Archives for the month of: June, 2019


Let us give credit to Chalkbeat: It is not afraid to give an equivocal review to one of its funders, billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs.

Barnum presents the facts about the spotty record of LPJ’s XQ Initiative. Her goal, she said, is to “reinvent” the high school. She has given grants of $10 million to a variety of high schools, each of which has its own plans and ideas. These high schools are supposed to become beacons of innovation that are copied by thousands of other high school, ushering in an era of breathtaking change.

She launched the XQ initiative with a public relations stunt: a star-studded TV program that ran on all three major networks. This was supposed to be a huge consciousness raiser that stunned the public and ushered in the demand for radical change.

The breathtaking naïveté of the XQ Plan boggles the mind. The goal and shape of change is undefined. All that is clear is that a billionaire wants change.

It didn’t help that Mrs. Jobs surrounded herself with policy types who never taught and never led a school (Arne Duncan, Russlyn Ali, others) and whose policy chops stemmed from failed policies (Race to the Top).

Why would a whiz-bang TV show ignite a revolution? Why would 10-15 examples of schools that are all doing something different create a template for thousands of other high schools?

The first Bush Administration tried something similar (New American Schools Development Corporation), which doled out $50 million to design teams to “reinvent” the high school. Like Ozymandias, it is lost in the sands of time.

Even if many people agreed that the high school years should be different, there is no agreement on how it should be different or that Laurene Powell Jobs and her team of tyros will lead us to the Promised Land.



Mercedes Schneider reports a welcome development in New Orleans: in the wake of a grade-fixing scandal, all student records will be audited.

As she says, it is about time. After so much boasting from NOLA, it’s time to check the facts.

She writes:

This is a long time coming.

As a result of the grade-fixing scandal at a New Orleans charter high school– a scandal that resulted in 49 percent of the school’s Class of 2019 being found to lack credits and/or exit exam scores– Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) superintendent, Henderson Lewis, vows a criminal investigation of that school, Kennedy High School (operated by New Beginnings Schools Foundation) as well as an audit of student records for students attending New Orleans high schools.




Veteran educator Ann Cronin offers her plan to assess real student achievement. 

Skip the standardized tests and assess what students know and can do.

She shows how it can be done, saving every state and district millions now wasted on the testing industry.

There seems to be no shortage of money to create new corporate reformer organizations, and they seem to open faster than anyone can keep track of them.

Here is a new one: Results for America. 

You will recognize the names of some prominent figures in the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.

Notable among them is Jim Shelton, who worked for Gates, Arne Duncan, and then led the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Let’s hope they pay attention to the scandals now afflicting the charter industry and don’t use their money and weight to promote more of what has already proven to be a failure.

The website cites the federal Every Student Succeeds Act as one of its successes:

Strengthening Public Education

RFA helped develop the evidence provisions in the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act which could help states and district shift up to $2 billion annually toward evidence-based solutions in FYs 2017-2020.

Considering that ESSA retained NCLB’s mandated annual testing, it is hard to see where the evidence is for its “success.” If the measure is test scores, then ESSA has not moved the needle. ESSA maintains the Bush-Obama failures, with the sole exception being the removal of the insane 2014 deadline by which every student would be proficient. What part of ESSA has succeeded? What evidence is there to believe that “every student” will succeed because of this pointless law?

Theresa Hanafin writes a feature each morning in the Boston Globe called “Fast Forward.” It summarizes the latest news and weather. She often starts with a story from the Old Farmers’ Almanac. Today’s anecdote: an editor of the San Francisco Examiner wrote a young Rudyard Kipling in 1889 to tell him that he didn’t know how to use the English language.

And here’s another joke:

While you were sleeping: Trump sarcastically joked about Russia’s attempts to undermine our democracy just before he and Putin were set to meet privately at the G-20 summit in Osaka. At a press conference before the meeting, a reporter asked Trump if he was going to warn Putin not to meddle in American elections again. “Yes, of course I will,” he replied. He then turned toward Putin with a smirk on his face and said, “Don’t meddle in the election, president. Don’t meddle in the election.” Putin smiled.

Why must our president be do obsequious to Putin?

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer originally offered the Benton Harbor District a desl that relieves them of their debt if they closed their high school. Residents and students rebelled at the idea of closing the high school. Governor Whitmer has reached a tentative deal with the district to save the high school. 

Representatives from the governor’s office and the Department of Treasury had a productive meeting with Benton Harbor school board members regarding a tentative joint plan that requires the district to meet attainable benchmarks and goals to show improvement in academic outcomes among Benton Harbor area students while stabilizing the finances of the district,” Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said.

Brown noted Wednesday that the state has “has identified national experts who have experience turning around school districts that are struggling and we would like to engage in a day of learning alongside the board and community partners.”

The financier George Soros is part of a group of wealthy individuals calling for “a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest one-tenth of the richest 1 percent of Americans — on us.

The “us” includes self-made billionaires like the financier George Soros and Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, as well as heirs to dynastic riches like the filmmaker Abigail Disney and Liesel Pritzker Simmons and Ian Simmons, co-founders of the Blue Haven Initiative, an impact investment organization….

Since 1987, The Concord Review (TCR) has sought and published more than 1,300 history research papers by high school
students from 41 countries in 121 quarterly issues. 

Over the course of these many years, Will Fitzhugh, the founder of TCR, has been turned down by every foundation while seeking funding for this worthy endeavor. In their drive for innovation, the nation’s philanthropies did not find merit in the idea of acknowledging the dedication of students who conduct primary historical research and who are recognized by having their work published.

In different years,, three sisters from  Cincinnati, Ohio, won the journal’s highest honor: the Emerson Prize.

The girls attended Summit Country Day School.

Winners of the Emerson Prize: (left to right):
Caroline Elizabeth Walton, The Tudors, Volume 27, Number 1 {18,000 words)
Victoria Claire Walton, Operation Valkyrie, Volume 29, Number 1 (15,000 words)
Emily K. Walton, Mary Queen of Scots, Volume 24, Number 3 (13,200 words)



Fitzhugh wants high school students to read history, not textbooks, but actual history. He wants them to do research and write in-depth history essays. He publishes the best of them in TCR.

In addition, he offers these services:

High School students planning to go to college should know that they will face reading lists of nonfiction books and be asked to write research papers. The vast majority of American public high school students are not asked to read a single complete nonfiction book or to write a term paper before graduation. But they suspect that the safe spaces of fiction readings and personal writing will not prepare them well enough for college. In many cases their teachers have neither the inclination nor the time to help them with History research papers, and while some students, such as many of those published in The Concord Review since 1987, have set up Independent Study programs which let them write such papers, others may want to make use of the services we offer to serious secondary students of History:
One: The National Writing Board [1998] provides a unique independent assessment service for the History research papers of high school students. Our reports by two Senior Readers now average five pages and may be sent to college admissions officers. Inquire at
Two: The TCR Summer Program [2014] offers a two-week course on the writing of serious History papers by secondary students, with three sessions in the United States, and one in Korea, in 2019. Contact: (Manager of the TCR Summer Program).
Three: The TCR Academic Coaching Service [2014] matches high school students working on a History research paper online with TCR Authors now at or recently graduated from Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford and Yale. Personal advice and guidance from a successful older peer (many are Emerson Prize winners) can be inspiring and productive for secondary students struggling with serious term papers. Contact (Manager of the TCR Academic Coaches).
Four: The Concord Review [1987] can provide students with a fine variety of examples from the History research papers published by >1,300 high school students from 45 states and 40 other countries in 121 issues since 1987. This journal remains the only quarterly in the world for the academic History research papers of secondary students. These papers have served many students as useful models of research and writing to inspire and guide them in their own reading, research and writing. Find many examples at

Bill Phillis of Ohio writes:

School Bus
Cleveland Plain Dealer analysis of trends in test scores in HB 70 districts: NO IMPROVEMENT
The state takeover of school districts (HB 70 of the 131stGeneral Assembly) has caused chaos in school communities, fattened the wallets of consultants, but has not demonstrated improved test scores.
The federal government, via No Child Left Behind (NCLB), has created chaos in school communities throughout the nation. Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is not much better than NCLB. The feds are attempting to run schools via NCLB and ESSA with no success. Some states like Ohio are also trying to run school districts with no success.
The feds need to help the states implement a system of education in accordance with each state’s constitutional provisions. In turn, the states need to help districts provide equitable and adequate educational opportunities and then butt out of local school management. Communities have far greater capacity to manage their schools than state and federal officials.
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding ||
School Bus

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