Archives for the month of: April, 2015

In his never-ending campaign to strip away any power from duly-elected State Superintendent of Education Glenda Ritz, Governor Mike Pence has removed oversight of the voucher program from the State Education Department. Apparently he won’t be satisfied until Ritz has nothing but a key to the bathroom.

Here’s a thought. Ritz won more votes than Pence. How about Ritz for Governor in 2016? Turn the rascals out! Restore decency to the Hoosier State!

This just in:

For immediate release: April 29, 2015

Contact: Rachael Stickland, 303-204-1272,

Leonie Haimson, 917-435-9329,

Messer/Polis Privacy Bill Still Inadequate to Protect Children from Commercial Exploitation and Data Breaches

The student privacy bill just introduced by Representatives Messer and Polis is an improvement from their previous draft, but still has many loopholes that make it inadequate to address many parental concerns about their children’s privacy and safety.

Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy said, “The bill still doesn’t require any parental notification or consent before schools share personal data with third parties. It wouldn’t stop the surveillance of students, or the collection of huge amounts of highly sensitive student information by third parties, as inBloom was designed to do.”

“The bill still allows targeting ads to kids –as long as the ads are “contextual” or selected based on information gathered via student’s single online session. We strongly believe that there should be no advertising allowed in instructional programs assigned to students at school, as ads do not aid learning but is a huge distraction to kids. Moreover, how can a parent know if their child is subjected to an ad, whether it is based on data-mining during one session or over time?”

Rachael Stickland, Colorado co-chair of the Parent Coalition said: “We’re pleased to see some of our recommendations reflected in this draft, including enhanced transparency and some limitations on redisclosures. This bill allows parents to delete personal information from the data collected from their children, but it doesn’t require that parents be informed by either the vendor or the school that this data is being disclosed, collected and data-mined, so how would parents know to ask to delete it? It also allows vendors to data-mine personal information to improve their products or create profiles that could severely limit student’s success by stereotyping them and limiting their opportunities.”

Other remaining weaknesses of the bill:

There are NO specific security protections outlined in the bill, only that procedures should be “reasonable.”

We believe that any vendor collecting and using sensitive student personal information should be required to employ data encryption, undergo regular security audits, and other important measures to protect against damaging breaches.

Vendors would not have to inform parents or even school officials of data breaches unless they deem this “appropriate” without defining when that would be required, and there are no specific amounts required for fines.

Vendors could transfer the personal student data to another company if there is a merger or acquisition.

Vendors would be able to redisclose students’ personal information to an unlimited number of unspecified service providers, without the knowledge or consent of schools or parents

Vendors would be allowed to disclose de-identified and aggregate data, while using “reasonable” methods to ensure that the data could not be re-identified.

This again is inadequate protection, given how easy it has become to re-identify personal information with current methods and widely available data sets.

The bill’s protections would not apply to children in preschool and”K-12 Purposes” is only vaguely defined.
· Vendors could use student information for many commercial purposes including “maintaining, developing, supporting, improving, or diagnosing the operator’s school service.”

Rachael Stickland concludes: “This bill is clearly a step in the right direction but it needs to be further improved if it is going to protect our children from commercial exploitation and devastating breaches. Our children’s privacy and safety is invaluable and should not be put at risk by being handed off carelessly for profit or for gain.”


As the next school board election approaches, the audit of a charter school run by a candidate for the board has been withheld.

The candidate, Ref Rodriguez, is the darling of the privatizers. Apparently, his ally on the board Minuca Garcia asked to delay release of the audit until after the election. This is outrageous!

His opponent is Bennett Kayser, who has criticized the charter industry. The industry has made it a priority to unseat him.

Frankly, it should be a conflict of interest for a charter operator to be a member of the board that allegedly oversees his operation.

Los Angeles needs sunlight. It needs to see the audit of Ref’s school. It needs board members dedicated to serving the public interest, not the charter industry.

Parents in Kentucky who want to opt out have been warned that their children will face severe disciplinary consequences. Some have turned to United Opt Out for help.

This is what UOO says:

“The Kentucky Dept. of Education has stated that schools will not provide alternative activities during testing time. They have stated that students may be subject to discipline under school or district policies including the code of conduct or behavior. Some districts are stating that absences due to test refusal will be considered unexcused.

“Enough is enough. It is time to rise up and refuse these corporate high stakes tests as an act of civil disobedience which is necessary when children are being harmed via unjust laws.

“We emailed Mr. Todd Allen who is the Assistant General Counsel of the Kentucky Department of Education to get further clarification on the potential disciplinary actions.

“We asked:

“We at United Opt Out National have been receiving requests from Kentucky parents asking for support with opt out. We have been told that opt outs may result in disciplinary action. Could you clarify what “disciplinary actions” mean and give examples? We are also wondering, within school codes of conduct, is such disciplinary action for parent refusal of student testing listed – and if so, can you give an example?

“While we recognize that KY ed. statute states that students are required to test we also recognize that a child cannot be forced to test. A child can be given an opportunity to test and can refuse this opportunity with parental guidance. We will be creating a post to support KY parents with opt out/refusal of tests and would like clarification on potential disciplinary actions that might occur so that we can refer our parents to the best avenue of support and share accurate information with our media contacts in Kentucky.

“Mr. Allen responded:

“Thank you for your message. Codes of conduct, behavioral codes and discipline policies are established at the local district and school level. Therefore, parents should contact their individual district/school for any applicable disciplinary actions in the event a student refuses to participate in mandatory testing.

“Our recommendations (this is not legal advice, it is simply suggestions based on our experience with supporting parents across the nation with opt out/test refusal):

“Begin by emailing your opt out letter to your child’s principal and state that you are refusing the test for your child.

“If you plan to keep your child at school during testing time state that you will be sending your child with books and other activities during testing time. Get confirmation of where your child will be during testing time and make certain that your child is allowed to have the alternative activities with him or her in this location (some schools are keeping students in the testing room, others are finding other places for the opt out students). If you feel it is necessary, go to school with your child on the first testing day to physically observe that your opt out/refusal request has been accepted and that your child is in a safe place where he or she can engage in alternative activities.

“If you plan to keep your child at home during testing time state that you will expect these absences to be excused because there is no learning occurring in the school and your child has been denied a right to a public education during these testing days. State that if your child’s absence is counted as unexcused that you will recognize this as a violation of your First Amendment rights and your parental rights. State that you will be filing a civil rights complaint and that you will contact the media and an attorney. Also state that your child is not to be tested during makeup testing when your child returns to school.

“Request (or look it up online now) a copy of the behavior codes/disciplinary policy and ask for the exact code which states disciplinary action for a child as a result of a parent’s decision to refuse to allow a child to be tested. If they give you an exact code which does state a disciplinary action we recommend reporting this to social services and the police as a form of harassment and bullying and ask them to investigate this disciplinary policy. Contact your school board and your superintendent as well. Let the school know you are reporting this information and state that under no circumstances is your child to be disciplined for parent refusal of testing.

“If your child is indeed at school during testing time make sure your child has your parent refusal letter on his/her body at all times. Make certain that your child knows to hand the letter to anyone who attempts to place a test in front of the child. The letter must also state that if anyone attempts to test your child, your child is expected to call you, the parent or guardian, immediately. State that if your child is forced to test you will call the police, social services and the media. These high stakes corporate tests are educational malpractice. Our children are being forced to labor for the corporations in our public schools today. If we do not stop this test and punish system quickly, more children will be failed, more schools will be shut down and the cornerstone of our democracy, public schools, will soon be gone…..

“Ultimately, remember this – by refusing these tests, we are saving public schools, saving the teaching profession and reclaiming real learning for our children. Opt out/test refusal is just the first step in taking down corporate education reform. All children deserve a whole education in equitably funded public schools. Exercise your right to speak up, opt out and join the revolution that is occurring across the country. We stand with you.”

Read the post to learn how to file a civil rights complaint on behalf of your child.

This is a terrific column by Valerie Strauss describing the work of the Network for Public Education. I wish she had been there to share the excitement of the 600+ education activists from across the nation–teachers, parents, students, retired teachers, principals, school board members. Wherever they came from, they feel isolated and powerless as the anti-public education forces rampage through the lives of children, teachers, and schools, claiming that their rush to turn the schools over to entrepreneurs is “all about the kids.” Yet in Chicago, they met many others and felt the positive energy of being part of a movement. It was incredibly energizing to meet others who are waging the same battles in Ohio, Michigan, Florida, California, New York, Indiana, Washington, Texas, and many other states. There was a genuine spirit of camaraderie, even joyfulness, as we interacted with the leaders of the Newark Student Union, BATs from everywhere, and parents who had crossed the country to join us.


The keynotes were wonderful. The panels were led by activists sharing what they had learned. Most of them had overflow crowds. One in particular was especially enlightening–Jesse Hagopian’s discussion of the racist history of standardized testing, accompanied by Rita Green, the Director of Education for the Seattle NAACP, which has endorsed the opt-out movement. Green told the audience that the NAACP locals do not share the enthusiasm of the national organization for standardized testing. The room for that session was packed, with audience members sitting on the floor and lining the walls.


The keynote speeches and most of the panels will be posted on the website of the Network for Public Education as soon as they are ready. (Here is a picture of the Grand Ballroom at the Drake Hotel with Karen Lewis in the forefront.) We will soon announce the location of our 2016 conference. We aim to top the previous conferences of 2014 in Austin and 2015 in Chicago. We are many, they are few. We will reclaim our schools and make them far better than they are today. We want transformation, not privatization. We want schools that are places of joy and learning for all children, schools that respect children and parents, schools that prepare children for today and for lives of purpose.

Peter Greene here takes apart the claim by Mike Petrilli and Aaron Churchill of the Fordham Institute in the Wall Street Journal that closing schools is good for students. By good, they mean that the students will get higher test scores if their school is closed and they move to a different school.

Greene calls this “four kinds of wrong.”

To begin with:

“Before we even get into what they said or why it’s baloney, let’s open with the caveat that they themselves left out of the article. The study looks at the benefits of closing schools and was done in Ohio, where the Fordham operates charters that directly benefit from the closing schools. So this is, once again, a study touting the benefits of cigarette smoking brought to you by your friends at the Tobacco Institute.”

They claim that students gain an extra 49 days by switching schools. No serious researcher, he says, uses this metric. It is a meaningless reformer extrapolation, Greene says.

He adds, an increase from the 20th to the 22nd or 23rd percentile is a statistical blip.

Worst of all, they propose destroying social capital, which children need even more than a few points on a standardized test.

William Doyle writes that it is an insult to real corporate reform to confuse it with the misguided methods of those who call themselves school reformers.

Doyle writes:

“It is a mistake to refer to failing education reforms as “corporate reform.”

“No leading company would place the entire foundation of its business on inaccurate, unreliable, system-distorting and often “bad” data like multiple-choice standardized tests.

“No leading company would roll out a multi-billion-dollar national venture (like Common Core) nationally without extensive field-and-market testing first.

“And while much education policy is currently focused on rating, shaming, stressing and punishing teachers, schools and even students based on alleged “performance” on standardized test “data,” according to an article in the April 21, 2015, Wall Street Journal (“The Trouble With Grading Employees“), a number of leading companies including Microsoft, Adobe Systems and Gap, Inc., are realizing that “performance ratings” are counterproductive, are abolishing them, and achieving better results.

“The article reports that the companies “abolished such [performance] ratings after leaders decided they deterred collaboration and stoked staffers’ anxieties,” and quoted David Rock, the director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, as saying that ratings conjure a “threat response” in workers, or “a sensation of danger” that can last for months if they didn’t get the rating they expected.

“The article reports that “companies that have gotten rid of ratings say their employees feel better about their jobs, and actually listen to managers’ feedback instead of obsessing over a number.”

Here is my reaction:

My own view is that the people who think it is “urgent” for them to demoralize teachers and turn public dollars over to private entities with minimal (or no) accountability have honed their message with care. Billionaires, hedge-fund managers, even the U. S. Department of Education share the same vocabulary that portrays themselves as saviors of the poor, as civil rights leaders, as the righteous rich, even as they slander hard-working teachers, close beloved community schools, and promote privatization and segregation.

“I confess that I am guilty of calling these people “corporate reformers” because I can’t think of a better term. Maybe “privatizers” works better. Some call them “deformers,” others call them “privateers.” What do you think?

Here is a curious turn of events. Just as the federal government is forcing schools across the nation to evaluate and rank teachers using dubious metrics, corporations are beginning to back away from simplistic performance measures. The change reflects the philosophy of business guru W. Edwards Deming, who staunchly opposed merit pay and rankings, on grounds that they demoralized employees and made for a less efficient workplace.

This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The Trouble With Grading Employees

Performance ratings such as ‘meets expectations’ sap workers’ morale,
but firms aren’t sure they can do without them

Can a year’s worth of work be boiled down to a stock phrase like
“meets expectations”?

As companies reinvent management by slashing layers of hierarchy or
freeing workers to set their own schedules, performance ratings—which
grade workers on a 1-5 scale or with labels like “on
target”—stubbornly hang on. Companies like Gap Inc.,Adobe Systems
Inc.and Microsoft Corp. abolished such ratings after leaders decided
they deterred collaboration and stoked staffers’ anxieties. Yet other
companies are having a harder time letting go.

Intel Corp. has long rated and ranked its approximately 105,000
workers on a four-level scale, from “outstanding” to “improvement
required.” Devra Johnson, a human-resources director at the chip
maker, observed that ratings tended to deflate morale in a good chunk
of the 70% of the company’s workforce that receives a “successful”
rating each year—the second-lowest label.

“We’d call them the walking wounded,” she said.

Human-resources managers conducted an experiment to test a new way of
managing performance, allowing 1,700 workers in the HR department to
go unrated, although not without feedback, for about two years,
according to Ms. Johnson.

Managers found they could still differentiate performance and
distribute compensation. However, when Ms. Johnson’s team presented
its findings, company executives weren’t ready to give the labels up,
concerned that forgoing ratings would suck healthy tension out of the
workplace, she said. So the HR department started rating the employees
in the experiment again….

Marc Farrugia, the vice president for human resources at Sun
Communities Inc., is going through the “exhausting” process of
revamping performance management at the owner and operator of
manufactured housing communities. He’s concerned about the accuracy of
the company’s current approach to ratings; some managers just dole out
higher scores in order to maximize bonuses for employees they’re
scared might leave; others give everyone average ratings because it is
easy. Workers complain the ratings aren’t fair and don’t paint a true
picture of their annual performance.

“I’m being more and more convinced that ratings are doing more harm
than good,” Mr. Farrugia said….

Some executives worry that figuring performance measures, such as the
time it takes for restaurant workers to take an order, into reviews
might lack context.

“I have a real love-hate relationship with data,” said Kevin Reddy,the
CEO of fast-casual restaurant chain Noodles & Co. “You can get a false
sense of security if you zero in too closely on a rating system.”

The company moved away from numeric ratings about seven years ago but
still places workers into broad categories like “meets expectations.”
Mr. Reddy said he and his leadership team continue to question whether
they’re doing feedback right and motivating employees.

Jean Martin, a director at research and advisory firm Corporate
Executive Board who works with companies on performance management
systems, said executives are “giving the numbers too much power” by
endlessly debating their worth. An analysis of 30,000 employees by her
organization shows ratings don’t have a direct impact on performance,
she said.

Others say they have evidence showing that workers contribute less
after receiving a poor rating. David Rock, the director of the
NeuroLeadership Institute, a research firm that applies neuroscience
to the workplace, said ratings conjure a “threat response” in workers,
or “a sensation of danger,” especially if they don’t get the number
they expect. And the hangover from a bad rating can last for months,
Dr. Rock said….

Companies that have gotten rid of ratings say their employees feel
better about their jobs, and actually listen to managers’ feedback
instead of obsessing over a number. John Ritchie, a Microsoft
human-resources executive who goes by “J,” said the technology
company’s practice of rating and ranking employees discouraged
risk-taking and collaboration; since discontinuing the practice in
late 2013, teamwork is up, he said.

The internal change mirrors the shift CEO Satya Nadella is working to
effect externally, charming and collaborating with startups and
venture-capital firms so that Microsoft doesn’t get left behind in the
increasingly heterogeneous world of technology.

“We needed to change and everybody knew it,” Mr. Ritchie said of the
new performance management system.

The Gap’s new approach dumps ratings in favor of monthly coaching
sessions and frequent employee-manager conversations. But HR
executives had to convince leaders that the move wasn’t
“sacrilegious,” according to Eric Severson, the company’s co-head of
human resources.

Holly Bonds, a 17-year veteran of the company, said it was strange at
first; she was used to scanning her review for her rating and bonus
number. She now talks more frequently with her manager, so she has a
better idea of where she stands, a process that she’s found less
stressful than worrying about her rating.

“I haven’t missed it,” she said.

Write to Rachel Feintzeig at

A reader, Charlene Williams, who holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, sent the following comment in response to this post about the vocabulary used on one of the Common Core tests:


This speaks to one of the essential issues in the current high stakes testing debacle. Why the Pearson, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced testing is unscientific and unethical. I am a psychologist, faculty at UCLA, and a mother in California. I hadn’t heard about these concerns with the current high stakes testing, until after I became very concerned with the developmental level of the SB practice items when helping my daughter (dutifully prepare for the tests).
The 6th grade ELA practice performance task for the Smarter Balance was completely inappropriate for 11-12 year olds, requiring them to toggle between several screens (on small Ipad screens), and choose multiple pieces of evidence to evaluate, select, paraphrase, compare and contrast, as well as write a multiparagraph essay. Never mind that while practicing, toggling back to the articles caused the students’ written work on the essay to be erased (lost).

Why the current high stakes testing is unscientific:
1) There is no proven Construct Validity (does your test measure what you think it measures)
2) Cut scores are determined by an unknown (arbitrary) process- labeling children as proficient, or failing appears to not be based on any scientific process. It is not scientific to arbitrarily decide what levels of your test scores actually mean in the real world. Scientific measurement requires cross-validation with external measures that provide evidence for your claims (like grades, or independent in-depth measures of children’s educational achievement in a a smaller sample with highly experienced evaluators).
3) Computer adaptive tests- there have been many concerns raised about how item difficulty has been decided. Children continue to progress on these tests if they continue to get a certain number the most recent answers correct. Educational measurement specialists (true academically trained professionals) and parents and children have observed that very often items following very difficult questions are significantly easier. This raises concerns that children’s scores are artificially deflated by unscientifically determined item difficulty determinations.
4) Inter-rater reliability- No checks exist to independently determine whether the scoring administered by these testing companies has truly reliable and valid measurements of children’s answers (see Todd Farley )
Most importantly, the Pearson, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced testing is unscientific because they violate the basic rule of science. The assessments are not verifiable, because they are not permitted to be subject to independent scientific evaluation. Their validity cannot be proven nor disproven. Under the guise of “test security” companies use copyright laws so extreme they prevent true scientific evaluation of the validity of these tests, by scientists with expertise in the fields of Education, Psychology, and related fields.
So I am deeply concerned that the profit-driven testing business is using unscientific (and expensive) testing which is portrayed to the public as if it’s truth, with high stakes ramifications on children, teachers, and our public education system. As stakeholders and parents, we need to demand accountability, real science, and an ethical separation between profit-driven educational businesses and the true scientifically-based education and measurement. For the sake of our children, our teachers, and our educational system which is truly one of the foundations of our democratic country.

Seattle may top Long Island as the epicenter of opt out.

95% of students at Garfield High School–the very same school where teachers refused to give the superfluous MAP test–opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

“None of the students at Nathan Hale took the test, and at both Roosevelt and Ingraham, 80 percent of students opted out.

“Earlier this month, more than 100 juniors at Garfield submitted “opt out” slips.

“Many parents and teachers believe the state-required Smarter Balanced test is unfair, that it sets up the majority of the students to fail, and that it’s a high stakes test that could penalize the teacher or the school.”