Archives for the month of: April, 2016

Many people have vented their frustration and outrage about the “bathroom bill” called HB2 in North Carolina. It is so pointless since no one knows what is under someone’s clothing below the belt.


But what if HB2 is a Trojan Horse? What if it was a fake front for something else?


Dan Mahoney says that the second section of the bill is what really matters: It strips localities of the power to improve working conditions. He predicts that Governor McCrory and the legislature might repeal the LBGT section and leave intact section 2, which almost no one has noticed.


The real meat of the bill is in section 2 and prohibits any local or county govt. from enacting any rules about wages or working conditions. It also re-instates Jim Crow. The LGBT part is bad but a shiny object to distract us from the real purpose of the bill. Read the bill here: – See more at:

Howard Blume reports that charters in Los Angeles are trying to avoid the cost of paying pensions by advising teachers who near retirement age to go to work for the public school system.


His fascinating story begins:



“A Woodland Hills charter school recently made an unusual offer to its veteran teachers: We’ll give you $30,000 if you return to the Los Angeles Unified School District before you retire.


“It wasn’t the teachers that El Camino Real Charter High School wanted to get rid of. It was the cost of their retirement benefits.

“The school’s cost-shifting strategy is one of many flashpoints between traditional public schools and the independent charters they compete with for students and money.


“In this case, it’s a battle over who should pay for an employee’s health benefits after retirement — the charter school or the larger school district.

“Financial challenges are all-but-universal in the education world, and retiree benefits are particularly costly. L.A. Unified’s unfunded liability for employee benefits has escalated to $13.6 billion.


“The El Camino plan would add from $2.5 million to $4.2 million to that deficit, based on district estimates. The idea is that teachers would spend their careers in the charter school, but later transfer to LAUSD to qualify for the huge institution’s retirement benefits.


“Except the district has decided not to play ball.


“Teachers who return to the district, simply to retire, are not entitled to district retirement benefits, general counsel David Holmquist said.


“This would be an obligation that in my view would be the charter’s responsibility,” Holmquist said.”


Blume points out that this decision raises interesting questions about Eli Broad’s plan to open 260 new charter schools, which will require some rethinking when they can’t dump their pension obligations on the public schools.


Guess Eli’s charters will have to stick with Teach for America, whose teachers are usually long gone before qualifying for a pension.





A few days ago, in the midst of the discussion of the Tennessee legislation allowing mental health professionals to refuse to serve any patient if the patient was offensive to them on religious grounds, our daily commenter Duane Swacker informed us of a relatively new but fast-growing religion: the Pastafarians. This religion worships the Flying Spaghetti Monster.


Those who may have been inclined to scoff should stop their scoffing. A woman who identified as a Pastafarian just won the right to have her driver’s license photo taken with a colander on her head. That has some relationship to pasta, straining it, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.


So far as I know the Pastafarians have not yet sought vouchers, but their branches in Arizona, Louisiana, the District of Columbia, Nevada, Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin certainly qualify to receive them.


Just when you get feeling really down about the way things are going in this country, you come across something like this, and it gives you a laugh and some hope for the future.

The Boston Globe reports that Boston gave McKinsey $660,000 to audit the schools. McKinsey proposed that the city could save millions by closing 40% of its public schools.



“A controversial city-ordered audit of Boston Public Schools suggested the district could save up to $85 million a year by closing 40 percent of its schools, according to newly released documents from the study.


“The March 5, 2015, draft by the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. is much more detailed than a shorter version released to the public in December. The longer draft contains elements that did not appear in the previously released version that will likely be unpopular among parents.”


Last fall, when rumors flew that Mayor Marty Walsh made a secret deal to close 36 public schools—after campaigning against school closings and charter schools–the mayor’s office vehemently denied it.


The McKinsey report was written more than a year ago. It was kept secret. The fix is in.


What else would you expect in a city with mayoral control that hired a Broadie as superintendent? When Briadies arrive, public schools close.


Iowa adopted the Common Core standards but renamed them the “Iowa Core.” They read just like the Common Core standards.


Teachers in K-3 are concerned about the developmental appropriateness of the literacy standards for young children.


The State Education Department has distributed a survey asking teachers what they think of the standards. A teacher in Iowa asked me to post the survey link. Please review the standards and express your views about them.


If you are a teacher in Iowa, be sure to take the survey and let the SED know.



Mercedes Schneider tells the wonderful, wacky, mad story of the backhoe that cut through a fiber optic cable and canceled testing in the state of Alaska.

The New York Times features a new study of the intersection of race, family income, and test scores by Sean Reardon, Demetra Kalogrides, and Kenneth Shores.


It shows beyond doubt that family income and test scores are tightly correlated. A chart of educational attainment in school districts, arrayed by family income, shows that: “Sixth graders in the richest school districts are four grade levels ahead of children in the poorest districts.”


That is a huge test score gap.


We’ve long known of the persistent and troublesome academic gap between white students and their black and Hispanic peers in public schools.


We’ve long understood the primary reason, too: A higher proportion of black and Hispanic children come from poor families. A new analysis of reading and math test score data from across the country confirms just how much socioeconomic conditions matter.


Children in the school districts with the highest concentrations of poverty score an average of more than four grade levels below children in the richest districts.


Even more sobering, the analysis shows that the largest gaps between white children and their minority classmates emerge in some of the wealthiest communities, such as Berkeley, Calif.; Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Evanston, Ill. The study, by Sean F. Reardon, Demetra Kalogrides and Kenneth Shores of Stanford, also reveals large academic gaps in places like Atlanta and Menlo Park, Calif., which have high levels of segregation in the public schools….



Why racial achievement gaps were so pronounced in affluent school districts is a puzzling question raised by the data. Part of the answer might be that in such communities, students and parents from wealthier families are constantly competing for ever more academic success. As parents hire tutors, enroll their children in robotics classes and push them to solve obscure math theorems, those children keep pulling away from those who can’t afford the enrichment.


“Our high-end students who are coming in are scoring off the charts,” said Jeff Nash, executive director of community relations for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.


The school system is near the flagship campus of the University of North Carolina, and 30 percent of students in the schools qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, below the national average.


The wealthier students tend to come from families where, “let’s face it, both the parents are Ph.D.s, and that kid, no matter what happens in the school, is pressured from kindergarten to succeed,” Mr. Nash said. “So even though our minority students are outscoring minority students in other districts near us, there is still a bigger gap here because of that.”


By contrast, the communities with narrow achievement gaps tend to be those in which there are very few black or Hispanic children, or places like Detroit or Buffalo, where all students are so poor that minorities and whites perform equally badly on standardized tests….


What emerges clearly in the data is the extent to which race and class are inextricably linked, and how that connection is exacerbated in school settings.


Not only are black and Hispanic children more likely to grow up in poor families, but middle-class black and Hispanic children are also much more likely than poor white children to live in neighborhoods and attend schools with high concentrations of poor students.


One school district stood out as a district that beat the odds: Union City, New Jersey.


David Kirp wrote a book about Union City, called Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools.  


What did they do in Union City? Time to read Kirp’s book and start implementing real education reform.


Or read an article by Kirp about what he discovered. No charter schools. No Teach for America. Steady work, careful planning, collaboration, no heroics.








Nikhil Goyal is a precocious college student at Goddard College who wrote a book about education (“One Size Does Not Fit All”) while he was in a public high school on Long Island. He understood at an early age that standardized testing was ruining his education. His second book “Schools on Trial” was recently published by Doubleday.


In this article, he interviews Jane Sanders, wife and advisor to Bernie Sanders. He asks her about her views, and Bernie’s too, on the education issues of the day. It is clear that she is a progressive educator, that she values experiential learning, and she knows that NCLB was a disaster.


A typical comment:


“SANDERS: We don’t really believe in standardized testing. I think our purpose would be, schooling is meant to help people be creative, to have their curiosity stimulated, and have them be actively thinking whatever they’re thinking about—whether it’s the stars, the universe, climate change, anything. Having them be able to feel they can explore anything, learn anything.”””


She he seems to be completely in the dark about the corporates education reform movement. When asked about Gates, Broad, and Walton, she responds that she is sure that the Gateses have pure motives. There motives don’t matter; their actions do.



The recent release of the test scores of seniors on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reported that low-performing students suffered the biggest declines.

“Much like their 4th and 8th grade peers, high school seniors have lost ground in math over the last two years, according to the most recent scores on a national achievement test.

“In reading, 12th grade scores remained flat, continuing a trend since 2009.

“Perhaps the most striking detail in the test data, though, is that the lowest achievers showed large score drops in both math and reading. Between 2013 and 2015, students at or below the 10th percentile in reading went down an average of 6 points on the National Assessment for Educational Progress—the largest drop in a two-year period since 1994. The high achievers, on the other hand—those at or above the 90th percentile—did significantly better in reading, gaining two points, on average, while staying stagnant in math.”

I earlier posted about a reformy conference at Harvard Graduate School of Education where corporate reformers have the platform to themselves, to praise the measure-and-punish-and-privatize strategies that have failed for more than a decade.


Here is good news if you are in the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania area. Rutgers University is sponsoring a conference on May 20 to take a close look at what is being done in the name of “reform” and what should be done instead. The panels are the polar opposite of the workshops at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Here is a thumbnail sketch:


Session 1
There will be two concurrent sessions. Click a paper to see abstracts.
Session 1.1: Choice, Charters and Segregation

The Effect of Charter Schools on Neighborhood and School Segregation: Evidence from New York City (Sarah A. Cordes, Temple University, and Augustina Laurito, NYU)
The Untold Story of the Morris School District and the Quest for Educational Diversity (Paul Tractenberg, Rutgers -Newark Law School)
Evaluation of Charter School Impacts: The Cases of Newark and Trenton (Maia de la Calle, Rutgers University)
Charter School Effectiveness Research: Do We Really Know if “Successful” Charters are, in Fact, Successful (Mark Weber, Rutgers University)
Do No-Excuses Disciplinary Practices Promote Success? (Joanna Golann, Princeton University, and Chris Torres, Montclair State University)
Charting School Discipline (Susan DeJarnatt, Temple University, and Kerrin Wolf, Stockton University)

Session 1.2: Standards and Assessment

Misinformation and Misconceptions about PARCC, College Readiness and Mathematics Education (Eric Milou, Rowan University)
More [Time] is Better or Less is More (Allison Roda, Rutgers University-Newark)
What Happens to Students When Corporate Reform Fails?: Oklahoma City as a Case Study of the Test and Sort School Reform Experiment (John Thompson)
Problems with High Stakes Testing: Exploring the Gap Between Citizen Concerns and Government Recommendations (Sue Altman)
Hacking Away at Pearson & the Corporate Octopus (Alan Singer, Hofstra University)

Session 2

Session 2.1: Finance, Private Investment and the State

The Business of Charter Schooling: Understanding the Policies that Charter Operators Use for Financial Benefit (Bruce Baker, Rutgers University, and Gary Miron, Western Michigan University)
The Impact of Charter Schools on Suburban Districts: The Case of Red Bank, NJ (Julia Sass Rubin, Rutgers University)
Planning School Improvement Districts (Ken Steif, University of Pennsylvania)
TFA’s Leadership Model and Neoliberal Education Reform (Leah Z. Owens, Rutgers University – Newark)
Poverty, Student Achievement and Union-Management Collaboration in Public School Reform (Saul A. Rubinstein, Rutgers University)

Session 2.2: Schools and Neighborhoods

Making the Public Choice: How Parents in Philadelphia’s Gentrifying (and Gentrified) Neighborhoods are Choosing Neighborhood Schools (Katharine Nelson, Rutgers University)
Altering the Relationship between Neighborhood and School to Improve Life Chances (Ryan Coughlan, Rutgers-Newark)
A Community Good? Developers, New Schools and Gentrification (Molly Vollman Makris, Guttman Community College/City University of New York, and Elizabeth Brown, William Paterson University)
The School Choice Decision for 70 Families with Diverse Backgrounds in Oakland (Carrie Makarewicz, University of Colorado Denver)
School Choice and Latina/o Students: Misappropriating the Notion of Diversity (Michael Scott, University of Texas at Austin)
“Opt-Out” as Democratic Civic Engagement (Monica Clark, Temple University)


Session 3.1: Democracy and Education

A Tale of Two Cities: Education in Global Chicago (Constance A. Mixon, Elmhurst College)
Democracy and National Education Standards (Nicholas Tampio, Fordham University)
The Renaissance will be Technocratic: Contrasting Community Voice with Educational Leaders in Camden, NJ (Stephen Danley, Rutgers University – Camden)
Fighting Against Their Just Prescriptions and Fighting for Our Visions for Educational Justice (Liza Pappas and Zakiyah Ansari, Alliance for Quality Education)
Better for Whom? Community Perspectives on State-Mandated Charters (Keith Benson, Rutgers University – Camden)

Session 3.2: Closing Schools

Using National Data to Understand School Closures (Megan Gallagher, Rolf Pendall, Sierra Latham, and Tanaya Srini, The Urban Institute)
Constructing Students as Targets: Racial Differences in Attitudes Towards Public School Closure (Sally Nuama, Northwestern University)
Injustice and School Closure (Jacob Fay, Harvard University)
Neighborhoods, Schools and Economic Landscapes: Rooting Schools in Place in Philadelphia’s School Closure Debate (Ryan Good, Rutgers University)
A City Reimagined: Baltimore’ s School Closings (Jessica Shiller, Towson University)
Branding Against Closure: Philadelphia Neighborhood Schools and the Management of Risky Futures (Julia McWilliams, University of Pennsylvania)


An interesting contrast: The Harvard Graduate School of Education conference is peppered with politicians and media celebrities.


The Rutgers conference features scholars who have actually studied the subjects they are writing and speaking about.


Isn’t that amazing?