Archives for category: Administrators, superintendents

Steven Singer reports here that big money failed to block the new pro-public school superintendent Anthony Hamlet.

Elite reformers tried to stop his appointment but they failed. Even the corporate media pitched in to criticize him. But the elected board prevailed (the same board that ousted TFA) and Hamlet won a five-year contract.

John Thompson, teacher and historian in Oklahoma, decided to check out what the supporters of the original Vergara decision were up to. They have appealed the reversal of the original decision. The original decision struck down California statutes that protect tenure and seniority. On appeal, that lower court decision was reversed by a unanimous court. Now the plaintiffs have filed an appeal, seeking to restore the original decision. Thompson wrote a direct letter to two distinguished legal scholars who filed amicus briefs, asking them to explain why they support a decision that was anti-tenure, anti-seniority, anti-teacher, and anti-union.

After reading the names of eminent scholars who signed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff of Vergara v California, I sent a “say it ain’t so” email to a couple of them. I appreciate the responses that I received, but I must admit that they reinforced my fears about the continuing corporate reform, anti-teacher public relations campaign. As Jal Mehta explains, teaching is treated like a “semi-profession.” It’s bad enough that school reformers seek to silence our hard-earned insights, as they move us around like chess pieces, in the hopes that they can someday-over-the-rainbow devise a system of rewards and punishments that will transform our schools. It is sadder still that eminent jurists would agree that the noneducators in the Billionaires Boys Club have virtually no burden of proving that their hunches about school improvement would cause more good than harm to poor children of color.

Two legal scholars replied that they aren’t anti-teacher, and their brief is limited to a specific aspect of California constitutional law. I wonder if they would follow the same logic and write an amicus brief in support of a narrow point in the Citizens United case. After all, Vergara is just one part of a corporate assault on unions, collective bargaining and traditional public education governance; Citizens United was a similar attack on traditional electoral politics. But here is the vexing problem: legal scholars would never come out in support for Citizens United without conducting a careful review of the facts as well as the legal logic of the case. I wonder how many Vergara supporters have even read the evidence presented by the plaintiffs at trial. Had they done so, I wonder if they would see the disconnect between the experts’ narrow research methodology, their broad expressions of personal opinions on the witness stand, and the real world.

The amicus brief says that five challenged statutes should be stricken because “they guarantee education ineffectiveness without regard to the educational rights of students.” “Guarantee” is a strong word. My view is that the striking of those statutes would virtually guarantee the acceleration of the exodus of teaching talent from inner city schools. And, that gets to the heart of the issue. The case is based on opinions versus opinions. I think it is fair to say that the beliefs of the noneducators behind Vergara are held by a minority of scholars, and that the preponderance of evidence is that the contested statutes are imperfect but basically beneficial to poor children of color. I wonder if the amicus signers are aware of the huge body of social science and education history that argue against the plaintiff’s claims. But, the amicus argues that it is the state law, not the hypotheses of corporate reformers, which must carry the burden of “strict scrutiny.”

I wonder if the amicus signers are aware that the Vergara trial was fundamentally a venue for market-driven reformers’ high-dollar, anti-union publicity campaign, which presents adorable images of students who they claim are victims of the due process rights of teachers. Expert witnesses, like the Gates Foundation’s Tom Kane, presented theoretical research (mostly dealing with average outcomes) that had little or no relevance to the policy questions at hand. Their regression studies were basically props, providing numbers (of dubious relevance) for beautiful multi-colored graphics. The plan is to take their well-funded dog and pony show across the nation. For them, it’s a win-win, political hardball strategy. If they lose at trial or on appeal, teacher-bashers, like the Vergara II campaign known as Campbell Brown’s The 74, can continue with their meme, that supposedly it is “bad teachers,” protected by bad unions that keep poor children of color down. If they win, two of the nation’s largest unions are crippled, meaning that the coalition which seeks to stand up to the One Percent is undermined.

Much of the problem is rooted in segregation. There’s a huge gulf between life in the Ivory Tower and the inner city. I wonder if the signers would support a corporate effort to strip college professors of tenure. Public school teachers don’t have the same free speech rights on the job as university professors, but we need the due process rights which allow us to speak up for our students during special education IEP meetings, in student disciplinary hearings, and in debates over policy. These legal scholars not only poo-poo the claim that public school teachers have First Amendment rights, but would strip us of our legislative victories that protect the clash of ideas in the urban classroom.

I suspect the amicus signers sent their kids to elite schools where nobody would try to silence teachers defending the rights of affluent students to receive a holistic education, not just bubble-in malpractice. I wonder if they are aware of the pro-testing litmus tests that the corporate reformers who push Vergara have helped impose, such as “exiting” teachers in SIG schools who don’t pledge fidelity to teach-to-the-test under the pretense that they are “culture-killers.” Do they understand that the challenged laws have helped California resist this destructive micromanaging? Don’t they realize that striking down those laws could virtually guarantee the victory of the test, sort, reward, and punish school of output-driven reformers?

I also wonder if the signers would question their assumption that they are on the side of justice if they read Tom Kane’s latest piece which, like so many other expressions of his opinions, actually argue against Vergara. Kane argues that the education problem “is state law, combined with teacher’s employment preferences.” The Court must disregard teachers’ employment preferences because, he says, it would be too expensive to recruit and retain teachers in high-need districts. Even a $20,000 bonus has been shown to be an inadequate incentive for moving top teachers to the inner city. So, the Court must undermine duly-enacted protections against forced transfers of teachers.

That raises the question of why Kane doesn’t insist that the best and the brightest, i.e. elite college professors, be forced to transfer to the urban classroom. After all, if they have the intellect (and the interpersonal skills?) to earn tenure at elite universities, those professors must surely have the talents that would lift children in the toughest schools out of poverty.

I kid Kane, but he’s awfully disconnected from reality. His arguments make it sound like a key purpose of Vergara is to justify his pet project, his persuading of Bill Gates and the federal government into coercing more than 40 states to adopt his dubious test-driven approach to teacher evaluations. When not campaigning for Vergara, Kane repeatedly protests his mandates for value-added evaluations weren’t a fiasco, and others should be blamed for their costly failures. Now, the economist says that the Court of Appeal incorrectly ruled: “Although the statutes may lead to the hiring and retention of more ineffective teachers than a hypothetical alternative system would, the statutes do not address the assignment of teachers.” But, Kane still ignores the costs of his alternative in terms of driving teaching talent out of the profession in response to taking away our hard-earned legal rights.

Kane then shows how he misunderstands the nature of public education when criticizing the Court’s “view of the crux of the case” by concluding. “Plaintiffs still could have demonstrated a facial equal protection violation, however, by showing that the challenged statutes, regardless of how they are implemented, inevitably cause poor and minority students to be provided with an education that is not ‘basically equivalent to’ their more affluent and/or white peers.”

Once again, Kane remains oblivious to the myriad of ways that his next argument undermines Vergara’s logic. Rather than articulate a facial equal protection violation, he asserts “the challenged statutes “inevitably cause” poor and minority students to be provided with a lower quality education” in two ways:

The negative impact can take two forms, depending on the district leadership’s response to the statutes: First, if the district leadership chooses not to intervene in the flow of teachers moving between its own schools and between districts.

The second way in which the negative effects can be felt, however, is when district leaders do take counter-measures.

Kane further complains that “often collectively bargained, school districts cannot simply force effective teachers to move to high-needs schools to take the place of their less effective colleagues.” It never occurs to the economist that the personalities, backgrounds, and people skills required to teach in the inner city may be very different than those of teachers in low-poverty schools.

Let’s think for a second what Kane is saying. The life of a policy-maker is hard. Problems are complex and intertwined. The preferences of employees can’t simply be ignored because they still would have the freedom to quit and move elsewhere. So, the Court should order lawmakers to accomplish that task. Legislators should then mandate the crafting of a whole new set of laws that impose Kane’s metrics that are inherently biased against inner city teachers in order to attract more talent to the inner city!?!?

Vergara supporters would recruit and retain smarter teachers by taking away our democratic rights and ending, not mending, seniority (which, real world, is our First Amendment.) They would stifle teachers’ ability to help create an evolving balance which, we believe, may be flawed but which still protects students. Kane, like the amicus signers, would set the ground rules so that the chance of victory in the battle for the best ways to help poor children of color doesn’t go to the side which presents the best case. They would insist that we educators, and our expert witnesses, have to face strict scrutiny, and basically prove that those corporate-funded reformers’ opinions are not just misguided but basically irrational.

I had a modest proposal for university professors who want to strip tenure from teachers in elementary and secondary schools: They should prove their sincerity by giving up their own tenure. When they do that, we can take them seriously. Until they do, they are just blowing smoke.

Pittsburgh has been the site of a remarkable revolt against corporate reform. After years of pressure from the usual crowd of data-driven reformers, the school board majority was captured by grassroots activists–parents and educators–who wanted a different approach to education, one that was grounded in sensible principles, not a love for disruption. One of the first actions of the new board was to sever its contract with Teach for America and seek ways to collaborate with and support experienced career teachers. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh superintendent retired, and the board hired a new superintendent, Anthony Hamlet. The board was convinced that he was not a Broadie and would not seek to restore corporate reform strategies of measure-and-punish to the schools.

But now the Empire Strikes Back, as teacher Steven Singer tells the story. The ousted reformers are hoping for a comeback, and the last thing they want is a superintendent who brings stability to the public schools. So they have mounted a full-bore attack on Hamlet, because one sentence in his resume was almost identical to a sentence in a Washington Post editorial. One sentence! The critics are in full cry, screaming “Plagiarism!”

As an author and a historian, I know plagiarism when I see it. I have seen whole paragraphs and pages lifted and reprinted in books, resumes, and papers. But one sentence? I don’t think so.

Steven Singer writes about the new superintendent:

He is set to takeover the district on July 1, but a well financed public smear campaign is trying to stop him before he even begins.

Big money interests oppose him. The public supports him.

Meanwhile the media helps fuel corporate attacks on the 47-year-old African American because of criticisms leveled by a Political Action Committee (PAC) formed to disband the duly-elected school board.

It’s ironic.

Corporate school reformers criticize Hamlet for allegedly plagiarizing a single statement in his resume. Meanwhile they have plagiarized their entire educational platform!

Mayoral or state takeover of the district? Check!

Close struggling schools? Check!

Open new charter schools to gobble up public tax dollars as profit? Check!

Hamlet’s strong points are his belief in restorative justice programs for students and his commitment to community schools. Not a peep about charters.

Singer writes:

Despite community support, several well-financed organizations oppose Hamlet and the board’s authentic reforms.

Foremost among them is Campaign for Quality Schools Pittsburgh, a new PAC formed recently to make city schools great again – by doing the same failed crap that didn’t work before.

Also on the side of corporate education reform are the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Heinz Endowments. Representatives for both organizations have offered to pay for a new superintendent search if the district gives Hamlet his walking papers – a measure that probably would mean paying him at least a years salary without having him on the job.

This would also result in weakening the district’s ability to hire a new superintendent and increasing public mistrust of the electoral process. Such a move would pave the way for disbanding local control.

How generous of these philanthropies! I remember a time when giving meant providing the resources for organizations like public schools to fix themselves – not having the right to set public policy as a precondition for the donation. But in the age of Bill Gates and the philanthro-capitalists, this is what we’ve come to expect.

Even the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette has drunk the Kool-aid. In a June 10 editorial, the paper published the following statement:

“The (school) board’s failure at this essential task calls its leadership into question, and will renew calls for legislation to dissolve the elected school board and move to an appointed system.”
Finally, we have A+ Schools – an advocacy organization that at one time championed the same kinds of reforms school directors are trying to enact. However, after a $1 million grant from the Gates Foundation, the group has become a cheerleader for weakening teachers unions, privatization and standardized testing.

Against these special interests stands a public school board and a community at the crossroads. Will they give in to public pressure and big money? Or will they allow Hamlet to do the job he was hired for and attempt to improve an urban district suffering from crippling poverty and state disinvestment?

Since former Governor Bobby Jindal took control of the state education department in Louisiana, there have been numerous battles over access to public information.

The state superintendent appointed by Jindal, ex-TFA Broadie John White, has just made plain that public information is not public.

Mercedes Schneider reports that White has sued a citizen who made the mistake of seeking information from the state education department. Apparently John White doesn’t realize that he works for the public and is paid by the public.

As she says, this is a new low.

Mississippi lawmakers punished the state’s superintendents by defunding their association. This was in retaliation for the superintendents support for Initiative 42, a referendum calling upon the legislature to fund the schools adequately.


Mississippi has extreme poverty, and Schools that are underfunded. Imagine the nerve of those superintendents, sticking up for the children!


“The move creates an uncertain future for what has traditionally been Mississippi’s most powerful school lobbying group. The long-term power of the association was already in question after lawmakers voted this year to make all superintendents appointive. Traditionally, the elected members of the association, especially those in the state’s largest school districts, have wielded the most political power.

“Initiative 42 would have amended the state Constitution to require the state to provide “an adequate and efficient system of free public schools.” Supporters said it would have blocked lawmakers from being able to spend less than the amount required by Mississippi’s school funding formula, and would have allowed people to sue the state to seek additional money for schools.

“Gov. Phil Bryant and legislative leaders opposed the measure because it could have limited legislative power and transferred some power to judges. They warned that it could have led to budget cuts to other state agencies. Lawmakers placed an alternative measure on the ballot, which made it harder to pass the measure. Voters ultimately rejected any change by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin.”

Martha Bruckner is the President of the National Superintendents’ Roundtable, and she is also the superintendent of schools in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She noted that the presidential candidates were ignoring education but offering many campaign promises. She decided to write an educator’s platform for presidential candidates.


A Superintendent’s Presidential Campaign Platform
Inspired by the campaign promises of some of our 2016 Presidential candidates, Roundtable superintendent Martha Bruckner of Council Bluffs, Iowa, writes,



“Listening to some presidential candidates makes me wonder if school superintendents could do similar things. Just announce what you will do. No plan or work needed!”



In that spirit, here’s Martha’s campaign platform:
All children will be loved.
No families will live in poverty.
All children will start school on an equal basis, economically and socially, and will be ready (eager) to learn.
All children will read by third grade, and will love reading.
Every child will love middle school and will use those adolescent years to discover his or her best future self.
No students will ever purposefully bully others, and if a student unintentionally hurts another student, classmates will help minimize the hurt and inform the misguided bully.
All students will graduate from high school after a successful 3, 4, or 5 years…whatever is most appropriate for their learning needs and styles.
Student assessment will be fair, multi-faceted, timely, informative, and will help educators discover how to best help each individual child.
Funding for schools will be sufficient.
Every teacher and school leader will be caring, talented, successful, and appropriately rewarded.
Every child will be safe, healthy, engaged, supported, and challenged.



Jim Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents’ Roundtable responded to Martha’s platform:
Martha has our endorsement! Make America great again – Bruckner 2016!


The National Superintendents’ Roundtable is an association composed of experienced educators who rose through the ranks to become superintendents. They tend to represent small to mid-size districts. They are not Broadies. If your district is conducting a search for a new superintendent, contact James Harvey, National Superintendents’ Roundtable,

Paola DeMaria, an apologist for Ohio’s floundering, politically powerful, corrupt charter industry, has been named as State Superintendent. He is not an educator and proud of it.


The Cleveland Plain Dealer says he is a strong supporter of school choice and Common Core. Does he care about the public schools that enroll more than 90% of Ohio’s children? That’s not clear.


Stephen Dyer notes that DeMaria has defended charters when school boards claim that they are draining resources from public schools.


“DeMaria also is of the opinion that more money doesn’t improve student performance. This is a classic fallacy employed by many in the free market reform movement. The problem is it compares dollars spent with increases in test scores, claiming that if test scores don’t go up at the same rate as the spending, then clearly spending more doesn’t matter.”


Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy posted the new superintendent’s background:

“Profile of the new Superintendent of Public Instruction


“Statement in letter of application:


“Second, I love education policy and practice. My love is not rooted in the fact that I’m a professional educator-because I’m not.”
“Academic credentials:
1984 Furman University B.A. Political Science/Economics
1996 The Ohio State University M.P.A. Public Administration



Question 2 on the application:
Are you eligible for a superintendent license for this position? NO
Work Experience:

2010-present Principal Consultant, Education First Consulting, LLC

2008-2010 Executive Vice Chancellor, Ohio Department of Higher Education (formerly Ohio Board of Regents)

2004-2008 Associate Superintendent for School Options and Finance

2000-2004 Chief Policy Advisor/Director of Cabinet Affairs-Office of the Governor

1999-2000 Senior Resident Advisor-Barents Group, LLC

1998-1999 Director-State of Ohio/Office of Budget and Management

1991-1998 Assistant Director-State of Ohio/Office of Budget and Management

1988-1991 Senior Fiscal Analyst-State of Ohio/The Ohio Senate



Bill Phillis writes:

“Departure from tradition:
“Since the position of state superintendency was established in 1913, it has been filled from the ranks of professionals in the field of public education.
“A new era has begun. Steve Dyer, Policy Fellow with Innovation Ohio, made some observations today. The Cleveland Plain Dealer article also provides some interesting insights.”
William Phillis
Ohio E & A



I love San Diego. I wrote a chapter about its experience with top-down reform in the late ’90s and early 2000’s in my book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” Broad and Gates poured money into a plan to remake the district. Eventually, the voters tired of constant disruption and voted out the reformers.


Since then, San Diego has made a remarkable recovery and now has a knowledgeable superintendent who is an experienced educator. Better yet, the school board and the teachers work together and have a shared vision.


I met Superintendent Cindy Marten when she was a principal. I could see her love for the children and her respect for teachers. For her courage in doing what is best for children, I add her to the honor roll of the blog.


The district made this announcement:


SAN DIEGO – San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten May 4 announced a significant reduction in the amount of high-stakes standardized testing at local schools. Instead, the former teacher and principal said the district will focus on providing classroom educators with more meaningful measures of student progress in real time. The dramatic changes are expected to improve student well-being and academic outcomes.


“The changes we are announcing today will improve the well-being and performance of our students by allowing teachers to teach and students to learn in an environment that values and supports them as individuals,” Marten said. She added the new testing system will help the district continue to provide students with project-based, collaborative learning in classroom settings customized to the needs of a diverse student population.


Effective the 2016-17 school year, the specific changes announced today will:


• Stop the district-wide collection of interim assessment data and DRA test results, eliminating the need for teachers to waste valuable classroom time entering and uploading data for the central office.


• Replace irrelevant district-wide data collection requirements with real time reporting on student progress for teachers to use when and where they need it to support student learning.


• Empower teachers to analyze student learning results, and revise lessons to meet individual student needs.


• Support local schools as they develop common formative assessment plans, identifying relevant measures that give insight and critical information about how students are developing in literacy and mathematics.


“We want to give classroom teachers and neighborhood schools the tools they need to measure the progress of our children in ways that reflect the unique needs of every student. That is how we will keep our commitment to maintain quality schools in every neighborhood,” said Marten.


San Diego Unified has a history of national leadership on the issue of student testing under Superintendent Marten, having previously reduced the number of interim assessment tests by 33 percent (from 3 to 2) and increased the age at which testing starts — Second Grade instead of First.


“Our experience has shown that student outcomes improve when district officials release their control over assessments and encourage schools to select assessments aligned with a framework for learning, relying on principals, teachers and area superintendents to work in partnership, as they receive the necessary support from the central office,” said Marten.


A major factor behind the changes announced today was the recent study showing the overuse of standardized testing is harmful to area students, according to some 90% of San Diego’s teachers. The study was conducted by the San Diego Education Association.


“We are pleased San Diego Unified has decided to put the interests of our students first and moved to reduce high-stakes standardized testing, which we know from our research is contrary to students’ well-being,” said Lindsay Burningham, president of the San Diego Education Association. “A true reflection of student achievement and improvement is always done through multiple measures and can never focus on just one test score.”



Contact: Linda Zintz – 619-725-5578 or

Troy LaRaviere is principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago, which has received many honors.


Troy could rest on his laurels, but instead he keeps speaking out against the injustices done to the children of Chicago by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner. He filmed a tape on behalf of Rahm’s opponent, Chuy Garcia. He has written numerous articles protesting budget cuts and unfair treatment of teachers and students.


Recently, the Chicago station WGN interviewed Troy about his beliefs, his candor, and his personal history. Despite the stellar record of his school, Troy LaRaviere was warned by the Chicago Board of Education that he was on thin ice. He seems to revel in skating on thin ice. He wants a city that is better for the children of Chicago, including his own son.


There have been persistent rumors that he might run against Rahm Emanuel in the next election. That is a long way off, and it is hard to see how he can compete with the banks and lawyers that support Emanuel. But it would be one interesting contest.

A female administrator with excellent credentials pointed out a strange puzzle in Massachusetts: most teachers are women, but most administrators are men. She has recently applied for superintendent posts, but every one went to a man. Curious.



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