Archives for the month of: July, 2015

This is incomprehensible. Mike Klonsky reports that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is cutting the budget for special education.

The city and the public schools are in a deep hole, financially.

But the budget can’t be balanced by firing teachers and aides for children with special needs, for two reasons. First, because it is morally wrong to make savings by taking away teachers from the neediest children. Second, because children with disabilities are protected by federal law. As Klonsky says, parents will file lawsuits, and the law is on their side.

Why not raise taxes on the 1%?

There is a very deceptive petition now being circulated by Care2, which customarily promotes worthy causes. This petition asks you to sign if you support education as a civil right.

When you open it, it asks you to support the punitive accountability measures of NCLB, and criticizes the Senate ESEA bill for not including the mandated tough accountability that closed public schools in poor communities, but did not close opportunity gaps.

It says:

“Keep Education Bill’s Civil Rights Promise

23,101 SIGNATURES BY:Loron HaysTARGET:Senate Majority and Minority Leadership and Education Committee Chairs

“The US Senate has passed Every Child Achieves without the equity provisions that are so central to equitable education opportunities for ALL children.

“Without access to educational resources and much needed Title 1 funding, many of America’s children will continue to slip through the cracks. This Ed Week article articulates the concern being raised by some advocacy groups that, without meaningful federal accountability, educational opportunities for every student are not properly protected.

“According to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ letter to Congress, ESEA, in its current form, promises that the opportunity gap for minorities, ESL students, and students receiving special education services will remain in place due to a push from the House for less federal involvement with providing equal services for disadvantaged students.

“Differences between the House bill and the Senate bill must be reconciled before it is placed on the President’s desk which means THERE IS STILL TIME TO ACT. It is our duty to remind the Leadership that the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) is civil rights legislation. We must act NOW as their summer break – beginning July 30 and lasting until September – is quickly approaching.

“Sign the petition today. Let your voice be heard. Tell congress to strengthen the accountability in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and provide the necessary support to close the opportunity gap for underserved student populations in underperforming schools.

“We MUST invest in ALL of our students, not just the privileged.”

John Paulson, a fabulously wealthy hedge fund manager, gave $8.5 million to Eva Moskowitz to expand her Néw York City-based chain of “no excuses” charter schools.

Last year, when Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to block the expansion of charter schools and to charge them rent for the use of public space–which he promised in the campaign–hedge fund managers gave millions to Governor Cuomo and spent several millions on a TV ad campaign attacking de Blasio. Eva brought thousands of her students and parents to Albany tolobby for her schools. The Governor and the legislature agreed that the city had to give free public space to charters or pay their rent in private space. In doing so, they ignored the law giving the mayor control of the schools.

“Success Academy, which was founded in 2006 by Eva S. Moskowitz, a former member of the City Council, is known for its high student test scores, as well as its sometimes polarizing methods. The network will have 34 schools as of this fall, but there appears to be enough demand for it to grow. This year it received more than 22,000 applications for fewer than 2,300 seats.

“Ms. Moskowitz has plans to grow to 70 schools within five or six years, and last year, she said she would like to have 100 schools within 10 years.”

Paulson sees Moskowitz’s chain as an antidote to poverty, but he seems unaware of her small proportions of the neediest students or the high attrition rate.

Rumors abound that she may run against de Blasio for Mayor in 2017.

After teacher Rafe Esquith was suspended from his fifth grade classroom at Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles, LAUSD leaked that another staff member heard him refer to nudity based on a story in Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Then the story was leaked that a man accused Rafe of abusing him 40 years ago, when he was a counselor at a private Jewish camp. Now the district has requested all the financial records of the private, nonprofit group that supports the children who are Hobart Shakespeareans.

Here is a comment that was posted by “melinson” which reads as follows:

“Rafe Esquith worked for me when he was a counselor at Camp Rancho at the Westside Jewish Community Center. I was the camp director. I NEVER heard any accusations against him. As I followed his remarkable career, I reflect on the enthusiastic 18 year old who was admired by the staff and loved by the campers.”

This is one of the enduring questions of our age. Arne Duncan attended the University of Chicago Lab School and so do his children, as well as the children of Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel. When he was tapped to be CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, why didn’t he strive to make public schools as rich in curriculum and opportunities as the Lab School? Why didn’t he take what he knew and experienced and carry that knowledge to the U.S. Department of Education? That would have been not just “reform,” it would have been revolutionary.

I earlier posted this article on a Chicago blog about Arne’s decision to send his children to the Lab School. This is a decision that I do not criticize, by the way, as I think parents should choose any school they wish, as long as they are willing to pay the price for a non-public education. But I do wish that Arne had applied or at least tried to apply the Lab School principles to his “reform” agenda.

A reader who followed the comments pointed this one out to me:

“Arne Duncan is a tool, and has been from the
beginning when he was appointed here.

“I don’t know if the Lab School has a legacy
program, but this is the same school from
which (Duncan) graduated. He was appointed
at the time I was still director of the City
Council’s Legislative Reference Bureau, and
I made it a point to meet him in the
hallway before his appointment hearing.

“As I shook his hand, I said I’m glad that,
since he was a Lab School graduate, we
finally got someone who has experienced
what good education should be, and there’s
no real reason that schools like the Lab
School can’t be models for real reform.

“He stared at me as though he’d been shot,
and never spoke another word to me again.”

This is an amazing story. Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama appointed to the state Board of Education a 28-year-old man named Matt Brown, who has no knowledge or experience about public education. Even more amazing is that he never attended a public school, didn’t send his own children to public schools, and is contemptuous of public schools. He is a conservative Christian who doesn’t believe in public education or “government schools.”

The story was first reported in Larry Lee’s blog. Lee has been writing about public education for many years. He did a noteworthy study of outstanding (and underfunded) rural schools in Alabama. He was shocked that the Governor would appoint someone with no knowledge of public schools to the state board. Worse, Brown led a campaign to defeat a tax increase to build new schools in his district.

Larry Lee wrote:

Governor Bentley stunned Alabama educators with his July 16 announcement that he was appointing 28 year old Matt Brown of Fairhope to replace Al Thompson on the state board of education. The fact that he never attended public schools, has said his children will not attend them and has no known involvement of supporting public schools was like setting a match to dry kindling. Within two days of posting an article on this blog about the appointment I had 20,000 “hits.”

The reaction was loudest in Baldwin County, where Brown is from. And it is yet to die down along the coast. This is hardly a surprise since Brown was the face of an active effort last March to defeat a school tax vote. The campaign preceding the vote was contentious and divisive. Supporters of the measure felt that Brown and his followers were less than honest and forthright with their information. The Secretary of State’s office said the Brown troops were in violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

Whereas losing candidates for office may lick their wounds for a spell after election day, then go about their business, mothers who feel that someone took aim at their child’s education hold grudges much, much longer.

The governor was aware of this. People told the governor’s staff that Brown carried too much baggage and should not be appointed. Obviously this advice was ignored.

Valerie Strauss reports on this story here. She includes a letter that Larry Lee wrote to the Governor, expressing his outrage about this outrageous appointment.

She notes that Alabama Governor Bentley–an ardent supporter of charters and vouchers– was recently appointed vice chair of the National Governors Association’s committee on education and the workforce.

Gary Rubinstein has been following the results of the Tennessee “Achievement School District” since its inception. At the time, its founder Chris Barbic pledged that–in five years time– he would lift up the schools in the bottom 5% of the state to the top 25% in the state. His strategy: turn them into charters and let the charter magic do its work.

Barbic recently resigned, although the experiment has not reached the five year mark.

Gary Rubinstein here reports on the ASD’s failure to get anywhere near the goal of “top 25%.”

Although there are regular claims of dramatic progress, Gary has the results of three years of the experiment for the original six schools in the cohort.

Of the six, four are still in the bottom 5%; the other two are in the bottom 6%. Some scores went up, some went down. The strategy of converting schools to charter with TFA teachers has not produced miracles or dramatic progress. And yet, many states are rushing to create their own “achievement school districts.” Gary’s warning: Tennessee has an “underachievement district.”

Gary Rubinstein writes:

Throughout the country, there are states that are considering creating their own ASD based on the supposed success of this one and the Recovery School District in Louisiana, on which this one is based. Senate Democrats actually tried, and failed, to get an amendment into the reauthorization of the ESEA that would mandate that the bottom 5% of schools in each state become an ASD, essentially. I hope that my very simple calculations are compelling evidence that the ASD does not live up to the hype. Getting 2 out of 6 schools from the bottom 5% to the bottom 6% has not earned them the right to replicate around the country.

Bill and Melinda Gates told Nicholas Kristof that they have poured billions into education reform, but there’s been “no dramatic change.”

Although the Gates’ normally pay attention to results, in the case of education reform they are unfazed by failure.

As Inside Philanthropy reports:

This is significant for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is that the Gateses still have not tapped the bulk of their personal fortune for philanthropy, as we’ve discussed in the past. While the Gates Foundation lists assets of $43 billion, Forbes pegs Bill Gates’ personal fortune at nearly $80 billion—most of which will likely go to philanthropy eventually.

This is actually a fatuous and unknowing article, as it praises the widespread adoption of the Common Core standards without mentioning how many states have dropped them or dropped the tests aligned with them or how they have become an issue in state and national campaigns. It also states that Gates spent “tens of millions” on the CCSS, when it was long ago reported by the Washington Post that Gates paid about $200 million to underwrite the effort, and some think it may have been ten times that amount. To discuss CCSS without referring to the controversy surrounding the standards is lazy (or star-struck) journalism.

The writer predicts that the Gates will shift their focus to early childhood programs, like the one run by Illinois Governor Rauner’s wife (Ounce of Prevention), and to teacher preparation programs. Again, no mention of the meager results from the Gates Foundation’s efforts to quantify teacher quality.

More testing on the way. If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t count. But don’t expect accountability; accountability is for the little people, as the super-wealthy Leona Helmsley once said about paying taxes.

The Los Angeles Unified School District removed Rafe Esquith from his 5th grade classroom at Hobart Elementary School, where he had become nationally acclaimed for creating the Hobart Shakespeareans.

He has not learned yet what offense he had supposedly committed. First, he was told that some people objected to his reference to nudity, while discussing Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Then, the claim was made that he had abused a child 40 years ago, when he was a counselor at a Jewish day camp. Then that claim apparently was withdrawn.

Now the LAUSD wants the past 15 years of financial records from the Hobart Shakespeareans, a private nonprofit group that does not receive district funding.

In response to this request, actors Sir Ian McKellen and Hal Holbrook joined with past and present students of Rafe to explain what the group had done with its funding.

It is a terrific video, the kind that would make any teacher proud to be a teacher. Rafe has changed many lives. He has made a difference.

Please read Andrea Gabor’s take on the situation. No one can understand what LAUSD is up to or why.

It is time for LAUSD to produce charges and evidence or let Rafe teach.

This post was written by Fred Smith, who worked for many years as a testing expert in the New York City Board of Education. In recent years, he has advised anti-testing groups like Change the Stakes.


I’ve passed the point of exasperation. But, after 40 years in New York’s testing trenches, giving up now is a luxury I can’t afford. Call it over-investment.


And here today is this email I get from a friend sending me the following link from Education Dive (a new one to me), which does a very short summary of a July report from the National Center for Educational Statistics. It compares common core standards and core-aligned test results across the states. Headline: New York Tops List of States with Most Difficult Tests.


The study examines proficiency cutoff scores and equates statewide performance on reading and math exams with corresponding results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It shows the relative standing of each state in terms of the NAEP scale.



Given the high regard in which NCES and NAEP are held, their methodology and findings must be respected. Here is the link to the report


Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto NAEP Scales: Results From the 2013 NAEP Reading and Mathematics


I have two immediate reactions to this. First, making a test difficult in a statistical sense–does not make it valid, nor does it make it rigorous, a measure of critical thinking or more challenging—as proclaimed by proponents of core-aligned exams. More than 200,000 children, whose parents opted them out of the exams this year, loudly reject this proclamation.


Confusing, badly constructed items, inadequate time limits, developmentally inappropriate content–make a test “more difficult.” So does taking exams in an unlighted classroom, or when you’re hungry, homeless, sleep-deprived, just learning English or have special needs.


The study itself issued this caution about interpreting the results. The analyses in this report do not address questions about the content, format, exclusion criteria, or conduct of state assessments in comparison with NAEP.


Second, the fact that 2013 is the centerpiece of this report is important. According to the New York State Education Department (SED), 2013 was supposed to be the foundational year—the baseline, if you will, that would usher in the common core and assessments against which progress toward meeting the standards would be measured. NCES’s report merely shows that New York produced the most difficult tests. And…??


Finally, we come back to exasperation. Two recent events let us know that despite our protests and the importance of gaining necessary reform, we the public, remain where the politicians want us, on the outside looking in. The New York State legislature in the shoddiest, last-minute way possible just passed the weakest test-related bill imaginable. It does nothing to require truth in testing, which had been the focus of proposed legislation that was evidently abandoned. (A real T-in-T measure could have passed in this session. It was an extraneous item insignificantly glommed onto a much larger omnibus bill that satisfied the diverse interests of the legislators and was crafted to pass.)
And SED managed to award the next 5-year testing contract to an outfit called Questar Assessments. It has worked closely on testing projects with Pearson, Inc. in the past. And, before the contract was awarded, Pearson was quietly granted a one-year extension of its expiring 5-year contract. It will work to assure a smooth hand-off to Questar, especially in the matter of field testing, which may project Pearson’s involvement beyond 2016. We all know how sound Pearson’s test development expertise proved to be. Why not reward it for more of the same.


Will Pearsona non grata silently become the subcontractor, running the testing program from the shadows. Again, SED has gone about its decision-making with no transparency—leaving us to find out the details too late.