Archives for category: Common Core

Dana Goldstein, veteran education journalist, reports that Hillary Clinton is striking a very different note with teachers and their unions than Obama did.

Obama’s education policies were shaped to cut the power of unions and to reduce teachers’ job protections. His administration was openly hostile to public schools and teachers. In response to the hedge fund managers at Democrats for Education Reform, whose favorite he was, and to the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation, the Obama administration invested heavily in privately managed charter schools and forced thousands of public schools to close, based on their test scores. The burden of school closings fell mainly on poor communities of color, which were destabilized by his punitive policies.

Goldstein says that Hillary is taking a very different tack:

Clinton’s speech to the NEA was notable both for what she said and, perhaps even more so, for what she didn’t say. She promised to expand access to child care and pre-K, pay teachers more, forgive their college debt, construct new school buildings, and bring computer science courses into K-12 education. While a brief mention of successful charter schools (most of which are not unionized) was met with scattered boos, for the most part the audience of activist teachers greeted Clinton ecstatically, chanting “Hillary, Hillary!”

Following eight years of federally driven closures and turnarounds of schools with low test scores, which have put union jobs at risk, it was music to the NEA’s ears when the presumptive Democratic nominee promised to end “the education wars” and “stop focusing only on quote, ‘failing schools.’ Let’s focus on all our great schools, too.” And in a big departure from the school-reform rhetoric of President Barack Obama, the only time Clinton referenced “accountability” was to refer not to getting rid of bad teachers, but to giving unions a bigger voice in education policy. “Advise me and hold me accountable,” she said. “Keep advocating for your students and your profession.”

This speech, the first big moment for K-12 education in this general election, signals a potentially meaningful shift in Democratic Party education politics. The Obama era has been, often, a painful one for teachers-union activists. Obama launched his presidential campaign in 2007 as an ally of Democrats for Education Reform, a group of philanthropists (most with ties to the financial sector) who support weakening teachers’ tenure protections, evaluating teachers according to their students’ test scores, and increasing the number of public charter schools.

Obama held many positions with which teachers’ unions agreed, like helping teachers improve through peer mentorship programs and pushing states to embrace the Common Core national curriculum standards. Still, he represented a wing of the Democratic Party that thought unions held too much sway over education policy, and in 2008, the NEA chose not to endorse in the Democratic primary, while the other national teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers, endorsed Obama’s primary challenger, Hillary Clinton.*
As president, Obama followed through on his promises to union critics. He created a $4 billion program, Race to the Top, that tied federal education dollars to policies like evaluating teachers according to student test scores and weakening tenure protections, so underperforming teachers could more easily be fired.

Goldstein’s conclusion is premature:

It’s safe to say it is a new day for the Democratic Party on education policy. But here’s hoping that Clinton’s turn toward the unions doesn’t mean she lets go of some of the Obama administration’s more promising recent ideas.

It is too soon to say whether it is a new day for the Democratic policy on education policy. DFER has not gone away, nor have the billionaires who want to crush teachers, unions, and public schools.

And I wonder what the Obama administration’s “more promising recent ideas” are. I haven’t heard them. John King was known in New York for his zealous embrace of Common Core, high-stakes testing, opposition to opt out, and commitment to evaluating teachers by test scores. His brief tenure as Education Secretary does not show any disposition on his part to abandon those policies.

So, as the saying goes, time will tell. We should all give Hillary Clinton a chance to change direction. Heaven knows we can’t continue with the federal government making war on public schools and their teachers. If that’s what she means by ending the education wars, I am all for it.

This petition was started by a Florida BAT.

Maybe Hillary will meet with me if enough people sign.


Washington, D.C., has been under the total control of corporate reformers since 2007, when Michelle Rhee was named chancellor by then-Mayor Adrien Fenty. When Fenty lost his bid for re-election, in large part because of Rhee, Rhee stepped down to found StudentsFirst, which then led a campaign for privatization of public schools through charters and vouchers and for judging teachers by test scores (since discredited).

Kaya Henderson, Rhee’s deputy, stepped in to take her place. She was kinder and gentler. She has announced that she will step down in October 2017.

Valerie Strauss reviews the pluses and minuses of her tenure here.

Strauss writes:

What is that legacy? She certainly made some progress in improving the system, but was it enough for the time and money spent? What was her impact on academic improvement, student and educator assessment, teacher and principal recruitment and retention, and the overall teaching and learning culture? What does the system that she leaves look like — and is that what the city’s residents want?….

It’s true that student test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — sometimes called “the nation’s report card” — are higher than when she became chancellor and made the biggest jump of any participating urban school district. Scores published in 2015 found that fourth-grade scores had moved from the bottom of large urban districts in 2007 to the middle (though eighth-grade scores were still near the bottom.)

High school graduation rates moved up during her tenure, from 53 percent in 2001 to 64 percent in 2015, with significant gains for African American males. And student enrollment increased over four consecutive years after decades of decline — from 45,191 in 2011 to 48,439 in 2015.

Special-education services have improved somewhat, as has the identification of students who need them, in large part under pressure from the courts. And Henderson implemented the Common Core State Standards — for better or worse, depending on your view — without the contentious battle that occurred in other parts of the country.

Yet there’s another side to those metrics.

It is also true that in May 2015, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that the school system was still providing inadequate services to young children with special needs and that the “District’s lack of effective Child Find and transition poli­cies is particularly troubling in light of the intense scrutiny and seemingly constant admonishment it has received over the last decade.”

A 2015 report by the National Research Council, the research arm of the National Academies of Scienced, Engineering and Medicine, painted a troubling picture of the school system. It said that the District’s poor and minority students are still far less likely than their peers to have a quality teacher in their classrooms, perform at grade level and graduate from high school in four years. The achievement gaps between black students and white students as well as between children from low-income families and ones from middle- and higher-income families are huge — and years of corporate reform didn’t stop them from widening.

As Strauss shows, there has also been high teacher turnover, which is not good for students.

D.C. has the biggest achievement gaps of any urban district tested by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

That may be because the whites who attend D.C. schools come from professional families. But whatever the reason, D.C. has not brought black and poor children to parity with white and middle class children.

Is it time to admit–ten years after the corporate reformers took complete control of the D.C. schools—that their claims are up in smoke? They have achieved incremental progress, which is well and good, but the seismic, revolutionary changes that were promised have not materialized.

This is one of the best articles ever on how to end the teacher shortage.

Janice and Geoffrey Strauss write:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s irrational vendetta against teachers and public education, aided and abetted by the state legislature and former Commissioner John King’s inept handling of Common Core, charter schools and the public education system have all led to such a toxic atmosphere in education that few candidates want to even get near public school teaching…..

We must make public school teaching attractive again, and here is a short list of what should be done:

1. Eliminate the EdTPA. This system, promoted as increasing standards for teachers, is in reality so onerous and poorly thought out that it is discouraging qualified applicants to the profession. It costs both teacher candidates and the state millions, and has resulted in teacher candidates being less prepared for teaching rather than more so.

2. Eliminate standardized testing in the public schools and for teacher candidate preparation. Research shows the best indicator of a student’s success is their GPA, not standardized test scores. Standardized testing merely adds to the coffers of the private testing industry. Reinstitute teacher-created Regent’s exams. Teacher created exams are age appropriate, more accurately test the learning of students and cost much less than corporate prepared tests.

3. Let teachers mark their own students’ tests. It’s cheaper and better.

4. Eliminate corporate “canned” teaching modules created to meet Common Core Standards, and allow teachers to create their lesson plans. Teachers are the experts; release their creativity so that they can teach students properly.

5. Make the teaching profession attractive financially. Eliminate Tiers V and VI in the teacher retirement system. One of the tradeoffs teachers had accepted for the relatively low pay for the amount of education required was a decent pension. Tiers V and VI were created to punish teachers, not reward them for their service.

6. Create a “Teacher Bar Association” to establish educational requirements for teachers for public and charter schools, thus officially recognizing that teaching is a profession. Lawyers, doctors and CPAs are experts in their fields, as are teachers in theirs.

7. Establish a program to help raise the status of teaching in the public’s consciousness. Few want to enter a profession which is constantly derided by politicians and the press.

8. Common Core has been a disaster; eliminate it. While the intent was perhaps a good one, it was created by non-educators more for political and profit motives than educational ones.

If we want more teachers, we must make the profession attractive financially and creatively. Let teachers do what they do best — teach!

Please join me and many others in Washington, D.C., on July 8 to express our support for our nation’s public schools and educators.

If you are fed up with the privatization of public schools and the high-stakes testing that has harmed real education, please join us.

You will meet old friends and make new friends. There are many wonderful activities planned before and after the March.

Join us and raise your voices for better public schools, a respected teaching profession, and a new direction for American education.

I hope you stop and say hello!

Coalition Letterhead

Please Join

Save Our Schools Coalition for Action

People’s March For Public Education & Social Justice

On July 8 a coalition of grassroots groups, union organizations, and activists will rally at the Lincoln Memorial and march in support of education and social justice. We are marching for community-based, equitably-funded schools that are the heart of neighborhoods.

We stand and march for:


·         Full, equitable funding for all public schools

·         Safe, racially just schools and communities

·         Community leadership in public school policies

·         Professional, diverse educators for all students

·         Child-centered, culturally appropriate curriculum for all

·         No high-stakes standardized testing

Join us in Washington D.C. on July 8-10th to celebrate democracy by living it.

·         July 8th: Rally & March – Lincoln Memorial

Speakers include:  Diane Ravitch, Rev. William Barber, Jamaal Bowman,  Jonathon Kozol,  Jesse Hagopian, Morna McDermott, the Youth Dreamers, Gus Morales, Detroit Teachers Union members, Denisha Jones, Sam Anderson, Tanaisa Brown, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Barbara Madeloni, Brett Bigham, Ruth Rodriguez, Bishop John Selders, United Opt Out, Yohuru Williams, Lisa Rudley, the Dyett Hunger Strikers and Jitu Brown, Mike Klonsky, Michelle Gunderson.

·         July 9th: Activists Conference: – Howard University

                New & Experienced Organizers Working for Public Education & Communities

            Workshops for individuals and groups so we can return to our communities as leaders, organizers,             participants, artists, and/or performers.   Sessions for families, children & youth.


            Keynotes: Jitu Brown and Bishop John L.Selders Jr.

·         July 10th: Coalition Summit Work Session –activists & organizers meet to plan

An action this big requires much collaboration and support, and the Coalition has many involvement opportunities for individuals and organizations alike. Consider helping in the following ways:

1.       Endorse the principles and the 2016 event

2.      Provide active publicity about the 2016 event to your organizations and listserves

3.      Organize in your area and assist people in attending the event

4.      Provide financial support for the 2016 event and/or scholarships to deserving attendees

Free bus July 8  leaves 335 Adams St., Brooklyn at 6:00AM & returns after rally. To sign up email; give your name & e-mail.   Only 60 seats

Joseph Ricciotti, veteran educator in Connecticut, wonders if Hillary Clinton will forge a different path from that of the Obama administration. He points out that Race to the Top and Common Core were both major disasters. Race to the Top was built on the assumptions of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, and proved even more harmful to public education and to children.

He notes that she benefited in her campaign by the early endorsements of the two teachers’ unions, the NEA and AFT.

He writes:

She can be thankful in no small part to the major role that the teacher organizations in the nation such as the National Educational Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) played in their early endorsement of her presidency. Public school teachers and parents are fighting the battle of their lives in attempting to hold off the forces of privatization along with the onslaught of charter schools in the nation.

Sadly, theses forces of privatization received major support from Arne Duncan, the former Secretary of Education appointed by President Barack Obama. No other Education Secretary, especially Democratic, has done more to privatize and weaken public education than Arne Duncan who was also obsessed with standardized testing. Under his regime, public schools across the nation experienced two failed programs with Race to the Top (RTTT) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS). His so-called “testocracy” grossly neglected the impact of childhood poverty on learning for children from impoverished homes.

Likewise, under Duncan’s time in office, we have witnessed the demise of the neighborhood school and the growth of charter schools, all with corporate sponsors. Hence, it was obvious that former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was not a public school advocate but rather a paid shill who was in the pockets of the corporate reformers and the testing industry.

If Clinton is elected as president in 2016, it will not take very long for both the NEA and the AFT to know whether their early presidential endorsement has been wasted, as was the case following Barack Obama’s nomination eight years ago in his selection of Duncan as Secretary of Education. Whether Clinton chooses someone to serve as Secretary of Education who will undo the disastrous harm that Duncan has inflicted on public education in his eight years remains to be seen. Will she choose another corporate reformer or will she surprise everyone with an appointment of someone who will be a true advocate of public education and who is widely respected by the supporters of public education in the nation?

I can’t bring myself to tell you whom he recommends to lead the Department of Education.

One of the hotbeds of opt out in New York was centered on Long Island, which consists of Nassau County and Suffolk County. Fully half of the students eligible for state tests did not take the tests. Reporter Jaime Franchi surveys the movement and asks, “what’s next?”

A year ago, parents were battling a combative Governor Cuomo, facing a hostile State Education Department, and rallying against Common Core. But what a difference a year makes. Now the Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, Betty Rosa, is an experienced educator who is sympathetic to the parents who opt out.

And the movement has larger goals:

The struggle came to a head during this spring’s testing season, culminating in a giant win for Long Island Opt-Out, a parent-led group that organized an historic number of test-refusals this year with almost 100,000 students—more than half of the student population in Nassau and Suffolk counties—opting out of state tests. Their message has been effective: No more Common Core. Despite incremental fixes promised by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his so-called “Common Core Task Force,” they are still demanding concrete changes.

Yet, it remains to be seen how this evolving protest movement will improve or replace the current education agenda.

According to local public education advocates, the answer is multi-tiered. It includes elections: first at the state level and then at the local school board in an effort to tackle education policy from all sides. The goal is a shift away from schools’ increasing test-prep focus almost exclusively on math and reading skills—eschewing the arts and play-based learning—to a comprehensive curriculum that addresses what some advocates call the “whole child.”

The opt out leaders have been shrewd. They have elected nearly 100 of their members to local school boards. They threw their support behind a candidate for the State Senate and he eked out a narrow victory. They regularly schedule meetings with their representatives in Albany.

Opt out leaders want a sweeping change in education policy, from scripted lessons and high-stakes testing to child-centered classrooms, where children are really put first, not test scores.

Valerie Strauss conducted a written Q&A exchange with me over the weekend.

She asked good questions. She wanted to know what I had changed in the revision of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

She asked me what I would say to President Obama if I had the chance to sit down with him.

She asked what I thought Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would do.

I thought it was a good opportunity to sum up what is happening right now.

As an aside, readers of this blog might be interested to note that our old friend Virginia SGP comments and claims that he was “censored” on my blog. Happily, a reader of this blog pointed out that he was limited to only four comments a day, which is not censorship. If I posted everything he sent in, he would have had 10-12 comments a day. And then there was the problem that he often used his space to slam and slander people he disagreed with. Not me, but others. He has left us, sadly. I no longer have to read a dozen comments of his daily and decide which to post.

Jeb is back, writes Peter Greene, with the same old snake oil. Having lost the GOP presidential nomination, he has returned to his favorite song: Public education is failing, and we (the reformers) need to disrupt it, monetize it, privatize it, and sell lots of technology to it.

As Peter shows, there is nothing new in what he has on offer. The same overworked and faulty statistics about massive educational failure (we would now be a fourth world nation if any of this baloney were true). The same claims about the wonders of technology. The same empty claims for privatization and profiteering. Merit pay. No unions. Test scores as the be-all and end-all of education.

Peter writes:

Jeb loves him some vouchers. In his perfect future, the money will follow the child. I always think this is a bold choice for a nominal conservative politician, since it is literally taxation without representation– taxpayers who don’t have kids get to pay for schools, but they have no voice in what kind of schools they get. And if the money follows the kid, why can’t the kid just have a big party?

But I have to take my hat off to somebody who still believes in vouchers. It’s the kind of devotion you usually find only in members of the Flat Earth Society, an adherence to a long-debunked belief that doesn’t have a speck of evidence to support it.

Float Free as a Bird

But why have a school at all, says Bush. Why not just get your AP Calculus from this on-line provider, and get your English from some other provider. Watch for the of homeschooling. Let students move through coursework at their own personal speed. Assess student mastery of skills through the year, and never social promote. Yes, we’ll have Competency Based Education, but we’ll call it something else.

Jeb’s answer to everything: get rid of public education.

Jeb Bush is the Ivan Illich of the right.

Peter Greene contacted the SAT whistle blower, Manuel Alfaro, and learned that he was a college classmate of Jason Zimba, who wrote the Common Core math standards.

Peter writes:

The short form of Alfaro’s story– the College Board has knowingly lied about using best practices in developing the “revamped” SAT, and in the process of selling the SAT as a state-wide and/or graduation exam, will be lying some more. And it would appear that even this stripped down, cut corners approach isn’t letting the College Board get tests written fast enough, for as Schneider found poking around Reddit, the same form of the SAT was given in March and in June.

Alfaro is still out there and still writing. He says that the story has “more plot twists than the Da Vinci Code.” It seems certain that those plot twists are not good news for the College Board. Go read some more about the full extent of Coleman’s fraud. Stay tuned, and pass the word.


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