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Timothy O’Brien, a biographer of Trump, wrote the following at Bloomberg News:

Now that Donald Trump’s administration has allowed Joe Biden’s team to formally begin its transition into the White House, the president is running out of overt ways to disrupt an election he clearly lost 18 days ago.

His flimsy and misbegotten lawsuits challenging the vote are all but deflated and he’s been less activethan usual on TV and Twitter. Perhaps he’ll make his traditional visit to Mar-a-Lago for the Christmas holidays and then stay put, preferring to endure his humiliation over Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration outside the capital.

Out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind, however. Even if he’s off sulking, Trump has ample opportunity over the next two months to abuse his powers or throw sand in the federal machinery Biden will inherit. In this context, Trump loyalists overseeing the bureaucracy, including Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and senior adviser Stephen Miller, may be just as important to watch as the president.

Trump’s clemency powers enable him to issue potentially undeserved pardons at the last minute (think back on the 176 pardons Bill Clinton issued just two hours before exiting the White House in 2001). Seven of Trump’s political advisers have been charged with crimes since his own inauguration, and he’s already commuted the sentence of one them, Roger Stone. Trump is also mired in ongoing civil and criminal probes, and he’ll undoubtedly be tempted to pardon himselfand family members for potential federal crimes, such as obstruction of justice. (His pardoning power doesn’t extend to the possible state charges he faces in New York.)

Trump also can deploy executive orders, which he has already used to great effect to roll backenvironmental regulations and change immigration rules. In June, he signed an order instructing federal agencies to drop environmental laws that slow approvals for oil pipelines, mines, highways and other projects in protected areas. That same month, Trump issued an order suspending new work visas for foreigners and their dependents — making it impossible for American companies to hire skilled immigrants. His administration is now reportedly considering an order meant to end birthright citizenship and challenging whether it’s protected by the 14th Amendment.

A couple of weeks ago, Trump moved to lock down his tough trade stance toward China through an order banning U.S. investments in companies linked to China’s military. The day after Election Day, the Health and Human Services Department introduced a new rule that would suspend thousands of its own regulations automatically after granular reviews — a move the New York Times reported was likely meant “to tie the hands of the next administration.”

Last week, the Treasury Department successfully clawed back $455 billion in Covid-19 relief funds from the Federal Reserve, a move it said was designed to sunset unused rescue programs. But it also gave the incoming Biden administration less flexibility and resources to combat any further economic downturns stemming from the pandemic. On Tuesday, Mnuchin placed the fundsin an account that his likely successor, Janet Yellen, can’t access without approval from Congress.

Trump still holds the nuclear weapons codes (try not to think about that one) and also has the latitude to pursue covert special operations and military confrontations overseas. Christopher Miller, the interim defense secretary Trump installed after canning Mark Esper recently, has been rushing policy changes that will be thorny for Biden to manage — including a Jan. 15 troop drawdown in Afghanistan. On Nov. 12, Trump reportedly asked senior advisers, including Miller and Pompeo, about options for a military strike against Iran. (The group advised against it.)

Shortly after Election Day, Barr gave Justice Department prosecutors the authority to probe Trump’s claims of voting fraud, a move that roiled the agency and broke with longstanding federal policies aimed at keeping law enforcement authorities from influencing election outcomes. Given his track record running interference for Trump in the Mueller probe and other matters, it’s possible that Barr could use his agency’s Office of Legal Counsel to draft memos in coming weeks that protect Trump from future Biden administration investigations.

What about recordkeeping? I imagine Barr and others in the executive branch might tell the West Wing that, despite the legal perils, it’s well within the president’s rights to shred or retain files that outsiders, such as law enforcement officials, journalists and historians, might otherwise want preserved.

Executive orders can be unwound, of course, and policies eventually can be retrofitted by the Biden team, but some of Trump’s personnel moves may be longer-lasting. For all of its complaints about a “deep state” of civil servants set against it in the federal bureaucracy, the Trump White House has been determined to leave an indelible imprint on the federal workforce. It has hollowed out agencies such as the State Department and Justice Department, and spread Trump loyalists across the rest of the government and federal judiciary — some of whom may prove hard for Biden to ignore, much less dislodge.

Trump has nominated or installed supporters on such government panels as the Federal Election Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who will enjoy lengthy terms that may outlast Biden’s presidency.

In October, Trump issued an executive ordermaking it easier to fire civil servants critical of the president, stripping them of protections meant to guard against partisan meddling. Ronald Sanders, a Trump appointee who oversaw a government panel that sets compensation for civil servants, quit after the order was issued.

The order was “nothing more than a smokescreen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the President,” Sanders wrote in his resignation letter. “I simply cannot be part of an Administration that seeks to do so, to replace apolitical expertise with political obeisance.”

The House of Representatives temporarily blockedthe order, so for now Trump can’t use his remaining time in office to purge naysayers. But would he have liked to? You bet. And does he want to make life as hard as possible for his successor? You bet.

Some of this isn’t new. Herbert Hoover went out of his way to stymie Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policies before they traded places in the White House in 1933. But as with all things in the Trump era, the wrecking ball is now swinging with far more force. What began with Trump’s efforts to overturn a presidential election will end in a flood of policy and personnel decisions grounded in resentment and retribution.

From Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac”:*

It’s the birthday of poet and artist William Blake (books by this author), born in London (1757). He was four years old when he had a vision that God was at his window. A few years later, he went for a walk and saw a tree filled with angels, their wings shining. He had other visions, too: he saw the prophet Ezekiel sitting under a tree, and angels walking with farmers making hay.

When Blake was 10 his parents sent him to drawing school, and at the age of 14 he was apprenticed to an engraver. After seven years, he went into business for himself, and a few years later he privately printed his first book, Poetical Sketches (1783). It was a total flop — it wasn’t even mentioned in the index of London’s Monthly Review, a list of every book published that month.

Not long after that, Blake’s beloved brother, Robert, died at the age of 24. Blake spent two sleepless weeks at his deathbed, and when he died, Blake claimed that he saw his brother’s spirit rise through the ceiling, clapping its hands with joy. From then on, Blake had regular conversations with his dead brother. A year later, Robert appeared to William in a vision and taught him a method called “illuminated printing,” which combined text and painting into one. Instead of etching into a copper plate, Blake did the opposite: he designed an image in an acid-resistant liquid, then etched away everything else with acid, leaving a relief image, and he applied color to both the raised and etched parts of the copper plate. Illuminated printing — or as it’s now known, relief etching — was a huge breakthrough in printing. Blake wrote: “First the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged: this I shall do by printing in the infernal method by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away and displaying the infinite which was hid.”

Blake used this technique for many of his great works, including Songs of Innocence (1789), Songs of Experience (1794), The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790), and The Book of Los (1795). Throughout his career, he continued to see visions — in addition to communing with the spirits of relatives and friends, he claimed to be visited by the spirits of many great historical figures, including Alexander the Great, Voltaire, Socrates, Milton, and Mohammed. He talked with them and drew their portraits. He was also visited by angels and once by the ghost of a flea, whose portrait he drew. He wrote: “I assert for My Self that I do not behold the outward Creation [..] ‘What,’ it will be Question’d, ‘When the Sun rises, do you not see a round disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea?’ O no, no, I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host.”

Blake died at the age of 69. He spent the day of his death working on a series of engravings of Dante’s Divine Comedy. That evening, he drew a portrait of his wife, and then told her it was his time. A friend of Blake’s who was there at his deathbed wrote: “He died on Sunday night at 6 o’clock in a most glorious manner. […] Just before he died, His Countenance became fair. His eyes Brighten’d and He burst out into Singing of the things he saw in Heaven.”

At the time of his death, Blake was an obscure figure, best remembered for his engravings of other peoples’ work, or maybe his one famous poem, “The Tyger.” Among those who knew more about his life’s work, the consensus was that Blake was insane. Songs of Innocence and of Experience, which he had engraved and painted by hand, had sold fewer than 20 copies in 30 years. It wasn’t until more than 30 years after his death that a husband-and-wife team, Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, published a two-volume biography of Blake that firmly established him as a brilliant and important artist.

He said, “Without minute neatness of execution, the sublime cannot exist! Grandeur of ideas is founded on precision of ideas.”

This entry had to appear today because it is Blake’s birthday.

The New York Times published an essay by Pope Francis about the COVID crisis. He seems to disagree with the Supreme Court decision opposing limits on the number of people who may congregate in houses of worship because such limits restrict “freedom of religion.”

Pope Francis wrote (in part):

With some exceptions, governments have made great efforts to put the well-being of their people first, acting decisively to protect health and to save lives. The exceptions have been some governments that shrugged off the painful evidence of mounting deaths, with inevitable, grievous consequences. But most governments acted responsibly, imposing strict measures to contain the outbreak.

Yet some groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions — as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom! Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate.

It is all too easy for some to take an idea — in this case, for example, personal freedom — and turn it into an ideology, creating a prism through which they judge everything.

The coronavirus crisis may seem special because it affects most of humankind. But it is special only in how visible it is. There are a thousand other crises that are just as dire, but are just far enough from some of us that we can act as if they don’t exist. Think, for example, of the wars scattered across different parts of the world; of the production and trade in weapons; of the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing poverty, hunger and lack of opportunity; of climate change. These tragedies may seem distant from us, as part of the daily news that, sadly, fails to move us to change our agendas and priorities. But like the Covid-19 crisis, they affect the whole of humanity.

Look at us now: We put on face masks to protect ourselves and others from a virus we can’t see. But what about all those other unseen viruses we need to protect ourselves from? How will we deal with the hidden pandemics of this world, the pandemics of hunger and violence and climate change?

If we are to come out of this crisis less selfish than when we went in, we have to let ourselves be touched by others’ pain. There’s a line in Friedrich Hölderlin’s “Hyperion” that speaks to me, about how the danger that threatens in a crisis is never total; there’s always a way out: “Where the danger is, also grows the saving power.” That’s the genius in the human story: There’s always a way to escape destruction. Where humankind has to act is precisely there, in the threat itself; that’s where the door opens.

This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities — what we value, what we want, what we seek — and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of.

God asks us to dare to create something new. We cannot return to the false securities of the political and economic systems we had before the crisis. We need economies that give to all access to the fruits of creation, to the basic needs of life: to land, lodging and labor. We need a politics that can integrate and dialogue with the poor, the excluded and the vulnerable, that gives people a say in the decisions that affect their lives. We need to slow down, take stock and design better ways of living together on this earth.

In a ridiculous 5-4 decision released Wednesday, the Unitedla States Supreme Court ruled that Governor Cuomo’s limits on the number of people who may congregate in houses of worship are unconstitutional. The deciding vote was that of Trump’s appointee Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Just a few months ago, the same Court ruled that limits on the number of people in religious gatherings were appropriate because of the pandemic.

The death of Justice Ginsberg and her replacement by Justice Barrett means the right to practice religion is more important than public health. All three of Trump’s choices—Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett—are religious extremists. Their votes, plus those of Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, made this lethal decision possible.

Justice Gorsuch said it was unfair to allow hardware stores and ice cream shops to open while limiting religious services. But how many hardware stores or ice cream shops have hundreds of customers at the same time, congregating for hours, and singing?

Those who worship in a sanctuary with dozens or hundreds of others, singing, praying, chanting, breathing in each other’s exhalations—will go out into their communities and spread disease.

This is a terrible decision that will contribute to the pandemic. People will die because of it. We can anticipate more extremist decisions in which religious beliefs take precedence over other constitutionally protected rights as well as public health.

Even worse decisions lie ahead, in which religious beliefs will distort the law.

This is the first time that any of us has experienced Thanksgiving in the midst of a national pandemic. Many people will heed the advice of doctors and cancel their family get-togethers. Others will gather in small groups, hopefully with masks and social distancing. A strange holiday, as will be Christmas and New Year’s.

I want to wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving and wish you the strength and good health to persevere. The pandemic will not last forever.

On a personal note, I want to let you know that I am taking a weekend break. It’s something I have not done since I started the blog in April 2012. Right now, there are only a limited number of topics that seem relevant. Whether schools should be open or closed; the joy in seeing Betsy DeVos no longer in charge of the U.S. Department of Education; speculation about who might replace her; and intense concern about whether President-Elect Biden will resurrect the failed Race to the Top strategies or whether he will forge a new path that actually supports students, teachers, and schools instead of punishing them.

These are all important issues. I will turn to them again on November 30, when I resume blogging. If something important happens in the next few days, like Biden naming the new Secretary of Education, you will hear from me. Or if I want to share something. If not, silence.

Stay well. Protect your health and that of your loved ones.

Our blog poet frequently favors with rhyme:

 

Privatize the planet

Privatize the planet
Plunder it for gain
Light the fire and fan it
Mine the golden vein

Privatize the water
Sell it to the poor
Privatize your daughter
Sell her as a whore

Privatize the wildlife
Charge a viewing fee
Like a Wall Street low life
That is what you’ll be

The superintendent of Denver Public Schools, Susana Cordova, resigned abruptly, and her departure was followed by finger pointing. Denver has been a hot spot for “reformers,” and it’s school board elections attract DFER, “Education Reform Now,” and other big-money donors from out of state.

I asked Jeanne Kaplan, a former DPS board member, to explain what’s going on. She sent me her comments and a statement released by the Colorado Latino Forum.

Kaplan writes:

In spite of the cacophony of adulation from education reformers there is no evidence that Susana Cordova has been pushed out by the Board of Education. Susana Cordova left in the middle of the school year in the middle of a pandemic because Susana Cordova wanted to leave for reasons unknown. (Ms. Cordova has been silent so far except for her initial letter of resignation). Was the Board at odds with her and her reformer staffers? At times, yes, but that should be expected when education reformers consistently sought to thwart the decision of the people and the mandate to the Board through two election cycles. In fact an argument can be made that these education reformers are in fact the reason for Ms. Cordova’s exit, for it is they who have sewn chaos and dissent within the District.  

Since Ms. Cordova’s announcement reformers have gone into a full court press to push a story line that says, “Mean board pushed out a local woman of color superintendent. Bad Board would not work with superintendent” with a clear undercurrent message: “ board needs to be replaced.”  Letters of support and social media postings for Cordova have poured in from a former and the current mayor (both of whom it should be noted are strong education reformers),  education reformer extraordinaire, Arne Duncan (former Secretary of Education), 14 former DPS women school board members, historically reform oriented organizations like Donnell-Kaye, A+ Colorado, and a myriad of other smaller reform organizations. Again, with no evidence the “superintendent pushed out by the board” storyline has become the storyline.  But is this case? Or is this just a last ditch effort for education reform to continue to push to be the driving philosophy in Denver? Or, are one or more of these scenarios possible? Is this

o   An attempt for mayoral control of Denver’s public Schools?

o   An attempt to lay the groundwork for a no holds barred school board election cycle in 2021 where the current board is blamed for the chaos?

o   An attempt to blame teachers for her exit?

o   An attempt to blame Susana for the failures of Michael Bennet and Tom Boasberg?

o   A subtle attempt to undermine Denver’s women school leaders, since the Superintendent, Board president and Board vice president are women? And finally,

o   Did Susana’s departure lead to the departures of her education reformer staffers, Mark Ferrandino and Jen Holladay, or did their impending departures lead to Susana’s departure? The Colorado Latino Forum, whose mission is to increase the political, social, educational and economic strength of Latinas and Latinos, just released a statement regarding the current situation.  CLF has documented the situation and speaks for many of us.  Thank you to the Board of Directors for the honesty and bravery.

Statement Regarding Resignation of Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova

The sudden resignation of DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova has sparked a small but politically powerful group, led by Mayor Michael Hancock, to decry Cordova’s resignation as a far-fetched racist and sexist conspiracy — a charge so outrageous that it can not go unchallenged. Therefore, the CLF Board is compelled to set the record straight with several facts omitted by the Mayor in his campaign to smear duly elected Board of Education members, who, unlike Mayor Hancock and his wealthy allies, are unpaid public servants.

First, Superintendent Susanna Cordova resigned last week of her own accord. According to her public announcement, she is taking a high-level position at a school district in the Dallas, Texas area. Ms. Cordova will benefit from a hefty pension from the DPS budget that will allow her to comfortably transition into a presumably well-paying new salary. However, unlike Ms. Cordova, many under-paid teachers and their students will continue to languish during a pandemic without adequate resources, such as basic internet access for remote learning. Further, their parents will continue to financially struggle to secure adequate childcare, and to make ends meet. It is disappointing that the Mayor does not express the same level of outrage for these teachers, students and their families.

Second, when selecting former superintendent Tom Boasberg’s replacement, Board members with close ties to the Hancock administration ensured that Cordova, as Boasberg’s protege, was the sole finalist after an expensive and superficial national search process. However, these same political insiders are now demanding an “independent” community engagement process — an opportunity that they denied to public education advocates during a succession of politically-connected superintendents dating back to over fifteen years. It is worth noting that neither Boasberg nor Bennet had education backgrounds, but were selected anyway over strong community objections.

Third, to blame teachers for hastening Cordova’s departure is irresponsible and mean spirited. Last November, the remaining Hancock-aligned board members opposed the teacher’s strike. These politically connected insiders also opposed raises and better working conditions for teachers while funneling increased resources to charter schools. For more than a decade, the Boasberg-Hancock-Cordova alliance forced overworked teachers to take a backseat to multimillion-dollar construction projects, while a corporate-backed board siphoned an increasing share of the $1.4 billion dollar school district budget to expand charter schools while destabilizing our public education system.

Fourth, Hancock — like most career politicians — is facing the end of his political reign due to term limits. The influence he once had to control DPS through mayoral appointees who held dual positions on the school board and within city government is coming to an end. It explains his outrageous Trumpian letter that mirrors some of the dysfunction in Washington politics. We wish to state unequivocally that Denver taxpayers would be better served if Mayor Hancock focused on managing the unprecedented crises facing

the City of Denver including the pandemic, racial unrest, economic recession and deepening housing crisis rather than interfering with the business of the DPS board.

Fifth, CLF dispels the myth that there is a monolithic Latino group that speaks for the interests of all Latinos in Denver, including the signatories of recent letters to the media from the same small circle of usual suspects. Given that, we strongly object to the Mayor weaponizing race and gender to smear volunteer school board members composed, in part, of dedicated people of color. Screaming “racism” and “sexism” by politically connected wealthy insiders hurts the movement for racial, social and education justice. If the Mayor wishes to go there, CLF reminds him that the staff of outgoing superintendent Cordova t​ hreatened striking teachers​, who were disproportionately Latinas, with deportation.

Further, we remind the Mayor that an inequitable system of economic disparities and institutional racism continues despite having a Latina superintendent according to statistics from the DPS and the Colorado Department of Education websites: 

  • ●  Only 38% of DPS students attend a ‘Blue’ or ‘Green’ school (SPF labels), compared to the goal of 80% by 2020.
  • ●  Only 68% of Black and Latino and 49% of Native students graduated high school in 4 years last year compared to the 81% of white students that graduated high school in 4 years. This is only 1800 out of 6200 seniors actually graduating from a DPS high school on time.
  • ●  Latino students continue to be under-enrolled in AP courses. Latinos make up more than 54% of the student population but they receive only 39% of AP credits. This percentage has decreased in the last 4 years. Meanwhile, White students receive 43% of AP credits, but only make up 25% of the student population.
  • ●  Approximately 1 in 5 teachers and principals left DPS. It is almost double the turnover rates of Adams-12 and Jefferson County districts.
  • ●  Reports of unfair, inequitable HR practices leading to disproportionate pushout of Black and Latino teachers have increased.
  • ●  There has been a 0% increase of Latino/Chicano teacher representation in the past 5 years — and only a 1% increase in Black teacher representation. Latino teachers only make up 17% of teaching staff in 2019-2020, and this percentage holds from five years ago. Black teachers make up 5% of the teaching population, only 1% higher than five years ago.
  • ●  The percentage of Latino principals has decreased by 1% in the past 5 years (from 19% to 18%); Black principals have not increased at all from 12%.These disparities occurred during Ms. Cordova’s tenure as Deputy Superintendent and Superintendent. The reinforcement of oppression of teachers, students and parents of color is inexcusable. It is a disservice to DPS teachers, students and families to mischaracterize her lucrative departure as the result of racist and sexist victimization. Instead of the Mayor tearing down members of a duly elected seven-member Board of Education, he should be encouraging the community to come together and engage in a search for a nationally-acclaimed superintendent of the highest caliber. We do not need another back-door, handpicked crony by opportunistic and meddling politicians who should stay in their lanes.Denver deserves top-notch candidates who can steer the billion-dollar DPS behemoth on a course of independent governance that takes our students to their highest educational and social potential. Let’s stop calling racism when millionaires don’t get their way. Instead, let’s get on with the business of supporting the Denver School Board’s search for an equity-driven, pro-public education candidate for this critical position. 
  • Signed,
    CLF BOARD of DIRECTORS

Laura Chapman recently wrote about the policy of holding third grade students back if they didn’t pass the third grade reading test. One result of this initiative is to raise fourth-grade reading scores on state tests and NAEP.

 

She writes:

There is a national read-by-grade three campaign. The practice of holding students back a grade is not new, but in the olden days it was never based on test scores alone and certainly not based on scores from national tests. I am no expert in reading, but I have learned to question how questionable policies proliferate.

Right now, The Annie E, Casey Foundation is a source of the national “Read by Grade 3” campaign. It is financed by about thirty other foundations and corporations. You can read about the investors here: http://gradelevelreading.net/about-us/campaign-investors

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is also the source of widely cited and dubious research about reading. For example, the Foundation sponsored “Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation (2010, updated 2012)” by Dr. Donald J. Hernandez, sociologist at Hunter College (more recently at the University of Albany, State University of New York). I find no evidence that this study was peer-reviewed. https://www.aecf.org/resources/double-jeopardy/

In this study, the rates of failure in grade three reading were based on scores from the Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT) Reading Recognition subtest. This test has 84 items said to increase in difficulty from preschool to high school. It is an oral reading test that includes items such as matching letters, naming names, and reading single words aloud.

To quote directly from the PIAT manual, the rationale for the reading recognition subtest is as follows: “In a technical sense, after the first 18 readiness-type items, the general objective of the reading recognition subtest is to measure skills in translating sequences of printed alphabetic symbols which form words, into speech sounds that can be understood by others as words. https://www.nlsinfo.org/content/cohorts/nlsy79-children/topical-guide/assessments/piat-reading-reading-recognitionreading

The author of Double Jeopardy then invented a way to treat scores on this oral test of reading “readiness” as if comparable NAEP scores for proficiency. But, NAEP reading tests are not administered until grade four! Moreover, according to NAEP, “Fourth grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to integrate and interpret texts and apply their understanding of the text to draw conclusions and make evaluations.”
The author appropriated the standard for proficiency in NAEP, grade four, to make make judgments about the necessity for read-by-grade three policies based on an oral test in grade three. The study is not worthy of the publicity it has received.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation also financed a related study by Lesnick, J., Goerge, R., Smithgall, C., & Gwynne J. (2010). Reading on Grade Level in Third Grade: How Is It Related to High School Performance and College Enrollment? The executive summary, page 1 states: The results of this study do not examine whether low reading performance causes low future educational performance, or whether improving a child’s reading trajectory has an effect on future educational outcomes.”

So what was the take-away from this study?

The major conclusion, executive summary, page 4 is: “Students who are better prepared for a successful ninth grade year are more likely to have positive future outcomes, regardless of third grade reading status. The sooner that struggling readers are targeted for supports, the easier it will be to ensure that students are progressing on course toward strong performance in ninth grade, high school graduation, and college enrollment. NOTHING SUPPORTS GRADE THREE AS THE MAKE OR BREAK YEAR. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED517805

I looked at “Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children” published in 1998 by the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council. The brief discussion of grade retention on 280-281 did not support the practice of grade retention. It also noted that grade retention policies differed in several ways. Simply repeating the same grade is not the same as repeating the grade with substantial and well-placed help. There is a single reference associating grade retention based on poor reading skill with dropping out of school. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED416465.pdf

Please look again at the Annie E. Casey Foundation sponsored “Read by Grade 3” campaign.

Parent advocate Carl J. Peterson writes here about a charter school in Los Angeles that figured out to game the system for more money and space.

He writes that “Citizens of the World” collects signatures of parents who are not likely to apply for the school and uses them as expressions of intent to enroll.

A Facebook post by Jirusha Lopez, the principal of COW’s Hollywood campus, provides some insight into how this charter chain scams the system. While the estimate of attendance is supposed to be based on students who have expressed a “meaningful interest” in the program, Lopez took to social media to ask parents to sign a Prop 39 form even if they had no plans to attend the charter school. In fact, she promised that completing the form would “not impact your family’s plans for what school you would like to attend or currently attend.”

While Lopez seems to think that the collection of these signatures is a “fun game schools get to play each year”, it is actually part of a legal process. By submitting names of students who never expressed any interest in attending the school, COW committed fraud against the students of the LAUSD. The district needs to take this action seriously and hold the charter chain responsible, to whatever the greatest extent possible might be. Additionally, all data provided by COW to the LAUSD needs to be audited by the Inspector General to ensure that there are not any other cases of inaccurate information being submitted.

As anyone who read my book Left Back (2000) knows, I have long been persuaded of the value of phonetic instruction for early readers. I was a friend of the late Jeanne Chall, who began her career as a kindergarten teacher and eventually became a Harvard professor and the nation’s most eminent reading researcher. Her 1967 book, Learning to Read: The Great Debate, should have ended the reading wars, but they continued for the next half century. She understood that both sides were right, and that teachers should have a tool-kit of strategies, including phonetic instruction, that they could deploy when appropriate.

In recent years, proponents of phonics have termed themselves champions of “the science of reading.” Even though I support phonics instruction, I find it misleading to use this term. Learning to read is one of the most important experiences that children have in their lifetimes. Of course, teachers should know how to teach students how to decode words. Of course, teachers should use reading and writing instruction together. Of course, teachers should introduce children to wonderful literature. Of course, of course, of course.

But teaching reading is not science. Good reading teachers use their knowledge, judgment, skill, and experience. They are not scientists. They are reading teachers.

The “science of reading” sounds to me like “the science of play,” “the science of cooking,” “the science of pedagogy,” “the science of love,” “the science of finding the right mate,” “the science of tennis.” You can take it from there.

Reading is not chemistry, biology, physics, or mathematics. Some children will learn to read before they ever start school, because they sat on the lap of a parent who read the same books over and over, with love, delight, and enthusiasm. Many children do need systematic decoding instruction and phonemic awareness. Reading teachers know which children need which approach.

Just as there is no “science of history,” “science of literature,” or “science of government,” there is no “science of reading.” I would go farther and ay there is no “science of teaching science.” Science is based on hypothesis and evidence, but teachers will find a variety of ways to teach science. Good teachers, whatever their field, rely on the knowledge and judgment gleaned from practice, study, and experience. With time and good teachers, all children will learn to read.