Archives for the month of: February, 2016

A reader in Arizona reports that a State Senate committee just passed legislation that would lift all limits on vouchers by 2020. Every Democrat and one Republican opposed the bill. Why destroy public education? Since when did radicalism get confused with “reform”? True reformers want to improve institutions, not blow them up. True conservatives conserve community institutions that serve our democracy. The promoters of this scheme are radicals, not conservatives.

This is unfiltered rightwing ideology. No high-performing nation in the world has replaced its public schools with school choice. No voucher program in this country has produced impressive results. Every little church in the state will open or expand its school and hire uncertified teachers. This is not progress. This is stupidity.

Our reader adds:

“It is likely to pass given the makeup of our legislature and its connections to ALEC. The only hope is that Governor Ducey will veto it. He is pro-privatization and under normal circumstances would likely sign the bill but his own proposed funding plan might be in jeopardy if he did so. That means that there’ a chance that he’ll veto it!”

The previous post by Paul Thomas quote a post by John Warner. I read it and wondered, wow! Why didn’t I know this guy before?


Warner writes a devastating critique of “educational tourists” and “saviors” like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.


“This past Friday, under the headline, “The Myth of the Hero Teacher,” the New York Times shared the story of Ed Boland, an executive at Prep for Prep, a nonprofit tasked with putting minority children in elite private schools.
In 2006, Boland decided to leave Prep for Prep in order to “work on the front lines” and “be one of those teachers that kids really like and listen to and learn from….”

“He’d been inspired by movies like Dangerous Minds and Stand and Deliver, badass teachers that took control and led their students to the promised land of learning as measured by scores on standardized tests.

“Likely sniffing a fraud, Boland’s students had other ideas, challenging Bolland’s authority. As he recounts in his memoir of his experience, The Battle for Room 314, in the midst of a class disruption, a female student was, “towering above me like a pro wrestler about to pounce.” As the Times characterizes it, the student, “moved her hand in an obscene gesture then told him to perform an act that was anatomically impossible….”

“Boland has obviously been chastened by the experience. He seems to understand that the “hero teacher” is indeed a myth.

“I’m less convinced that Boland has had an awakening to where he went wrong. It appears that at least some measure of the hubris that led him into the classroom, follows him today. Reviewing Boland’s book for NPR, Nicole Dixon, a seven year veteran of NYC public schools says that Boland uses the word “monsters” to describe his students so many times that she “stopped counting.” Boland seems to understand that he was underprepared for the challenge, but also that the challenge was not winnable. If he couldn’t do it, no one can.
The seeds of Boland’s undoing are made apparent in the language he uses to describe his teaching. To Bolland, the key to success is for him to assume “control.” With control, he’s certain he can get the students to learn, inspire them to “success.”

“But from the beginning, it’s clear he put himself at the center of the learning equation. He wanted to be “liked” and “listened to.” He didn’t know enough that control and authority comes from respect and listening.

“When your chief metaphor is a “battle,” someone has to win.

“Those of us who teach know that control of the authoritarian variety is actually antithetical to genuine learning….

“Most of these saviors arrive with two things, a boatload of hubris, and a belief that the purpose of education is to help students succeed as competitors inside a so-called, meritocratic system.

“And the supposed key to success, according to each of these reformers, is establishing “control.”

“David Coleman, the “architect” of the Common Core State Standards and current president of the College Board (proprietor of the SAT) was spurred to action by his experience as a college student tutoring lower-income students in English Poetry and being surprised that “Thirty years after the civil-rights movement, none of these students were close – not even close – to being ready for Yale.”

“Coleman believes if he can control the curriculum and how it is assessed, he can create a level playing field. A man who has never worked in a classroom has had more influence over what is taught in schools and the chief gatekeeping test that stands between students and college than any other single person in the entire country.

“Unless that person is Bill Gates, another education savior who funded the development of CCSS and continues to search for a magic bullet that will allow us to control education.
The desire for “control” runs through all of our education saviors. Mark Zuckerberg’s well-meaning $100 million gift to the Newark public schools assumed that they could move teachers and families out of the way to make room for his version of “reform.”

“The charter school movement is predicated on gaining “control,” particularly over teachers, and yet we have a generation of data that says outcomes in charter schools are no better than traditional public schools, unless the charters (as they are wont to do) flush out the difficult students, the ones they can’t control…

“Ed Bolland learned what life is like without self-respect, when you have no authority or agency, and little hope. Perhaps if he’d put himself in his students’ shoes, he might’ve lasted more than a year.

“Maybe this is something we should bring to our discussions about education reform, less desire for control, and a little more humility. Listening, rather than telling. Those of us who have had the privilege to teach and to learn know that it is, by definition, messy, and that it necessitates risk, and giving up on control.

“People like Ed Boland and these other reformers are not saviors. They are education tourists. Boland has used his year as an education tourist to launch a book that’s been reviewed everywhere, and is now a sought after public speaker, a supposed expert on education and our educational system.

“This is like a student pilot who crashes on his inaugural flight being asked by the FAA about aeronautical safety.

“More and more I’m starting to think we need someone who can save us from the saviors.”



Paul Thomas has written a series of posts about how poorly the media covers education. In this post, he lacerates the New York Times for its interview with Ed Boland, who wrote a book after teaching one year, and leaving.


He writes:


“Ed Boland wrote a really bad edu-book that all the mainstream media adores because, well, you know, nobody gives a crap what a teacher thinks, but let ANYbody dip a toe in education who isn’t an educator and then everyone is all gaga….


This will be a short post, one that simply notes that I have told you so, again and again—mainstream journalism about education is godawful.


I also want to turn your eyes to the promise of the New Media, where two posts have addressed the bad journalism and bad edu-book very well, I think.


Thomas then quotes from two devastating reviews on blogs.


Nobody Told Him How to Take a Cellphone Away from a Kid, Alan Singer

“My fear is that this will book will be used as another weapon in assaults on public schools and teacher certification programs. I have no question there are public schools that are not functioning and should be closed, although it would not be fair to make a judgment based on Boland’s report. Boland says he is in no way blaming the students, they are the victims of poverty….But that is not how it comes across in interviews or what sells books. The focus in “The Battle for Room 314” is on the horrors Boland feels he experienced because of the students and he offers a detailed description of their behavior, at least as he understood it.”

Education Tourists Can’t Save Anything or Anyone, John Warner:

“The desire for “control” runs through all of our education saviors. Mark Zuckerberg’s well-meaning $100 million gift to the Newark public schools assumed that they could move teachers and families out of the way to make room for his version of “reform.”…


“People like Ed Boland and these other reformers are not saviors. They are education tourists. Boland has used his year as an education tourist to launch a book that’s been reviewed everywhere, and is now a sought after public speaker, a supposed expert on education and our educational system.


“This is like a student pilot who crashes on his inaugural flight being asked by the FAA about aeronautical safety.


“More and more I’m starting to think we need someone who can save us from the saviors.”



Ed Boland, whose interview in the New York Times set off a flurry of negative responses, commented on the blog:

“With all due respect, Diane Ravitch, I did everything you suggested: I got my masters in education in advance of teaching, I did even more student teaching than was required, I sought out good mentors. This was not a silly whim. I may not have had the chops for the job, but if so I have plenty of company: 68% of new teachers leave NYC high poverty schools within 5 years. The school where I taught has had 100% teacher turn over, many of them were dedicated veteran educators. I’m trying to call attention to the fact that we are expecting teachers in high poverty schools to do too much. We must end the myth of the hero teacher.”

I’m with Ed on that last point. The idea that teachers are to blame for the ills of society is simply ludicrous. The idea that a “great” teacher can singlehandedly overcome all social ills is a myth. Why not have high expectations for both teachers and for society? We have for too long allowed politicians, pundits, and billionaires too divert our attention from society’s responsibilities and shifted the blame to teachers.

Mercedes Schneider is a close Jeb! watcher. She recognized that he was the godfather of many of today’s most damaging corporate reforms. He linked arms with Michelle Rhee to push for vouchers in Florida (but the voters turned him down). He begat the idea that schools should be given a single letter grade, based mainly on standardized test scores. He has been an enthusiastic cheerleader for school choice of all kinds, especially charter schools and for-profit charters. He cheered the Common Core standards more than anyone. He created an alliance between ALEC and his own organization, the so-called Foundation for Educational Excellence.


He started his presidential campaign with more money than anyone else. But voters didn’t want another Bush. They wanted a reality TV star.


We can hope that the dimming of his presidential prospects also dims the luster of his faux education reforms, which were always about privatization and profit, not students or education.

William Doyle recently returned from a Fulbright year in Finland, and he spent his year studying education. His own child attended a Finnish school.


He wrote about some of the lessons he learned in this article that appeared in the Hechinger Report.


Here is the big takeaway:


If you want results, try doing the opposite of what American “education reformers” think we should do in classrooms.
Instead of control, competition, stress, standardized testing, screen-based schools and loosened teacher qualifications, try warmth, collaboration, and highly professionalized, teacher-led encouragement and assessment.


When American reformers refer to “personalized learning,” they mean that every child should have his/her own laptop. Finnish teachers use the concept of “personalized learning,” but they mean person-to-person learning:


While the school has the latest technology, there isn’t a tablet or smartphone in sight, just a smart board and a teacher’s desktop.

Screens can only deliver simulations of personalized learning, this is the real thing, pushed to the absolute limit.


Instead of walking in lines, remaining silent, blowing a bubble instead of speaking, and maintaining perfect order, as our reformers prefer:


Children are allowed to slouch, wiggle and giggle from time to time if they want to, since that’s what children are biologically engineered to do, in Finland, America, Asia and everywhere else.


Teachers in Finland have the freedom to teach and are encouraged to innovate:


Here, as in any other Finnish school, teachers are not strait-jacketed by bureaucrats, scripts or excessive regulations, but have the freedom to innovate and experiment as teams of trusted professionals….


Children at this and other Finnish public schools are given not only basic subject instruction in math, language and science, but learning-through-play-based preschools and kindergartens, training in second languages, arts, crafts, music, physical education, ethics, and, amazingly, as many as four outdoor free-play breaks per day, each lasting 15 minutes between classes, no matter how cold or wet the weather is. Educators and parents here believe that these breaks are a powerful engine of learning that improves almost all the “metrics” that matter most for children in school – executive function, concentration and cognitive focus, behavior, well-being, attendance, physical health, and yes, test scores, too.


But is there something about Finland that makes it inappropriate as a point of comparison? Does it succeed because of a homogeneous population? Doyle says no:


There are also those who would argue that this kind of approach wouldn’t work in America’s inner city schools, which instead need “no excuses,” boot-camp drilling-and-discipline, relentless standardized test prep, Stakhanovian workloads and stress-and-fear-based “rigor.”


But what if the opposite is true?


What if many of Finland’s educational practices are not cultural quirks or non-replicable national idiosyncrasies — but are instead bare-minimum global best practices that all our children urgently need, especially those children in high-poverty schools?



Gene Glass, renowned researcher of education, lives in Arizona, where charter schools are proliferating without accountability or transparency. They are certainly not serving the children with the greatest needs, which was the original purpose of charter schools.


In this post, he describes the state’s most “successful” charter schools.


To sum it up: “They Recruit, They Skim, They Flunk Out The Weak … They are Arizona’s Top Charter Schools”


He cites a blog–Arizonans for Charter School Accountability–which investigated the demographics of the state’s top 20 charter schools. Their enrollments are overwhelmingly white and Asian, unlike the enrollments in any of the state’s public school districts.


Their students are 86% white and Asian, only 2% Black and 11% Hispanic. Some have no ELLs. Some have no students receiving free lunch.


And they are the best charter schools in a state where the governor and legislature want more.


Glass writes:


Eleven of these 20 schools are run by corporations: BASIS and Great Hearts.
One truly weeps.

Dr. Don Coberly, the superintendent of the Boise, Idaho, school district, wrote a blunt letter to the district’s staff telling them not to believe the smears disseminated by the rich and powerful Albertson Foundation. This would be like the superintendent of Los Angeles telling Eli Broad to take his money and go away. Or the superintendent of any district turning down a bribe from the Gates Foundation to open more charters.



For his courage, I add Don Coberly to the blog’s honor roll.



The Albertson Foundation has been pushing charters and virtual charters. It doesn’t like public education. It is running an anti-public school campaign called “Don’t Fail Idaho.” It is about time that an educator with guts started a campaign calling out the Albertson Foundation for their anti-public school propaganda. Call it the “Albertson Foundation Fails Democracy” campaign.



Superintendent Coberly wrote:

Dear Boise School District staff member:


It’s been a while since we have communicated directly with you in an update. We wanted to take this opportunity to address an important issue.


Over the last few weeks you may have heard or seen the latest advertisements from the J.A and Kathryn Albertson Foundation’s “Don’t Fail Idaho” campaign. Perhaps the most controversial claim is that four out of five Idaho students are not prepared for life after high school. There are four facts we want you to understand about this campaign:

It promotes an agenda that is designed to undermine public schools.
It is highly inaccurate.
It offers no real solutions to increasing post-secondary readiness.
It is a disservice to the work you do every day for the youth of this district.
Undermining public schools



Why would someone want to undermine public education in Idaho? The motive is quite clear. At a recent Downtown Rotary Club meeting, the executive director of the Albertson Foundation stated that the goal of the Foundation is to increase charter school seats by 20,000 in the next few years. That will only happen if Idahoans lose faith in their public schools.



Predicting college success



Now let’s set the record straight. The data in question have been spun to create the illusion that 80% of Idaho’s high school graduates are not prepared for college. The source of the data is the 2015 SAT test, administered to juniors in Idaho’s high schools last April. The criteria used by the Foundation? A score of 500 on each of the 3 sections of the test, and an overall score of 1550, adopted by the Idaho Board of Education as an indicator of college success.



The creator of the SAT indicated that achieving this score provides a 66% chance that a freshman will achieve a grade average of B- in the first semester at a four-year college. While this may be one predictor of success in college, it clearly does not reflect other factors that often are more important. High school grades are more predictive than SAT scores. Experience in Dual Credit and Advanced Placement courses are more important. Enrollment and success in Professional Technical coursework, such as Welding or Auto Body, is more important.



Among members of the Boise District high school graduating class of 2009 who have graduated from college, nearly 40% did not achieve the benchmark when they took the SAT or its competitor, the ACT. According to the Foundation, it must be a miracle they graduated from college.



Additionally, we know that only 1 in 10 Boise District students entering Boise State University require remediation in math and reading. This is direct evidence that at least 90% of District students are prepared for college – and that’s due to the tremendous work you do with our students.

Our commitment to post-secondary readiness


The ad is just one more indication that the Foundation is out of touch with where Idaho is going. For the first time in nearly a decade, The Governor, State Board of Education, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Legislature, ISBA, IASA, and the IEA are working together to build up our public education system, funding schools more properly and making teacher salaries more competitive in order to improve the economy and develop a more educated citizenry. The Albertsons Foundation is trying to tear it down.


Your efforts are appreciated



In spite of the disheartening rhetoric that the Albertson Foundation is promoting, we know that the community supports and recognizes the work that all of you do daily to prepare our students. We will continue to oppose any effort to undermine your dedication, our students’ successes and the role public schools play in creating a vibrant, healthy city and state.



Please feel free to share the information contained herein with parents and community members who might have questions for you about the negative campaign being waged across the state by the Albertson Foundation. We value your service to the community and to our students, and we know that parents and community members do, as well.
Our District’s mission is to “graduate each student prepared for college, career, and citizenship.”


Thanks so much for all you do to help us achieve this mission.



Dr. Don Coberly

Boise School District



Karen Wolfe, blogger and public school parent in Los Angeles, watched a CNN town hall discussion last week and saw a gentleman ask a question about K-12 education. Since none of the candidates has said much about education, this was an opportunity to get the candidate’s views.


The fellow said that he was a school principal who had introduced longer school days and got results. He asked Hillary Clinton what she thought of longer school days.


Karen did some digging and learned that the questioner was principal of an online charter school. Longer school days? What baloney! Kids log on whenever they wish and no one knows who is taking the tests. And study after study shows these online schools get poor results. They have high attrition, low test scores, low graduation rates, low-paid teachers. They are the quintessence of corporate reform. High profits for worse education.

Ed Boland saw the movies where a smart and caring teacher saved the lives of obstreperous students just by the power of personality. He quit his job, to teach, couldn’t control his class, kept notes, and left at the end of a year, feeling beaten. He wrote a book about his year of teaching. 


Okay, what’s the lesson here?


It is not easy to teach. Teachers cannot “save lives” in their first year. It takes time and experience to become a good teacher. Before entering the classroom, be well prepared. Know your subject matter. Learn classroom management. Spend a semester or a year as a student teacher, guided by a mentor teacher.


Teaching is is a profession not a pastime, not for amateurs.