ms. Reformer to speak in a future session, in which he or she will get all the good lines.

I posted earlier that HR 5 was withawn but that was not true. Too good to be true. It is hanging on:

Wouldn’t it be nice if Congress got out of the way and let teachers teach?

A reader sent the following comment. Who knew that America’s greatest domestic threat is unions? Reminds me of Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s unfortunate remark in 2004, when he called the NEA a “terrorist” organization.

The reader writes:

“It’s really great to finally know how Scott Walker really feels about union members in Wisconsin (for all union members in general). His pearl yesterday at the CPAC convention, “If I Can Handle Union Protests, I Can Handle ISIS” is one for the classic hate-speech soundbites-rewind. And of course the fascists in attendance absolutely ate it up! So nice that he holds those who pay his salary in Wisconsin in such high esteem. Ooops… wait a minute…the Koch Bros. pay his salary…forget what I said…

“Maybe he meant “If I Can Handle Teachers Union Protests, I Can Handle ISIS?” In no way could he have been referring to organized firemen or police…”

Forget all that rhetoric about “choice” to “save poor kids from failing public schools.” It is a rightwing ruse to siphon public money for private and religious schools.

Proof: in Indiana, voucher enrollments expanded by 50% this year. Fully half the voucher students never attended any public school.

These are not children who were “trapped in a failing school.” They are children whose parents want the state to pay their tuition at a nonpublic school.

“Students using the voucher program — the second largest and fastest-growing of its kind in the nation — now account for 2.6 percent of Indiana’s school system, according to the latest annual report released Monday by the Indiana Department of Education.
Vouchers, billed by the state as “choice scholarships,” funnel tax dollars to support student tuition at private schools. The program is controversial: Proponents say the program expands quality options for poor children, and opponents say the state shouldn’t use tax dollars to pay for religious education while draining the coffers of public schools.”

In a few short years, the program has changed as restrictions are dropped.

The president of the Indiana State Teachers Association said the voucher program “has become an entitlement program which in large part, now benefits middle class families who always intended to send their children to private (mostly religious) schools and taxpayers are footing the growing bill.”

“Several rules placed on the program at its infancy have since relaxed, including the enrollment cap in the first two years and a requirement that students must first try out a public school in their neighborhood before they used a scholarship. New rules last year also allowed siblings and students qualifying for special education services to use vouchers.

“The program has also become less racially diverse over time. This year 61 percent of students using vouchers are white, compared with 46 percent when it started. Just 14 percent of the students are black this year, compared with 24 percent in 2011-12. (Overall, 71 percent of Indiana students are white. About 12 percent are black.)”

This is not a bug or a glitch. This is exactly what voucher proponents like ALEC have wanted all along.

Politico gives
us the latest crazy update about “education” in Louisiana. Why don’t the politicians just go away and let teachers teach?

“BUDGET CLASH ON THE BAYOU: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal releases his budget proposal today – and teachers and parents are anxious. Louisiana faces big-time fiscal woes [ ] that will require deep cuts. And Jindal has made clear he’s furious with many of Superintendent John White’s policies, including implementing the Common Core and using PARCC questions in the state tests. Put those two dynamics together and you’ve got a sizzling stew of rumors that education will take a big hit. Kristy Nichols, Jindal’s commissioner of administration, wouldn’t divulge budget details, but she told Morning Education that she and the governor “do have concerns with how much the department is spending on standardized tests.” Nichols said “there will be reductions” to education but added that White will have discretion in managing the cuts. “We cannot say it won’t have any impact,” Nichols said. “That will be up to the superintendent.”

– Before he even saw the numbers, White was fighting back. In a press call earlier this week, he scoffed at the idea that he could reduce spending simply by cutting tests aligned to the Common Core. “It is important to know that accountability and standardized testing are the laws of this state,” he said. “You cannot eliminate them by virtue of not putting them in the budget.” White also pointed out that scrapping the annual tests would violate No Child Left Behind and jeopardize $800 million in federal funding for Louisiana schools. “That would be crippling,” he said.

– Jindal’s chief of staff, Stafford Palmieri, shot back with a statement accusing White of threatening calamity if he didn’t get his way with the Common Core. “John White and President Obama want to bully moms and dads into accepting Common Core’s federal control of our children’s education,” she said. “We’re not going to be intimidated by their fear tactics.”

– In related news, a federal judge has ruled that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s case against the federal government over the Common Core has a right to be heard in court. The ruling has nothing to do with the merits of the case, merely allowing the case to move forward. A hearing is set for May 28 in Baton Rouge. The ruling: Jindal also railed against the Common Core at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday:”

Jonathan Pelto reports that 70% of students will fail the Common Core test called Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC); the tests were designed to “fail” 70% of students, as is the PARCC test. Both Common Core tests are aligned with the “cut scores” (passing marks) of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP “proficient” is set very high; Massachusetts is the only state where 50% of students rate proficient on NAEP.

Pelto points out that 90% of students with special needs are expected to fail SBAC.

Thanks to the dedication of parents, students, and educators, the legislators in Néw Jersey are listening. Citizen action works! Protest works! Organize, mobilize, demand what is right for children and good education.

Reader LG reports:

“On Monday, the NJ Assembly voted YES in a landslide to delay the use of PARCC testing for three years. The uses cited would impact student placement, student graduation and teacher evaluation. Next the bill goes on to the senate for discussion and vote.

“This does not necessarily eliminate the PARCC in NJ, at least this year, but I predict a disaster after the PARCC results come in and then a parental pushback so large that the legislators will cave and dump the test.

“At our NJEA Legislative a Conference last Saturday, we heard from a senator who feels there needs to be a moratorium but who also feels that three years might be too much. The assembly sure didn’t feel that way. Regarding the opt out bill, we shall see.”

Peter Greene reports that the dream of one big national assessment is finished. States are dropping out of PARCC and SBA. Some are dropping out while quietly buying a new test that looks like PARCC. None is dropping in. Fifty states will not take the same test. Period.

The sponsors of HR 5 have withdrawn the bill from consideration, according to late reports.

Many groups, including the Network for Public Edication, opposed HR5 and sent thousands of letters to members of the House. They listened.

Members and allies of NPE sent nearly 10,000 letters. Read here about reasons we opposed HR 5.