Archives for the month of: September, 2018

Leonie Haimson demonstrates the disconnect between the Boasting of officials in New York City and State about test scores and the NAEP flatlines of the city and state.

To make matters worse, the state says that it is impossible to compare the scores between 2017 and 2018, because the test timing changed. But then the state and the city proceeded to boast about the “gains” between those years.

She adds:

“Here are some additional questions that I would have asked the Commissioner and/or the Mayor if I’d had the chance:

“How can NYSED or DOE or mayor claim progress has been made, if as clearly stated that as a result in the change in the tests, this year’s scores aren’t comparable to previous years?

“Why did they so radically change the scoring range, from a maximum of about 428 to about 651 this year?

“Why does the state no longer report scale scores in its summaries, rather than proficiency levels which are notoriously easy to manipulate?

“Where are the NYSED technical reports for 2016, 2017, and 2018 that could back up the reliability of the scoring and the scaling?

“Why was the public release of the scores delayed though schools have had student level scores t for a month?

“How were the state vs the city comparisons affected by the fact that opt out rates in the rest of the state averaged more than 18% while they were only about 4% here?

“Finally, how can either the state or the city claim that these tests are reliable or valid, when neither the scoring nor the trends have been matched on the NAEPs, in which NYC scores have NEVER equaled the state in any category and results for the state & city have fallen in 4th grade math and reading since 2013?

“Though the Mayor apparently tempered his tone at this afternoon’s press conference, according to Twitter he apparently claimed that he expects next year’s scores to show significant gains because those 3rd graders will have had the benefit of Universal preK.

“Sorry to say I won’t trust the state test results next year either. We will have take those scores with several handfuls of salt too — and wait for the 2019 NAEP scores to judge their reliability.“

If Stacy Abrams is elected Governor of Georgia, the school lobby is in big trouble. Not only would she be the first African-American Governor of Georgia, she would eliminate the state’s new voucher program. She might have help from rural Republicans, who are not thrilled to have vouchers in their communities where the public schools are the center of community life.

By Caitlin Emma

With help from Mel Leonor and Kimberly Hefling

GEORGIA SCHOOL CHOICE BACKERS WORRY ABOUT GOVERNOR’S RACE: School choice hasn’t played prominently in the competitive Georgia governor’s race, but advocates are quietly growing concerned about the fate of the state’s tax credit scholarship program that provides nearly 14,000 students with private school scholarships. I have the story here.

— Georgia is one of 18 states with such a program, which awards individuals and corporations with a tax credit in exchange for a donation to an organization that awards the scholarships. Democrat Stacey Abrams has proposed eliminating it while her Republican opponent, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, has said he’ll preserve it.

— A poll earlier this month showed the two were virtually tied and an internal poll released by the Abrams campaign in the last week had her pulling ahead.

— Easier said than done? If Abrams wins, she’ll likely face a Republican-controlled state legislature that would block any effort to dismantle the program. But political analysts say that Abrams — a former state lawmaker who’s known as a skilled negotiator — could garner support from some Republicans who’ve raised concerns about school choice in the Peach State, making it a potential bargaining chip to push through her policy priorities. The Abrams campaign didn’t respond to follow-up questions about how she’d seek to eliminate the program.

— “There’s a general fear,” said Buzz Brockway, a former state legislator who’s now vice president of public policy for the Georgia Center for Opportunity, which advocates for school choice. “We’re hoping this is one of those things that’s said on the campaign trail and never materializes.”

— Republican support for Georgia’s school choice program isn’t universal. Rural Republicans in particular have questioned how it would benefit their constituents. “The fight always boils down to school officials feeling like it’s taking money out of their pocket,” Brockway said. He said he doesn’t believe that’s the case, but it’s “an argument that holds sway with a lot of Republicans, too.”

— The program just cleared a major hurdle last year after the state Supreme Court ruled that it doesn’t violate the state’s constitution. And state lawmakers, after a year of difficult negotiations, agreed in March to raise the cap on tax credits for donations from $58 million to $100 million in 2019. Kemp had originally proposed doubling the cap. Since the state legislature lifted the cap on tax credits to $100 million, his campaign said he’ll seek to preserve the cap.

If you live anywhere near Nashville, please turn out to hear theeloquest Dr. Charles Foster Johnson talk about the danger of vouchers and how they threaten religious liberty.

Pastors for Tennessee Children has been expanding but needs your help to reach more ministers and faith leaders (laypeople) prior to the January session of the General Assembly. Come find out why and listen to the dynamic Rev. Charles Foster Johnson advocate for public education as part of our moral duty.

Thursday, October 4, 11:30 AM – 1 PM CT

Nashville Event Featuring Rev. Charles Foster Johnson

Belmont University, Curb Event Center, Vince Gill Room, 2000 Belmont Blvd

Building #26. Parking is available through the P7 entrance- visitors spaces are well marked. The Vince Gill Room is at the Belmont Blvd. side of the building, attached to the Arena. Signs will direct you there.
Lunch provided

To RSVP, contact

Rev. Johnson of Fort Worth is founder of Pastors for Texas Children and has inspired the Oklahoma, Kentucky and Tennessee groups He is also the promoter of similar groups in formation in ten other states. He has told us how his Texas group of more than 2,000 pastors and faith leaders has helped prevent the passage of private school vouchers in the Texas Legislature since its founding five years ago. Tennesseans hope to similarly convince our legislators to support our Tennessee schools and reject vouchers. We are starting by introducing pastors and faith leaders across the state with a speaking tour to present our positive public education message. You will hear how the voices of ministers, lay leaders, rabbis, imams, and their congregants are needed to support our public school children.

Also. please consider becoming a partner (member) of our network at (website).
Contact for more information about the other four stops on Rev. Johnson’s Tennessee speaking tour: Chattanooga (lunch, Oct. 2), Knoxville (lunch, Oct. 3), Pleasant Hill (evening of Oct. 3), and Memphis (lunch, Oct. 5),

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My feelings exactly.

What a boorish, rude, aggressive, nasty man.

Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post:

Brett M. Kavanaugh proved himself unfit to serve on the Supreme Court.

It has little to do with his treatment of women.

Kavanaugh’s freshman-year roommate at Yale had told the New Yorker that the future Supreme Court nominee could become “aggressive “and “belligerent” when drunk. But, as millions have now seen with their own eyes, he is aggressive and belligerent when stone-cold sober.

His testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday was a howl of partisan rage. He said the behavior of Democrats on the committee was “an embarrassment” and “a good old-fashioned attempt at Borking.” He said they were “lying in wait” with “false, last-minute smears.”

The proceedings were, he said, “a national disgrace,” a “circus,” a “grotesque and coordinated character assassination” and a “search and destroy” mission. He blamed Democrats for threats against his family, “to blow me up and take me down.”

“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election,” he said, “. . . revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”

Kavanaugh shouted and scowled, sniffed and wept, turned the pages of his text as if swatting insects and thumped the witness table. Gone was the nominee who two weeks ago preached judicial modesty. Gone was the man who on Monday spoke to Fox News about fairness and integrity and dignity and respect.

On Thursday afternoon, after his main accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, gave such compelling testimony that even Republican senators described her favorably, Kavanaugh ripped off the mask — or the robe, as it were — and revealed himself to be the man he was when, as a lieutenant to Kenneth Starr in the 1990s, he proposed to hit President Bill Clinton with a sexually vulgar line of questioning.

Beckoning to the Democrats, he said: “Thanks to what some of you on this side of the committee have unleashed, I may never be able to teach again. . . . I may never be able to coach again.” (If defeated, he would still retain his lifetime seat on the nation’s second-most powerful court.)

He mocked his Democratic questioners. Asked by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) about his drinking, Kavanaugh shot back: “I like beer. I don’t know if you do. Do you like beer, senator, or not? What do you like to drink? Senator, what do you like to drink?”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), mentioning her father’s alcoholism, asked whether Kavanaugh had ever blacked out. “I don’t know. Have you?” he responded. Pressed, he replied, “I’m curious if you have.” He later apologized.

Kavanaugh had cast aside judicial restraint for fury and ridicule. Perhaps he figured his nomination was doomed, and his scorched-earth testimony was a parting shot. Or perhaps he calculated that he could only salvage his prospects by making the fight about partisan warfare rather than sexual assault.

Except that it isn’t. If Kavanaugh isn’t confirmed it will be because of Republican votes from the likes of Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) or Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who have expressed concern about the allegations. Polling shows plunging support for Kavanaugh among Republican women. Republicans on the Judiciary Committee — all men — were concerned enough about appearances to hire a female prosecutor to question Ford; this produced frivolous lines of questioning about whether she’s really afraid of flying and who paid for her polygraph.

Fighting Ford’s sexual-assault allegation on the merits was difficult to sustain. Ford seemed credible, and Kavanaugh, like committee Republicans, was reluctant to have the FBI investigate her claims (he derided “phony” questioning on the topic). Kavanaugh was reluctant for the committee to hear from the alleged eyewitness, and he acknowledged that he sometimes drank “too many beers” (how many? “whatever the chart says”) and hadn’t blacked out but had “gone to sleep” and vomited from drinking.

Eventually, Republican senators jettisoned their distaff mercenary and joined with Kavanaugh in his attempt to cast the fight as partisan. “The most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics,” shouted Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.).

Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) called the proceedings the most “embarrassing scandal for the United States Senate since the McCarthy hearings.”

But this required accepting Kavanaugh’s word that the accusations are variously “a joke,” “a farce,” “crazy,” “nonsense,” “refuted” or with “no corroboration.”

Maybe so. Maybe he doesn’t remember. But this we know: Kavanaugh’s response revealed him to be a political hack more than a jurist. “Your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and to destroy my family will not drive me out,” he told the Democrats, threatening them that “what goes around comes around.”

Partisanship and revenge fantasies: Exactly what we don’t need on the Supreme Court.

Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona threw a monkey wrench into the confirmation process after voting “yes” in the committee decision.

He said he wanted an FBI investigation–as Christine Blasey Ford and the Democrats had asked–before he would vote YES on the full and final Senate vote. Earlier today, Flake was confronted in the elevator of the Senate by two women who criticized him for turning his back on victims of sexual assault.

Interesting times.

Dear Readers,

For reasons unknown to me, many of your comments are being held in moderation.

That means that they won’t be posted until I personally approve them.

This is happening to many people who are regular readers.

I can’t explain it.

WordPress never accepts responsibility for anything.

In the past few years, WP has kicked readers out completely, blocked them from receiving the blog or commenting. I have contacted them on behalf of many people, and WP always says it is the readers’ fault. My own brother was kicked out, and I lost hours trying to restore him.

I don’t know what’s going on with WordPress.

If your comments are delayed, it’s because I am offline, as I was last night when I went to dinner and theater. I came home to find 24 comments in moderation.

I am truly sorry that the Blog is hosted by WordPress. At this point, with six years of history on this site, I suppose I’ll just have to deal with it.

I sincerely regret the hundreds or thousands of readers who were excluded from the blog without my knowledge or theirs.


While most of us were transfixed by the drama surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court, the Trump Administration was busy eliminating the role of science in the federal Environmental Protection Administration. In the Trump administration, the work of dismantling environmental protection, public education, civil rights, and every progressive policy of the past century goes on daily, without delay, even as the far-right evangelicals secure the fifth seat on the Supreme Court to assure that their actions will never lose in court.

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency plans to dissolve its Office of the Science Advisor, a senior post that was created to counsel the E.P.A. administrator on the scientific research underpinning health and environmental regulations, according to a person familiar with the agency’s plans. The person spoke anonymously because the decision had not yet been made public.

The science adviser works across the agency to ensure that the highest quality science is integrated into the agency’s policies and decisions, according to the E.P.A.’s website. The move is the latest among several steps taken by the Trump administration that appear to have diminished the role of scientific research in policymaking while the administration pursues an agenda of rolling back regulations.

Asked about the E.P.A.’s plans, John Konkus, a spokesman for the agency, emailed a prepared statement from the science adviser, Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, in which she described the decision to dissolve the office as one that would “combine offices with similar functions” and “eliminate redundancies.”

In an email, Dr. Orme-Zavaleta referred questions to the E.P.A.’s public affairs office.

Dr. Orme-Zavaleta is an expert on the risks of chemicals to human health who has worked at the E.P.A. since 1981, according to the agency’s website. It was unclear whether she would remain at the E.P.A. once the decision takes effect.

Separately, on Tuesday, in an unusual move, the E.P.A. placed the head of its Office of Children’s Health, Dr. Ruth Etzel, on administrative leave, while declining to give a reason for the move. Agency officials told Dr. Etzel, a respected pediatric epidemiologist, that the move was not disciplinary. As the head of an office that regularly pushed to tighten regulations on pollution, which can affect children more powerfully than adults, Dr. Etzel had clashed multiple times with Trump administration appointees who sought to loosen pollution rules.

Michael Mikulka, who heads a union representing about 900 E.P.A. employees, said, “Clearly, this is an attempt to silence voices whether it’s in the agency’s Office of Children’s Health or the Office of the Science Advisor to kill career civil servants’ input and scientific perspectives on rule-making.”

The changes at the two offices, which both report directly to the head of the E.P.A., come as the agency’s acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, is overseeing a reorganization of the agency.

After dissolving the office of the scientific adviser, Mr. Wheeler plans to merge the position into an office that reports to the E.P.A.’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science, a demotion that would put at least two more managerial layers between the E.P.A.’s chief scientist and its top decision maker.

“It’s certainly a pretty big demotion, a pretty big burying of this office,” said Michael Halpern, the deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy with the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group. “Everything from research on chemicals and health, to peer-review testing to data analysis would inevitably suffer,” he said.

The move comes after several months in which the leaders of the E.P.A. have systematically changed how the E.P.A. treats science. The agency’s previous administrator, Scott Pruitt, who resigned in July amid allegations of ethical violations, in April proposed a regulation that would limit the types of scientific research that E.P.A. officials could take into account when writing new public health policies, a change that could weaken the agency’s ability to protect public health.

Last year, Mr. Pruitt significantly altered two major scientific panels that advise the E.P.A. on writing public health rules, restricting academic researchers from joining the boards while appointing several scientists who work for industries regulated by the E.P.A.

Brett Kavanaugh’s performance yesterday was outrageous. He was in turns aggressive, maudlin, self-pitying, angry, bitter, and shockingly rude to Democratic senators, especially the women. He bitter attack on Senator Amy Klobuchar (for which he later apologized) showed a lack of self-control, a depth of hatred that should have disqualified him on the spot. I do not believe that he will give a fair hearing to plaintiffs whose politics he does not share. He will cast his vote to roll back women’s rights, abortion rights, civil rights, voting rights, gay marriage, and any other causes he associates with liberalism, which he despises. He made clear that he is a deeply partisan Republican and cannot tolerate dissent from his views. No wonder the White House has refused to released thousands of documents that he authored and/or signed. One can imagine him as an advocate for torture and every reprehensible action that occurred during his time in the second Bush administration. He is an angry man.

Educator and author Steve Nelson writes:

What America saw on display yesterday was the barely contained rage of a functioning alcoholic.

Brett Kavanaugh’s adolescent response to every question about drinking was characteristic of a serous alcohol problem. To one Senator, “What do you like to drink?” he asked. To Amy Klobuchar , “Have you blacked out?” He proudly said, several times, “I liked beer! I like beer now!” As with many alcoholics, the defiant emphasis on “beer” was supposed to make it “fun” not serious. Boys and their brewskis. I very much doubt that Kavanaugh limits his alcohol to beer, but that is a very common technique to minimize the idea of heavy drinking. It just a few pops, folks, nothing to look at here.

This is relevant because his entire affect was typical of the stunted emotional growth of a lifelong heavy drinker. His temperament throughout the hearing was combative and occasionally sarcastic. He reminded me of an aging rugby teammate, not a thoughtful federal judge.

I am among those who find Christine Blasey Ford (and the other accusers) credible. For that reason he should be rejected. But he also lacks the temperament and wisdom to serve on the nation’s highest court.

Linda McNeill is a professor at Rice University who writes about funding, testing, and other education policy issues.

In this post, she describes her reaction when she received a beautiful invitation to a dinner to raise money for charter schools in Houston. The invitation came from one of Houston’s existing very well-funded charter chains. (Coincidentally, IDEA just announced plans to expand in Houston, as well as a plan to saturate El Paso with 20 IDEA charters).

She writes, in part:

The thick envelope gave a hint of elegance inside. An invitation. Colorful graphics, fine card stock, strategically placed photographs, “bold face” names inside the folds of this multi-layered, professionally crafted solicitation. A separate card, two-sided on high quality card stock, lists in bold contrasting colors the details of the events. Also inside, a return envelope for the enclosed commitment card suggesting “underwriting opportunities” from a mere $500 to levels of $50,000 and $100,000.

An invitation to a museum gala or symphony fund-raiser? A call to join the restoration of our Harvey-flooded opera house? The funding categories would seem to so suggest.

No, this was an invitation to a fund-raiser for a corporate charter school chain. A private company that has added “public” to its name because it is one of the corporate entities that takes taxpayer dollars (the “public” part) to fund its schools.

My first inclination was curiosity: who are these people? I looked over the names of the funders already listed on the invitation: the usual anti-public school billionaires, some names of really good people who should know better, and some people I didn’t recognize who probably have been sold on the idea that only by contributing to these charter chains can they save the city’s poor, minority children.

My next reaction was anger. This invitation – fancy graphics, elegant card stock, thick white envelopes – was expensive! Each one must have cost several dollars, even accounting for a bulk order discount. I turned each piece over to try to find the printing company that produced it. No designer or graphics company attributed, but a line that caught my eye: contact the charter chain’s “manager of special events” for more information. Really??

Manager of Special Events! I know of no public school, no neighborhood school, that has a manager of special events – much less the budget to hire one. But they all could use that $100,000 for a long list of needs after years of underfunding.

Then I immediately knew the source of my anger: the inequity of it all. These charter chains are privately incorporated, but they not only take our tax dollars out of our public schools – the public’s schools, but they may be using our tax dollars to pay their special events managers and printers to advertise against our public schools! Our tax dollars enable their “marketing” in competition with the public’s own schools. I took the invitation to a high-quality stationery store to ask if they had produced it and what it might have cost. The woman said they hadn’t produced it but confirmed it was definitely expensive and each would have cost “several dollars” even if, as I had suspected, several hundred or thousand had been printed and mailed out (yes, add the mailing costs). And even if the printing had been donated by an individual or corporation, those dollars would still have been taken from our public schools as a tax-deductible, “charitable” contribution.

So the first inequity is that all of these “contributions,” from the modest $500 (mere seat at luncheon) to the ‘naming rights’ (I’m not making this up!) for donors giving $100,000, all of these dollars end up subtracted from the public treasury.

The second inequity: the costs of those invitations. I suddenly realized each one must cost more than many of our teachers have for school supplies and instructional materials on any given day. So I asked some teachers. A 7th-grade biology teacher new to her current school was hopeful: “They say I’ll have the supplies I need for labs and we’ve ready sent in the order for frogs for the kids to dissect, so we’ll see. So far, so good.”

The next answer was less optimistic: “I’m told I have to require every student to bring a ream of copier paper; when that runs out we won’t get any more, so I’m trying to be careful to plan ahead.” From a high school teacher: “No, we don’t get to buy paperbacks for our classrooms. We have some on hand but if we want to assign other titles, the kids have to buy their own. If they can’t afford it, I see if I have an extra copy at home or maybe I just buy it for them.”

Jen Mangrum, career educator, is running against Phil Berger, North Carolina’s Senate President Pro Tem.

As teacher Justin Parmenter explains here, this is truly a battle of David vs. Goliath. Berger is the most powerful politician in the state.

Berger tried and failed to get Jen kicked off the ballot. She persisted.

Justin says if Jen can upset Berger, it would change the political landscape of the entire state.

Jen is a teacher and a professor of education at UNC-Greensboro.

She took up this challenge knowing that the odds were long, but somebody had to challenge the bully.

Jen was endorsed by the Network for Public Education Action Fund. Here is her website.

In the most recent short session, proponents of public education were eagerly waiting for the General Assembly to take up a proposed $1.9 billion school bond for inclusion on the November general election ballot. The bond would have helped address $8.1 billion in statewide capital needs identified by the Department of Public Instruction in 2015-16. It enjoyed bipartisan rank and file support and sponsorship by chairs of education committees in both the House and the Senate. Again, Phil Berger would not allow the legislation to move forward. It’s incredibly frustrating that one individual who doesn’t share the values most of us have can prevent much-needed progress, but Jen reminded me that voters ultimately decide whether he keeps that power or not.

In terms of her own vision for education in North Carolina, Jen supports paying teachers fairly to demonstrate that we value public education in our state. She would like to see masters pay reinstated as well as the full Teaching Fellows Program which was eliminated by the General Assembly in 2011. She would like to see a reduction in the testing volume which is currently not developmentally appropriate and narrows the curriculum, leaving less time and attention to the arts, the sciences, and social studies in the elementary grades. She supports moves toward determining the success of our schools using multiple measures, trusting teachers as professionals and giving them the creative freedom that they need to do their jobs. Jen wants to see North Carolina known nationally for its birth to pre-K, k-12, and higher education continuum and believes that electing pro-education legislators is the key to seeing that transformation come true.

Call your friends and neighbors if you live in Berger’s district. To save public education and restore it, get to work to elect Jen Mangrum.

If every teacher, every teacher’s spouse, and every parent with a child in public school got out to vote, Berger would be heading for retirement.

Jen is in it to win it.