Archives for the month of: June, 2017

Linda Weber is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the Seventh District of New Jersey, a seat presently held by a Republican who supports Trump’s priorities.

She is the spouse of our friend Jersey Jazzman, whose blogs have kept us informed about the privatization movement in New Jersey.

If Linda is elected, she will be the best friend of public education in Congress.

She needs to raise $1,100 by midnight EST tonight to qualify.

Please help.

Give whatever you can.

Linda was endorsed by the Network for Public Education Action Fund, which reviewed her credentials and views about education.

The key job in the federal government in terms of civil rights enforcement is the leader of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Trump has selected Eric Dreiband, who has represented numerous clients accused of violating civil rights laws. Activists are outraged.

The selection of Dreiband is in keeping with the selection of Betsy DeVos, an opponent of public education; the selection of Scott Pruitt, who sued the Environmental Protection Agency many times, to lead it; and the section of others who are antagonistic to the mission of the agency they head.

Eric Dreiband, a former George W. Bush administration official, represented R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in an age discrimination case and Bloomberg in a pregnany discrimination case as a partner at the law firm Jones Day. On Thursday, Trump tapped him to lead the division that handles voting rights, policing and discrimination cases.

Vanita Gupta, head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and a former leader of the civil rights division under President Barack Obama, said Dreiband’s past work showed he was not up for the job.

“Whoever leads the ‘crown jewel’ of the Justice Department must have deep relationships with stakeholders and marginalized communities, and have a deep, abiding faith in our nation’s civil rights laws,” Gupta said. “They must respect the laws that touch everyone, rights that people have literally died for. They must respect the role of what has been called the conscience of the federal government. In all those regards, Eric Dreiband is woefully unqualified to lead the Civil Rights Division.”

Shannon Williams is proud to be a graduate of the Indianapolis Public Schools. She now writes for the Indianapolis Recorder, where she published this article about the current plan to shrink the district.

She writes:

There are countless emotions tied to Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), and even more emotions now associated with the district due to the proposal to close or repurpose three of its high schools.

It is a lot to analyze — even for the most astute. Nonetheless, IPS is a major issue, and quite honestly has been a major issue for many years.

I am a proud product of IPS. I wear my time in the district as a badge of honor, not as something I am ashamed of, like many expected of my peers and me at the time, and like some people expect of the current students. Public schools. Even then, so many years ago, there was a stigma associated with the district. That stigma has continued; some years are worse than others, but there has seemingly always been a stigma attached to the district.

In the past, the stigma often came from people outside IPS’ administration and staff. Now, some people wonder if the district’s powers-that-be are actually the ones who look adversely at its student population.

“Arlington High School is located at 46th and Arlington. John Marshall is at 42nd and Post Road. These are areas with primarily Black and Hispanic families — they are impoverished areas. To close schools in some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods is a clear (indication) that you don’t care,” James Turner said passionately. Turner spent his entire formative years as an IPS student. He was also so dedicated to the district that he and his wife made the decision to enroll their children in IPS. In addition, Turner worked for the district, first as special needs assistant, then a graduation coach and later as dean of students.

In addition to the elimination of schools in neighborhoods that desperately need them, Turner thinks centralizing Indianapolis high schools to a handful of locations can be a safety hazard for students.

“You have students from Haughville, 42nd and Post Road, Hillside — all these kids will be at the same school. There will be neighborhood beef amongst the students because not all neighborhoods get along; some kids represent the places they live and are willing to fight for their neighborhood. There will be safety hazards — even for the students who are there simply to learn.”

In 2014 Turner ran a compassionate grassroots campaign for a seat on the IPS board of commissioners. He was defeated, but he remains committed to “ensuring the safety and success of our babies” by staying engaged in news impacting IPS’ students.

She wonders why no one like Turner was invited to be part of the Task Force that made these recommendations. She wonders why the Task Force was composed of big business types and big names, with no one from the community.

Good question. No one on the Task Force had an emotional tie to the Indianapolis Public Schools. They looked at them as a business deal. They didn’t understand the value of neighborhood schools. They didn’t care about “legacy” schools, where older siblings and parents went to school. They also don’t care about public education.

The Los Angeles Times editorial board published an editorial today chastising the California Teachers Association for resisting privatization of public education via charters.

I assume that this editorial was in no way influenced by Eli Broad, who subsidizes the Times’ education coverage, which is a blatant conflict of interest.

The editorial board can’t see any critics of charters other than teachers’ unions, who presumably are protecting their jobs by fighting off the agenda that Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos are promoting.

It can’t see why parents and graduates of public schools (like me) think that turning public money over to private and unaccountable boards is a terrible idea.

One would think that the LA Times might express concern about the millions of dollars pumped into the school board race by billionaires like Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, Richard Riordan, and the Waltons. How did it happen that the California Charter Schools Association become the most influential lobby in Sacramento? Isn’t the Times just a little bit curious about the deployment of big money? Have they noticed that the same money has bought the school boards in Denver, Indianapolis, and other cities? Are they aware that Reed Hastings longs for the day when democratically elected school boards are obsolete. Meanwhile, he is willing to spend whatever it takes to buy them.

One would think that a major metropolitan newspaper would worry about the power of big money to buy local school board elections. When did any of these billionaires ever have a child or grandchild in the LAUSD public schools? Why doesn’t the editorial question why they want so badly to buy the school board? What do they want?

One would think that the LA Times might have noticed the numerous scandals associated with charter schools in Los Angeles and throughout California. Is that not a reason to fight for public schools and public accountability for public money?

Does the Los Angeles Times recognize that charter schools skim the students they want and dump the ones they don’t want? Is this not a dire threat to public education, which must take the students the charters don’t want?

This editorial must be a source of joy to Betsy DeVos. The game plan in California looks like the DeVos plan in Michigan: charters, charters, charters, while defunding public schools. Did it help struggling students? No. Did it improve the academic performance of the students of Michigan? No. Michigan’s NAEP scores have plummeted since DeVos launched her charter agenda in the state.

The people of California must stand up for public education, under democratic control and with full accountability and transparency.

Shame on the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times.

Joan Kramer, a hero of public libraries, public education, and the common good, died a few days ago.

Joan was a hero to all who knew and loved her.

This is a tribute from some of her friends who knew her well.

Here she is testifying before the Los Angeles Unified School District board on behalf of libraries.

She had a fantastic blog, beautifully illustrated. I recommend that you read it.

You can see her beautiful spirit in her words. I especially loved her story about Allen Funt, the Candid Camera guy.

Farewell, Joan. We will miss you. Your followers will carry on and multiply, to spread your message about the values of literacy, knowledge, civilization, and the power of the public space.

This is an alarming story, prepared by the Center for Public Integrity. . Teaching materials are being distributed by the fossil fuel industry to elementary schools.

It begins:

“Jennifer Merritt’s first-graders at Jefferson Elementary School in Pryor, Oklahoma, were in for a treat. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, the students gathered in late November for story time with two special guests, state Rep. Tom Gann and state Sen. Marty Quinn.

“Dressed in suits, the Republican lawmakers read aloud from “Petro Pete’s Big Bad Dream,” a parable in which a Bob the Builder lookalike awakens to find his toothbrush, hardhat and even the tires on his bike missing. Abandoned by the school bus, Pete walks to Petroville Elementary in his pajamas.

“Petro Pete’s Big Bad Dream” was published in 2016. Oklahoma Energy Resources Board
“It sounds like you are missing all of your petroleum by-products today!” his teacher, Mrs. Rigwell, exclaims, extolling oil’s benefits to Pete and fellow students like Sammy Shale. Before long, Pete decides that “having no petroleum is like a nightmare!”

“The tale is the latest in an illustrated series by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board, a state agency funded by oil and gas producers. The board has spent upwards of $40 million over the past two decades on K-12 education with a pro-industry bent, including hundreds of pages of curricula, a speaker series and an afterschool program — all at no cost to educators.

“A similar program in Ohio shows teachers how to “frack” Twinkies using straws to pump for cream and advises on the curriculum for a charter school that revolves around shale drilling. A national program whose sponsors include BP and Shell claims it’s too soon to tell if the earth is heating up, but “a little warming might be a good thing.”

“Decades of documents reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity reveal a tightly woven network of organizations that works in concert with the oil and gas industry to paint a rosy picture of fossil fuels in America’s classrooms. Led by advertising and public-relations strategists, the groups have long plied the tools of their trade on impressionable children and teachers desperate for resources.”

As an antidote, science teachers should show “Gasland,” the award-winning documentary that shows how fracking destroys the water supply and kills animals. The most memorable scene: Water running out of a kitchen faucet. The home-owner strikes a match, and the chemical-rich water catches fire.

Debate and discuss.

The National Education Policy Center has released new research on virtual charter schools that shows variation among those in different states, though all have poor academic results:

Key Takeaway: Case studies from the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute suggest that policymakers should prioritize understanding and improving virtual school performance before permitting further growth

Press Release:

NEPC: William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058,
MVLRI Report – Research: Michael K. Barbour: (203) 997-6330,
MVLRI Report – Performance: Gary Miron: (269) 599-7965,
MVLRI Report – Policy: Luis Huerta: (212) 678-4199,

BOULDER, CO (June 27, 2017) – Over the past five years, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) has produced an annual report called Virtual Schools in the U.S.: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence. These reports provide an impartial analysis of the evolution of full-time, publicly funded K-12 virtual and blended schools by examining the policy issues raised by available evidence. They also assess the research evidence that bears on K-12 virtual teaching and learning, and they analyze the growth and performance of such virtual and blended schools.

Building on the April release of the Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017 report, the lead researchers have engaged with the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI) to use the data set to undertake a more in-depth analysis of five states: Ohio, Wisconsin, Idaho, Washington, and Michigan. The MVLRI published that work today.

These case studies describe the enrollment, characteristics, and performance of virtual and blended schools in each state over the previous year. They also examine the research related to the virtual and blended school characteristics and outcomes, as well as the legislative activities. And they consider the legislation and policies that have been introduced (and enacted) over the past two years.

Based on a national data set, the April NEPC Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017 report included two key findings: (1) that the growth of full-time virtual schools was fueled, in part, by policies expanding school choice, and (2) that this growth is seen most among the for-profit education management organizations (EMOs) that dominate this sector. All five states follow these national trends. Also, and again consistent with national trends, students that attend the virtual schools in these five states tended to perform quite poorly compared to their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

At the same time, these case studies revealed that the enrollment demographics in each of these states did vary from the national trends. For example, Ohio and Michigan brick-and-mortar schools and virtual schools enrolled similar proportions of White students and students of color (bucking the national trend which found that the majority of students attending virtual charter schools were White), while Idaho and Michigan enrolled higher proportions of free and reduced lunch students (which was the opposite to the national average). Another distinction highlighted by the case studies is that one of the states – Michigan – has seen considerable research into the actual practice of K-12 online learning, and this evidence-based approach appears to be paying off for the Michigan Virtual School.

Find Virtual Schools in the U.S.: Case Studies of Policy, Performance, and Research Evidence, by Michael K. Barbour, Luis Huerta, and Gary Miron, at:

Click to access VSCase-17.pdf

This report was published and funded by the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute:

Nancy E. Bailey writes here about current efforts to put children with disabilities on a computer and call it “personalized learning” and “inclusion.” It is neither.

“Personalized learning must not be mistaken for inclusion. The reality is that it’s student isolation!

“Inclusion is generally defined as the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure. Doing schoolwork on a digital device by yourself is not inclusion. It’s ability grouping for one!

“In special education, inclusion is often described as students working alongside their peers. Alongside? Please tell me that doesn’t mean sitting next to another student on the computer!…

“Differentiation refers to Carol Ann Tomlinson’s push to get children in inclusion classrooms doing academic activities in ways that are common but uniquely different. This takes much thoughtful planning on the part of well-qualified teachers.

“For example, students might read about a topic with everyone placed at their individual reading levels. Next, they could come together as a class to discuss the topic.

“Jennifer Carolan, co-founding partner of Reach Capital, a $53 million venture fund that backs education technology startups, writes in Education Week about such differentiation, trying to liken it to personalized learning. The article is called “Personalized Learning Isn’t About Isolation.” Previously, Carolan was the managing director and co-founder of the Seed Fund at the NewSchools Venture Fund.

“But she’s wrong. Personalized learning is about working alone.

“The reality is, and many of us understand, that tech enthusiasts are pushing teachers out of the profession and creating facilitators who merely monitor students as they work alone…

“It takes experienced teachers in both general and special education, and decent class sizes, to help address the challenges facing students with disabilities. Computers don’t do that. They merely present skills and review (ongoing assessment).

“The human element, the most important part of inclusion for children, involves bringing students together—both academically and socially!

“Children with disabilities need skills, of course. But they also need peer acceptance. They will not get that from a machine. Such acceptance also leads to a greater societal good.”

This comment by a reader called Montana Teacher continues a discussion of the value of AP courses. My observation: AP courses are a big money-maker for the College Board, which on its face is nonprofit, but aggressively pursues opportunities to generate revenues, like claiming that access to AP courses promotes equity.

Other posts are here and here.

Montana Teacher writes:

“Thank you for all of your comments on AP. I have several observations from my experience in our high school:

–The AP curricula is strong; however, it is not the ONLY curricula. For example, what the College Board has chosen to emphasize in English (such as tone or rhetorical devices) is perfectly fine, but this is just one way to teach English. I find that, in our school, the weight given to AP squelches our abilities to teach in other, creative ways. At my liberal arts college, the beauty was that each professor was stunningly unique, and that made learning so exciting. It makes teaching exciting, too.

–If the AP course is truly being taught at a college level, then the teacher should have a college-type schedule in order to handle the preparation and paper grading. In other words, how can a true college-level course be taught by someone who is teaching six periods, five days a week? This isn’t fair to the students if the teacher can’t keep up–or it’s not fair to the teacher, who is asked to do too much.

–If the AP course is truly being taught at the college level, then these high school kids who take many AP classes are being overloaded and over-stressed. To not be overloaded, students are forced to choose between too-easy classes or too-rigorous classes. Why not have just-the-right-amount-of-rigor classes so students can take every subject at that level, and not be forced to sacrifice one subject for another?

–How can college credit be given in courses that are taught by people who do not have master’s or doctorate degrees?

–Why do colleges accept AP credit? Isn’t this a money-losing proposition for them? How did this ever get started? I suppose that colleges fear losing students.

–The two-for-the-price-of-one mentality is permeating everything. It seems that everyone I know is in favor of dual credit classes, often to improve economic outcomes, not educational outcomes. This must be due to the high price of college . . .

–Lastly, where is the discussion on what is developmentally appropriate for our youth? Freshman English was a marvelous time in my day to read, discuss, and explore at a time when one was away from parents in a new place with a real professor–we were developmentally ready to read and write and wonder and grow. I am saddened that many students will not have this opportunity because they took “college” English as a 16-year-old.”

Tomorrow I will be 79!

My older sister says that it’s all downhill from here, but I’m not going anywhere, not without raising a ruckus.

Carol Burris has created a giant birthday card for me. I hope you will consider signing it.

This will be the first time in my life that I ever asked anyone to sign a birthday card that was not for someone else.

From the number of posts you get every day, you know that I work full-time to keep you informed about attacks on our schools and our educators.

No one pays me to do it. I do it because I believe that privatization of public schools is wrong. Attacking teachers is wrong. Attacking the teaching profession is wrong.

If you agree, help me by joining and supporting the Network for Public Education.

We have more than 350,000 members spread across every state. We have the capacity to generate thousands of emails to legislators and members of Congress. We exist to stop Betsy DeVos and her cronies and to fight for better public education for every child.

Join us. That will make me very happy on my birthday!