Archives for the month of: October, 2015

The parent of the 10-year-old boy who was interviewed by John Merrow on PBS filed a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education that Eva Moskowitz violated her child’s privacy rights under the federal law FERPA by disclosing her child’s confidential disciplinary record tithe media. 

USA Today has a front-page story on the Gulen movement and its sponsorship of free trips to Turkey for members of Congress and their staff. The Gulenists run about 140 charter schools in the U.S.
“WASHINGTON — A Turkish religious movement has secretly funded as many as 200 trips to Turkey for members of Congress and staff since 2008, apparently repeatedly violating House rules and possibly federal law, a USA TODAY investigation has found.

“The group — a worldwide moderate Islamic movement led by a religious scholar named Fethullah Gülen — has been accused by the Turkish government of attempting a coup in that country. Turkish leaders have asked the United States to extradite Gülen from the remote compound in rural Pennsylvania where he has lived for 20 years.

“The movement has founded hundreds of charter schools across the United States and around the world, has its own media organizations, and was deeply entrenched with the Turkish regime until a falling out two years ago. That led President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to declare Gülen was running “a parallel state” inside the country with the intent of undermining the government. In advance of Turkish elections this weekend, police raided the offices of Gülen affiliated-media organizations.”

Now journalists should check out the number of free trips for state legislators in a position to approve Gulen charter schools. Check out the state legislators in Illinois and Texas for starters. 

Conflict of interest? How could it not be?

Billionaire Eli Broad is underwriting education coverage at the Los Angeles Times.

Eli Broad wants 50% of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District to be enrolled charter schools. He intends to pool $490 million to create 260 new charters.

The LA Times wrote an editorial endorsing Broad’s plan to privatize a huge part of public education.

One man wants his way. Eli Broad does not believe in democracy.

School Choice-What the Research Says, a New Resource from the Center for Public Education

Alexandria, Va. (October 28, 2015) – In its at-a-glance overview, the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA), Center for Public Education (CPE) looks at the various forms of school choice, and drawing upon relevant research and statistics, the effects each has on student achievement. CPE finds that that while many schools of choice do an exemplary job, “the results aren’t universally better than those produced by traditional public schools.”

“America’s public schoolchildren are dependent on us, policymakers and the public, to make informed decisions that will lead to improved outcomes,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association. “CPE shines a spotlight on education options in its study, finding that not all choices are equal.”

School Choice: What the Research Says succinctly describes the many alternatives to public schools: those within the public school system (magnet schools, charter schools, and within or between district transfers) and without (private schools, vouchers and homeschooling), and also looks at virtual schools which can be either public or private.

CPE finds that:

Nearly nine in ten school-age children in the U.S. attend public school, a proportion that has been fairly consistent for four decades; 16 percent are enrolled in a public school of choice. On the non-public side, 10 percent of school-age children are in private schools, and 3 percent are homeschooled.

Research on the impact of school choice on student learning generally shows mixed results with studies typically showing little or no difference in overall performance compared to traditional public schools. For example, about one in four charter schools outperforms its traditional public counterpart in reading, and one in five does worse. However, benefits seem to be greater for some groups of students, including English language learners, children from low-income families, and students of color.
Private schools tend to outperform public schools on national assessments. But when researchers controlled for students family background and location, they found the reverse – public school fourth- and eighth-graders scored higher than their private school peers in math. In addition, math scores for public school students have increased steadily over the last 25 years, and high school graduation rates are at an all-time high.
“If the research shows us anything, it’s that school choice does not come with a guarantee,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education. “Rather, public school leaders should look to their successful programs – charters, magnet, and neighborhood schools alike – and apply the lessons learned to other schools so that the choices parents and students have will all be good ones.”

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The Center for Public Education (CPE) is a national resource for credible and practical information about public education and its importance to the well-being of our nation. CPE provides up-to-date research, data, and analysis on current education issues and explores ways to improve student achievement and engage public support for public schools. The Center is an initiative of the National School Boards Association.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. Learn more at

CPE’s latest resource on school choice:
At a Glance
Full report:

LInda Embrey, Communications Office
National School Boards Association
(703) 838-6737;

This post was written by David Hursh, Professor at the University of Rochester. It ably summarizes the critiques of President Obama’s proposal to reform testing and reduce the burden on students and teachers. It also contains excellent links.

Obama’s Testing Action Plan: A real change or more of the same?

David Hursh (

On October 24, 2015, the U.S. Department of Education released their Testing Action Plan as a response to the increasing concern of parents, teachers, and students that standardized testing is, in their words, “unnecessary,” consumes “too much instructional time” and creates “undue stress for educators and students.” On first reading, Obama and Duncan seem to be saying that they want to decrease both the amount to time spent on testing and the high-stakes nature of tests in evaluating students, teachers, and schools. However, a closer reading suggests that they are only calling for the federal government to provide “clear assistance…for how to thoughtfully approach testing and assessment,” that is, more federal control. So, the actual goal is more of the same, implemented more carefully, so as to blunt resistance.

The rest of the action plan’s goals are worded to suggest more than they deliver. For example, they assert that “no standardized test should be given solely for educator evaluation,” which makes it acceptable, as in New York, to use the Common Core exam to count as 50% of teachers’ evaluations and to determine whether a school is failing and should be placed in receivership.

It seems that the federal Testing Action Plan, like Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force, is not meant to respond to the concerns of parents that led to 220,000 students opting out of the Common Core exams in April 2015 but, rather, to convince the media that they are going to fine tune it to make it more palatable to the public. However, what is needed is not fine-tuning but a decrease in standardized testing. The Council of the Great City Schools reported earlier this month that students in their 66 membership districts take, from pre-K to grade 12, an average of 112 standardized tests, most of which are required under NCLB and Race to the Top.

In sum, the Obama administration, outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and incoming secretary John King—who single-handedly made high-stakes testing the single most important educational issue in New York— want to do more of the same, only sell it better.

The Department of Education press release:

Response by the NYS Allies for Public Education

A smart and snarky response from Peter Green, a teacher

Anthony Cody (co-founder of the Network for Public Education): Obama (Again) blasts all the tests his administration has sponsored

Council of the Great City Schools

Click to access Testing%20Report.pdf

David Hursh, PhD
Teaching and Curriculum
Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development
452 LeChase Hall
RC Box 270425
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY 14627-0425

New book: The End of Public Schools: The Corporate Reform Agenda to Privatize Education. Routledge. November 23.

Associate Region Editor- Americas- Journal of Education Policy.

Associate Editor- Policy Futures in Education
Keynote address: New York State as a cautionary tale. New Zealand union of primary teachers and administrators.

UR Meliora Address: High-stakes testing and the decline of teaching.

Rebecca Mead of The New Yorker here assesses President Obama’s seeming change of heart about standardized testing.

She welcomes the fact that he recognizes the administration’s role in promoting the current obsession with testing. But she also notes that the President’s body language suggests that he is not entirely supportive of his script. Is it because he knows that standardized testing has not been a lever for better education?

She notes that the administration’s proposed cap of 2% on time for testing is not in fact a reduction of time for most students and may actually be an increase.

I am very happy to see Rebecca Mead writing about these issues in the New Yorker. Most of its readers probably do not follow what is happening in education as closely as readers of this blog.

Not long after I started blogging, I received a paperback book in the mail from an author. It was titled “Teaching As an Act of Love.” I read it and remember thinking what a kind and gentle man he was. He occasionally left comments on the blog. In recent years, I have often seen his tweets and retweets, and I always recognized his face.

Imagine when I picked up the newspaper Friday morning and saw his picture on the front page. My first thought was, “That’s Richard Lakin,” but I couldn’t understand why he was on the front page. Then I realized why he was featured: he was on a public bus in Israel and on his way home, he was stabbed to death by two youths. They stabbed him in the face and in the chest. He died two weeks later.

“Teaching as an Act of Love.”

Here is the New York Times story.

This is what his son posted on Facebook.

Reader J.C. Grim forwarded this commentary from Tennessee’s SCORE (State Collaborative on Reforming Education).

It is very important for SCORE to claim that great progress is being made. At the 2013 release of NAEP scores, Secretary Duncan saluted Tennessee for its gains and held the state up as proof that the Race to the Top was working.

In 2015, however, Tennessee’s scores in math and reading were flat, for both fourth and eighth grade students.

The statement actually mis-states where Tennessee ranks among the states. For example, it says that Tennessee went from  being 41st in the nation in 8th grade reading to 30th, but the report says it is 36th in the nation. If you count the Department of Defense schools, then Tennessee is number 37. If we all aspire to be at the national average, we should follow Tennessee’s lead.

So, the response from reformers is to claim success because the gains from 2013 didn’t disappear. Not a word about flat scores; not a word about no gains.

Well, that’s one way to make progress. I guess the claim is, at least we stood still and didn’t go backwards.

Kentucky, which has no charter schools (unlike Tennessee), placed #9 in the nation. What can Tennessee learn from Kentucky?

From a reader:

Journalists do not really seem to understand the gravity of what is happening to education in the United States. There is a reason that highly educated parents are opting their children out of standardized tests. It is a scary time to be a teacher and an even scarier time to raise a child.

Since 1997, the testing market in the United States has grown 835%, or roughly 14% annually, from $263 million to over $2.46 billion. That’s nearly double the annual rate of return of the S&P 500. A lot of people have made a lot of money off of the test-based accountability movement and a lot of corporations now have a lot to lose. Corporations and politicians promised us a lot when they seized control of the nation’s education policy and enacted No Child Left Behind in 2002.

Since then, the rate of growth in NAEP scores has declined, SAT scores have declined, ACT scores have remained flat, and PISA scores have declined.

As if that wasn’t enough, politicians and their corporate backers doubled down on the dismantling of public education by withholding funding, taking over school districts, and threatening to close down schools. In Washington D.C., after linking 50% of teacher evaluations to standardized test scores, teacher turnover increased to 82%, schools in communities with high poverty rates showed large or moderate declines in student learning outcomes, and the combined poverty gap expanded by 44 scale-score points causing poor students to fall even further behind their more affluent peers.

Realizing the calamity of these reform efforts, the American Statistical Association, the National Academy of Education, the American Educational Research Association, the Economic Policy Institute, and educators throughout the country issued statements urging policymakers to reconsider the use of high-stakes tests which have robbed teachers of their autonomy and forced hundreds of hours of test prep on our students.

While some states have responded to limit the stakes until more is known about the validity and reliability of the assessments, officials in New York State continue to press forward.

It is long past time to acknowledge that the high-stakes accountability movement has failed our children. We must hold politicians responsible for withholding funding from our public schools and allowing poverty to wreak havoc on our education system. The United States now has its highest level of income inequality since 1928. Yet when you control for poverty, we have the best PISA scores in the world.

Our schools are not failing our children, our politicians are. It takes a real hero to ignore the impact of poverty and threaten to punch teachers in the face. But parents can see right through the lies, the decept, and the corruption. In 2016, opt out rates will double and this grass-roots parent movement will ensure that the American Dream is not permitted to skip a generation.

Valerie Strauss here links to a two-year study conducted by the Council for Great City Schools, which documented that American students are drowning in standardized tests. In some schools, testing is the most important activity of the year.

Strauss writes:

The average student in America’s big-city public schools takes some 112 mandatory standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and the end of 12th grade — an average of about eight a year, the study says. That eats up between 20 and 25 hours every school year, the study says. As for the results, they often overlap. On top of all that are teacher-written tests, sometimes taken by students along with standardized tests in the very same subject.

In 66 school systems studied by the Council of the Great City Schools, a nonprofit organization that represents the largest urban public school systems in the country, students in the 2014-15 school year sat over 6,500 times for tests, taking tests with 401 different titles. (See all the major findings below.)

High-stakes standardized testing has become a hallmark of modern school reform for well over a dozen years, starting with the use of these exams in the 2002 No Child Left Behind law to hold schools “accountable.” The stakes for these exams were increased with President Obama’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top funding competition, in which states could win federal education funding by promising to undertake specific reforms — including evaluating teachers by test scores and adopting “common standards.”

Here are some key points from the report:

* Testing pursuant to NCLB in grades three through eight and once in high school in reading and mathematics is universal across all cities. Science testing is also universal according to the grade bands specified in NCLB.

* Testing in grades PK-2 is less prevalent than in other grades, but survey results indicate that testing in these grades is common as well. These tests are required more by districts than by states, and they vary considerably across districts even within the same state.

* Middle school students are more likely than elementary school students to take tests in science, writing, technology, and end-of-course (EOC) exams.

* The average amount of testing time devoted to mandated tests among eighth-grade students in the 2014-15 school year was approximately 4.22 days or 2.34 percent of school time. (Eighth grade was the grade in which testing time was the highest.) (This only counted time spent on tests that were required for all students in the eighth grade and does not include time to administer or prepare for testing, nor does it include sample, optional, and special-population testing.)

* Testing time in districts i
s determined as much by the number of times assessments are given during the school year as it is by the number of assessments.

* There is no correlation between the amount of mandated testing time and the reading and math scores in grades four and eight on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).