Archives for the month of: April, 2016

Sam Gorman, a junior at Burbank High School, started an opt out movement that was joined by 40% of the students in his class. He demonstrates the power of a single individual to make a difference. I happily add him to this blog’s honor roll for his intelligence and leadership.

“Students began taking state standardized exams in Burbank earlier this month, but about 40% of Burbank High’s junior class chose to opt out of the process, according to Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill.

“There were 269 out of 656 juniors at Burbank High who opted out of taking the exam after getting a parent to sign off on the request.

“For Burbank High student Sam Gorman, the choice to opt out signifies his stance against a test that is based on “big data and redundant standards instead of the acquisition of long-lasting knowledge,” he said in an email.

“He learned he could skip the exam last summer in Switzerland, where he attended a student leader summit hosted by Education First, an international company that runs study-abroad programs.

“Working with progressive education experts like Sir Ken Robinson and Nikhil Goyal helped open my eyes to the exciting possibilities of an educational system that treats students more like the individuals they are and less like the raw data they’ve become,” he said.

“The state exam tests students on California State Standards, which until recently were called Common Core standards.

“The computerized exam made its debut in California two years ago. It replaced the STAR exam, which students took by filling in bubbles on paper tests that asked multiple-choice questions.

“The new computerized exam tests students in math and language arts and is used by educators to gauge high school juniors’ preparedness for college. Students in third through eighth grades are also tested to give educators insight into their grasp of state standards.

“Sam wrote about Common Core testing on his website,, and then in mid-March, he tweeted a link that explained how students could opt out.

“Juniors needed to make the request in a letter, provide a parent’s signature and date, and submit it to their school principal.

“It was around mid-March, still a few weeks before testing began on April 7, when junior Daniel Park was asked by a classmate if he would opt out.

“People everywhere were just asking, ‘Are you opting out?'” he recalled by phone this week.

“Daniel is a college-bound student who is enrolled in five AP classes — U.S. history, English, calculous, psychology and physics.”

Daniel opted out, along with 40% of his class.

Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee signed into law a bill that allows mental health professionals to refuse service to anyone based on their religious beliefs.


The American Counseling Association has announced that it may cancel its annual conference, now scheduled for April 2017, if the law is not repealed.


Governor Haslam will be the keynote speaker at a conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Education on May 17. Perhaps other participants will question him about this legislation. Perhaps Harvard President Drew Faust will chastise him in her introductory remarks for signing legislation that is unacceptable at Harvard or in Massachusetts or in most states. Apparently, other states have adopted similar laws, on the theory that a person with sincere religious beliefs should be legally permitted to refuse service to anyone who offends those beliefs.


Peter Greene commented on the law as permitting discrimination against any group that is different.


Greene wrote:


So Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee today signed a law that allows mental health counselors to refuse patients based on the therapist’s religion or personal beliefs.


That means that a Christian counselor could refuse to see a Muslim, or an atheist, or a pastafarian. That means a Southern Baptist could refuse to see a Catholic. That means an anti-abortion person could refuse to treat a woman who’s had an abortion. A staunch conservative could refuse to treat someone struggling with infidelity in their marriage. A racist can refuse to see anyone who’s not white. That means a counselor could turn away a woman who’s wearing too short a skirt, or holds down a job outside the home, or who uses birth control. That means a republican therapist could refuse to treat a democrat, or vice versa– and both could refuse to treat a socialist. And of course, anybody can refuse to see an LGBT patient.


I am imagining someone who’s hit a rough patch trying to find a counselor, looking through the yellow pages for a Jewish vegan feminist republican counselor who believes in attachment parenting. Presumably some folks, like the Green Party gay pro-gun Wiccan, would just have to drive to some other state.


One of our Tennessee readers added the following comment:


I wonder what the organizers at Harvard were thinking when they asked BIll Haslam to speak at this ‘illustrious’ summit. His accomplishments in scholarship & policy initiatives are, at best, underwhelming.


Gov.Haslam is the son of TN’s billionaire Jim (“Big Jim”) Haslam family who own Pilot Oil & Flying J Truckstops. His family control of the Republican Party bought him 3 elections – one as Mayor of Knoxville & 2 terms as Gov of TN. The family’s venture philanthropy buys the silence of critics in the local press & in higher education.


The Haslam family business is under FBI investigation for multiple counts of fraud


His legacy as governor is outsourcing public education, privatizing state workers & maintenance operations, privatizing our beautiful state parks, privatizing Dept of Children’s Services, cutting capital gains taxes, cutting the inheritance tax, passing a constitutional amendment prohibiting a state income tax, assuring TN remains the state with the highest number of workers earning minimum wage or below, and no healthcare for the poor.


He gave Tennesseans Kevin Huffman, Candice McQueen, and in a Dept of Ed staffed with TFA. Arne Duncan visited TN regularly to brag on our “progress” in edu-reform.


Thanks to Haslam, Tennesseans can carry guns on campus & in schools, our state book is the bible, we have a state gun, and a new state logo, fracking on the Plateau, cabinet advisors from Americans for Prosperity, the Milton Friedman Foundation, and The Charter School Associations.




Here is the weekly report from FairTest on the progress of the movement to reform and resist standardized testing:


Bob Schaeffer of FairTest writes:


“What a week! A national poll concludes that a majority of parents are critical of standardized exam overkill; more minority parents, students and educators speak out against test misuse; yet another state’s computerized testing system collapses; and the opt-out movement continues to grow in breadth and depth. No wonder more state and local education policy-makers are beginning to heed the message: “Enough is enough!”


“National Most Parents Say “Too Much Emphasis on Standardized Testing,” According to New Poll
“National Race and the Standardized Testing Wars: More Minority Stakeholders Criticize Exams

National Pathways to New Accountability Through the Every Student Succeeds Act

Pathways to New Accountability Through the Every Student Succeeds Act


“Arizona Buyer Beware When it Comes to Conclusions Drawn From Test Scores


“California Test-Based “Accountability” System Hurt Equity


“Connecticut A Failed Application of Standardized Testing
Connecticut Using Standardized Exam Scores to Evaluate Teachers Won’t Solve Anything


“Florida Parents Press for Opt-Out Rights Despite School District Push Back
Florida Superintendent Sets Up Committee to Review Testing Opt-Out Protocols


“Florida State’s Teacher Bonus Plan Deserves an “F”


“Georgia School Policies for Dealing With Opt Outs Vary
Georgia Schools Struggle with Computer Problems with Milestone Tests


“Idaho No Permission Form Needed to Opt Out of Testing


“Indiana Parents Want Say in New State Testing Policy
Indiana More Problems With ISTEP Computerized Testing


“Iowa Why Low Test Scores Don’t Equate to Failing Schools


“Kentucky Less Testing, More Art in Proposed School Accountability Plan


“Maryland School Board Considers Policy to Honor All Test Refusal Requests


“Massachusetts Demonstration Supports Opt-Out Movement
Massachusetts Teachers Speak Up Against Standardized Exams
Massachusetts School Committee Member Refuses Standardized Testing for Her Child


“Mississippi More to Learning Than Standardized Exams
Mississippi Test-Prep is Widespread for State Exams

Teachers prepare students for testing in variety of ways


“Missouri Tests Can Be Flawed Learning Indicators


“New Jersey State’s PARCC Test Joins Growing List of Computer Exams Plagued by Technical Failures
New Jersey How Pearson Plans to Avoid Another Testing Crash
New Jersey Why PARCC Testing Should Not Be Required for Graduation


“Ohio Standardized Tests Don’t Accurately Measure Academic Strength
Ohio Value-Added School Rating Process May Be Evaluated


“Oklahoma Parents Opt Students Out of State Testing


“Oregon Students Again Opt Out En Masse


“Pennsylvania Opt-Out Growth Shows Need for Testing Overhaul
Pennsylvania Time to End Testing Season’s Damaging Impact on Public Schools
Pennsylvania Should Judge Schools Based on Inspections, Not Test Scores

Ideas We Should Steal: Judging schools based on inspections—not test scores


“South Carolina District Requires Children to Reaffirm Parents Decision to Opt Out


“Tennessee State Exam Fails Test for Third Time
Tennessee TNReady Has Been a Complete Disaster


“Texas District Finds Flaws in State Test Grading

Test Score Woes in Lewisville Could Signal More STAAR Trouble Across Texas

Texas Union Sues to Block Test-Based Teacher Evaluation Law


“ACT/SAT Whittier College Adopts Test-Optional Policy


“ACT/SAT Impact of New Khan Academy Test Prep Program is Unproven

Khan Academy, College Board create an SAT practice program, but impact unclear


“The Miseducation of Democrats for Education Reform


“How High-Stakes Testing Inhibits K-12 Innovation


“Don’t Wait For an Act of Congress to Speak Out on Testing


“Network for Public Education Teacher Evaluation Infographic

Network for Public Education Teacher Evaluation Report Infographic



“Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468

Tennessee has canceled the second half of its state tests because the vendor didn’t deliver the testing materials on time. Rather than extend the wasted time, the state commissioner pulled the plug. The whole state is opting out!

“Tennessee students may not have to take the second part of their year-end exams after all. Following multiple delays in receiving test materials, the state is cutting ties with testing vendor Measurement Inc. The company has been blamed for the bulk of glitches and delays in the first year of TNReady.

“Measurement Inc.’s performance is deeply disappointing,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement. “We will not ask districts to continue waiting on a vendor that has repeatedly failed us.”

“McQueen said the state has “exhausted every option in problem solving” to assist in getting the tests delivered.

“North Carolina-based Measurement Inc. has pinned the delays on unexpectedly having to print millions of testing packets. The rush-job followed the failure of its computer-based test in February. But Nakia Towns, an assistant commissioner in the Department of Education, says there’s no excuse.

“Right now, all of the printed materials are at Measurement Inc. The printer is not the issue,” she said at a press briefing Wednesday. “The issue is that Measurement Inc. has failed to pack and ship the materials that they have on site.”

Leonie Haimson is the watchdog of New York City public education. She is the founder of Class Size Matters (I am a member of her six-person board), which operates on a shoestring. She is unpaid, yet she is tireless in her determination to police the awarding of contracts, as well as the administration’s attention to class size. She also is deeply involved in protecting student privacy. She and Rachel Strickland in Colorado brought down Bill Gates’ effort to data-mine American students, a project called inBloom, to which he contributed $100 million. In the face of parent criticism, inBloom folded.


Leonie reads every contract that the New York City Department approves. She did the same during the Bloomberg years, when she was also the mayor’s most persistent critic.


Here is her scathing report on the failure of the administration to perform due diligence before it awards contracts, in this case, for special education services, for Amazon, and for new technology. Once again, as under Bloomberg, the city’s Panel on Educational Policy (actually know in the law as the New York City Board of Education) mutely acquiesces and approves whatever the administration asks for, without debate or discussion.


This is a good reason to oppose mayoral control, state control, and any other undermining of democracy.

Emma Brown, writing in the Washington Post, reports the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress: High school seniors showed a slippage in their test scores in math and no improvement in reading.


Throughout the entire period of “reform” that started with No Child Left Behind, scores of high school students have been stagnant. Brown writes:


The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, also show a longer-term stagnation in 12th-grade performance in U.S. public and private schools: Scores on the 2015 reading test have dropped five points since 1992, the earliest year with comparable scores, and are unchanged in math during the past decade.



The NAEP report says:


In comparison to the first year of the current trendline, 2005, the average mathematics score in 2015 did not significantly differ. In comparison to the initial reading assessment year, 1992, the 2015 average reading score was lower.


In short, NCLB (signed into law in 2002) and Race to the Top (launched in 2009) have been failures. They have been disastrous failures. How many billions of dollars were wasted no testing and test prep? How many teachers and principals were fired? How many schools were closed? How many public schools were turned over to entrepreneurs?


As a nation, we have endured fourteen years of failed federal policies. Will we ever learn that testing doesn’t produce higher achievement? Will we ever learn that intrinsic motivation is more powerful than threats and rewards?


Heckuva job, President Obama and former Secretary Arne Duncan!



The Maryland State Board of Education voted to make PARCC the state’s high school graduation test. The passing score now will be a 3 on a scale of 1-5, but it will rise to a 4 in four years.

Meanwhile the State Commissioner of Education on Rhode Island, Ken Wagner, decided to drop PARCC as a graduation requirement because he knew the failure rate would be staggering. He said he didn’t want to penalize students for the system’s “failure to get them to high standards.”

Nobody mentioned that PARCC’s passing score is absurdly high and will never be reached by about half of all students.


The Maryland state board violated the first rule of educational testing: Tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were designed. PARCC was not designed to be a high school graduation test. It was designed to test mastery of the Common Core. Its passing marks were set so high that most of the 24 states that adopted PARCC have now dropped it, and only six states and D.C. still use it.


What will Maryland do with the thousands of students who will never earn a high school diploma? Did anyone think about that? You can be certain that most of them will be students with disabilities, English language learners, and children who live in high poverty. There is one loophole: students can create a project that is approved by their teachers and administrators.


The only objection to the new Maryland plan came from the ACLU, which said that there was no evidence that the PARCC raises achievement. Read that again slowly. No test raises achievement. Tests measure how well students do on a standardized test. They don’t improve students’ ability to pass standardized test.


Down the rabbit-hole in Maryland, where the legislature recently voted to approve vouchers, assuring that students may go to religious schools that teach creationism, orthodox Judaism, Catholic doctrine, and Islam.



Liz Bowie writes in the Baltimore Sun:



The new standard means students will not be required to achieve what is considered the national passing score until the 2019-2020 school year.


Thousands of students across the state will struggle to meet even that lowered standard. In 2015, 42 percent of Maryland students who took the Algebra I exam and 39 percent of those who took the English 10 test scored less than a three.


If the standard had been in effect last year, more than half of Baltimore County’s students would not have passed the math test and 35 percent would not have passed the English test.


In Baltimore, 70 percent would not have passed the math exam and more than half would not have passed the English exam.
The Maryland State Education Association, which represents most of the state’s teachers, has not taken a position on the draft regulations. Cheryl Bost, the group’s vice president, said that while the union is “pleased there is a transition plan,” teachers are concerned about whether they will be able to give students the individual attention they need to pass the exams.


Thousands of students, education officials say, will be taking the tests multiple times to try to pass, and many will likely use a loophole that allows students to demonstrate their knowledge by doing a project that is approved by their teacher and other administrators.
With such a large percentage of students failing the exams, teachers will have many more students doing projects who they must work with individually.


Baltimore County Superintendent Dallas Dance said he supports the phase-in approach.


But Bebe Verdery, the ACLU’s Maryland education director, objects to the high-stakes tests. Many states have repealed the tests, she said, because evidence does not show that they increase achievement.


“If the state board is going to persist in having high-stakes graduation exams, it is imperative they provide and guarantee high-quality instruction so that students have the opportunity to pass the test,” Verdery said.



Bill Phillis is a retired administrator who champions the cause of public schools in Ohio. He founded the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy. Having served as a deputy commissioner of the state education department, he closely tracks the state budget. He frequently writes about the charter industry and its unscrupulous raid on public monies. If you care about public schools in Ohio, you should add your name to his mailing list and consider a contribution.


Today he writes:


“Federal government adds $333 million to $3 billion already spent to expand the failed charter industry


“Congress and the U.S. Department of Education made a devilish wrong turn in public K-12 education policy with the enactment of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Departing from its historical role of supplemental support for the public common schools, the federal government, in some respects, turned against what Horace Mann declared the “greatest discovery of mankind”- the public common school.
“NCLB provided a variety of weapons to discredit and punish the public system. In that context, the feds have appropriated $3 billion to promote the charterization of the public system. In spite of the corruption and racketeering in the charter industry and its dubious performance, the feds have put an additional $333 million in Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for 2016 to further expand the industry.
“The charter industry seems to have a stranglehold on the federal politicians. The charter lobby, via campaign contributions and other perks, are able to advance this inferior alternative to the great American common school system.

“Those great political and educational leaders, who founded the common school system, never envisioned that government would become the enemy of the real public school system.”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A
100 S. 3rd Street
Columbus OH 43215
Sent by



Peter Greene attended the Network for Public Education’s third annual conference in Raleigh, where NPE introduced a new framework for teacher evaluation.


In this post, he describes an approach to teacher evaluation based on what teachers (teachers!) believe will work best in identifying teachers’ strengths and needs.


Here are the recommendations, in Peter’s words. Take his advice and read the report:



The report makes six recommendations.


1) Stop using student test scores for teacher evaluation. Absolutely.


2) Top-down collaboration is an oxymoron. Don’t tie mandated and micromanaged teacher collaboration to evaluation.


3) The observation process should focus on reflection and dialogue as tools for improvement. One of my favorite lines in the report– The result should be a narrative, not a number.


4) Less paperwork. This is not just a teacher problem. My administrators essentially have to stop doing all their other work for several weeks out of the year just to get their evaluation and observation paperwork done. Forms and forms and forms and forms for me, and ten times that many for them. Again– do you want us to do our job, or do a bunch of paperwork about what we would be doing for our job if we weren’t busy with the paperwork.


5) Take a good hard look at how evaluation systems are affecting veteran teachers and teachers of color.


6) Burn down the entire professional development system. Okay, that’s my recommendation. NPE is more restrained– decouple PD from the evaluation system and attach it to things that actually help teachers do their jobs.


That’s the basic outline. There are more details and there are, most of all, actual quotes from actual teachers. I have read so many “reports” and “white papers” and “policy briefs” covering many aspects of education policy over the last few years, and the appearance of a teacher voice is rarer than Donald Trump having a good hair day and displaying humility at the same time. That alone makes this report valuable and useful. I recommend you read the whole thing.

NPR ran an excellent story about the perennial debate: Can More Money Fix America’s Schools?


The show interviews those who say that money doesn’t make a difference; what matters is how money is spent, not how much is spent.


It also interviews those who say that low-income districts are inadequately funded because of property taxes.


It begins like this:


This winter, Jameria Miller would often run to her high school Spanish class, though not to get a good seat.


She wanted a good blanket.


“The cold is definitely a distraction,” Jameria says of her classroom’s uninsulated, metal walls.


Her teacher provided the blankets. First come, first served. Such is life in the William Penn School District in an inner-ring suburb of Philadelphia.


The hardest part for Jameria, though, isn’t the cold. It’s knowing that other schools aren’t like this.


Before her family moved closer to the city, where they could afford more living space, she attended the more affluent Upper Moreland district, which is predominantly white and, according to state and local records, spends about $1,200 more per student than William Penn.


That difference adds up, Jameria says, to better buildings, smaller class sizes, take-home textbooks and less teacher turnover.


“It’s never going to be fair,” she says, comparing her life now to her former classmates. “They’re always going to be a step ahead of us. They’ll have more money than us, and they’ll get better jobs than us, always.”


Critics of school spending like to point to the high spending in some low-income districts and say that the test scores didn’t go up. But what if students had heated buildings, a school nurse, a hot lunch, a librarian, and other such things that affluent districts take for granted? What if their test scores didn’t go up, but the schools were doing a better job of meeting their immediate needs as human beings?


This is a balanced and thought-provoking discussion.