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Peter Greene points out that U.S. News used to be a news magazine, but has turned itself into a ranking agency, mainly of colleges, then high schools, and now…wait for it…elementary and middle schools! Does it get any more ridiculous than that?

Its rankings are based mainly on test scores, which are guaranteed to favor schools that are the whitest and most affluent.

 US News was once a magazine, but these days it’s arguably most famous as a Ranker of Things, especially schools. They rank colleges and high schools annually, and despite the fact that these rankings are hugely questionable (see herehere and here), they are uncritically reprinted, quoted, and used by the fortunate top tier as a marketing tool. 

So I’m sure from their perspective it makes sense to extend the brand by ranking elementary and middle schools. This is just as bad an idea as you think it is, and raises some big questions.

How do they do it?

I first guessed a system that used darts, a blindfold, and the broad side of a barn. But no–it’s worse than that.Scoring was almost entirely rooted in students’ performance on mathematics and reading/language arts state assessments.So, standardized test scores from 2018-2019. But also demographics worked in by soaking the test results in a sophisticated stew of argle-bargle fertilizer, because US News employs data strategists instead of journalists….

As many Wags on Twitter (a fine band name) observed, we can look for US News to continue to expand its brand. First obvious choice is rankings for pre-schools, but why stop there? America needs to know–where are the top-ranked playgrounds in the country? Whose mini-van back seat is producing the leaders of tomorrow? Which were the top-ranked fetuses of the year, and which uteruses are the best? Top-ranked sperm?

My dream is that the world greets this latest rank adventure with a massive yawn, but they won’t. People love rankings, love them so much that too many don’t even pause to ask, “Rank based on what, exactly?” Nobody anywhere is going to benefit from the sophistication of their analysis; the best we can hope for is that schools do not follow the lead of colleges and some high schools and start trying to game the system (“Sorry, Mrs. Potts, but your child is going to bring down our ranking with their test scores, so we’re booting little Pat out of kindergarten.”)

Just stop, US News. Just stop

“In the Public Interest” is our best source for alerts about privatization. Here is their latest warning.

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Odds are, the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—which is still up for debate but is expected to be passed by Congress later this month—will incentivize privatization in some form or fashion.

As it stands, the bill would allow for more use of private activity bond financing. Private activity bonds, or PABs, are a key financing tool for so-called “public-private partnerships,” or P3s.

P3s are essentially expensive loans that hand some level of control over roads, water systems, school buildings, and other public infrastructure to corporations and private investors. Meaning, despite the warm and fuzzy name, they’re definitely a form of privatization.

Particularly worrying, the bill would also require the use of a problematic procurement tool—called a “value for money” analysis—that’s been causing issues for state and local governments for years.

When a state, locality, or school district wants to explore using a P3 instead of using tried-and-true traditional public financing, they often perform one of these analyses. Sparing you the wonky details, value for money analyses are often biased towards the private sector and chocked full of unfounded assumptions. In other words, they don’t provide an accurate comparison between private and public financing.

Ontario, Canada, learned that the hard way. After going on a P3 frenzy starting in 2001, they decided to take stock of their decision-making. A 2014 audit found that 74 out of 75 projects ended up being more expensive than their initial value for money analyses had estimated—a total of $8 billion more expensive.

Why would our federal government want to incentivize these types of deals? You tell me.

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) slipped the requirement for value for money analyses on federally supported transportation loans into the bill in August. Maybe the fact that Manchin has received more campaign contributions from financial firms than any other industry—including from CBRE, a real estate firm actively pushing P3s—has something to do with it.

Regardless of why, we should prepare ourselves. That’s why we just put out some guidance on value for money analyses—why they’re often problematic and how to do them better.

It’s wonky stuff—so don’t be surprised if your eyes glaze over. The point is to get it into the hands of decisionmakers in your town, city, council, school district, and state.

Email this to your representatives and let them know what’s coming with the infrastructure bill. As always, if you need help understanding or explaining things, get in touch.

Jeremy Mohler
Communications Director
In the Public Interest

In the Public Interest
1305 Franklin St., Suite 501
Oakland, CA 94612
United States

As part of the Republican effort to eliminate teaching about slavery, racism, and other injustices, the state has banned “critical race theory” and requires teaching “both sides” of controversies.

In the Carroll Independent School District, teachers were told that if they teach about the Holocaust in Europe, they must teach “the other side.” Understandably, teachers were confused. Are they supposed to give equal time to the genocide of millions of men, women, and children, and those who say that the genocide never occurred? When they teach about slavery, must they give equal time to the atrocities of enslavement and to apologists who say that slavery was benign?

Teachers in a Texas city have been told that if they have a book on the Holocaust in their classroom, they should also have one that offers an “opposite” view.

A school head’s instruction to staff in Southlake, which is 26 miles northwest of Dallas, was secretly captured on an audio recording obtained by NBC News.

Gina Peddy, executive director of the Carroll Independent School District, spoke during a training session on what books teachers can keep in classroom libraries.

It came four days after the Carroll school board, in response to a parent’s complaint, voted to reprimand a teacher who had an anti-racism book in her classroom.

In the recording, Ms. Peddy told staff to “remember the concepts” of a new state law that requires teachers to present different points of view when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” topics.

Referring specifically to the Nazi genocide of six million Jews in wartime, he said: “And make sure if you have a book on the holocaust that you have one that has an opposite, that has other perspectives. “

In response, a teacher said, “How do you oppose the Holocaust?”

Mrs. Peddy told them, “Trust me. That has come up.”

Speaking later, a teacher from Carroll told NBC News: “Teachers literally fear that we will be punished for having books in our classes.

“There are no children’s books that show the ‘opposite perspective’ of the Holocaust or the ‘opposite perspective’ of slavery.

“Are we supposed to get rid of all the books on those topics?”

Another teacher hung caution tape in front of books in a classroom after the new guidelines were distributed.

In a statement issued following Ms. Peddy’s comments, Carroll’s spokeswoman Karen Fitzgerald said the district was trying to help teachers comply with the new state law and an updated version that will take effect in December.

Subsequently, the district superintendent publicly apologized.

As the Superintendent, I express my sincere apology regarding the online article and news story. During the conversations with teachers, comments made were in no way to convey the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history.

This statement does not explain how Texas teachers can teach both sides of every issue. There is no doubt that the purpose of the law is to make teachers fearful of teaching anything about racism or any other atrocities that are matters of fact.

On September 22, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools put out a press release boasting of unprecedented enrollment growth during the pandemic. The report asserted that charter school enrollment increased during the pandemic in at least 39 states, with a 7 percent overall increase. The charter lobby said that this growth “is likely” to be “the largest rate of increase in student enrollment increase in half a decade,” as charter schools added nearly a quarter million students.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, conducted a state-by-state analysis of their claim and discovered that it was a half-truth at best. Maybe a quarter truth. Maybe less.

What she discovered was that most of the enrollment gains occurred at the worst-performing segment of the charter industry: virtual charter schools. Many brick-and-mortar charter schools actually lost enrollment.

Writing on Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” blog at the Washington Post, Burris documented the hollowness of the charter lobby claim.

She began:

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) has been broadcasting a 7 percent surge in charter school enrollment during the 2020-2021 pandemic school year. Parents are “voting with their feet,” according to its new report, preferring charters to their local public schools. What the authors of the report avoid telling readers is that much of the increase — and likely most of it — was in virtual charter schools, the worst-performing in the charter sector. This occurred even at the expense of brick-and-mortar charters.

The report says this:

“Although a school-level analysis was not conducted as a part of this paper, in some states (e.g., Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Utah), charter school enrollment increases were primarily driven by enrollment in virtual charter schools. This explains some but not all of the enrollment increases experienced by the charter school sector nationwide last year.

What exactly does “primarily” mean? How bad is the problem? To find out, the Network for Public Education did a school-by-school analysis of virtual charter growth in the states with the largest proportional enrollment increases.

We began with the three mentioned states. In Oklahoma, the virtual charter-school sector more than doubled enrollment. Ninety-seven percent of the more than 35,000 new students in charters enrolled in virtual schools — most in the for-profit EPIC, which has been repeatedly under investigation for misreporting costs to state officials, improper financial transfers and more.

In Pennsylvania, 99.7 percent of the charter enrollment growth occurred in virtual charter schools. Enrollment in the Commonwealth’s traditional brick-and-mortar charter schools increased by a mere 78 students.

Cyber charters accounted for over 131 percent of the growth in Utah, with enrollment in traditional charters declining.

We expanded our analysis to see if this trend occurred in other states. We began with Michigan, a state whose auditor general had recently released an audit finding that cyber charters could not document participation in at least a single course in more than half of the inspected student records.
The enrollment surge in that state’s cyber charters accounted for 237 percent of the increase. Cyber charters enrollment increased by 5,071 students, while traditional charter enrollment dropped by nearly 3,000.

We then looked at Arizona, a state where families have been bombarded with cyber charter ads and billboards. Over 94 percent of the charter enrollment growth in that state was in the cyber charter sector.

Burris then includes a graph of every state that experienced at least a 10% increase in charter enrollments; there were 13. The graph shows how many students switched to online charters and how many to brick-and-mortar charters. In sum, 95.5% of the enrollment growth was virtual charters. Some brick-and-mortar charters lost enrollments.

Why does this matter? The virtual charter schools have a record of low academic achievement, high attrition, and low graduation rates. In addition, the sector has experienced massive scandals, like the A3 chain in California, whose founders pleaded guilty to phantom enrollments and are repaying the state hundreds of millions of dollars. Like ECOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) in Ohio, which collected $1 billion over 20 years, gave generously to politicians, then declared bankruptcy rather than comply with a court order to repay $67 million to the state for padded enrollments.

Seeing this increase in schools with abysmal performance is cause for alarm. A study of virtual schools by CREDO in 2015 concluded that students who attend these schools lose ground. While findings vary for each student, the results in CREDO’s report show that the majority of online charter students had far weaker academic growth in both math and reading compared to their traditional public school peers. To conceptualize this shortfall, it would equate to a student losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math, based on a 180-day school year. This pattern of weaker growth remained consistent across racial-ethnic subpopulations and students in poverty.

Students may have”voted with their feet” to enroll in virtual schools during the pandemic, but we have to wait for the evidence to find out if they stayed or returned to public schools. If they decide to stay in virtual schools, we should be alarmed.

A few days ago, I was driving across the Brooklyn Bridge heading towards Brooklyn and saw that the Manhattan-bound side of the bridge was closed by a demonstration. I couldn’t make out what the signs said, so I turned on the local all-news radio station, 1010 WINS, to learn what was happening. It turns out it was a protest against the city’s vaccine mandate for teachers. About 90% or more of the city’s school staff are vaccinated. This was a demonstration by the holdouts.

One of them was interviewed. She said it was unfair that she is locked out of museums, Broadway plays, and soon, her workplace, because she refused to be vaccinated with a new and untested drug.

As it happened, we were returning from a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we saw a fascinating show about the Medicis. In order to enter the musum, we had to show proof that we were fully vaccinated.

I didn’t feel sorry for Ms. Anti-Vaxxer, but I realized that many doors are closed to her, and the number of closed doors will grow.

So the anti-vaxxers may talk about their “freedom,” but the reality is that their refusal to get vaccinated is limiting their freedom.

To go to a new doctor, I had to show the vaccine card that documents that I have had all my shots (Moderna). Some shops wouldnt let me in without it. Some restaurants won’t let you in without it. The number of employers requiring that their employees get vaccinated is constantly growing. Broadway plays require them, as do other performance spaces.

The world is closing its doors to the anti—vaxxers.

They say they are waiting for more evidence, as if they regularly read The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine. I doubt they do.

In every state, the hospitals are overflowing with the unvaccinated. The unvaccinated are 10 times more likely to get sick, to be hospitalized, and to die from COVID, compared to those who got two jabs.

I don’t understand their reasoning. I don’t understand why they demand the ”right” not to protect themselves and their children from a deadly virus. I don’t understand why they willingly accept many other vaccines but not this one. Why dont they take this pandemic seriously? Why are they not convinced by 700,000 deaths?

They are losing their freedom by refusing the vaccine. I feel sorry for them but also angry at them for perpetuating the pandemic.

Billy Townsend of Florida writes here about an emerging development: the end of high-stakes testing. As a candidate, Biden promised to end it, but didn’t. Now Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis says its day is done. Even his state commissioner loves testing but turned on a dime to support the Governor. The vaunted “Florida model” of test-punish-choice is dead, writes Townsend.

No state has been more devoted to standardized testing than Florida, so the fact that its leaders are adopting anti-testing rhetoric suggests that the wind is shifting.

Townsend begins:

Last month, Ron DeSantis turned heretic. Without any warning, the 2024 GOP presidential hopeful publicly trashed the Republican education policy scripture Jeb Bush wrote 25 years ago.

He joined U.S. president Joe Biden in publicly rejecting the cornerstone of America’s dying “education reform” movement: the big money, high-stakes, end-of-year, badly designed, standardized test.

Bipartisan/institutional American power has used these tests to label and punish American children, teachers, parents, schools, and communities for a generation, with no measurable or perceivable life benefit.

In Florida, we call this test the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA).

Ironically, in killing the FSA, DeSantis and his pro-test Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran used the language teacher unions and Opt-Out activists and public school advocates have used for years and years. – “I want more learning and less test prep,” DeSantis said.

“From April to May, we basically shut down schools for testing,” said Corcoran, who also called the Florida test he championed for years “archaic.” For Corcoran particularly, this is the equivalent of a Wall Street investment banker publicly repudiating capital as “archaic.”

In theory, the massive testing period near the end of the year will be replaced by three “progress monitoring” windows during the school year. Everyone in the state will use an as-yet unbuilt state-owned, state-run assessment platform.

But the policy detail is actually much less important than the political rhetoric this time.

With Joe Biden rejecting the current use of high stakes testing during his campaign; and DeSantis rejecting “test prep” and the experience of testing in Florida, the autopilot awfulness of American test-based “reform education” has lost all organized political support. It has enormous unelected money to sustain the inertia for a while. But, I believe, it is doomed.

“Absolutely central”

To understand what an earthquake this announcement was for the Florida Model of education, which has set the toxic American “education reform” template for a generation, you shouldn’t look to me.

Listen to a smart champion of “reform” and the Florida Model instead.

Travis Pillow long worked as a top editor — and by far the smartest voice — for ReDefined, the Florida-based “choice” PR/media shop. ReDefined is funded by Step Up for Students, the massive “charity” that doles out Florida’s various vouchers. Now he writes for an “education reform” site called the “Center on Reinventing Public Education.” Here’s what Travis tweeted after the DeSantis announcement. It’s completely accurate:

“The biggest piece I think non-Floridians (and some Floridians) are missing in this news is how absolutely central A-F school grades are to so many facets of our state’s education policy and how critical it will be to make sure test data can still be relied upon for them.”

As Travis understands, wiping out the FSA wipes out the functional totality of the elementary school grade formula. And it wipes out huge chunks of the middle, high school, and overall district grades. It requires Florida to completely rebuild the grade system, almost from scratch. This includes the basic legal definition of words like “growth” and “achievement” in a way that the “data” from an as-yet unbuilt state progress monitoring platform can feed.

The FSA is also the basis of Florida’s cruel and educationally unsound 3rd grade retention policies, for which there is no supportive research, and which exists only to pump student scores on another big national test, the 4th grade NAEP.

Indeed, Florida’s school grades have been entirely political tools and destructive fraudssince the day they were introduced after Jeb’s election in 1998. They have been used to advance the privatization agenda by driving public school children into un-FSA-tested, ungraded voucher schools.

Please keep reading. Open the link.

If you live in Virginia and care about your public schools, please vote for Terry McAuliffe for Governor!

The Network for Public Education Action has endorsed Terry McAuliffe for a second term as the Governor of Virginia.  

McAuliffe previously held the office from 2014-2018. In 2017, NPE Action named then Governor McAuliffe a Champion of Public Education for vetoing a group of bills that would have advanced privatization in Virginia. The bills he vetoed not only would have expanded charter schools and virtual schools, one would have established Education Savings Accounts (ESA), the worst of the  voucher programs. 

McAuliffe’s 2021 opponent, Republican Glen Youngkin, has proposed spending $100 million to increase the number of charter schools in the state.

McAuliffe’s opposition to school choice measures has remained unchanged.  His plan to improve public education in the state is to increase funding to $2 billion per year. He intends to use that funding to raise teacher pay above the national average for the first time in Virginia’s history and to expand access to pre-K for 3-4 year olds. In stark contrast to his opponent, who is creating unrest in the state by inflaming parents to rail against the supposed teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools, McAuliffe has a plan to create an Equity Commission that will be charged with identifying the racial and socioeconomic gaps students face in the state.

We strongly encourage our supporters in Virginia to vote for Terry McAuliffe in the general election on Tuesday, November 2nd.  Please take a moment to share our endorsement in this critical election.

Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that the city would eliminate the entry test for the city’s “gifted and talented” programs, administered to four-year-olds. The children who make the cut are disproportionately white and Asian. He wants all children to have accelerated programs.

However, the Mayor has only a few months left in office, and his decision may be reversed by the new mayor, who will likely be Eric Adams, the Democratic candidate, a former police officer who has shown little interest in education, and who was funded by charter billionaires..

Instead of having a specific gifted program sorting a small number of children, all kindergarten students attending the city’s 800 elementary schools next September will receive “accelerated” instruction, city officials said Friday. Starting in third grade, all students will be screened to determine if they should continue to receive accelerated instruction in specific subjects.

“The era of judging 4-year-olds based on a single test is over,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “Every New York City child deserves to reach their full potential, and this new, equitable model gives them that chance.”

At least, that’s the mayor’s plan. It is an open question whether the changes will ultimately get implemented.

De Blasio has about three months left in his term and Democratic candidate Eric Adams is widely expected to replace him. Adams has offered a much different vision for the coveted gifted programs, proposing instead to keep the admissions test and add more gifted classrooms in communities across the city…

Currently, about 2,500 kindergartners a year score seats in 80 schools to the highly selective program, with many families — with and without means — spending time and money to prep their preschoolers for the exam. Many advocates and parents have blasted the test, which is administered one-on-one to children when they’re about 4, for resulting in a system that largely excludes Black and Latino students. They fill only 14% of gifted seats, but make up nearly 60% of kindergartners citywide.

Be sure to open the linked article by a teacher who has administered the test to four-year-olds.

The American Prospect publishes two of our nation’s most thoughtful commentators: Harold Meyerson and Robert Kuttner. They represent liberalism at its best; they are on the side of working people, and they aim for a fair and just society. Nothing “neo” about them. You might want to sign up for their “On Tap” bulletins.

Here is Harold Meyerson, with news about the union that is reviving the strike as a way to gain better wages and hours.

Meyerson on TAP

The Little Union That’s Reviving the Strike

The roll call of unions that have actually changed the trajectory of American labor is relatively short: the United Auto Workers, the Mine Workers, and other CIO unions in the 1930s and ’40s, as factory workers organized; AFSCME and the American Federation of Teachers in the 1960s and ’70s, as unions took hold in the public sector.

Today, a much smaller union, punching way above its weight, is vying to join that list. After 40 years in a desert of union decline, workers’ ultimate weapon to win what’s rightly theirs—the strike—looks to be coming back, a long-overdue development that I discuss and analyze in some detail in my article on the Prospect website today. In that piece, I note that 2021 is beginning to look like 1919 and 1946, the years in which America experienced its greatest number of strikes. To be sure, today, with the private-sector rate of unionization reduced to less than 7 percent, most of the striking is individual rather than collective: employees refusing to return to their old poor-paying no-benefit jobs, creating a worker shortage that has compelled such anti-union behemoths as Amazon and Walmart to raise their employees’ wages. In tandem with this new form of individualized collective bargaining (ours is a time that requires oxymorons), unions themselves are beginning to strike, a phenomenon not seen ever since Ronald Reagan busted the air traffic controllers union when it went on strike in 1981.

And the union leading the charge today is the BCTGM, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union, founded in the same year as the American Federation of Labor: 1886.

You’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of the BCTGM, but they’re the folks who put breakfast on your table, bread in your sandwich, and candy in your kids’ time-to-see-the-dentist mouths. This year, though, they’re also the folks who are restoring a needed level of strategic militance to American labor. In July, protesting the crazy hours they were compelled to work (in some cases, up to 84 hours a week), their members struck a Frito-Lay plant in Topeka. The following month, members struck five Nabisco factories across the nation, also to protest the plethora of hours and the dearth of benefits. They’ve done a bang-up job of pressuring those corporations to grant their workers’ demands, by both striking and publicizing the absurd schedules and conditions their members were compelled to endure.

Now, this week, BCTGM members have struck every Kellogg factory in the United States, after negotiations over schedules and benefits had produced no results. Kellogg workers have documented how they’ve been compelled to work straight through the weekend, and how some have had to work 12-to-16-hour days to keep turning out those Frosted Flakes.

Though I’ve been writing about unions for the past 40 or so years, this is the first time I’ve written anything about the BCTGM. I can tell you that since this spring, the union has had a new president, Anthony Shelton, but I can do no more than infer that this may have something to do with the union now having to produce more picket signs.

But I do know that this outburst of militance has a lot to do with the same factors that produced the strike waves of 1919 and 1946. Those were the years following the two world wars, of course, when the words “front line” still meant exposure to deadly fire. Today, as the pandemic (we hope) recedes, it refers to workers who had to show up every workday and risk contracting a potentially fatal virus. In all three cases, those workers were hailed as heroes, and in all three cases, most of the jobs to which they either returned or continued to hold offered pay and working conditions that were anything but heroic.

So—strikes then and strikes now. And this time around, with the bakers leading the way.


A friend in Boston recently described New Hampshire as “the Florida of the North.” Clearly, she wasn’t referring to climate but to retrograde politicians.

New Hampshire is one of those states, like Florida, that has decided to minimize the significance of COVID. Actions have consequences.

CONCORD — A House member is claiming she was infected with COVID19 at a sub-committee meeting last week.

Rep. Nicole Klein Knight, D-Manchester, in a posting on Twitter Friday morning, said she was infected and in turn has infected her family and she blames House Speaker Sherman Packard for allowing sick members to participate without masks.

Her Twitter posting reads, “I’m positive for covid. Most due to the fact the @NHSpeaker allowed sick members to participate unmasked and come into contact and furthermore did not notify me, I since infected my entire family. If there is any legal action I can take I would appreciate help.”

Packard has insisted committees meet in person and has not allowed members who believe their lives would be at risk to meet remotely rather than physically appear at the State House or Legislative Office Building.

Democrats have pushed for remote access since the session began in January. Remote access to committee meetings was allowed this spring, but once meetings began again this fall, Packard said members would have to attend committee meetings to participate and to vote.

A number of disabled or health compromised Democrats including House Minority Leader Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, sued the Speaker seeking to participate in House session remotely, but lost the initial ruling in US District Court. That decision was overturned by the 1st Circuit Court on appeal and sent back to US District Court to determine if the House members qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act for special accommodations.

The Speaker asked the appeals court to reconsider and another hearing was held with a three-judge panel, but no decision has been released to date….

“I feel like I don’t have a right to be protected,” Klein Knight said, “the Speaker has made it impossible to protect myself.”

“This could wipe out my whole family,” Klein Knight said, “and the least the Speaker could do is notify me.”