Archives for the month of: October, 2015

Ann Marie Corgill, Alabama’s teacher-of-the-year for 2014-15, resigned on October 29. She had had it. If states treat their best teachers the way she was treated, shame on them.

Mercedes Schneider sums up the sorry story here.

“She is state certified to teach primary through third grade. Corgill is also National Board Certified to teach through seventh grade.

Corgill began the 2015-16 school year teaching second grade but was moved to fifth grade.

The state says that she now needs to renew her state certification to include teaching fifth grade.

But here’s the kicker:

When she was chosen as state teacher of the year, Corgill was teaching fourth grade– outside of her state certification.

On October 29, 2015, Corgill decided she had had enough and tended her resignation. Here is an excerpt:

“After 21 years of teaching in grades 1-6, I have no answers as to why this is a problem now, so instead of paying more fees, taking more tests and proving once again that I am qualified to teach, I am resigning. …

“Please know that I wanted to give my all and share my expertise with Birmingham City Schools. …”

“In order to attract and retain the best teachers, we must feel trusted, valued and treated as professionals. It is my hope that my experience can inform new decisions, policies and procedures to make Birmingham City Schools a place everyone wants to work and learn.”

Reader Jack Covey watched Eva Moskowitz’s ED talk at Governor Cuomo’s Camp Philos retreat:

“Holy moley!

“I just watched a one-woman Eva Moskowitz’ horror show… starring Eva herself. It’s her six-minute “Ed Talk” (get it? rhymes with “Ted Talk”) at the 2014 Corporate Reform jamboree called “Camp Philos”:

She glowingly tells the story of Sidney — an eighth grade Success Academy student — while projecting her picture on a screen. (Did she get permission?)

“During Common Core testing, Sidney was in a life-threatening battle with sickle-cell anemia. Even at the most severe moment of crisis in her health, Sidney insisted on taking the entirety of that year’s Common Core testing. The adults around argued otherwise, because she had just had her infected spleen taken out that very day, “had lost a lot of weight,” and “was extremely cold and weak.” In the light of this, the principal informed Sidney that she was entitled to claim a “medical excuse” and delay taking the test.

“However, Sidney wouldn’t hear of it, and took the test.

“I want to get a 4,” Sidney replied, with Eva recounting these words with emotion.

Eva’s point?

( 02:10 – 03:03 )

( 02:10 – 03:03 )

“EVA MOSKOWITZ: “Children are incredibly resilient, and I would urge you to think about NOT treating children AS children… I think that we have underestimated in this country the pleasure that comes from achieving mastery, and from performance. In my experience, kids actually want to perform. The want to master. Sidney was a perfect example, even though she was in a life-threatening situation.”

Sweet Lord! What is WRONG with this woman?

“Cue the Supremes:

“(By the way, Camp Philos 2015 is this weekend. My invite must have got lost in the mail.
I wonder what Eva’s 2015 “Ed Talk” will be this year, given the timing.)”

Rick Hess, senior education fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, did not join the crowd of apologists and excuse-makers who downplayed the meaning of the 2015 NAEP scores. He said the scores were “dismal,” “a train wreck,” and “mass carnage.”

He noted that Secretary Duncan was in “damage control” mode. 

Hess writes:

“Viewed against more than two decades of prior scores, these results can only be described as a train wreck. They were so disturbing mostly because we’ve gotten so used to steady improvement in NAEP scores. Never before had fourth-grade math scores declined. Eighth-grade reading scores hadn’t fallen since 1996. Fourth-grade reading scores haven’t dipped since 2003, or eighth-grade reading since 2005. In other words, the widespread carnage on display this year is wholly unprecedented. The Obama administration, which has bragged about the efficacy of its federally fueled school-reform agenda, immediately moved to aggressive damage control. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan explained that the declines should in no way raise questions about Obama-promoted education policies such as Common Core or the administration’s Race to the Top program. “Big change never happens overnight,” Duncan said. “I’m confident that over the next decade, if we stay committed to this change, we will see historic improvements.”

Duncan’s insistence that it will take a while for Obama policies to bear fruit would be more compelling if he had not — just last week— already credited Obama policies such as the School Improvement Grant program with boosting the nation’s graduation rate. Or if, two years ago, he hadn’t credited administration policies for 2013’s NAEP gains. At the time, he said, “All eight states that had implemented the state-crafted Common Core State Standards at the time of the 2013 NAEP assessment showed improvement . . . and none of the eight states had a decline in scores.” He added, “Tennessee, D.C., and Hawaii have done some really tough, hard work, and it’s showing some pretty remarkable dividends” on the NAEP results.”

Other commentators blamed the recession of 2008, but Hess pointed out that the recession did not affect scores in 2009 or 2011.

There are many reasons why scores go up or down, but whatever they may be, NAEP 2015 is a disaster for Duncan and Obama’s years of boasting about their education agenda. You can’t claim credit when scores go up but disown the scores when they go down.

Having heard about the fierce urgency of reform for seven years, now we are told that it will take a decade to see the fruits of high-stakes testing and racing to the top. That doesn’t sound like fierce urgency. It sounds like the worn-out status quo, making excuses for failure.

My own hunch about the test-score stagnation is that teachers, principals, students, and schools were confused by the constant disruption that reformers prize. Children and schools need consistency and stability. That’s precisely what reform could not deliver.

Corporations can re-invent themselves, but schools must be a refuge from a world of uncertainty. To import that uncertainty into the school does not improve education. It turns the schools into heartless, soulless, cold institutions where teachers and principals come and go; staff members disappear. The school itself may close and vanish.

Turmoil is not conducive to teaching and learning.

Read more at:

Daniel Katz says: When President Obama says so. Or Secretary Duncan. They like to use the words of their critics but change nothing.

He writes:

“Honestly, at this point in his administration, expecting President Obama to well and truly take action to reverse the damage of the “test and punish” era of school accountability is like expecting the Bush administration to not start unnecessary wars. That, however, did not prevent the national media from declaring that President Obama’s weekend call for reducing the burden of standardized testing in public schools a major departure from previous policies. David Dayen of Salon gushed that the President was breaking “with twenty years of precedent,” and Mother Jones’ Julia Lurie wrote that “the announcement represents a significant change in course for the Obama administration.” Nearly every major news outlet declared the announcement a move to limit the time spent on standardized testing in school…”

But that’s all blather, says Katz. The reformers are too lazy to identify which schools need extra help and which are beyond help.

“School accountability and improvement is difficult and often uncertain work. When used honestly, standardized test score data can tell you where to begin, but it should never be confused with evidence of what needs to happen in a school. Are there schools with low test scores and low value added that are Dickensian nightmares that should be closed as soon as possible? Sure. There are 98,000 public schools in the country. But there are also schools with low test scores and low value added that are full of devoted teachers, strong school leaders, and committed parents, but who need resources to provide genuine educational opportunities for all learners and to do so in a way that does not cheat them of a well-rounded and holistic education. For that matter, there are schools that boast of their great test scores and high value added, but they get there by being Victorian work houses worthy of Scrooge where children are basically beaten into submission.

“The point is that you do not know until you go to the school and actually investigate.

“But the Arne Duncans and the John Kings do not want to do that. They want to sit in offices in Albany and Washington, look over spreadsheets, and make sweeping judgements about which schools are winners and which schools are losers. They cannot really give up the high stakes attached to the standardized tests because that would mean they would have to do the hard of work of accountability and renewal, the work that actually can inform smart choices based upon community input.”

Jason France, aka Crazy Crawfish, ran for state board of education in Louisiana and lost. As he explains it here, the winning candidates pretended to share the views of the losers and had the advantage of millions of dollars from super-PACs. The losers were outspent by at least 100-1.

The winners’ campaign was promoted by the Louisiana Association and Industry.

Jason says there are still two candidates in the race who need our help so that the corporate people don’t gain total control.

He writes:

“To everyone who supported and believed in me and the other FlipBESE candidates you have my utmost respect, thanks, and gratitude. With your help we terrified our opponents into outspending us in the 100’s to one range, to fabricate and promulgate lies about us, and to actually adopt OUR platforms to defeat us.

“None of the LABI backed candidates ran on platforms claiming Common Core and PARCC were outstanding or that the state should confiscate and run all of our schools, because they knew those claims would cost them the elections. So while LABI and their allies claim education reform got a mandate in Saturday’s election, nothing could be further from the truth. You won’t see LABI’s remaining lapdogs doing anything to promote the agenda they claim they have a mandate for in their runoffs.

“That means it is crystal clear (even to our opponent’s highly paid political consultants) that it was FlipBESE that won Saturday, October 24th, NOT corporate ed reform and Common Core.

“Now that LABI has most of the BESE seats, and has deceived and bribed their way into unseating two of our greatest champions (Carolyn Hill and Lottie Bebee) it is more important than ever to rally around our remaining champions.

“We NEED Mary Harris and Kathy Edmonston to defend our teachers, parents, and students.

“For this reason I am proud to endorse and support Kathy Edmonston for the BESE district 6 runoff race against LABI owned Jason Engen.”

This moving article by Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times is a tribute to Alan Kaplan, a high school teacher of the humanities, who died at the end of August.

Some 500 former students attended his funeral, driving or flying from wherever they were.

One week ago, very early Sunday morning, Harvard University graduate student Jimmy Biblarz boarded a plane and flew from Boston to Los Angeles to attend a memorial service.

He knew he would have to fly back to Boston later that evening, which made for a grueling day, but Biblarz never had a second thought about making the trip.

The provocative, maddening, abrasive, endearing, passionate, controversial Hamilton High School teacher who tormented, challenged and ultimately inspired him, had died. So Biblarz and hundreds of other students who got the same treatment from history and philosophy teacher Alan Kaplan crowded into the un-air-conditioned school auditorium on a blistering afternoon to pay their respects.

“Each of us spends our time on this Earth trying to ensure we are remembered in death. Mr. Kaplan, you won,” Biblarz said in his eulogy. “You produced hundreds of activists, organizers, scholars, therapists, teachers and thinkers. Your effects are exponential.”

Steve Lopez is one of the few writers for the L.A. Times (add Michael Hiltzik) who understands that teachers are more than test-prep automatons, that they enlighten and inspire in ways that can’t be measured.

“People don’t show up 20 and 30 years later to pay tribute to teachers who helped them do better on standardized tests,” fellow Hamilton High teacher Barry Smolin said at the service, a tape of which was made available to me. “We are here because Alan Kaplan did what all great teachers do. He clarified, he inspired, he awakened, he worked in ways that are unquantifiable.”

As I watched the tributes, I was reminded that from Los Angeles to New York, we have endured years of bare-knuckle battles but reached no consensus on how to improve public schools. Public education is shamefully underfunded, some say, while others insist money is not the answer. You can find equally rabid supporters and critics of charter schools, and the new Common Core curriculum is either a breakthrough or a curse.

But wherever you stand on any of that, we can all go to school on how a teacher managed to touch so many lives in such profound ways, loyal to both his convictions and his students even as his stubborn independence drew critics and even landed him in trouble at times.

Some students were intimidated by Kaplan. Some administrators and fellow teachers found him irritating.

He flat-out refused to teach Advanced Placement history, arguing that the curriculum was a memorization drill that allowed for neither true teaching nor learning.

When he died at the early age of 60, students came from everywhere to thank Alan Kaplan for changing their lives.

Measure that.

Film-makers Jack Paar and Ron Halpern are making a film about the corporate assault on public education.

It will be called “Corporatized.”

There are a growing number of videos about the corporate assault on public education. More are on the way. Videos are an important way of awakening the public to the well-coordinated threat to privatize public schools.

Here are some films and short videos that you should see and that you should show at community events


Race to Nowhere

Inequality for All

Rise above the mark

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Standardized Testing

Refuse tests: a short film (3:33)

Change the Stakes

Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District

Beyond Measure

Standardized testing is not teaching

The Other PARCC

The Public School Wars

Hear Our Teachers

Heal Our Schools (Defies Measurement)

Education Inc.

Alfred Chris Torres of Montclair State University has analyzed a common phenomenon: the high rates of teacher turnover in charter schools.

He says that “no-excuses” charter schools are both popular and polarizing because of their longer school days and school years, their strict discipline, their focus on college-prep, and their data-driven instruction. Yet they have high teacher-turnover, in some cases, one of every three or four teachers leaves every year.

He writes:

Why do so many teachers move on? Common explanations point to the intense workload, which can be as high as 60 to 80 hours per week. Others suggest that these school models often rely on Teach for America teachers who are likely to remain only for a short time. Such factors are important, but overlook more specific working conditions or school practices that influence teacher retention and commitment. To pinpoint such nuanced influences on career choices, my exploratory research uses data from in-depth interviews and survey responses from teachers working in a large charter management organization.

A general theme from my research is the importance of the disciplinary climate in “no-excuses” charter organizations. This climate affects teacher autonomy and, if the climate is dysfunctional, can further burnout in ways that prompt teachers to leave.

Especially in no-excuses charters, strict behavioral expectations mandate how students dress, enter a classroom, walk in the hall, or sit in class, and teachers are expected to enforce these expectations using explicit rewards and punishments, such as merits/demerits or adjustments in “paychecks” that allow students to purchase items from a school store. Supporters consider such close and intense monitoring of student behavior as helpful, while detractors believe that such strict expectations can be demeaning, and counterproductive to students’ overall development, no matter how much academic growth occurs.

As the debate rages, however, little attention has been paid to the impact of disciplinary practices on teachers and their career decisions. My research probes those effects, and my survey analysis reveals that overall teacher perceptions of the effectiveness of student disciplinary systems is an important predictor of rates of voluntary turnover. This is true even after other important factors are taken into account, such as teacher experience, workloads, and teachers’ perception of support from principals. Overall, I discovered that teacher perceptions of school disciplinary environments can affect their career choices in two important ways:

School-wide behavioral rules are considered critical to “no-excuses” schools, and teachers in some of these institutions have little input into the creation or adaptation of strict behavioral expectations, and enjoy little discretion to influence exactly how rules are applied. Experienced teachers, especially, can find such strict sets of rules frustrating because they undermine their professional autonomy. Or teachers may end up in conflict with school leaders on issues of how best to discipline or shape the behavioral socialization of students. When teachers feel such frustrations, as many explained in interviews, they may choose to leave.
Teacher burnout in “no-excuses” charters is often attributed to exhaustion from long working hours, but as psychologists understand, feelings of inefficacy can also lead to burnout. Some teachers I interviewed said they found it difficult to enforce detailed behavioral expectations throughout the day, leaving them feeling not very successful. For others, difficulties in enforcing school-wide rules and punishments led to increased student resistance and undermined student-teacher relationships. Since teachers value positive relationships with students, they may choose to leave if they feel good ties are undermined.

– See more at:

Mercedes Schneider received an email sent by the Walton Family Foundation to its many friends and admirers, touting the success of a school that is part of the Achievement School District in Tennessee. Being the careful researcher that she is, she gave the email a close reading and discovered that it was pure propaganda, signed by the WFF director of education, Marc Sternberg.

The email boasts about a young man who graduated from a high school in Tennessee and now returns to the low-performing school as its principal. Cue the violins, as we know he is sure to succeed. This school is one of the lucky schools that is part of the Achievement School District, which will surely lift the lowest 5% of schools in the state (mostly in Memphis with a few in Nashville) to the top 25%, in a mere five years.

Mercedes notes that the school has been in the ASD for only one year. Why the confidence that it will be transformed?

She points out what Walton’s propaganda machine failed to mention: Of the schools that have been part of the ASD the longest, four of the six are still in the bottom 5%, and the other two are in the bottom 6%. (She credits Gary Rubinstein with the original research demonstrating the failure of the ASD.) Why is Walton pretending that the ASD is a grand success?

She writes:

So, if ASD dramatically improves schools, why feature a school that has been in ASD for only a single year? Why not feature schools that have been in ASD for years and have therefore (surely) shown evidence of *dramatic improvement*?

Easy answer:

ASD has no schools that have *dramatically improved.*

Still, the Waltons want to sell ASD as a solution for those “bottom 5 percent” of Tennessee schools. They email subscribers with a feel-good story of a man who graduated from the “bottom 5 percent” school and who became a success anyway when the school was not in the bottom 5 percent– and without any detailed consideration of the factors that might have contributed to the school’s now having “fallen” into the bottom 5 percent based on test scores.

Converting the school to a charter led by an alum of the school surely will allow (Frasyer High) MLK Charter to climb on the backs of some other, less fortunate Tennessee schools and exit that bottom 5 percent.

The first superintendent of the ASD, Chris Barbic, pledged to achieve his goal in five years. After four years, he had a heart attack. He failed. He quit.

The ASD continues to post its boast on its website, even though it has been a flop.

No data-driven policy here. Just propaganda.