Archives for category: Education Reform

Governor Pritzker (D) of Illinois signed legislation restoring the collective bargaining rights of the Chicago Teachers Union, which had been suspended since 1995 by a Republican Governor and Legislature.

CTU President Jesse Sharkey sent out this announcement:

After a decades-long struggle, today Governor Pritzker signed HB 2275, fully restoring our bargaining rights. The repeal of the despised 1995 Amendatory Act gutting bargaining rights for CPS unions at last eliminates restrictions on our ability to advocate for our students and families.

For more than a decade, the CTU has fought to win back the right to advocate for our students in our contract negotiations, with our beloved President Emerita Karen GJ Lewis leading the charge to reverse this injustice. Karen understood that laws follow social movements. Like every great democratic leader, she nurtured rank and file organizing and the creation of legislative and political initiatives to build and sustain our movement for common good demands, grounded in the basic rights and dignity of educators and the students and families we serve.  

With his signature today, Governor Pritzker has now restored the right to bargain freely for real equity in our public schools, and advance our organizing for the common good. The restoration of our fundamental labor rights lies at the heart of Karen’s legacy as a fighter for racial and economic justice and as a fearless advocate for those disenfranchised in our City by systemic racism and multi-generational neglect. We owe our students, their families and community allies an enormous debt of gratitude in setting the stage to reverse this unjust 1995 law, passed by a Republican legislature and a Republican governor — and backed by three consecutive mayors. We’re also deeply grateful to the bill’s sponsors, Senator Bill Cunningham, former State Rep. and current Chicago Alderman Silvana Tabares, and former State Rep. and current Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Irvin for their tireless and steadfast leadership.

Those who supported this legislation understand that workers’ rights are human rights. They understand that it was critical to correct the core injustice of the 1995 Amendatory Act and instead return to Chicago educators the central right that every other school district gives its workers: the right without restrictions to bargain for what our students need and deserve.

With the passage of this law and our commitment to common good bargaining, our students and families can at last realize their right to real equity — and never has that commitment been more important than today. Families are struggling under the dual weights of a pandemic that has disproportionately hammered their families and the income inequality and economic hardship the pandemic has exacerbated. Our union is committed to their recovery.

With the signing of this bill, we now at last bargain from a level playing field — with the ability to at last reject the chronic classroom overcrowding, incompetent and wasteful third party contracting, and the desperate shortage of school nurses, social workers, counselors and other chronic staffing needs that have plagued our schools for years.

The state legislature has one more step to take this spring to bring real equity and democracy to our public schools, by giving Chicagoans the right that only we among Illinois residents lack: the right to elect our own representative school board. The families and educators of our school district deserve no less.

In solidarity,

CTU President Jesse Sharkey
Chicago Teachers Union • 1901 W. Carroll Ave. • Chicago, IL 60612 • 312-329-9100


San Diego Superintendent Cindy Marten was tapped by the Biden administration to be Deputy Secretary of Education, the #2 job in the Department of Education. The corporate reform lobby was not happy with this choice, and they began making insidious charges that she was uniquely unqualified and didn’t care about equity. All of this was nonsense, of course.

When she was interviewed by the Senate committee, she showed herself to be the well-informed, knowledgeable, thoughtful educator that she is, and it appeared that even some Republican members of the committtee were impressed.

The flimsy claims against her needed to be answered, and it was not her role to do it. Fortunately a San Diego business leader stepped up and dashed all the extremists’ attacks on her record.

Mel Katz wrote in the Voice of San Diego:

After President Joe Biden surprised San Diego with the exciting news that San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten had been chosen to help lead his administration’s Department of Education, some voiced concerns that she had not had success closing San Diego’s achievement gap between students of color and White students or that she had not paid sufficient attention to equity in schools.

I don’t believe the facts back that up.

Marten has devoted her career to eliminating the legacy of systemic racism within public education. She has challenged her colleagues to create an anti-racist school district, and she has put in place concrete policies to improve the academic outcomes for students of color.

Her success has earned praise nationally from the president of the NAACP, at the state and local levels from leaders like Secretary of State Shirley Weber, state Board of Education Chair and Linda Darling-Hammond and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Marten has earned their support from her lifetime commitment to equity. From the time she started a literacy center for low-income families, as a young teacher, to her time as principal at Central Elementary in City Heights, which thrived with improved test scores, high staff morale and increased parental involvement.

The fundamental role of any school system is to educate children, and on that core level, Marten has succeeded where many others have failed. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is considered the gold standard of large-scale assessments, found that San Diego was the only district in 2019 whose tests scores significantly exceeded the average scores of 27 large districts in both math and English language arts on the fourth- and eighth-grade tests. Since 2003, San Diego student scores in fourth-grade math have risen every year except one.

In addition to outperforming the average for urban school districts, the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that Black and Hispanic student achievement is increasing faster in San Diego Unified than in just about any other urban district in the country.

A recent study by the Learning Policy Institute found students of color in San Diego Unified schools academically outperform their peers statewide. A companion study by UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools found this success is not accidental, rather it is the result of intentional efforts to provide added counselors and other supports to high-need school communities. San Diego Unified has an equity-based funding model that doubles and triples school-site funding above what the district receives in state allocations for disadvantaged students.

As San Diegans, we can be grateful for all that our students have achieved under Marten. As Americans, we can be optimistic about what she and Miguel Cardona, Biden’s education secretary nominee, will be able to accomplish at the national level — for all children.

Mel Katz is executive officer of Manpower. He founded the Business Roundtable for Education at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and e3 Civic High, the charter high school in the Central Library. He co-chaired San Diego Unified’s construction bond campaign, Proposition M, and its Graduation Strategy Committee.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells writes in the New Yorker about the importance of the vote on whether to unionize at an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama. The workers are paid $15 an hour. They are organizing against a behemoth corporation owned by the richest man in the world over working conditions, pay too. The vote concludes Monday. Six thousand workers will define the future for millions of others. Bernie Sanders tweeted recently that the 50 richest Americans own more than the bottom 50%. Is this our future?

He writes:

Most contemporary union drives are ultimately about the past—about the contrast that they draw between the more even prosperity of previous decades and the jarring inequalities of the present. But one that will culminate on Monday, the deadline for nearly six thousand employees of an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, to cast ballots on whether to affiliate with the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, is the rare union campaign that is obviously about the future. In this case, hyperbole is possible. The Democratic congressman Andy Levin, of Michigan, a union stalwart, has described it as “the most important election for the working class in this country in the twenty-first century.” On Monday, the Reverend Dr. William Barber, as prominent a figure as exists in the modern civil-rights movement, travelled to Alabama and said, “Bessemer is now our Selma.”

That this election is about the future has something to do with the workers themselves, who embody the political transformation of the South to which progressives pin their dreams. According to union officials, a majority of the people employed at the facility, which is outside of Birmingham, are Black, and a majority are women. On the drive up to the facility, supporters of the R.W.D.S.U. planted a sign featuring the Democratic politician and voting-rights advocate Stacey Abrams striking a Rosie the Riveter pose. A high-ranking labor official in Washington pointed me to a detail from an interview, published in The American Prospect, with the campaign’s on-the-ground leader, a thirty-three-year-old organizer named Josh Brewer. Brewer said that many of the workers who supported the union had been involved in demonstrations to bring down Confederate statues in Birmingham, and they often organized themselves.

But the significance of the drive has more to do with the company itself. Amazon is now among the largest private employers in the United States; its founder, Jeff Bezos, is arguably the wealthiest man in modern history. The company has paid every one of its workers fifteen dollars per hour since November, 2018, while also pioneering second-by-second monitoring of its employees. “This isn’t just about wages,” Stuart Appelbaum, the R.W.D.S.U.’s president, told me, on Monday. It is also about the strenuous pace of work, and the real-time surveillance methods that Amazon has used to monitor employees. Appelbaum said some of the workers that his union has represented have had employers that monitored their locations with G.P.S. chips in their delivery trucks, “but there’s nothing like this, where you’re expected to touch a package every eight seconds.” It had been hard to organize within the Bessemer facility, he said, in part because many of the workers did not know one another. “It’s hyper-Taylorism,” Damon Silvers, the director of policy and the special counsel of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said. “Amazon has determined an optimal set of motions that they want their employees to do, and they have the ability to monitor the employee at all times and measure the difference between what the employee does and what they want them to do, and there is nowhere to hide.” Appelbaum said, “People tell us they feel like robots who are being managed by robots.”

The Amazon union drive has drawn a rare intensity out of the usual suspects. Abrams, Levin, and Bernie Sanders have announced their support for it, and so has President Joe Biden, who recorded a strong message encouraging the organizers and discouraging any effort to interfere with them. It has also drawn some unusual allies, above all the conservative Republican senator Marco Rubio, of Florida, who published an op-ed in USA Today declaring his support for the organizing workers and his opposition to Amazon’s ways: “The days of conservatives being taken for granted by the business community are over.”

Amazon’s influence is so vast—touching on issues from wealth and income inequality to antitrust policy, the American relationship with China, the omnipotence of workplace surveillance, and the atomizing effect of big business, in its most concentrated and powerful form, on families and communities—that it can scramble ordinary politics. For a moment, at least, it can put Marco Rubio and Stacey Abrams on the same side. Most organizing campaigns have a symbolic quality, in which the employer and its workers stand for different models of economic organization. The fight in Bessemer is different because it is so direct. Amazon isn’t a proxy for the future of the economy but its heart.

A year into a pandemic that has kept many Americans cooped up at home, ordering supplies and streaming their entertainment, seems an unpromising time to take on Amazon, which supplies many of those services. Amazon’s revenue grew by nearly forty per cent in 2020, and its workforce grew by about fifty per cent; Jeff Bezos’s wealth reportedly increased by nearly seventy billion dollars last year. The company has become so ubiquitous that even to inquire about it entangles you in its machinery: type “is Amazon popular?” into a search engine and you might find, as I did, that most of the top results are books about popularity which are sold on Amazon. You can find evidence that Amazon both is and isn’t popular in survey data. In one poll, ninety-one per cent of respondents said that they had a favorable view of Amazon; in another, fifty-nine per cent thought the company was bad for small business. To count on broad opposition to Amazon right now is to assume such cognitive dissonance: that Americans may increasingly rely on Amazon and view it favorably while also believing that the company needs to change...

The labor leaders in Washington seemed to see Republican support as welcome but mostly ornamental—like if a distant relative had sent, for Christmas, a very large painting of a duck. They found the Democrats’ reaction more significant. In Biden’s message of support earlier this month, he warned employers not to interfere with union elections: “You should all remember that the National Labor Relations Act didn’t just say that unions are allowed to exist. It said that we should encourage unions.” Silvers, of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said he thought that Biden was speaking directly to the workers who were organizing. “The way he’s talking is not unprecedented, but the precedents are in the Roosevelt Administration,” he said. Appelbaum, of the R.W.D.S.U., said that there had been more talk about the importance of unions in the last Presidential campaign than he’d ever heard before. “We used to talk about how even those Democratic Presidents who we like would barely talk about unions. Biden is different.”

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matter, closely watches the spending of the New York City Department of Education. Unlike any other city, NYC is required by state law to provide either free space for charter schools or to pay their rent for private facilities. This law was passed by the Legislature at the urging of Governor Cuomo, who called himself “a champion for charter schools.”

Haimson found that the city has been overpaying for charter rents and leases. In the most bizarre example, she points out that the city pays the rent for two Success Academy charter schools that are located in a building owned by the Success Academy corporation. The rent initially was $793,000 but the building’s owner (Success Academy) raised the rent to $3.4 million! The full report is included in a PDF file.

Haimson writes:

Report finds DOE overspent by many millions on rental subsidies for charter schools and owed millions to co-located public schools for facility upgrades

Analysis by Class Size Matters reveals that in FY 2020, over $11.6 million was spent on lease subsidies for charter schools owned by their Charter Management Organization or affiliated organization, and $9.6 million in state reimbursements for lease subsidies were sacrificed

New York, NY (March 25, 2021) – Today, Class Size Matters released a new report, posted here, showing that the DOE has overspent on rental subsidies to charter schools by many millions, and underspent by many millions on the legally required matching funds for public schools co-located with charters.  

The new report, DOE Overspending on Charter School Facility Costs and Underspending on Matching Funds to Public Schools, includes updated information provided by the DOE in response to a letter sent by the New York City Comptroller’s Office about the findings of an earlier report produced by the nonprofit organization.  

“We were surprised to find that the DOE confirmed many of the findings of our earlier report to the Comptroller, either directly or indirectly, and did not dispute any part of the report’s analysis, which showed that the DOE overspent by many millions on charter leases and underspent by many millions on matching funds to public schools,” said Leonie Haimson, the Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

The new report finds that in FY 2020, the DOE paid approximately $108 million for charter school rental subsidies with the state reimbursing about $65 million, amounts that are likely to increase rapidly each year, as enrollment and rental costs increase. Despite this, Governor Cuomo has proposed eliminating all state reimbursements for charter school rental assistance in his Executive budget, which is estimated to cost the city $100 million in FY 2022 and significantly increase in cost over future years. 

“As this report makes clear, New York City is the only district in the state and the nation obligated to help pay for charter school rent and the costs are rising sharply every year,” said New York City Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm. “Now Governor Cuomo is threatening to eliminate any state reimbursement for this spending, which would cost New York City an additional $100 million in lease aid for FY22 and even more thereafter. We cannot allow this to happen, especially in light of the fact that the state still owes New York City $2 billion in Campaign for Fiscal Equity funding.  We cannot allow the Governor to shortchange the city’s most needy students.” 

The report also finds that in FY 2019, the DOE appeared to overspend on lease payments for 39 charter schools through overpayments totaling $21 million over the schools’ base rents, and that by holding leases totaling $13.4 million directly for eight buildings that house charter schools, the city made itself ineligible to receive an estimated $9.6 million in state reimbursements in FY 2020.

In addition, the DOE paid $11.6 million in rental subsidies for eight charter schools whose Charter Management Organization (CMO) or affiliated organization owned the space in FY 2020.  In many cases, the base rents of these charter schools and the DOE payments increased sharply from FY 2019 to FY 2020, raising questions about whether the rents were fairly assessed and whether there is evidence of self-dealing by the charter schools.  

In one example, the rent for the two Success Academy charter schools housed at Hudson Yards increased from approximately $793,000 to over $3.4 million – more than quadrupling – despite the fact that the space is owned by the Success Charter Management Organization. This increase in rent allowed Success Academy to charge the DOE $3.02 million in rental subsidies in FY 2020, an increase of 38 percent from the previous year.

The report also analyzed new data sent by the DOE to the City Comptroller’s Office that revealed millions of dollars in matching funds were owed to public schools for facility enhancements and repairs, compared to the cost of the renovation of their co-located charter schools.  These matching funds have been legally required since 2010.

According to the new DOE data, only four public schools out of 812 cases received matching funds equal to the amount spent by their co-located charter schools in the same year, and not a single public school received the same cumulative amount as its co-located charter school spent over the six-year period from FY 2014 to FY 2019.  Over this period, 127 co-located public schools were owed a total of $15.5 million.  A searchable database is posted here.

Four public schools with the highest amount in missing matching funds were identified, for a total of $4.1 million in missing funds: P.S. 368 in Brooklyn, Mosaic Preparatory Academy and The Mickey Mantle School in East Harlem, and The Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts in Harlem.  Two of these schools are also D75 schools serving seriously disabled students.

The branch of the D75 Mickey Mantle School in East Harlem was lacking over $1.5 million in matching funds.  Allister Johnson, the UFT chapter leader and a teacher at the school, reported that these funds are greatly needed, as their classroom air conditioners break down with regular frequency.  “We cannot use the classrooms for summer school. We have fragile kids with breathing problems. It would be dangerous for them to be in classrooms where all the air conditioners are not working properly,” he said.  He also stated that there are leaks that flood the floors in the staff bathroom and the student bathroom lacks hot water on a regular basis. 

Mosaic Preparatory Academy, an elementary school, lacked over $929,000 over this period. As Shaheem Lewis, the former PTA President and the father of two children in the school said, “I was shocked to learn that we have been shorted by nearly a million dollars by the DOE in matching funds.  For years, we have asked the School Construction Authority to upgrade our auditorium because the seats are falling apart, and to repair the floors of the stage and the gym which are so worn they are dangerous.  Most of our classrooms also lack air-conditioning, while the co-located Success Academy Harlem 3 has installed air conditioners in its classrooms. This is not fair to our kids, and it’s past time that the DOE provided the funding so these sub-standard conditions can be improved.”

In the new spreadsheets, the DOE claimed several reasons for not matching these funds, including that the co-located charter schools expenditures were for air conditioners and repainting and/or reflooring projects, but these exclusions are inconsistent with the State law and Chancellor’s Regulation.  Even if the DOE reasons for these exclusions were correct, public schools still received the amount of matching funds they were due in any one year less than five percent of the time.  

Kaliris Salas-Ramirez, President of Community Education Council in District 4, home of the two schools lacking the most in matching funds, said: “Our East Harlem public schools have been historically disenfranchised. The worst kind of inequity is that co-located charter schools with corporate funding have access to resources absent from our public schools. The state amended the charter law in 2010 to make sure that there wouldn’t continue to be separate and unequal facilities within the same building. To add insult to injury, neither the principals nor the parents at our public schools are informed when they qualify for matching funds, which widens the inequities. It is time for transparency and for the city to support our public schools with the funds that they are entitled!” 

The report makes a number of proposals to address these deficiencies, including that the DOE should provide the matching funds owed to public schools from FY 2014 to FY 2019, and, if the DOE does not agree to do so, the State or City Comptroller should audit these expenditures.  The DOE should also report regularly and post online all of the amounts spent by charter schools on facility upgrades and send these reports to the principals and School Leadership Teams at the co-located public schools, specifying any expenditures that they will not match. For every charter school facilities spending not matched, the reasons for this should be clearly described, along with the sections in the law or regulations that allow for this exemption.

The Chancellor should require that charter schools rent their own buildings rather than have the DOE lease space for them, because under current law, the DOE is losing millions in State reimbursement. The DOE should also never pay charter schools more in lease subsidies than their base rent, which appeared to have occurred at a loss of $21 million in FY 2019.  If these charter schools were overpaid, the DOE should demand they reimburse these funds in future years or subtract the amounts from future DOE payments. If DOE does not agree to do so, the City Comptroller should audit these payments. 

The City Comptroller should also analyze closely whether the rents charged to charter schools by their CMOs or allied organizations are fairly assessed on an annual basis so that the city is not forced to expend excessive amounts on rent subsidies. 

Finally, the New York State Legislature should eliminate the DOE’s obligation to pay for any charter facilities where CMOs or related organizations own their spaces. The Legislature should also reject the Governor’s proposal to eliminate state reimbursement for the DOE’s lease subsidies, and instead amend the law to remove any obligation on the part of the city to cover the cost of private facilities for charter schools going forward.

As City Comptroller Scott Stringer concluded: “When public dollars support improvements in co-located school buildings, we must leverage these investments to make sure all students benefit and ensure schools have the resources owed to them to provide better student learning environments. Students, teachers, principals, and parents deserve far greater transparency and communication.”


Download the pdf:

The Keystone Center for Charter Change reports on issues involving charter schools in Pennsylvania. The site is managed by Lawrence Feinberg, who is a school board member.

In some states like Texas, charter schools get more funding than public schools. In Pennsylvania, they get less, and Feinberg says this is the way it should be because public schools have more expenses than charter schools.

Do charter schools receive less funding per student than school districts? Yes, and rightfully so.

Keystone Center for Charter Change

The tuition payments received by charter schools, which make up nearly 90% of charter school funding, are based on a school district’s expenses. School districts are subject to numerous mandates requiring the expenditure of monies which charter schools are not. For example, school districts:

  • Provide transportation to students, including those attending charter schools and nonpublic schools;
  • Provide health services to nonpublic schools;
  • Identify students who are gifted and provide them with an appropriate educational program;
  • Levy, assess and collect taxes;
  • Pay tuition to charter schools; and
  • Provide access to career and technical education programs.

School districts also provide a variety of educational and extracurricular programs for students that go well beyond those offered or provided by charter schools. This includes interscholastic athletics, clubs, band, theater, and other activities. Charter schools may also provide these activities, but school districts are required to allow charter school students to participate in school district activities in most instances. These expenses alone accounted for more than 15% of school district spending in 2018-19.

The National Education Policy Center frequently engages independent scholars to review think tank reports, which are often advocacy reports.

In this report, the NEPC scholars review the latest report from the National Center on Teacher Quality, which was formed about 20 years ago to take down teachers’ colleges. See this post.

NEPC Review: 2020 Teacher Prep Review: Clinical Practice and Classroom Management (October 2020)

Reviewers: Jamy Stillman and  Katherine Schultz March 16, 2021

NCTQ’s 2020 Teacher Prep Review focuses on two areas of teacher preparation: clinical practice and classroom management. The report uses an approach that is now familiar to readers of NCTQ publications: asserting a set of preferred practices and then applying those criteria to teacher education programs. Although NCTQ reports have been critiqued for their limited use of research and highly questionable research methodology, this report employs the same approaches as earlier NCTQ reports. Rather than analyzing the characteristics of successful programs preparing teachers for a wide range of contexts, the report is based exclusively on adherence to or compliance with NCTQ internal standards that are neither widely accepted nor evidence-based. Thus, the report’s value is diminished and is unlikely to transform teacher preparation

Richard P. Phelps was hired by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to oversee testing, which was a crucial element in her plans to “reform” the district and raise test scores. During his time there, outsiders raised questions about whether there was widespread cheating on tests.

Phelps addresses those questions in this post.

He begins:

Ten years ago, I worked as the director of assessments for DCPS. For temporal context, I arrived after the first of the infamous test cheating scandals and left just before the incident that spawned a second. Indeed, I filled a new position created to both manage test security and design an expanded testing program. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray, who opposed an expanded testing program, defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary. My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as chancellor.

The recurring test cheating scandals of the Rhee-Henderson years may seem extraordinary but, in fairness, DCPS was more likely than the average U.S. school district to be caught because it received a much higher degree of scrutiny. Given how tests are typically administered in this country, the incidence of cheating is likely far greater than news accounts suggest, for several reasons:

–in most cases, those who administer tests—schoolteachers and administrators—have an interest in their results;

–test security protocols are numerous and complicated yet, nonetheless, the responsibility of non-expert ordinary school personnel, guaranteeing their inconsistent application across schools and over time;

–after-the-fact statistical analyses are not legal proof—the odds of a certain amount of wrong-to-right erasures in a single classroom on a paper-and-pencil test being coincidental may be a thousand to one, but one-in-a-thousand is still legally plausible; and

–after-the-fact investigations based on interviews are time-consuming, scattershot, and uneven.

Still, there were measures that the Rhee-Henderson administrations could have adopted to substantially reduce the incidence of cheating, but they chose none that might have been effective. Rather, they dug in their heels, insisted that only a few schools had issues, which they thoroughly resolved, and repeatedly denied any systematic problem.

Phelps’ articles were originally published at the Nonpartisan Education Review. They were reposted on Valerie Jablow’s blog.

I said I would not reproduce blogs, with rare exceptions. Jan Resseger is that one rare exception.

In this post, she explains how the costs of vouchers are destroying and defunding Ohio’s public schools.

I originally posted this commentary in December 2020. It has since been opened by readers more than 600,000 times. It struck a chord with teachers and parents. It still does.

In recent months, we have heard a crescendo of recommendations for what to do with the children. “Test them!” “Quantify the learning loss!” “Let no child go untested!” Those clamoring for testing are well-funded, usually by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They have big megaphones. Here and there, other voices have spoken with quiet authority about what children need when they are back in school. They need social and emotional support. Some have lost parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins to the virus. Some have experienced intense loneliness and sadness.

Theresa Thayer Snyder offers different advice, based on her long experience as an educator. She was superintendent in the Voorheesville, New York, district. As more and more schools begin to reopen, it is time to read it again.

Teresa Thayer Snyder was superintendent of the Voorheesville district in upstate New York. She wrote this wise and insightful essay on her Facebook page. A friend sent it to me.

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I am writing today about the children of this pandemic. After a lifetime of working among the young, I feel compelled to address the concerns that are being expressed by so many of my peers about the deficits the children will demonstrate when they finally return to school. My goodness, what a disconcerting thing to be concerned about in the face of a pandemic which is affecting millions of people around the country and the world. It speaks to one of my biggest fears for the children when they return. In our determination to “catch them up,” I fear that we will lose who they are and what they have learned during this unprecedented era. What on earth are we trying to catch them up on? The models no longer apply, the benchmarks are no longer valid, the trend analyses have been interrupted. We must not forget that those arbitrary measures were established by people, not ordained by God. We can make those invalid measures as obsolete as a crank up telephone! They simply do not apply. 

When the children return to school, they will have returned with a new history that we will need to help them identify and make sense of. When the children return to school, we will need to listen to them. Let their stories be told. They have endured a year that has no parallel in modern times. There is no assessment that applies to who they are or what they have learned. Remember, their brains did not go into hibernation during this year. Their brains may not have been focused on traditional school material, but they did not stop either. Their brains may have been focused on where their next meal is coming from, or how to care for a younger sibling, or how to deal with missing grandma, or how it feels to have to surrender a beloved pet, or how to deal with death. Our job is to welcome them back and help them write that history.

I sincerely plead with my colleagues, to surrender the artificial constructs that measure achievement and greet the children where they are, not where we think they “should be.” Greet them with art supplies and writing materials, and music and dance and so many other avenues to help them express what has happened to them in their lives during this horrific year. Greet them with stories and books that will help them make sense of an upside-down world. They missed you. They did not miss the test prep. They did not miss the worksheets. They did not miss the reading groups. They did not miss the homework. They missed you.

Resist the pressure from whatever ‘powers that be’ who are in a hurry to “fix” kids and make up for the “lost” time. The time was not lost, it was invested in surviving an historic period of time in their lives—in our lives. The children do not need to be fixed. They are not broken. They need to be heard. They need be given as many tools as we can provide to nurture resilience and help them adjust to a post pandemic world.

Being a teacher is an essential connection between what is and what can be. Please, let what can be demonstrate that our children have so much to share about the world they live in and in helping them make sense of what, for all of us has been unimaginable. This will help them– and us– achieve a lot more than can be measured by any assessment tool ever devised. Peace to all who work with the children!

As an added bonus, here is a video featuring the author of this wonderful article. Her title: “Children. Cherished and Challenged.”

I recently starting subscribing to a blog by Robert Hubbell because it has interesting takes on the day’s news. This post from yesterday puts the news into context. If you want to subscribe, here is the link.

McConnell’s Ugly (and Empty) Threat

         On Tuesday, Mitch McConnell issued an ugly threat that was vintage Mitch McConnell. In a sign of desperation and fear, McConnell warned Democrats not to eliminate the filibuster, saying: 

         Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin, even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like.

         Okay, Mitch! Challenge accepted! I will try to imagine what a ‘scorched-earth Senate’ would look like. 

         My first idea is that if you ever become Majority Leader again, you will refuse to allow any Democratic bill to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Oh, wait! You already used that technique from 2017 through 2020, so we can ‘imagine’ what that version of a ‘scorched earth Senate’ looks like. Darn! 

         Here’s another idea: Republicans should agree that no matter what legislation Democrats propose, every Republican will vote against every Democratic bill—regardless of how popular the bill is with the American public. Oops! That’s what Republicans are doing now, so we can ‘imagine’ what that version of a ‘scorched-earth Senate’ looks like. Fudge!

         My next idea is crazy, but stick with me: What if Republicans refuse to grant a hearing for a Supreme Court nominee of a Democratic president (on the theory that there might be an election in the future), but rush through the Supreme Court nominee of a Republican president in two weeks? Argh! I forgot! We can ‘imagine’ what that looks like because you crammed through the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in two weeks after Trump was defeated. Shut the front door!

         Okay, Mitch. I am not giving up. No one in their right mind would ever do this: What if Republicans attempted to overturn the vote of the Electoral College by objecting to the counting of those votes because of baseless claims of election fraud that were rejected by the U.S. Attorney General, sixty-two state and federal courts, and Republican state election officials? Oh, shoot! We can ‘imagine’ what that looks like because that is what Republicans did to incite the January 6th Capitol Insurrection.

         So, Mitch. You are wrong. We can ‘imagine’ what a ‘scorched-earth Senate’ looks like. It looks like the current Senate. It looks like unbridled obstructionism. It looks like bad-faith manipulation of Senate rules to pervert the process of elevating justice to the Supreme Court. It looks like an attempt to overthrow the government of the United States. We can imagine what a scorched-earth Senate looks like because we believe your depravity is bottomless. We get it. Whatever you can do, you will do—without hesitation or remorse. So, Mitch, don’t try to sweet-talk us out of eliminating the filibuster. We will—as soon as we can. Hold that thought, Mitch. Democracy will catch up with you. It’s just a matter of time.