Archives for category: Education Reform

The Washington Post fact-checkers have kept a meticulous record of Donald Trump’s lies, and there were so many of them that it became a nearly full-time job. Every time he spoke at a rally, the lies came tumbling out. Trump made more than 30,000 false or misleading statements, nearly half of them in his last year in office. The biggest lie, of course, was his claim that he won the election, which was denied to him because of massive voter fraud. His lawyers never produced evidence of voter fraud in any court, and they lost 60 court cases, appearing before judges appointed by both Republicans and Democrats. The U.S. Supreme Court twice refused to accept the Trump campaign’s claims of voter fraud; not even the three Justices appointed by Trump–Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett– supported his claims. It is easy to claim “fraud” on television, but actual courts expect evidence, and Trump’s lawyers never had any evidence.

Glenn Kessler, the lead fact-checker, wrote about Trump’s lies:

He overstated the “carnage” he was inheriting, then later exaggerated his “massive” crowd and claimed, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that it had not rained during his address. He repeated the rain claim the next day, along with the fabricated notion that he held the “all-time record” for appearing on the cover of Time magazine.

And so it went, day after day, week after week, claim after claim, from the most mundane of topics to the most pressing issues.

Over time, Trump unleashed his falsehoods with increasing frequency and ferocity, often by the scores in a single campaign speech or tweetstorm. What began as a relative trickle of misrepresentations, including 10 on his first day and five on the second, built into a torrent through Trump’s final days as he frenetically spread wild theories that the coronavirus pandemic would disappear “like a miracle” and that the presidential election had been stolen — the claim that inspired Trump supporters to attack Congress on Jan. 6 and prompted his second impeachment.

The final tally of Trump’s presidency: 30,573 false or misleading claims — with nearly half coming in his final year.

Read and search the full database of Trump’s false or misleading claims

For more than 10 years, The Fact Checker has assessed the accuracy of claims made by politicians in both parties, and that practice will continue. But Trump, with his unusually flagrant disregard for facts, posed a new challenge, as so many of his claims did not merit full-fledged fact checks. What started as a weekly feature — “What Trump got wrong on Twitter this week” — turned into a project for Trump’s first 100 days.  Then, in response to reader requests, the Trump database was maintained for four years, despite the increasing burden of keeping it up.

The database became an untruth tracker for the ages, widely cited around the world as a measuring stick of Trump’s presidency — and as of noon Wednesday it was officially retired…

An assessment of the Fact Checker database shows the dramatic escalation in the rate of Trump’s dishonesty over time. Trump averaged about six claims a day in his first year as president, 16 claims day in his second year, 22 claims day in his third year — and 39 claims a day in his final year. Put another way, it took him 27 months to reach 10,000 claims and another 14 months to reach 20,000. He then exceeded the 30,000 mark less than five months later.

Scroll a visual timeline of the false claims Trump made during his time in office

Trump made false claims about just about everything, big and small, so the Fact Checker database provides a window into his obsessions (and the news cycle) at the time. When he felt under siege or in trouble, he responded by trying to craft an alternative reality for his supporters — and to viciously attack his foes. Nearly half of the false claims were communicated at his campaign rallies or via his now-suspended Twitter account...

After his election defeat, Trump spoke or tweeted about little except to offer lies about a stolen election, even as he or his supporters lost more than 60 court cases as judges repeatedly rejected his claims as bogus. After Nov. 3, he made more than 800 false or misleading claims about election fraud, including 76 times offering some variation of “rigged election.”

At his Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse, in which he incited the attack on the Capitol, Trump made 107 false or misleading claims, almost all about the election.

The aftermath of what Biden and other Democrats now call the “big lie” hovers over Washington as both parties figure out whether there can be a return to a shared set of facts undergirding national debate, or whether one of the major political parties will remain captive to the sorts of conspiracy theories that marked so many of Trump’s final year of claims.

Our democracy is in deep trouble when we can’t agree on basic facts about the world around us.

Ann P. Cronin is a former Connecticut Distinguished English Teacher of the Year, a school district administrator, and creator of award-winning programs for the teaching of English in middle schools and high schools. At her blog, she asks about Miguel Cardona’s vision for the future.

She writes:

When I ask Connecticut teachers about Miguel Cardona, those who know him or have worked with him say that he is really nice guy who knows what the challenges in our classrooms are, knows how to help teachers to improve their teaching, and respects public schools. All good.

The majority of Connecticut teachers who don’t know him personally say that he has been largely quiet as Commissioner and are critical that he seems more interested in keeping schools open than in caring about public health, including the welfare of teachers, students and students’ families during the pandemic. 

But what is his vision for teaching and learning that he will bring to the U.S. Department of Education? When appointed Commissioner of Education in Connecticut 19 months ago, he stated that his goals would be to:

  1. Make a positive impact on graduation rates.
  2. Close the achievement gap.
  3. Ensure that all students have increased access to opportunities and advantages that they need to succeed in life.

It is reasonable to assume that the goals he had for Connecticut 19 months ago will be goals that he will now bring to the country. Those goals, however, are “old hat” and don’t have a record of being successfully accomplished.

The goals themselves are worthy ones, but they need a new interpretation which would give rise to a dramatically new vision and radical new actions. The questions are: What would that new vision and new actions look like? And is Dr. Cardona open to that vision and those actions?

Cronin points out that it easy to “raise the graduation rate,” as many districts now do, by offering “credit retrieval” or “credit recovery” courses, a quick computer course that involves minimal learning but provides credits. The goal ought to be, she says, not raising the graduation rate but something like the graduating of well-educated high school students. Currently, graduation rates make good headlines but can mean very little in terms of student learning.

Charter schools have mastered the trick of raising graduation rates by pushing out students who are unlikely to graduate on time.

She asks for something more: a genuine vision that involves improving the quality of education, not improving the data.

How refreshing!

The standardized tests to which our students have been subjected for two decades have not improved American education. They have degraded it into endless months of test preparation, for tests of dubious reliability and validity. Schools have reduced or eliminated the arts, recess, civics, and other subjects because they “don’t count.” Only the tests count.

Standardized tests do not reduce achievement gaps. Standardized tests do not increase equity. Standardized tests label children as winners or losers, and the same students are labeled “losers” or “failures” year after year by these flawed instruments. Standardized tests are highly correlated with family income. Standardized tests had their origins in racist and eugenicist theories. They should be thoroughly discredited, but our policymakers refuse to see the harm they do.

Federal law requires that every student in grades 3-8 take standardized tests in the spring. The teachers are not allowed to discuss the questions. The scores are returned 4-6 months later, when the students have different teachers. The teachers are not allowed to know which questions students got right or wrong. The tests have no diagnostic value. None.

FairTest              
National Center for Fair & Open Testing

for further information:
Bob Schaeffer    (239) 395-6773
            mobile    (239) 699-0468

WHAT:    National Town Hall on Suspending High-Stakes Testing in Spring 2021 

WHO:     U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman, New York — House Education Committee 
                Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, Dean, University of Kentucky College of Education 
                Dr. Lorrie Sheppard, Distinguished Professor of Education, University of Colorado 
                Dr. Jack Schneider, Asst. Professor, Leadership in Education, University of Massachusetts 
                Dr. Lisa Escarcega, Colorado State Board of Education 
                Roberto Jiménez, School Committee Member, Chelsea, Massachusetts 
                The event will be MC’d by Bob Schaeffer, Executive Director, FairTest, 
                            and Ilana Spiegel, University of Colorado Board of Regents. 

WHEN:   Tuesday, January 26, 2021 — 6:00pm EST 

WHERE:  online via Zoom webinar 

HOW:      Register at:  https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_FCKpfQKmSqmXKMo-KKH3Og  — recording available via Facebook after the event

WHY:       Public school parents, educators, and community leaders believe that no test score is worth risking the lives of students and school personnel. Forcing children to return to classrooms to take government-mandated standardized exams would be dangerous and irresponsible. No one needs a test to know that many low-income children in under-resourced schools have fallen further behind. Results from tests administered this spring could not be valid or reliable; the conditions in which students tried to learn have not been “standardized.”


                Parents and educators overwhelming support canceling spring 2021 exams.  According to the “Understanding America Study” by the University of Southern California, nearly two thirds of parents agree with suspending this year’s testing mandates. Fully 72 percent of Black parents favor cancellation. So do the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association.


                The time and resources spent administering tests this year would be better invested in educating students while supporting their emotional needs.  Federal testing requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act and state high-stakes exam mandates must be suspended for at least another year.

It is late in the day for former Attorney General Bill Barr to rehabilitate his reputation, but he apparently gave journalist Jonathan Swan an inside view of why he quit in December. He knew that Trump was lying about the election. He tried to convince him that all the claims of election fraud were B.S., but Trump got angry when Barr told him the truth. Of course, when Barr resigned, he wrote an obsequious letter about how great Trump was, which in itself robs him of any glory for repudiating Trump after the failed putsch.

Swan begins:

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president’s theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were “bullshit.”

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and a few other aides in the room were shocked Barr had come out and said it — although they knew it was true. For good measure, the attorney general threw in a warning that the new legal team Trump was betting his future on was “clownish.”

Trump had angrily dragged Barr in to explain himself after seeing a breaking AP story all over Twitter, with the headline: “Disputing Trump, Barr says no widespread election fraud.” But Barr was not backing down. Three weeks later, he would be gone.

The relationship between the president and his attorney general was arguably the most consequential in Trump’s Cabinet. And in the six months leading up to this meeting, the relationship between the two men had quietly disintegrated. Nobody was more loyal than Bill Barr. But for Trump, it was never enough.

The president had become too manic for even his most loyal allies, listening increasingly to the conspiracy theorists who echoed his own views and offered an illusion, an alternate reality.

What follows is fascinating.

His inner circle knew he was lying. Barr had the audacity to say that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, certainly not enough to change the outcome of the election. But Trump became committed to his Big Lie. The lies about voter fraud were good enough to set off thousands of Trump’s most avid supporters, who gathered on January 6 to set siege to the U.S. Capitol and to threaten the lives of legislators, both Democrats and Republicans. We now know that the nation barely missed witnessing a massacre of our Congress, with a wild and bloodthirsty mob roaming unconstrained through the Capitol for hours. Did Barr know the plan? Is that why he quit?

Peter Greene here disentangles the latest move to expand vouchers in Florida and the latest attempt to demolish public schools in a state where 80 percent of students attend public schools. Florida’s voucher schools currently are not required to take state tests or to have any standards for teachers or principals or to adhere to the state curriculum. Most of the voucher schools are religious, ignoring the State Constitution which explicitly prohibits public funding of religious schools and ignoring a 2012 state referendum that rejected vouchers. There are schools where the “educators” do not have college degrees, where racism is okay, where gay students and staff are barred, and where students are using textbooks that teach hate. No matter. The Orlando Sentinel published a three-part investigation called “Schools Without Rules.” Florida wants more of the same.

Greene writes:

Florida’s legislature is at it again, joining in a national trend of using the pandemic crisis to fuel school voucher initiatives. 

Manny Diaz, Jr., (R-Hialeah) has spent his career chip chip chipping away at public education in Florida, and yesterday he returned with another bold idea. 

Florida has allowed choice programs to grow like an unweeded garden, but Diaz’s new bill proposes to collapse five “scholarship” (aka “voucher”) programs into just two Education Savings Account (ESA) programs. So Family Empowerment, Hope, Florida Tax Credit Scholarship–all under one roof now, along with the newly condensed Gardner-McKay programs for students with special needs...

So here comes SB 48, designed to expand the eligibility for programs, combine them, and put them under ESAs and folding in Tax Credit Scholarships. There are a few other wrinkles as well.

It also reduces oversight by the state–previously the outfits overseeing the tax credit scholarships had to be audited annually, to make sure they were spending public tax dollars appropriately; now they would be audited only every three years. That’s important, because an ESA is like a debit card given to parents, and history tells us that without some oversight, the tax dollars carried by that debit card can end up spent on….well, in Arizona they discovered about $700,000 in ESA money on beauty supplies, clothing, and even attempts to just grab the cash.

Publicity touts “adding flexible spending options” as well. The vouchers can be used for the following: instructional materials (including digital devices); curriculum; tuition for full or part-time for everything from postsecondary courses to a “home education program” to private school to virtual school; fees for tests (SAT, AP, industry certification); Florida’s prepaid college savings programs; contracted services, including classes from public school; part-time tutoring services (from someone who has certification or has just “:demonstrated mastery of subject area knowledge”); summer school or after-school ed fees; transportation (under $750). So, a whole lot of things other than just a voucher to go to school somewhere...

This, for many choice fans, is getting close to the end game. The dream– rich people pay fewer taxes and only support the schools they want to support. Wealthy people still have access to all the choices they want, while everyone else gets to pick through a free market morass in search of do-it-yourself education for their children. Education becomes mostly privatized edu-business, and the public schools remains in some markets to do their underfunded best with the “customers” that nobody wants. But hey. Lower taxes. Less paying for the education of Those People. Put Jesus back in charge of more education, even if that means the education is not very good, aggressively exclusionary, or even abusive.

We’ll see what happens. Pay attention. Because Florida remains on the cutting edge of disrupting public education into oblivion, the model which other states that hope to be the very worst still aspire to follow.

Parent advocate Leonie Haimson has written an urgent plea to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza. They acknowledge that the test for the “gifted and talented” programs are flawed, they know they need to be replaced, they know that it is wrong to test children as young as 4, but they are giving the test anyway. Haimson says, STOP NOW!

Haimson writes:

Last week, Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carranza announced that they will administer the controversial and problematic test for admissions to “gifted and talented” classes this spring, for perhaps a final year. Then: 

“We will spend the next year engaging communities around what kind of programming they would like to see that is more inclusive, enriching, and truly supports the needs of academically advanced and diversely talented students at a more appropriate age… We will also engage communities around how best to integrate enriched learning opportunities to more students, so that every student – regardless of a label or a class that they are in – can access rigorous learning that is tailored to their needs and fosters their creativity, passion, and strengths.” 

Yet the question arises as to why they will continue to give these exams to children as young as four years old at all. They are exams that few respected researchers believe are either valid or reliable. Why not end the practice now, especially given the risks and considerable cost of administering this test during a pandemic? 

We have posted many critiques of New York City’s gifted program over the years on our NYC Public School Parents blog, including this one by esteemed education leader Debbie Meier in 2007, when Chancellor Joel Klein first instituted a standardized, high-stakes testing process for admissions to these classes in the supposed name of “equity.”

As Meier wrote, “They are using two instruments we know for a fact provide racially biased results–it’s the data that the canards about racial inferiority are based on and comes with a history of bias. Both class and race. Furthermore, we know that psychometricians have unanimously warned us for years about the lack of reliability of standardized tests for children under 7.”

The admissions outcome is clearly racially- and economically-biased, as nearly half of all students who take the test in the wealthiest part of Manhattan, District 2, score as “gifted” (meaning at 90th percentile) while very few score that high in the poorer neighborhoods of Brooklyn or the Bronx. Some parents pay up to $400 an hour for their four-year-old children to take test prep classes. 

About 29,000 children took the gifted test last year, and about 3,600 got offers for seats in gifted classes. Currently, according to the New York Post, Asian students account for 43% of these students, followed by white students at 36%, Hispanic students 8%, and Black students 6%.  

To show how ridiculous this test is, Haimson cites a study showing that most of the children who score at the top on the exam are not at the top a year later.

The only beneficiary of this test is Pearson, which turns a profit.

Recently Tom Ultican responded to something I posted on Twitter.

His response contained a typo.

He meant to write “Common Core Standards,” but mistakenly wrote “Common Care Standards.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our schools had “Common Care Standards,” in which we acknowledged our responsibility to care about students?

The standards might read like this:

All children shall have access to high quality preschool.

All children should have time to play every day, between classes and after school.

All children should have three nutritious meals every day.

All children should see a school nurse whenever they don’t feel well.

All children should be checked by a doctor and dentist annually.

All children should have access to a well-stocked library.

All children should have a safe place to live.

All children should have the arts as part of their daily schedule.

All children should have a school curriculum that includes not only reading and mathematics, but civics and history, science, literature, and foreign language.

Do you have anything to add to the Common Care Standards?

Ed Johnson is a persistent, tireless advocate for systemic improvement of the Atlanta Public Schools. As a systems analyst, he opposes school choice, which helps some and hurts others.

He wrote the following letter to the Atlanta School Board after watching the Inauguration ceremonies on January 20:

20 January 2021

Inauguration 2021: “America United” and “a Union with Purpose”

“America United

Joseph R. Biden

President, United States of America

…a Union with Purpose…

Amanda Gorman

National Poet Laureate

Dear Atlanta Board of Education members:

We the people will have neither an “America United” nor “a Union with Purpose” as long as you continue to help pursue the ideological folly of school choice and charter schools with the aim of gradually but surely destroying public education and public schools.

The prayer and hope now is that each of you will reach into the deepest recesses of your heart and soul and extract any remnants of wisdom you find there that will lead you to understand that school choice and charter schools ideology is folly and absolutely contrary to there ever being an “America United” existing as “a Union with Purpose.”

The prayer and hope extend to you also finding the wisdom in your heart and soul to let go foolish Black racialist ideologues, such as one Howard Fuller, so that you may start living up to your sworn Oath of Office to uphold the Atlanta Independent School System as the public good it is supposed to be.

You swore, in part:

In all things pertaining to my said office, I will be governed by the public good and the interests of said school system.”

However, your chairman and known Teach for America alum and Howard Fuller acolyte, Jason Esteves, recently intimated his election to the school board constitutes a mandate to impose his adherence to Black racialist ideology à la Howard Fuller upon the public good that is the Atlanta Independent School System. 

School choice and charter schools ideology is not of, by, nor for the public good.

Neither is Black racialist ideology à la Howard Fuller and similar others.

Rather, school choice and charter schools ideology is of, by, and for private interests.

And so is Black racialist ideology à la Howard Fuller.  Witness the demise of Fuller’s Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) after private interests cut off their money flow.

If you were to strive to fulfil your sworn Oath of Office, then maybe, just maybe, the Atlanta Independent School System, which is more commonly known as Atlanta Public Schools, will stand a good chance of becoming a public good with a purpose.

Right now, the Atlanta Independent School System has no purpose of its own.

Rather, the system has any number of default purposes, where, at any given moment, a default purpose will manifest as any coordinated number of purposes of any number of private interests.

Naturally, in keeping with school choice and charter schools ideology, the relatively new APS Office of Partnerships and Development and the relatively new APS Office of Innovation function, essentially, to steer the Atlanta Independent School System always toward soliciting, aligning to, and sustaining the purposes of varied private interests that aim to supplant public interests.  

So, should you need prayer assistance with reaching deep into your heart and soul to find requisite wisdom essential to we the people ever having an “America United” existing as “a Union with Purpose,” much such assistance is generally available.

You only have to reach out and ask for it.

Ed Johnson

Advocate for Quality in Public Education

Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

The Connecticut Mirror wrote a revealing in-depth analysis of Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona’s life, career, and education ideas.

His meteoric rise has been well documented. He grew up in poverty. He started public school in Meriden, Connecticut, not speaking English. He saw education as his route to a better life.

He became a teacher, then a principal, then assistant superintendent of the Meriden district of 8,000 students. From there, he was tapped to become State Commissioner of Schools.

From the outside, the Meriden Public Schools system looks like a network of struggling city schools.

The state has designated it an Alliance District and one of the “lowest-performing districts” since more than one-quarter of the students are multiple grades behind in English, math and science. It is also an economically isolated district that spends 30% less per student than the state average despite three-quarters of its students coming from low-income families. And the school ratings often used in real estate listings don’t look favorably on the district, either.

This is where Miguel Cardona — President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to become the next U.S. education secretary — grew up and spent 21 years of his 23-year career as an educator. And his experiences there — his battles and the district’s successes — will likely be front-of-mind as he coordinates policy for all the public schools in the country.

Cardona has never put much weight into titles, and he has grown used to defying low expectations set upon him and his students.

In Meriden, it meant broadening opportunity by opening access to advanced-level courses to drastically more students, embracing the Common Core standards and the accompanying tests that raised the bar for where students should be academically, providing emotional support and interventions for students acting out rather than suspending them, and setting up programs to help more high school graduates navigate to college.

Cardona also took the lead in Meriden to fine-tune controversial education reforms aimed at teacher accountability that were being pushed onto his district by state and federal officials into a model that the local union eventually supported.

Meriden’s results are ahead of most districts’ throughout the state on arguably the most important benchmark — the share of students who meet their growth targets and are on track to catch up or stay ahead.

Statewide, 33% of students from low-income families were on track to catch up in English Language Arts, compared to 39% of the poor students in Meriden by the end of the 2018-19 school year, the last year Cardona was the district’s assistant superintendent before becoming state education commissioner. In math, 37% of poor students in Meriden were on track, compared to 34% statewide. The growth of Meriden students also jumps out compared to the state’s 32 other “low-performing” Alliance Districts.

The share of Meriden students from low-income households reaching their growth targets has outpaced state averages nearly every year since 2014-15, when the state first started measuring whether students were on track to catch up.

The leader of Biden’s education transition team, Linda Darling-Hammond, served on a panel with Cardona when he was an assistant superintendent and was very impressed. That meeting was probably the key to his remarkable ascension.

This article provides insight into the educator who will lead the U.S. Depatnentbof Education in the Biden administration.

I signed up for the vaccine as soon as I was eligible (eight days ago), and today I went to the Bushwick Educational Complex in Brooklyn. I stood in a very long line in the cold for about 30 minutes, then realized that older people (like me) were being brought indoors through a different, shorter line. I joined that line. At about 1:15 p.m., I got the Moderna vaccine, which is the one selected by New York City. Every day, more testing sites open, and more people are vaccinated. I have an appointment to return in 28 days for my second shot. If everyone gets vaccinated, we can stop this pandemic that has killed 400,000 of our fellow citizens.