Archives for category: Education Reform

Mike Petrilli, the CEO of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. He worked in the George W. Bush administration. On school issues, he is a supporter of school choice; the TBF Institute sponsors charter schools in Ohio.

Yet Mike cannot vote for Donald Trump. He doesn’t like Hillary. Not one bit. But he is a #NeverTrump guy to the end.

He writes:

First, I would worry about the immediate impact of such an outcome on America’s growing non-White population, especially our Latino and Muslim fellow citizens.

While plenty of evidence indicates that not all Trump voters share his racist, Islamophobic views, that will be cold comfort to the communities he’s skewered on the campaign trail.

A Trump victory would make many feel attacked and rejected by their countrymen. Already his statements are making some racists feel comfortable spewing hatred in public.

Other Republicans, he knows, will hold their noses, vote for Trump, and hope for the best. Mike won’t take that chance.

Trump is a clear and present danger to our society.

Should a First Lady go sleeveless? Should she show bare arms in public? These questions were raised in 2009 because First Lady Michelle Obama audaciously exposed her arms.


The conservative media went berserk!


Shocking! Inappropriate! How dare she! Utterly classless!


What does the conservative media say about Melania Trump? She bares her arms and her legs. Sometimes she packs heat, which should please the NRA.


Actually they don’t say anything at all.


Double standard, anyone?

This is funny. Peter Dreier teaches at Occidental College in California.  

Anthony Cody reports here on California’s new school evaluation rubric, using multiple measures.

He writes:

The new system being proposed for California schools was designed by technicians at West Ed, and it creates a matrix of color-coded squares that indicate both the absolute status and the direction of change for ten different categories of data. Thus we get a system with ten categories of information, and seventeen color coded boxes. The categories are:

ELA assessment (K-8) (scores on Common Core aligned SBAC tests)

Math assessment (K-8) (scores on Common Core aligned SBAC tests)

English learner proficiency (scores on CELDT tests)

Graduation rate (9-12)

Chronic absenteeism (K-8)

Suspension Rate & Local Climate Survey

College & Career Readiness (scores on 11th grade Common Core aligned SBAC tests, plus other indicators)

Basics (Teachers, Instructional Materials, Facilities)

Implementation of Academic Standards

Parent Engagement

Cody adds:

In thinking about this proposal, it is important to recall what it is going to replace, which was a single number that was assigned to each school, derived entirely from standardized test scores. We have long argued that education is far more complex, and here we have a system that attempts to grapple with some of that complexity. There are indicators for local climate – derived in part from surveys which measure student engagement – this should be a major focus for every school.

The category “Basics” is the one thing on the list that might be considered an input. How well resourced is the school? What is the level of education and experience of the faculty? These are critically important variables. If the new funding formula is effective at redirecting resources towards schools with the highest needs, we should see improvements in some aspects of this.

I wonder what we might want to include that is not here. What about an indicator of school stability? What is the level of staff and administrator turnover from year to year? Student success correlates positively with stability, so this would be a useful indicator.

I want to back up a bit though, and reflect about what was so problematic about the prior system we had in place. First of all it was only based on test scores, and performance on those scores was largely determined by the income and parental education level of the students that attended the school. Thus the API score was more an indicator of affluence than of school quality. In this proposed system, this will remain true for all the indicators associated with test scores.

He suggests that the new measures are not immune from Campbell’s Law, which holds:

The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.

In other words, educators will be likely to game the system if their rating depends on the system.

Cody asks, do these measures promote the conditions that encourage student growth and love of learning?

I ask, why are we obsessed with measuring schools and giving them grades, whether one number, one letter, or many numbers and letters?

I know of no evidence that these rating systems improve schools, unless they are self-evaluation tools that help teachers and administrators review their strengths and weaknesses. But why rate and rank schools, other than to promote school choice?

The Koch brothers hate Donald Trump, but they love Mike Pence. The Koch brothers had supported Scott Walker in the Republican primaries. When he sank like a stone, they made clear their distaste for Trump. But now Trump has chosen a politician they admire: a religious and economic conservative.

The billionaire brothers, who run a network of donors to their vast infrastructure of Republican-allied political operations, so loathe Trump that Charles Koch described the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as voting for either “cancer or a heart attack.” David H. Koch, meanwhile, is reported by Politico to have withdrawn his $1 million donation to the Republican National Convention because of the party’s new standard-bearer.

Having built no ground operation of his own, Trump desperately needs the ready-made, plug-and-play infrastructure built by the Kochs, the mightiest entity of which is Americans for Prosperity, whose president just loves, loves him some Mike Pence. And why wouldn’t he? Phillips’ boss, David Koch, has given some $300,000 to Pence’s campaigns, according to the website Follow the Money.

Pence is the hard-line Evangelical conservative who signed legislation legalizing discrimination against gay people in Indiana, making it okay to refuse service if your religion opposes homosexuality.

Pence built his reputation opposing LGBT rights and abortion rights.

Pence fought to defend the state’s right-to-work laws (initiated by his predecessor Mitch Daniels) and opposes raising the minimum wage.

Pence, of course, is a vocal supporter of charter schools and vouchers, anything but public schools. Trump too loves charter schools, so at least we know they agree on that issue. They both want to privatize American education and abolish teachers unions.

Trump is indeed a card. Maybe the joker. He has been married three times and has had countless girl friends. He owned casinos. He has gay friends and enjoys the friendship of Elton John and Caitlyn Jenner. His daughter is married to an Orthodox Jew.

And his running mate is a hard-right social conservative who opposes all the things that Trump practices in his own life.

Go figure.

The National Basketball Association is taking its all-star game from Charlotte, North Carolina, to protest that state’s anti-LGBT



Take that, Tea Party!lollollll

Ken Bernstein, an NBCT social studies teacher in the DC area, heard that Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa, is under consideration as a possible VP on the Democratic ticket. A long shot, to be sure, but Ken wants you to know that Vilsack is a man of honesty and integrity.

Launa Hall, a third grade teacher in northern Virginia, is writing a book of essays about education. This one appeared in the Washington Post.

She writes:

My third-graders tumbled into the classroom, and one child I’d especially been watching for — I need to protect her privacy, so I’ll call her Janie — immediately noticed the two poster-size charts I’d hung low on the wall. Still wearing her jacket, she let her backpack drop to the floor and raised one finger to touch her name on the math achievement chart. Slowly, she traced the row of dots representing her scores for each state standard on the latest practice test. Red, red, yellow, red, green, red, red. Janie is a child capable of much drama, but that morning she just lowered her gaze to the floor and shuffled to her chair.

In our test-mired public schools, those charts are known as data walls, and before I caved in and made some for my Northern Virginia classroom last spring, they’d been proliferating in schools across the country — an outgrowth of “data-driven instruction” and the scramble for test scores at all costs. Making data public, say advocates such as Boston Plan for Excellence, instills a “healthy competitive culture.” But that’s not what I saw in my classroom.

She put up the data walls with reluctance, and the more she saw of them, the more convinced she became that they served to humiliate children.

I regretted those data walls immediately. Even an adult faced with a row of red dots after her name for all her peers to see would have to dig deep into her hard-won sense of self to put into context what those red dots meant in her life and what she would do about them. An 8-year-old just feels shame….

It also turns out that posting students’ names on data walls without parental consent may violate privacy laws. At the time, neither I nor my colleagues at the school knew that, and judging from the pictures on Pinterest, we were hardly alone. The Education Department encourages teachers to swap out names for numbers or some other code. And sure, that would be more palatable and consistent with the letter, if not the intent, of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. But it would be every bit as dispiriting. My third-graders would have figured out in 30 seconds who was who, coded or not.

The data walls made it harder for me to reach and teach my students, driving a wedge into relationships I’d worked hard to establish. I knew Janie to be an extremely bright child — with lots of stresses in her life. She and I had been working as a team in small group sessions and in extra practice after school. But the morning I hung the data walls, she became Child X with lots of red dots, and I became Teacher X with a chart.

Why does official policy these days aim to hurt children as a way of motivating them? What kind of motivation grows from shame?

A 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles public school district, who is also NBCT, explains the Rafe Esquith situation here. The writer has the nom de plume of Geronimo. I know who he is; I have met him. But I am not telling.


Education has been on trial for a long time in Los Angeles.

We have seen it in many forms, most notably in how business interests in education trump pedagogical interests on many fronts…corporate technology, standardized testing, Charter Schools and billionaire influence on public policy.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is misnamed. It is not a “unified” entity. It can be divided in two using hoary Edu-Marxism (apologies, but I beg your indulgence!). There is the 1% at the top of the District apparatus (or apparatchiks) who control and set policy and then there are the actual educators who are supposed to be the reason for the season–but have been demonized by the structure that ostensibly is supposed to support their efforts.

On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge Wednesday denied LAUSD request to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by the internationally renowned fifth-grade teacher Rafe Esquith, whom they fired last October.

A veteran of the district for over 30 years, Esquith filed the defamation lawsuit against the district in August after he was placed on paid leave and assigned to “teacher jail” pending an internal investigation after a fellow teacher complained that Esquith made a joke about nudity in front of his students in regards to the production of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” the students were performing.

Huck Finn began the entire sorry process that led to Esquith’s dismissal and the current class action suit against LAUSD; it is a top level farce that Twain would have ridiculed in his day but would not have been the least surprised about.

It is most helpful to think about the people who actually run LAUSD as proprietors of a brand that should be called LAUSD, Inc.

LAUSD, Inc. is not interested in good teaching. It is not interested in good pedagogy. It is not interested in what inspires students to want to learn.

LAUSD, Inc. is interested only in LAUSD, Inc. itself.

LAUSD Inc’s greatest concern is for its brand. The apparatus set up in LAUSD headquarters functions only to propagate a self-serving system. In Ken Kesey’s famous “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, Chief, the deaf-mute Indian narrator, calls this system “The Combine.” Not that many of the people who run LAUSD have actually read that novel, but their day-to-day priorities are very different from what Education SHOULD and COULD be; it is much more mundane–the business of Education is the Business of education.

Alas, I also can not say with any confidence that many of the District’s top brass have actually read America’s most famous novel, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”–the literature that got him into trouble in the first place. They would insist that it wasn’t part of their job description and irrelevant to their duties.

Without going down the rabbit hole of all the anti-education, anti-teacher, anti-student policies that LAUSD, Inc. has championed over the years, let us examine this one emblematic case that sort of sums up all that is wrong with how education is viewed by the LAUSD Corporation.

Rafe Esquith’s case should give people who are interested AND vested in true, meaningful education great pause.

Depressing as this telling fact is, I will not go into how completely unsurprising that not any single District Big Shot ever could make it down to Hobart Elementary School to watch Esquith’s magic in action. The author of many acclaimed bestselling books on teaching and an instructor responsible for changing hundred of young lives, his Room 56 had international guests and world class educators parade through marveling at his unconventional teaching methods–but nobody of any authority–not an LAUSD Superintendent nor even one solitary School Board member could be bothered to visit.

They were not interested in anything Hobart Shakespearean related.

Beaudry HQ gave it a big yawn.

The reality for LAUSD, Inc is, they couldn’t really care less what happens in a classroom–just don’t cause it any grief.

The LAUSD, Inc. brain trust in Beaudry is not made up of a bunch of smartypants.

This is not a group known for its inspired, intellectual curiosity.

This group who runs LAUSD, Inc. adhere to the same dynamic, corporate thinking that you would find populating the board rooms of Mobil Oil or Ralston-Purina.

Education–how you and I might think of it–does not disturb their machinations.

So much about Esquith’s case is troubling and indicative of a school district that has zero concern for the intellectual well-being of the students. If it did, LAUSD, Inc. would be championing a pedagogy VERY DIFFERENT from the one that they foist on LAUSD’s children. The leaderships view of what good education is in Rafe Esquith’s individual case is a personal tragedy for him; the leadership’s view of what “good education” is for the 600,000 students in their charge is a tragedy of grand proportions.

The investigators asked Esquith who he dated in college and who at the school disliked him. They asked for all his financial records since 2000. The “incriminating” evidence they used as the backbone from their case, the district searched his personal emails to obtain. According to the LA TIMES article, Esquith’s attorney, Ben Meiselas claimed that the emails were taken out of context. Elsa Cruz, one of Esquith’s former student whose email had been singled has denied that he ever sent her anything inappropriate as alleged in LAUSD’s charges. “The communications described in the statement of charges between Mr. Esquith and myself are small pieces of much larger conversations that are taken wholly out of context.” She claims that the district.”cherry-picked points “to depict our conversations as having an inappropriate or sexual nature that is completely inaccurate.”

This is the modus operendi of LAUSD. A little history lesson is in order before going back to Esquith:

In the dark days of Supt. John Deasy, the entire elected School Board was mum on his pedagogy and methodology. The Board gave him tacit cover to do whatever he wanted. It is not an exaggeration to say that Deasy went after teachers with a Dick Cheney zeal using David Holmquist, the District’s General Counsel, as his John Yoo to give him the legal cover.

This is a school system that offers cover to those at the very top. David Holmquist, whose base salary is $260,552, has fought vigorously to protect the District from any bad publicity and loyally served John Deasy’s call to purge hundreds–maybe thousands–of teachers from the ranks and vigorously prosecuted LAUSD’s Teacher Jail program. A different set of priorities and standards were devised by Holmquist for the those who screwed up and abused their positions if they were in District power offices.

Some in Los Angeles Unified were definitely more equal than others.

“I will never apologize for putting students’ interests ahead of teachers,” was Deasy’s righteous mantra during his tenure where this man arrogantly placed business and corporate interests ahead of both students and teachers time and time again. His moral courage was how much he could bully teachers such as Patrena Shankling and never to any person of power above him who was politically connected with money and influence.

If you are not sickened by what happened in Shankling’s classroom and believe that John Deasy should ever be allowed to be near educators OR children again, then you and I have very different standards of classroom behavior and decorum.

Like all of his patrons, Deasy was a man who never apologized and took great pride in his use of executive and autonomous power and privilege. This was encouraged by many of the management team whom he worked with at District Headquarters and rewarded.

Deasy enjoyed and served a life of patronage from powerful men who paid for his entire, hopscotch career through the moneyed power corridors of education. Even when he left LAUSD in abject disgrace where the toady LA TIMES editorial board could only manage to bluster about the tragedy of his downfall, he could count on the largess of the corporate benefactors who puffed up his churlish bravado. Currently, Deasy remains obscenely well-paid in the Fortress of Solitude of Eli Broad’s empire, an opulent private world where he answers to no one except the rich and powerful, re-emerging only as a paper phantom, issuing friend of the court briefs to Vergara and offering his insights to Edu Reform Managers-to-be.

One day there will be a full accounting for what happened to all those teachers and their “rights” and “due process” that LAUSD assured the public they received.

Sadly, if Rafe Esquith’s and the other hundreds of teachers in similar situations were just the work of John Deasy and David Holmquist, that would be bad enough.

The current LAUSD President Steve Zimmer, with chest thumping vigor, thundered in a campaign speech that he has proudly voted to fire EVERY SINGLE teacher who came before him for justice. Zimmer put on his most concerned, self-righteous face channeling some Texas Governor on steroids, stating that in his eyes, those hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of teachers were guilty and should not be teaching in his system.

There was zero doubt in his blankly, incurious mind.

Were the students of LA protected from a thousand dreadful teachers?


LAUSD, Inc was protected.

LAUSD claims Esquith’s emails weren’t hacked, so one supposes they got them off his school computer when they sealed his classroom and his personal account was open on it. Under the pretense of an investigation, LAUSD went through thousands upon thousands of personal emails to find evidence against him. It is a chilling abuse of employee privilege that claims that right. Obviously if they were a law enforcement agency, they couldn’t do that, but LAUSD doesn’t believe it is bound by the same rules of engagement.

It begs the question if any employee is safe from their employer going through every personal detail of their lives to render judgment on that individual.

Could anybody withstand someone going through twenty years worth of emails to figure their moral worth? Would something invariably crop up?

The emails of John Deasy and David Holmquist are scrupulously under lock and key.

Reading the entire 32 page document of LAUSD’s “case” against Esquith–and please do!– it clearly shows that they threw in EVERYTHING they had into their “findings”.


They didn’t leave anything out. What is also indicative of LAUSD’s mindset is the fact they STILL used the initial Huck Finn joke as part of their indictment against Esquith despite the ludicrous nature of that comment.

This is not the work of intelligent scholars in an academic institution.

This is the work of lawyers who want to get rid of an employee that has proven troublesome to the corporation.

David Holmquist is planning to appeal this latest ruling hoping to stem Esquith’s suit. Hopefully he will fail and the dark files will be open on what LAUSD, Inc has perpetrated over the years. The East German Stassi nature of those cases highlight the brute force and cruelty that LAUSD, Inc. perpetrated on so many teachers who thought they were working for an organization called Los Angeles “Unified” because it worked for the betterment of all–not just those on the corporate end.

I have no special insight to Esquith’s particular case, although the fairness and justice LAUSD, Inc. administers to its employees is eerily similar to the justice cops administer to poor neighborhoods compared to the inhabitants of rich ones.

You may be predisposed to place your faith in the justice and righteousness of LAUSD Inc.’s wisdom and sense of proper pedagogy.

So much of the intellectual evidence is contrary to granting that good will, however. In the cases of many teachers in the system, Deasy, Holmquist and the School Board have a finger on the scale that instinctively forces teachers to prove themselves worthy of their bankrupt leadership.

I’m as anxious as you are to see this Shakespearean play’s ending. Misuse of power, according to Shakespeare, never ends well.

The news channels report that there is a military coup underway in Turkey.

The prime minister accuses Fetullah Gulen of staging the coup “from Pennsylvania.”

Gulen sponsors one of the biggest charter chains in the U.S. and is one of the biggest recipients of HB-1 visas for Turkish teachers to staff his charter schools.

One report:

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Friday evening that an attempted military coup was underway. In Istanbul, bridges were immediately blocked and jets were flying low above the capital city of Ankara. Reports indicated that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube were shut down in the country. Turkish TV showed footage of military tanks at Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport, where suicide bombers killed more than 40 people last month. Additionally, gunfire was reportedly heard in Ankara.The Turkish Army said in a statement that it had taken over the government, however that does not mean the entire military participated in the coup attempt. “Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and general security that was damaged,” the army said. “All international agreements are still valid. We hope that all of our good relationships with with all countries will continue.”The Turkish government denies those claims. Turkey’s justice minister says followers of a U.S. imam, Fethullah Gulen, are staging the coup. U.S. military officials seemed as surprised by the actions of their NATO partners as everyone else. A defense official told The Daily Beast: “We are watching events on television just like you are.”


Erdogan believes that the Gulenists are behind the coup.

Who knew that “public schools” would be backers of a coup in Turkey, a key ally?


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