Archives for the month of: August, 2017

A blogger at the Daily Kos celebrates the triumph of a well-qualified black woman over an unqualified white male Republican in the Fairfax County school board election.

She writes:

I wrote a few days ago that Fairfax County Virginia is ground zero in the fight against racism and hate. The invisible line that was drawn there in the wake of nearby Charlottesville was crossed tonight and in not only the Democrats favor but in favor of upstanding and right thinking people everywhere. The polls closed a little over two hours ago on the east coast and Karen Keys-Gamarra, an “arrogant” black woman has officially wiped the floor with her Republican-KKK-endorsed opponent Chris Grisafe, in a race for a school board seat which is about so much more than just a school board seat.

Despite all Republican efforts to win this election by underhanded means, such as having a special election where voter turnout was expected to be extremely low, the usual Republican ploys did not prevail. Four percent turnout was anticipated and the Democrats rallied and raised that figure to ten percent. 62,000 votes were cast, in excess of the 50,000 max figure that was anticipated. Of those votes cast, 41,000 were for Keys-Gamarra and 21,000 for Grisafe. That’s a comfortable margin to win by.

This victory is so sweet for so many reasons. First and foremost, the Democratic candidate is wildly more qualified than the Republican candidate, earning her the endorsement of the Washington Post. The kids now have a real advocate who has pledged to address bullying and other issues of paramount importance in schools today. If that was all this election meant, we would have plenty of cause for celebration on those facts alone.

But this election means so much more. This was the first election in the country post Charlottesville and the fact that the electorate was galvanized to get out the vote and put a fine Democrat in office is not to be taken lightly. A message has been sent to Washington and not via Western Union. If Donald Trump and the GOP don’t get it, then we’ll just have to keep winning elections until they do get it and “it” is this: America is not going backwards. The blacks are not going back to the ghetto, nor the gays to the closets, nor the disabled to hiding in the shadows, nor all the plans that Donald Trump, David Duke, Richard Spencer and their ilk were rubbing their small hands together about in eager anticipation. It’s not going to happen.

Let’s see if we can keep this ball rolling. The next election in Virginia is November 7 and it is crucial to hold the line, and take back as many as possible of 66 House Delegate seats currently held by Republicans. We can do this if Ralph Northam can be successful in his quest for Governor, along with Justin Fairfax as Lt. Governor and Mark Herring (the incumbent Attorney General, running for re-election.)

Peter Greene has a timely warning for us. Laurene Powell Jobs has lined up multiple TV channels and a star-studded cast to tell the world how she is fixing education. Her group is called the Emerson Collective. She hired Arne Duncan to advise her, despite the fact that he wasted $5 billion of federal funds (taxpayer money) on a failed effort to “reform” public schools by privatizing them, closing them, firing teachers and principals, and making standardized tests the purpose of education.

Peter notes that no working educator helped Mrs. Jobs formulate her plans. What do teachers know about education?

He writes:

“Brace yourselves. It’s time for a star-studded ed erformstravaganza.

“Another wave of PR dropped yesterday, touting a four-network, celebrity-packed, media event, proudly trumpeted everywhere from Variety to USA Today. On September 8, a huge line-up (including Tom Hanks, Yo-Yo Ma, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Hudson and (sorry) Common) will present “an hour-long live television special about reinventing American high schools….

“The XQ Institute is an offspring of the Emerson Collective, a Palo Alto-based do-gooding group founded by Laurene Powell Jobs. The organization is dedicated to removing barriers to opportunity so people can live to their full potential in order to develop and execute innovative solutions that will spur change and promote equality. They were one of the first groups to hire Arne Duncan after his Ed Secretary stint (do not miss his hardcore street pic here). Oh, and they just bought controlling interest in the Atlantic which, for reasons we’ll get to, is kind of a bummer.

“Jobs was always a philanthropic power player, and she’s logged time in the ed reform biz with NewSchools Venture Fund (We raise contributions from donors and use it to find, fund and support teams of educators and education entrepreneurs who are reimagining public education), but as the widow of Apple Empresario Steve Jobs, she has a huge mountain of money to work with. She is, in fact, the fourth richest woman in the world. And she has decided she would like to fix education.

“Jobs has said, “We want to make high schools back into the great equalizers they were meant to be.”

“To do that, she launched XQ Institute, which launched a big competition– XQ: The Super School Project.

“The Super School Project is an open call to reimagine and design the next American high school. In towns and cities far and wide, teams will unite and take on this important work of our time: rethinking and building schools that deeply prepare our students for the rigorous challenges of college, jobs, and life…

“Jobs doesn’t use many of the dog whistles or talking points of reformsters, except for one that she really loves:

“Jobs told the NYT, “The system was created for the work force we needed 100 years ago. Things are not working the way we want it to be working.”

“In USA Today: The XQ Institute aims to “rethink” American public high schools, which, it maintains, have remained virtually unchanged for a century while the world has transformed dramatically.

“Schools haven’t changed in 100 years” is the dead horse Jobs rides in on, a criticism that only makes sense if you don’t know what schools were actually like in 1917, and if you haven’t actually visited one in the last century….

“I also note that in all the publicity for the event that I’ve now read, there is no mention of other sponsors, so while I don’t have proof, I’m pushed to conclude that Laurene Powell Jobs just busted out her checkbook and bought a full hour of Friday night primetime television on four networks.

“What can we expect. Well, music and comedy and documentaries are billed. And we’re talking about a SuperSchool live, so presumably we won’t bother with any coverage of those dopey Clark Kent schlubby schools where the rest of us slog away. This special will just focus on Jobs’ own created reality.”

Don’t you wish that billionaire dilettantes would fix health care or save national parks or find some other pet hobby? When do they get tired of failing? Again and again and again…

The Phi Delta Kappa Poll of the public’ attitude towards public schools was just released and found a striking rise in public support for public schools.

Despite three decades of public school bashing, the people who actually know public schools have a high opinion of them. The public is tired of the hyper-focus on testing and does not support public money for religious schools.

Valerie Strauss writes:

“Most American adults are weary of the intense focus on academics in public schools today, according to a new national survey, and want students to get more vocational and career training as well as mental, physical and dental services on campus. Even so, a majority of public school parents give higher grades — A’s and B’s — to the traditional public schools in their neighborhoods than they have in years.

“A majority of Americans polled also said they oppose programs that use public money for private and religious school education, policies that are supported by President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And a majority said they do not think that standardized test scores — which have been used for more than a dozen years as the most important factor in evaluating schools — are a valid reflection of school quality.

“These are some of the findings in the 49th annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, the longest continuously running survey of American attitudes toward public education, released late Monday. It was commissioned by PDK International, a global association of education professionals that is headed by Joshua Starr, former superintendent of the Montgomery County Public School District, and was conducted, for the second year, by Langer Research Associates of New York City. Gallup had long conducted the poll.”

Trump disparaged public schools again last week but even his supporters send their children to public schools and don’t consider them to be “failing.”

“The new poll finds that the proportion of Americans who give their community’s public schools an A grade is at its highest in more than 40 years of PDK polling. In the newest survey, 62 percent of public school parents gave public schools in their own communities an A or B grade, compared with 45 percent of nonparents. Grades go higher when parents are grading their own school — 71 percent gave them A’s or B’s. The report said that 24 percent of Americans give public schools na­tionally an A or B (with no difference between parents and all adults)…”

Andrew Tobias writes about the economy and politics. I recently subscribed to his blog. I received a post gushing about Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charters, swallowing every claim she makes, and I wrote back to him. He has many links, which I would have to add by hand, so include only Eva’s report.

Here is the exchange:

From Andrew Tobias:


Next week your kids or grandkids start school, but here is the report card for Success Academy charter schools — #1 in New York State.

With 46 schools and 15,500 students this year, the Success Academy network is now the size of the state’s 7th largest school district. On this year’s state exams, 95% of Success students passed math and 84% passed [English] — making Success #1 for student achievement in New York State.

As long-time readers of this page know, over and over (and over and over): the Success Academy methods work, are replicable, and are free for the taking by any teacher or principal or school board member who wants to give them a try.

Consider this: with an average household income of just $32,191 — versus $291,242 for the kids in Scarsdale and $129,375 for the kids in Chappaqua — and with just 9% of its kids white or Asian versus 86% in Scarsdale and 88% in Chappaqua — the Success Academy public school kids outperformed both the Chappaqua and the Scarsdale kids. Chappaqua and Scarsdale are outstanding school districts, deserving of high praise, ranked near the top in the state. But Success Academy kids did better.

And consider this: of all 2400 public elementary schools in New York State, Success had 14 of the top 30.

Citywide, just 29% of the kids of color (and 61% of the white kids) passed the English test — versus 83% of the kids of color at Success Academy schools. In math, the results were even a little more dramatic.

New York’s 46 Success Academy schools are non-profit, public schools. Students are selected by lottery — not aptitude. With the Success results well known throughout the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods, almost every parent signs up for the lottery.

What Success Academy is accomplishing helps not just each student who succeeds (which is to say, almost all of them, and which would be important enough) but it also, thereby — and for all the generations that will follow — breaks the cycle of poverty and despair, of teenage pregnancy and crime, that so drag our society down.

What if all schools adopted variations of the Success methods — or any others that worked — so a lottery were not needed?

Imagine the impact on our nation’s future well-being if almost all her kids succeeded.

I wrote back:

Dear Andrew,

My friend Linda Gottlieb recommended your blog to me and I enjoy it.

However, I was shocked to read your praise for Eva Moskowitz’s charter chain this morning.

It is not replicable. It costs far more than real public schools. It “Succeeds” by attrition and exclusion.

Its schools do not “backfill,” meaning no new students are accepted after third grade, so every succeeding class gets smaller.

The chain does not accept students who don’t speak English or students with serious disabilities. Those students go to public schools.

It has the highest teacher turnover rate of any school in New York City, in some schools, 50-60% of the teachers leave every year. That doesn’t happen in good schools.

Eva M. has her own PAC and uses it to shower money on Cuomo and favored legislators.

Her board includes billionaires like Daniel Loeb, who also gives to the GOP Congress. She has a huge resource advantage over public schools in her neighborhood (

I have met with many SA teachers. They tell me they spend most of the year on test prep until the state tests are over. Yet despite these stellar test scores, the graduates of her eighth grade can’t manage to pass the entry exam for Stuyvesant or Bronx Science or the other exam schools. In the first two classes, not a single one passed the citywide exam for the selective high schools. In the third year, only two did. They didn’t prep for those tests.

Eva welcomed Ivanka and Paul Ryan to see her “miracle.” Dan Loeb, the chairman of her board, recently called the state’s top black legislator, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, worse than the KKK because of her opposition to charters. Meanwhile, Loeb supports the group of breakaway Democrats in the State Senate who keep the Republicans in control and able to block all progressive legislation. SUNY told Eva that if Loeb doesn’t step down, she won’t get any more charters.

How could public schools replicate what she does? Who would take the kids who have cerebral palsy? Who would take the kids who don’t speak English? Where would the kids go who are slow learners? Should we throw them all away, as she does?

The NAACP recently released a report critical of charters because of their exclusionary practices and refusal to be held accountable.

I suggest you do some research before you make such a misguided proposal. If you picked stocks like you pick schools, you would be bankrupt.

Diane Ravitch

At a meeting at Fordham University, Professor Nicholas Tampio slammed ESSA as the same old Common Core, with lipstick. If Nick sends me his speech, I will post it in full.

Here is the university press release:

Nicholas Tampio, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, made an impassioned plea for New York State to reject participation in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), saying it does little or nothing to stem the growing takeover of education by the federal government.

Speaking at Fordham Law School as part of the Education Law Collaborative’s first education law conference, Tampio made the case that, despite ESSA provisions that allow states to opt out of Common Core, as a practical matter it is no different.

“ESSA requires states to remain within the standards, testing, and accountability paradigm . . . if they want Title I funds.”
That means that if a state wants to follow a more original model of educating, such as the John Dewey model, they forfeit federal funding. “John Dewey said standardized tests can only be useful to help us figure out how to help a particular child, but they shouldn’t be used to rank children, because children have all sorts of special gifts, talents, and interests.”

In his talk, “ESSA and the Myth of Return to Local Control,” Tampio traced the evolution of education reform in the United States, including the programs Nation at Risk (1983), Improving America’s Schools Act (1994), No Child Left Behind (2001), and Race to the Top (2009). ESSA, which was signed by President Obama in 2015, ostensibly reversed the trend toward federalizing education, but Tampio said it has not been effective.

That’s important, he said, because. A top-down approach squelches local control, and students should feel like their voices and opinions are valuable.

“Part of a democratic education is to get kids to learn about the world, and feel empowered that they have a voice in it,” he said.

Local control also benefits low income and minority communities, he said. He cited examples from Kitty Kelly Epstein’s A Different View of Urban Schools: Civil Rights, Critical Race Theory, and Unexplored Realities (Counterpoints, 2012).

“All the research confirms that when parents are involved, students do better. And yet, if they don’t have a voice other than what color cupcakes to bring to the PTA, they’re not going to be active in [local]school boards,” he said.

In New York, the Department of Education has renamed Common Core the “Next Generation Learning Standards,” but on issues of standards and accountability, Tampio said, they’re largely the same. Seventy-sevent percent of the existing Common Core standards will have no change whatsoever, and “clarifications” have been issued for just 15.9 percent of them. In order to receive $1.6 billion in federal funds, the state must comply with the changes and submit them to the federal government next month.

ESSA states that there is “no requirement, direction, or mandate to adopt Common Core standards,” but Tampio says that does not help states rid themselves of Common Core standards already in place. ESSA’s language on standards requires states to maintain “challenging academic content standards.”

“When ESSA was signed in 2015, most states already adopted Common Core. The question [should be]what is the federal government going to do to help facilitate states trying to exit the Common Core?” he said.

“[It] is an incredible burden for any state to choose an alternative, and I don’t think we’re going to see any.

“I’d be delighted if they did, because it would be a road map for every other state on how to do it,” he said.

Tampio, an education activist, claims that Common Core standards, with its test-based model, do little to develop creativity and independent thinking in developing children.

Mercedes Schneider is a native of Louisiana. She hopes that the corporate reformers don’t do to Houston’s public schools what they did to those in New Orleans.

Arne Duncan memorably and disgustingly said that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to the schools in New Orleans. Katrina killed nearly 2,000 people. It also made it possible to eliminate public education, which Arne celebrated. Most schools were taken over by charters. The union was crushed. All the teachers, mostly black, were fired. Charter chains and TFA took over.

In this post, Schneider warns Houstonians to defend their public schools against the privatizers. They will see Houston as a new opportunity. The predatory Walton Family Foundation has already targeted Houston for mass charter expansion.

As a graduate of the Houston public schools, I say “repel the barbarians at the gates of Houston.” Send the mercenaries and profiteers packing. Let the city heal. Don’t raid its public schools. Go away. Stop preying on the public sector. Vultures.

If you want to help people who have been harmed by the flooding in the Houston area, here is a list of A+ rated agencies, rated based on the percentage of finds that go to services rather than overhead.

I am reposting this because the original omitted the link to the article. I went to the car repair shop and the computer repair shop today, and wrote this post while paising in a coffee shop between repairs. Carol Burris’s article links to the original study, which has the ironic title “In Pursuit of the Common Good: The Spillover Effects of Charter Schools on Public School Studenys of New York City.” Ironic, since charter schools have nothing to do with the common good.

Recently, a study was released that made the absurd claim that public schools make academic gains when a charter opens close to them or is co-located in their building. To those of us who have seen co-located charters take away rooms previously used for the arts, dance, science, or resource rooms for students with disabilities, the finding seemed bizarre, as did the contention that draining away the best students from neighborhood public schools was a good thing for the losing school.

The rightwing DeVos-funded media eagerly reported this “finding,” without digging deeper. Why should they? It propagated a myth they wanted to believe.

The author of this highly politicized study is Sarah Cordes of Temple University.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education and a former principal, is a highly skilled researcher. She reviewed Cordes’ findings and determined they were vastly overstated. Her review of Cordes’ study was peer-reviewed by some of the nation’s most distinguished researchers.

Burris writes:

“Cordes attempted to measure the effects of competition from a charter school on the achievement, attendance and grade retention of students in nearby New York City public schools. In addition, she sought to identify the cause of any effects she might find.”

She did not take into account the high levels of mobility among New York City public school students, especially the most disadvantaged.

But worse, her findings are statistically small as compared to other interventions:

“Upon completing her analysis, Cordes concludes that “the introduction of charter schools within one mile of a TPS increases the performance of TPS students on the order of 0.02 standard deviations (sds) in both math and English Language Arts (ELA).”

“To put that effect size in perspective, if you lower class size, you find the effect on achievement to be ten times greater (.20) than being enrolled in a school within one mile of charter school. Reading programs that focus on processing strategies have an effect size of nearly .60. And direct math instruction (effect size .61) with strong teacher feedback (effect size .75) has strong benefits for math achievement[2]. With a .02 effect size, the effect of being enrolled in a school located near a charter school is akin to increasing your height by standing on a few sheets of paper.”

Burris noted that what really mattered was money:

“Although it appears that Cordes found very small achievement gains in a public school if a charter is located within a half mile, that correlation does not tell us why those gains occurred. To answer that question, Cordes looked at an array of factors — demographics, school spending, and parent and teacher survey data about school culture and climate.

There was only ONE standout out factor that rose to the commonly accepted level of statistical significance — money.”

Burris concludes that journalists need to check other sources before believing “studies” and “reports” that make counter-intuitive claims:

“The bottom line is that Sarah Cordes found what every researcher before her found — “competition” from charters has little to no effect on student achievement in traditional public schools. It also found that when it comes to learning, money matters as evidenced by increased spending, especially in co-located schools.

“Most reporters generally lack advanced skills in research methods and statistics. They depend on abstracts and press releases, not having the expertise to look with a critical eye themselves. But it does not take a lot of expertise to see the problems with this particular study.”

Sarah Cordes’ “study” will serve the purposes of Trump and DeVos and others who are trying to destroy the common good. Surely, that was not her intention. Perhaps her dissertation advisors st New York University could have helped her develop a sounder statistical analysis. It seems obvious that the public schools that have been closed to make way for charters received no benefit at all–and they are not included in the study.

When Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, and Mick Mulvaney (now Trump’s budget director) insisted that any disaster relief had to be offset by budget cuts.

They said the bill was loaded with pork. It wasn’t.

Will they insist that the disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey be offset by cuts? Will they complain about any disaster relief for Texas and Louisiana? Of course not. Nor should they.

Maybe Hurricane Harvey will teach them that there actually is a need for a strong federal government to help people who are in need. Maybe they will discover that problems of epic size can’t be solved by volunteers alone, though volunteer help has been necessary and wonderful. Maybe they will learn something about the importance of the common good, not selfish individualism. Maybe I’m a foolish optimist.

Now that charter schools are all the rage among the rich and powerful, we are accustomed to hear about celebrities who underwrite their own charter school, like Andre Agassi (whose namesake charter school in Las Vegas is one of the lowest performing schools in Nevada, Sean “Diddy” Coombs, sponsor of a charter in Harlem, and Pitbull, the misogynistic, foul-mouthed rapper who has his own charter school in Miami and speaks at national charter school conferences.

How refreshing it is to learn about two celebrities who are giving back to the public schools, which enroll the vast majority of children of color and need the help of their friends.

LeBron James and Dr. Dre are superstars in sports and music. They too could have put their name on a charter school. They didn’t.

LeBron James made a gift of $1 million to his alma mater, a Catholic School, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, to build a new state-of-the-art gymnasium. He is also working with the Akron public schools to provide college scholarships and to open a new school for at-risk students. James has a motto: “I promise…to never forget where I came from.” The new public school for at-risk children is called the “I Promise” school.

Dr. Dre made a gift of $10 million to Compton High School in Compton, California, where he grew up. The gift will be used to build a performing arts center with a 1,200 seat theater and digital media production facilities.

LeBron James and Dr. Dre are giving back.