Archives for the month of: January, 2016

A new study published in the AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice concludes that the discarded New Jersey standards were more effective at teaching critical standards than the Common Core standards.


The study was conducted and written by Dario Sforza, EDD, a principal in East Rutherford, New Jersey; Christopher H. Tienken, EDD, an associate professor at Seton Hall University; and Eunyoung Kim, PhD, a professor at Seton Hall.


Here is the abstract:




The creators and supporters of the Common Core State Standards claim that the Standards require greater emphasis on higher-order thinking than previous state standards in mathematics and English language arts. We used a qualitative case study design with content analysis methods to test the claim. We compared the levels of thinking required by the Common Core State Standards for grades 9-12 in English language arts and math with those required by the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards in grades 9-12 English language arts and math (used prior to the Common Core) using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge framework to categorize the level of thinking required by each standard. Our results suggest that a higher percentage of the 2009 New Jersey high school curriculum standards in English language arts and math prompted higher-order thinking than the 2010 Common Core State Standards for those same subjects and grade levels. Recommendations for school administrative practice are provided.

I received the following exchange from Professor Howard Winant, who is a professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He received a request from the campus TFA recruiter to spend five minutes with his class, and he responded with the following letter:

Hi ___,


Thanks for writing me. I have sent students to TFA in the past, and I have friends on the TFA staff, but I have come to think that the organization has significant problems, problems which make me hesitant to recommend it any more.


I’m sure you and my other friends are well-motivated. But despite its claims and the no doubt sincere belief of people in the organization that TFA is working “to eliminate educational inequity,” that is actually far from the case.


TFA is deeply tied to the privatization of public education that is going on now in this country. It’s linked to the charter school movement, which is not a movement at all, but a largely corporate initiative to extract profits from the public education system by channeling public money into private hands. TFA promotes school choice and voucher programs which devastate low-income children’s education and communities. It is largely unaccountable to the public and to democratic processes. It cycles teachers through the schools where it works; many do not stay. It substitutes crash-course teacher training for the painstaking preparation that committed teachers should undergo, systematically and deliberately undermining the teaching profession. It provides a second-tier, low-investment teaching cohort for neglected schools in poor areas — largely ghettos and barrios — in which states and local school authorities do not wish to invest. So TFA puts an inadequate “bandaid” on a gaping wound.


This country has all the resources it needs to create a high-quality education system. What is lacking is political commitment. If those who work at or in TFA were to devote their efforts to resisting the wholesale assaults that are going on against public schooling — at all levels by the way, in public higher ed as well — their time, resources, and energy would be much better spent. TFA, I have come to think, is merely an ineffective end-run around these problems at best, and one of the sources of these problems at worst. So I won’t be supporting it any more.


Thanks for reading this,


Howard Winant





On 1/26/16 7:13 PM, ___ wrote:
Good Evening Professor Winant,



I hope you are having a great start to 2016 and the winter quarter.


My name is xxxx, and I am a Teach For America campus representative. Teach For America is a national non-profit organization working alongside others to eliminate educational inequity and looking to recruit UCSB students with a Sociology background.


We look for students, like the ones in your Special Topics in Race, Ethnicity, and Nation class, who portray leadership qualities and are passionate about community and social justice. They are uniquely positioned to inspire young students and make an impact based on their expressed interest for your class.


Given this and our last two application deadlines approaching, may we give a brief presentation about this opportunity for your Special Topics in Race, Ethnicity, and Nation course at the beginning of your 5-7:50, 5-5:50, 6-6:50, 7-7:50 class on Tuesday in the next coming weeks?


We will keep the presentation to 5 minutes or less because we value your time and know you probably have a lot of material to cover! Thank you for your time and consideration.

Very Respectfully,

Recruitment Associate

One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

Jimmy Qin, a junior at Seminole High School in Sanford, Florida, received a perfect score on the AP Physics examination. He was one of only two students to earn a perfect score. Nearly 23,000 students took the test.


Seminole is not a magnet school or a charter school. It is a regular public school.


Jimmy is in the International Baccalaureate program at Seminole.


Beyond physics, Jimmy’s interests include politics and economics. His favorite magazines are “The New Yorker”and “The Economist,” while his favorite newspaper is “The New York Times.”


Jimmy also plays the piano and cello. He’s a member of the Florida Young Artists Orchestra, where he is the principal cellist and has performed as a soloist four times.



If it were up to the “reformers” in Florida’s legislature, Seminole High School would not exist anymore. It would have been given away to for-profit charter entrepreneurs and turned into a lucrative real estate deal.

Steven Singer, teacher and blogger in Pennsylvania, sums up the top ten reasons to reject school choice. Since National School Choice Week occurred just recently, Singer thought it was an appropriate time to explain what’s wrong with school choice.


  1. Voucher programs seldom provide full tuition, so parents must make up the difference. Wealthy parents and middle-income parents can do that, but not poor parents.
  2. Schools of choice don’t have to accept anyone who applies. The real choice belongs to the school. It gets to choose the students it wants.
  3. Charter schools are notorious for kicking out students they don’t want.
  4. Vouchers and charters offer less choice than public schools. If you don’t like the way they operate, you can choose to leave.
  5. Charter schools [and voucher schools] do no better and often much worse than public schools.
  6. Charter schools and voucher schools increase segregation.



To learn about the other four reasons why school choice is a bad choice, open and read the post.




Eva Moskowitz is a very powerful woman. She has 11,000 students in her 34 Success Academy charter schools, which get extraordinarily high test scores. She might be universally admired but she picks fights. She usually wins, because she is tougher than anyone else, and she has the backing of the moguls on Wall Street whose financial help Governor Cuomo enjoys.


But now she has picked a fight that is almost incomprehensible. Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted “universal pre-k,” and he invited charter schools to offer pre-K classes. Every school, public or charter, that agreed to provide pre-K signed a contract with the city. But not Eva. She said it was illegal for the city to demand that she sign a contract. She expects to be paid $720,000 by the city without signing the contract that all public schools and other charters have signed. She threatened to cancel her pre-K programs unless she is paid without signing the city contract.


Why? Because no one can tell her what to do. Certainly not the city.


Now Eva has appealed to state officials to force the city to back off and pay her, so she can run the pre-K program without signing a contract like other schools.


A Success Academy spokesman said the network has received applications from 1,800 families for 126 pre-K seats for 2016-17.

Success Academy operates 34 charter schools that enroll roughly 11,000 kids in total. The schools outperform traditional public schools on state exams.

Despite the reportedly high level of demand for Success Academy pre-K seats, city Education Department spokeswoman Devora Kaye said Moskowitz must sign on the dotted line to get paid.

“There is simply no basis to conclude that requiring Success to comply with these requirements of program quality would somehow result in Success’ inability to operate its pre-K programs,” Kaye said.

Each of the other 277 pre-K providers — including nine other charter school operators — have already signed the contracts, Kaye said.

City Controller Scott Stringer has also urged Moskowitz to sign the contract, saying in October that “there is no conceivable reason for one charter school to be held to a different standard than every other charter school.”


Eva is counting on the state to defend her right not to sign.


Meanwhile I received a copy of this letter from a teacher at Success Academy, which includes the letter that Eva sent to the teaching staff, urging them to support her defiant stand:


Dear Dr. Ravitch,


The staff of Success Academy received an email from our fearless CEO that I thought might interest you. She addresses the current conflict with the de Blasio administration over pre-k funding, and urges her staff to complain to the mayor and our local officials. It’s still incredible to me how she believes that she can use her staff as political capital without presenting a complete picture of an issue. I haven’t read the contract that she refuses to sign, but by all reports it seems benevolent enough. The funding comes from taxpayer money after all, so it seems fair that the city would oversee the programs it supports. And yet, from her email, Eva would like us to believe that this is nothing more than an attack on her schools. She is obviously using this as way to stoke fear that there is a “larger war on Success Academy and charter schools.” It’s simply ironic to me that someone who is running a school system, where we are supposed to value critical thinking, would present such a one-sided and manipulative take of this conflict.


I’ve copied the text of the email below. I also have screenshots of the email if you’d like further verification. 






This is the letter that Eva sent to members of the staff of her charters:


Team Success:


I am writing to update you about Success Academy pre-k for next year. This first year has been one of tremendous growth for our youngest scholars — and for Success as well, as we challenged ourselves to develop a magical curriculum that engaged and delighted 4-year-olds. The response from families has been so positive that we made plans to expand our pre-k to our Union Square and Bensonhurst schools.


Unfortunately, in the case of Success Academy, Mayor de Blasio does not truly support pre-k for all. The mayor and the Department of Education have again thrown up a roadblock. He has refused to pay us the pre-k funding to which we are entitled under the law unless we allow him to dictate how we run our pre-k program. A critical aspect of charter schools is that we are not subject to the control of the city government. That is what enables a high-quality program.


Success Academy and 24 parents of students in our pre-k program have brought a legal action against the city but it is unclear how long it will take to get a decision. Unfortunately, unless we get a result or persuade Mayor de Blasio to do the right thing within the next two weeks, we will be forced to cancel our pre-k program for the coming year!


Please feel free to express your concern to the mayor directly and to you local elected officials. This would be a terrible shame for families and for staff who have worked so hard to create a truly amazing pre-k experience. This is just part of a larger war on Success Academy and charter schools. On a daily basis, we are forced to fight for kids’ rights to a world-class, free education.


Thank you for all you do for children.




Eva Moskowitz




Call Davis Guggenheim! Time for a new movie about a remarkable public school in Los Angeles!


Cedrick Argueta, the son of immigrant parents, received a perfect score on the AP Calculus exam, one of only 12 students in the world to do so. Some 302,000 students took the exam.


Cedrick is a student at Lincoln High School, which has 1200 students. His teacher is Anthony Yom. Lincoln is a regular neighborhood public school, not a magnet or a charter.


“As far as math whizzes go, Cedrick is unassuming. He likes to play basketball with his buddies, and his favorite reading of late was the Harry Potter series. Knowing he was going to do television interviews this week, he donned a blue LHS hoodie and sneakers.


“Math has always just made sense to him, he said. He appreciates the creativity of it, the different methods you can take to solve a problem.


“There’s also some beauty in it being absolute,” Cedrick said. “There’s always a right answer.”


“When asked about his perfect exam score, Cedrick just thanked everybody else in his life.


“It just sort of blew up,” he said. “It feels kind of good to be in the spotlight for a little bit, but I want to give credit to everybody else that helped me along the way.”
“Cedrick is the son of Lilian and Marcos Argueta, both of whom came to the United States as young adults – she from the Philippines, he from El Salvador. Lilian, a licensed vocational nurse, works two jobs at nursing homes. Marcos is a maintenance worker at one of those nursing homes. He never went to high school.


“Lilian Argueta, pausing during one of her shifts this week, said her son’s accomplishment is still sinking in. He texted her when he found out, and she told him it was great but, she said, she didn’t understand the magnitude until reporters started calling.


“Argueta said that she always told Cedrick and his younger sister to finish their homework and to “read, read, read,” but that they knew she’d be proud of them whether or not they got straight A’s.


Cedrick’s teacher was very proud too, although he is accustomed to good results.


“All 21 of Yom’s AP Calculus students who took the exam last year passed; 17 got the highest score of 5. It was the third year in a row that all of Yom’s kids passed the test.


“Yom, 35, said he treats his students like a sports team. They’d stay after school, practicing problem solving for three or four extra hours, and they’d come on weekends. On test day, they wore matching blue T-shirts sporting their names, “like they’re wearing jerseys to the game,” Yom said.”






When you are locked in a tough battle, be pro-active. New York opt out advocates are encouraging allies to apply for two open positions on the Board of Regents. One of the co-founders of New York State Allies for Oublic education, Jessica McNair, parent and teacher is applying. The lesson here is: get involved. Run for office. Help good candidates win. If there are no good candidates, become a candidate.


This article is behind a paywall.


I am excerpting it here:


ALBANY — The parent-led coalition that last spring spurred one of the largest test refusal rates in the nation is pushing to have a voice on the state Board of Regents, as one of the opt-out leaders and several opt-out supporters have applied for a position on the education policymaking board.

“The people in the opt-out movement, or who have opted their kids out … are people that believe in a transparent research-based process,” said Lisa Rudley, co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of more than 50 groups statewide.
Two seats on the 17-member board will be open after chancellor Merryl Tisch, a member at-large, and vice chancellor Tony Bottar, who represents the 5th Judicial District, which includes the Mohawk Valley, said they will not run for re-election. Their departures will significantly change the dynamic of the board as it continues to be impacted by the controversy over the Common Core learning standards.

The opt-out groups have announced their endorsement of regent Betty Rosa, who represents the Bronx, as chancellor and Beverly Ouderkirk, who represents the North Country, as vice chancellor.

But the parent-led movement is looking to take it a step further by getting opt-out supporters on the board itself.

One of the most notable applicants for Bottar’s seat is Jessica McNair, 36, a New Hartford teacher, parent and co-founder of Opt Out CNY, a NYSAPE coalition member that represents nearly 4,200 parents in Central New York. Opt Out CNY this fall called for Bottar’s resignation, saying he “ignored” their concerns.

McNair told POLITICO New York that with her experience as a teacher still in a classroom setting, as well as having a first- and third-grader attending public school she has a “good read on the pulse of what’s happening.”

“Typically teachers don’t apply because the demands of serving on the Board of Regents and working in a classroom can be pretty great, however, I really feel that an educator’s voice is what’s needed on the Board of Regents right now,” NcNair said.

McNair and NYSAPE have expressed frustration over the continued use of student test scores in teacher evaluations, over-testing, the use of standards that are not developmentally and age appropriate. They also have said they are disappointed in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Common Core task force recommendations.

The task force, charged with reviewing the Common Core, made a number of recommendations in December, including placing a moratorium on the use of state test scores on teacher and principal evaluations — a hold the Regents later put in place through the 2019-2020 school year. Local assessments will be used in their place.

“We’re not really addressing the issues at hand,” said McNair, who also served as an advisor to the task force. “I feel like I’ve been very outspoken in advocating for children and that we still haven’t gotten where we need to be. I also want to be a part of the solution in advocating for kids.”

Regents board members are selected by the Legislature during a joint session in March, a process currently controlled by the Assembly Democrats, the biggest conference. The chancellor and vice chancellor are selected by the Regents board.

The Assembly has collected approximately 50 applications to fill the two positions, which have a five-year term that begins April 1, according to Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Whyland did not at have the number of applicants broken down by seat at this time, or the names of who applied. The Legislature will next schedule interviews and in March elect members to the board.











A few weeks ago, I posted a video of David Berliner’s speech in Australia, in which he explained why teachers and teachers’ education programs should not be evaluated by standardized test scores. This, as you know, is the policy that was the centerpiece of the failed Race to the Top. Its main effect has been to create teacher shortages; many experienced teachers have left the profession and enrollments in teacher education programs has sharply declined since the introduction of “value-added modeling” (VAM).


Audrey Amrein-Beardsley has done all of us a favor by transcribing Berliner’s speech. You can find it here.



Here are a few (not all) of his reasons:




“When using standardized achievement tests as the basis for inferences about the quality of teachers, and the institutions from which they came, it is easy to confuse the effects of sociological variables on standardized test scores” and the effects teachers have on those same scores. Sociological variables (e.g., chronic absenteeism) continue to distort others’ even best attempts to disentangle them from the very instructional variables of interest. This, what we also term as biasing variables, are important not to inappropriately dismiss, as purportedly statistically “controlled for.”
In law, we do not hold people accountable for the actions of others, for example, when a child kills another child and the parents are not charged as guilty. Hence, “[t]he logic of holding [teachers and] schools of education responsible for student achievement does not fit into our system of law or into the moral code subscribed to by most western nations.” Related, should medical school or doctors, for that matter, be held accountable for the health of their patients? One of the best parts of his talk, in fact, is about the medical field and the corollaries Berliner draws between doctors and medical schools, and teachers and colleges of education, respectively (around the 19-25 minute mark of his video presentation).
Professionals are often held harmless for their lower success rates with clients who have observable difficulties in meeting the demands and the expectations of the professionals who attend to them. In medicine again, for example, when working with impoverished patients, “[t]here is precedent for holding [doctors] harmless for their lowest success rates with clients who have observable difficulties in meeting the demands and expectations of the [doctors] who attend to them, but the dispensation we offer to physicians is not offered to teachers.”
There are other quite acceptable sources of data, besides tests, for judging the efficacy of teachers and teacher education programs. “People accept the fact that treatment and medicine may not result in the cure of a disease. Practicing good medicine is the goal, whether or not the patient gets better or lives. It is equally true that competent teaching can occur independent of student learning or of the achievement test scores that serve as proxies for said learning. A teacher can literally “save lives” and not move the metrics used to measure teacher effectiveness.
Reliance on standardized achievement test scores as the source of data about teacher quality will inevitably promote confusion between “successful” instruction and “good” instruction. “Successful” instruction gets test scores up. “Good” instruction leaves lasting impressions, fosters further interest by the students, makes them feel competent in the area, etc. Good instruction is hard to measure, but remains the goal of our finest teachers.
Related, teachers affect individual students greatly, but affect standardized achievement test scores very little. All can think of how their own teachers impacted their lives in ways that cannot be captured on a standardized achievement test. Standardized achievement test scores are much more related to home, neighborhood and cohort than they are to teachers’ instructional capabilities. In more contemporary terms, this is also due the fact that large-scale standardized tests have (still) never been validated to measure student growth over time, nor have they been validated to attribute that growth to teachers. “Teachers have huge effects, it’s just that the tests are not sensitive to them.”



This article reviews the Obama administration’s bottomless love for charter schools. Hedge fund managers love charters. The Koch brothers love charters. Reed Hastings loves charters. Governor Scott Walker loves charters. So does Rick Scott, Mike Pence, Rick Snyder, John Kasich, Andrew Cuomo, and Dannell Malloy.


Why are so many politicians in love with charters? Because the billionaires love them. The free market worked for them. They give large sums to politicians. And politicians love what their big donors love.


What’s sad about this is that no other nation is outsourcing its public schools to chains of privately managed schools.


Public education is a civic responsility and a cornerstone of our democracy. Yet the U.S. Department of Education has given $3.3 billion to privately managed charter schools, even though they harm public education. It is sad to realize that billionaires like Gates, Walton, Broad, and Hastings can erode public support for a democratic institution that belongs to the public, not the plutocrats.


Jonathan Pelto is a veteran political analyst in Connecticut and a former legislator. He is concerned about the rise of Donald Trump, and he understands that Trump taps into middle-class and working-class anger. Why are they angry? Connecticut has seen little economic growth, jobs are not increasing, the gap between rich and poor is getting wider.