Archives for the month of: March, 2016

The Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly approved a voucher program, despite the absence of evidence that vouchers produce better education and increase segregation.


Bianca Tanis, who is a parent, a teacher, and a leader of the opt out movement, warns of the dangers of the tests that start next week.



She writes:



The New York State Common Core tests are almost upon us and promises of sweeping changes to NYS tests and standards are rampant. The NYS Education Department is urging parents to opt back in and the media has reported that education officials are “bending over backwards” to address the concerns of parents and educators.


While the State has made some minor changes to this year’s tests (and promises more in the future), the fact remains that young children will still be subjected to reading passages years above grade level, test questions with more than one plausible answer, tests that are too long, waste valuable resources, and worst of all, tests that engender feelings of frustration, failure, angst, and confusion in our youngest learners.


Manufactured Crisis


Claims that untimed tests will alleviate stress on children are unfounded and misleading to parents. Giving a child more time to struggle with an inappropriate test rather than just fixing the flawed system is misguided and will create a logistical nightmare for the schools forced to accommodate this band-aid solution. Teachers will be pulled from classrooms to monitor student conversations during lunch breaks to ensure that 8-, 9-, and 10-year old students are not talking about the tests. At a time when our schools are being starved of funding, this is a gross and needless misallocation of resources.


In fact, very little has changed for children, and these damaging tests continue to threaten our children now and into the future. How much damage? A quarter million students are being labeled, annually, as failures. The transition to “college-ready” graduation requirements in 2022 will result in the loss of more than 100,000 graduates per year. Use this calculator to assess the impact on your school district:


Unless we demand an immediate paradigm shift, many students will not only be labeled failures at 8-, 9-, and 10-years old, they will not graduate. We are not just talking about struggling students and students with special needs facing a graduation crisis.




Jesse Hagopian, a teacher of history and social studies at Garfield High School in Seattle and editor of the book More Than a Score, explains in this TED talk why parents and students are boycotting standardized testing. Jesse has an in-depth knowledge of the history of standardized testing; he knows its roots in racism, bias, and elitism. It is not an instrument of egalitarianism. It is meant to label, rank, and rate students, and it does so in relation to family income.


This is well worth your time to watch.

California’s Attorney General Kamala D. Harris won a settlement in excess of $1.1 billion against defunct for-profit Corinthian Colleges for defrauding students  with false advertising. There is a website in the linked article where students can apply for restitution. Since the corporation is bankrupt, they may never see any repayment. The entire for-profit sector is a mighty scam; they should all be tightly regulated for fraud and predatory practices. Or shut down before more students are ripped off.


The Los Angeles Times reported:



Granting a default judgment, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow found that Corinthian Colleges provided untrue or misleading statements about graduates’ job placement rates, duping both students and investors, and that the Santa Ana-based company unlawfully used U.S. military seals in advertisements, among other claims.
The for-profit college operator, which filed for bankruptcy protection in May, was also faulted for advertising programs or degrees that it didn’t offer, such as training programs for X-ray and dialysis technicians, according to court papers.


The judgment found that Corinthian and its subsidiaries had unfair and unlawful debt collection practices, including barring students from attending classes if they were behind on loan payments, and that they failed to disclose their role in the “Genesis loan” program.


Corinthian Colleges, along with its Heald College business, were also faulted for misrepresenting the likelihood of whether academic credits earned at their programs could be transferred to the Cal State system, according to court papers.


In his 21-page judgment, Karnow ordered restitution of $820 million for students and civil penalties of just more than $350 million.
“For years, Corinthian profited off the backs of poor people — now they have to pay. This judgment sends a clear message: There is a cost to this kind of predatory conduct,” Harris said in a statement.


Harris filed suit against Corinthian Colleges Inc. and its subsidiaries in 2013, accusing the company of targeting low-income students with a “predatory scheme,” touting untrue job placement rates.


The attorneys for Corinthian did not appear at hearings, because they say the  corporation is bankrupt and there is no one to represent.





Many districts have adopted the so-called portfolio district. Schools are treated like stocks in a stock portfolio, keeping the “good” (high test scores) and getting rid of the “bad” (low scores). The implicit assumption is that the staff is causing the low scores, not poverty or social conditions. This encourages districts to hand off their schools to charter chains that promise to get high scores, which they do by pushing out low-scoring students.




The “Portfolio” Approach to School District Governance

Press Release:
NEPC Publication:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058,
Kevin Welner: (303) 492-8370,

BOULDER, CO (March 29, 2016) – A new but widespread policy approach called “portfolio districts” shifts decision-making away from district superintendents and other central-office leaders. This approach is being used in more than three dozen large districts, including New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Denver.


But the policy’s expansion is not being driven by evidence of success.


In a new brief released today, The “Portfolio” Approach to School District Governance, William Mathis and Kevin Welner explain that changes in governance involve complex trade-offs and that there exists a very limited body of generally accepted research about the effects of portfolio district reform. But research evidence does exist concerning the four primary reform strategies that provide the foundation for portfolio districts: school-level decentralization of management; the reconstitution or closing of “failing” schools; the expansion of choice, primarily through charter schools; and performance-based (generally test-based) accountability. The research into these strategies gives reason to pause— it provides little promise of meaningful benefits.


In the end, student outcomes in under-resourced communities will continue—absent serious policy interventions—to be driven by larger societal inequities, including structural racism and denied opportunities related to poverty. While best practices in schools can mitigate some of this harm, the evidence indicates that simply imposing a changed governance approach will do little to overcome these core problems. In fact, Mathis warns, “the focus on governmental structural changes is a false promise, distracting from real needs and deferring needed efforts to address true inequities.”


Mathis and Welner explain that instead of changing the governance structure of urban school districts, equity-focused reformers call for a strong and comprehensive redirection of policy to address concentrated poverty. They nevertheless conclude that this equity-focused approach can be undertaken in a more decentralized, portfolio-based structure—should a community wish to take its district in that direction. The starting point of such a reform would be a restricting of authority, but a research-based model must also include elements that address opportunities to learn.


They offer the following five reforms:


Adequate funding provided to our neediest schools,
Stable school environments,
Meaningful and relevant curriculum and pedagogy,
Highly qualified teachers, and
Personalized instruction.
Welner is Director and Mathis is Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. This brief is the third in a series of concise publications, Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking, that takes up a number of important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research. Each section focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations to policymakers are based on the latest scholarship.



Find William Mathis and Kevin Welner’s brief on the NEPC website at:





Stuart Egan has posted several times on this blog, expressing his concern for students, teachers, and public education in North Carolina. He is a National Board Certified high school teacher.



He writes:



Dr. Ravitch,

As a North Carolinian, it is hard to express the absolute disappointment, anger, and shame that I (and countless others) feel about the shadowy special session that our General Assembly held this past week and the passing of House Bill 2, the single most discriminatory piece of legislation in recent memory.
It is totally understandable that many corporations and companies have called for a boycott in doing business in North Carolina. The list grows by the minute. And it is right for them to do that.

But I beg that NPE does not cancel the 2016 conference in Raleigh for many reasons because NPE is not doing business, it is providing a service to people in need.
As educators, teachers, activists, and advocates, we have a duty to our students and our communities. We go straight to the source of the very obstacles that stand in the way of our students and public schools succeeding. And we have a very large and visible obstacle here – government “regression” and overreach of partisan politics into the lives of the very students and parents we serve.

NPE and public schools are not in a profit-driven business; we are a people-centered service. I do not see the people we are and the people we claim to be even thinking about not coming to Raleigh at this time. North Carolinians and all of the country need to see how people invested in our public school kids can come together to support others and help to overturn oppressive legislation to improve the lives for all of our students.

What happened in North Carolina this week was a regressive minority trying to take control of all the local municipalities. It sounds a lot like a few regressive “rephonies” trying to privatize something that belongs to the people, public education. We need to stand up to them in the very place where the battle is happening. We have been doing that already with the Opt-Out movement in New York, the charter school battle in Ohio, and the PARCC testing on Pennsylvania. We have not been doing that from afar. We have been going straight to those places to show support, offer encouragement, and invest in our fellow people.

North Carolina has 100 counties, each with a county public school system. According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Dept. of Commerce, the public schools are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of them—and the largest employer, period, in 66. That means teachers represent a base for most communities, the public school system. And they are strong in numbers. Now add to that the number of students who attend those schools. Now imagine the number of parents and guardians and family members who support those local public schools. Now imagine the businesses that help support those schools. Now imagine your own state.

They all could use the help of NPE and those who align with them.

I have been at Moral Mondays led by the Rev. William Barber, who is a keynote speaker for the NPE Conference and the president of the NC NAACP. I have seen him stand on the very ground he was defending in Raleigh and look at his opponents straight in the eyes and tell them that their actions were not in the best interests of the people. He is being heard; therefore, we can be heard. He is standing with us.

We need to do the same for our public schools. We have a chance to stand with others. The overwhelming majority of people in this state do not agree with this bill and its implications. It is simply shadowy politics in an election year being exercised to give a fearful minority a false sense of security.

You, Dr. Ravitch, said in an early invitation to NPE 2016 on your blog,



“We chose Raleigh to highlight the tremendous activist movement that is flourishing in North Carolina. No one exemplifies that movement better than the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who will be the conference keynote speaker. Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.”


The Moral Monday protests transformed North Carolina politics in 2013, building a multiracial, multi-issue movement centered around social justice such as the South hadn’t seen since the 1960s. “We have come to say to the extremists, who ignore the common good and have chosen the low road, your actions have worked in reverse,” said Reverend William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and the leader of the Moral Monday movement, in his boisterous keynote speech. “You may have thought you were going to discourage us, but instead you have encouraged us. The more you push us back, the more we will fight to go forward. The more you try to oppress us, the more you will inspire us.”

Those very words ring even more true now in the wake of what has happened in North Carolina this past week.

For NPE to cancel its conference this April in Raleigh would be counterproductive to what we as a group stand for. Industries can choose not to do business as a statement and hit a locality through its wallet. But this is about people, and when people are in need we go to them and see what we can do to help.

Come to North Carolina.

We need you more than ever.


Stuart Egan, NBCT
West Forsyth High School



The Southern Education Foundation has released a new report that explodes the myth that charters and vouchers increase opportunity for students of color and low-income students. Far from it. Privatization via charters and vouchers has intensified racial segregation and is reversing the Brown Decision of 1954. The disreputable concept of “separate but equal” is returning under the guise of “school choice.”




CONTACT: Autumn Blanchard


State-funded “separate but unequal” education billed as opportunity for underrepresented


MARCH 29, 2016 – The Southern Education Foundation (SEF), an advocate for equity in education, releases Race & Ethnicity in a New Era of Public Funding of Private Schools: Private School Enrollment in the South and the Nation. This report explores the phenomenon of publicly funded private school segregation occurring more than 60 years after the Brown v. Board of Education verdict declared segregated public schools unconstitutional. It closely examines racial demographics in contemporary private schools and finds that they remain segregated, with white students significantly overrepresented as compared to public school populations.


Currently, 19 states have programs that provide public funding to support children’s attendance in private schools. Last year alone, approximately $1 billion was diverted to private schools from state treasuries across the country, spreading thinner already limited resources. Though such state initiatives exist in each region of the nation, they are especially concentrated in the South.


“The prevailing message is that these voucher and neo-voucher tax credit scholarship programs offer better or more opportunities to students of color and low-income students…the data does not reflect that story,” said Dr. Kent McGuire, president of SEF. In reality, it perpetuates a trend of financially supporting private schools that as a whole remain overwhelming white – no less than 75 percent of all white students in private schools attend schools where 90 percent or more of the student body is white. As segregation persists in private schools, the demographics of public schools shift toward an increasingly diverse student body – fertile ground for the reemergence of a “separate but unequal” education system.


Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics from 1998 and 2012, this brief and the accompanying Southern state profiles review several indicators of racial demographics and segregation in public and private schools including: overrepresentation of white students, disproportionate white enrollment rates, virtual segregation (90% or more white student population), and virtual exclusion of students of color. All of which suggest that segregation persists in private schools across the country and especially in the South.


The six Deep South states, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina, which resisted the constitutional mandate for school desegregation the longest are the worst offenders in the nation by far – demonstrating that state support of private schooling does not appear to have led to greater access for students of color. These six states had a considerably higher rate of overrepresentation among white students in private schools than any other section or region in 2012. Five of the six states were at the top of the state rankings in 2012 and the sixth, Alabama, was ranked tenth.



Despite laws against segregation and in contrast to public schools, private schools with and without public funding continue to select which students they will admit. As long as the private school adopts a non-discriminatory policy and publicly declares that they do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin they are eligible to receive public funds in states with programs that allow for the shifting of funds to private institutions. However, enrollment patterns show that this measure primarily gives only lip service to a commitment to diversity. Despite these trends, black students can still often be found on promotional materials produced by private schools and scholarship organizations. This leaves the false impression that primarily students of color are served by such voucher initiatives and supports the oft-championed messaging that greater access to private institutions is available for students of color, which is often not the case.


The study’s findings and analysis are reminiscent of the overall patterns and conditions of attendance in private schools in the South that the authors of The Schools That Fear Built found in 1976 in the aftermath of massive resistance to desegregation: “These are schools for whites. The common thread that runs through them all, Christian, secular, or otherwise, is that they provide white ground to which blacks are admitted only on the school’s terms if at all.” This study suggests that today’s “common thread” also encompasses the exclusion of Hispanic and Native American students, as well as African American students.


“Because we must preserve the fundamental democratic principle that each child in this nation should have an opportunity for a good education, schools funded by tax dollars – be they private or public – should not be allowed to pick and choose only the students they wish to admit and educate. We know from this report the consequences: most unregulated private schools, left on their own in the South and the nation, have failed to admit any significant number of students of color,” said Steve Suitts, adjunct lecturer of Emory University who developed and wrote the report while serving at the Southern Education Foundation in his last year as a senior fellow. The prospect for better academic opportunity for students sounds attractive but in reality it manifests into an age-old practice that perpetuates a racial divide between children before they ever even learn their ABCs. Currently, these initiatives show no sign of slowing and in many cases are on the upswing. Now more than ever, our scarce public resources should be used to invest in public schools that operate under an obligation to serve any and all students.



About Southern Education Foundation
The Southern Education Foundation (SEF), founded in 1867, is an Atlanta-based research institution and policy advocate whose mission is to advance equity and excellence in education for all students in the South, particularly low-income students and students of color. SEF uses collaboration, advocacy, and research to improve outcomes from early childhood to adulthood. Our core belief is that education is the vehicle by which all students get fair chances to develop their talents and contribute to the common good. SEF has published a host of impactful reports including “A New Majority” & “Performance Funding at MSIs” as featured in The Washington Post and Inside Higher Ed, respectively. For more information, visit

For the full report visit

Julia Sass Rubin, who lives in New Jersey, points out that the threat of cutting off federal funding is empty. No federal official would stop funding Title I schools, attended by the poorest children. The administrative funding for the program is $3.3 million.


Is $3.3 million a big deal? Not really. The state of New Jersey has spent over $8 million to defend Governor Chris Christie in Bridgegate.


$3.3 million to protect your children is a good deal.


Opt Out in 2016.

This is a good article by Steven Rosenfeld about the 2016 election. Rosenfeld focuses on the charter school issue. He understands, as so few national commentators do, that charter schools are an existential threat to public education. 
He reviews the reactionary views of the Republican candidates, all of whom support privatization.
And he deconstructs the views of Hillary and Bernie. 

A former Chicago Public Schools teacher left a comment and referred to this article, which features one of her students. He is organizing a boycott of PARCC. Illinois offers no “formal” way to opt out; the decision is left to children. Some schools are threatening punishments of various kinds, and school officials imply that the tests have been improved. They say, for example, that the results will arrive in the summer, instead of the fall, when there is still time to help children. On the face of it, that claim is ridiculous. The child is not in school in the summer, for starters. He or she won’t have the same teacher by the time the results come in. Worse, there is nothing in the results that will “help” the teachers or the children. How are children “helped” by learning that they have scored a 1, 2, 3, or 4? How will they be helped if they learned what percentile they scored it? This is all nonsense, which is why students and parents should opt out and demand an end of this massive waste of money and instructional time.


This week, when state standardized testing begins at many CPS schools, at least one sixth-grader at Sumner Elementary School will be sitting out PARCC.


“I’m going to refuse PARCC next week because we haven’t had typing classes,” Diontae Chatman told the Board of Education last week, missing school for the first time all year so he could testify.


“We didn’t have a qualified math teacher from September to January,” he added. Plus last year, students taking the test online were logged on and off repeatedly, among other problems.


But skipping the test, even though state law allows it, could bring about consequences that feel unfair to children.


“My school is threatening to take away our field day to students who refuse PARCC,” Diontae explained. “I think we all should get treated the same way, if we take it or if we don’t take it.”


Once again, neither Chicago Publics Schools nor the Illinois State Board of Education have any specific directive for how schools should treat children who refuse to take the exam between now and May 15.


Meanwhile, the district is urging all parents to participate in the test, saying PARCC provides useful detailed data.


“PARCC is a mandatory exam and the district’s failure to implement the exam does have serious consequences” that are financial, Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said. “We’re making a lot of short-term fixes, so we can’t afford any reduction in financing from the state as a result of our failure to administer the test.”


PARCC — the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — is given to third- through eighth-graders and some high schoolers. Aligned to Common Core standards, it aims to show how well students are preparing for college at each grade level. Though PARCC was designed to be interactive and taken on a computer, CPS’ third- and fourth-graders still will take a paper version.


PARCC still carries no consequences at CPS, which uses a separate test to evaluate teachers and schools.


For its second year, PARCC has been shortened. It has a simpler format, and results have been promised much sooner than last year — by the summer, rather than late autumn, so that teachers and parents can actually use the results.


Those improvements still won’t stop a number of families in Chicago from skipping it.



[Some readers said the link doesn’t work; this works for me:]


PARCC Testing Begins, But Still No Opt Out Policy, in the Chicago Sun-Times