Archives for category: Minnesota

After thirty years of devotion to “reform” (aka, deform or disruption), reform leaders in Minnesota are proposing a state constitutional amendment that will install more mischief into the state’s public schools. Rob Levine, an ardent critic of privatization, has written this account of their multiple failures and their plans to try yet again to impose their ideas on the state’s schools. He wrote this post at my request, after I saw his tweets about the travesty that “reformers” are promoting. Rob is a “follow the money” kind of person, which unsurprisingly removes the veil from bold promises that never come true. Minnesota is allowing big money to dictate the fate of its schools. Is there any accountability in the state for thirty years of failure? Why do “reformers” never learn from their failures?

He writes:

In the Fall of 2022 Minnesotans may be voting on a constitutional amendment that will fundamentally change state law around public education. How will this change public education? Surprisingly, even the authors profess not to know the answer to this question. The only thing certain about the proposed amendment is that it will empower courts and throw districts, parents and others into constant legal battles.

That’s because the amendment upends state law and tradition both in the language it removes and the language it adds. It doesn’t really say anything about how children should be educated, only that they will have a right to a ‘quality’ education as measured by standardized tests and as determined by the courts, with nothing in the amendment to guide them as to permissible remedies. 

A lot of ink has been spilled in Minnesota over the proposed ‘Page’ amendment, but almost no one has investigatedThe Minneapolis Foundation imagines education without teachers either the organizations and people behind the amendment, nor the subtext of it. The education discourse is same as it ever was, but in this case the education reformers – who have failed for 30 years to improve educational outcomes – want to open Pandora’s box.

The amendment is a half-baked, dangerous idea, as a number of scholars and experts recently wrote to Minnesota legislators. It would weaken protections against segregation while simultaneously enshrining invalid standardized test scores in the state constitution.

Who’s really behind this proposed amendment? The powerful philanthropies who for decades have meddled in Minnesota education, almost always to failure. They have been trying to privatize public education for decades. They favor a system where the public pays for things but public employees don’t provide the services.

The campaign’s face is Alan Page, the former pro football star and state supreme court justice. His foundation has received more than three quarters of a million dollars over the past 10 years from the Minneapolis Foundation, the Saint Paul Foundation and its controlled entity the Minnesota Community Foundation.

For 30 years the Minneapolis Foundation has been meddling in the affairs of the Minneapolis Public School District, often actuallyNAEP eighth grade reading, Minnesota telling it what to do while at the same time driving the privatization of public schools through ‘school choice.’ Since about 2008 the vehicle for the destruction is charter schools, a movement it both created and sustained in myriad ways. The result has been stagnant learning across the state for 20 years, increased segregation, and public school districts on the brink.

The Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis is also playing a role in advocating for the amendment: a creature of the federal government applying substantial resources and trying to influence and change Minnesota constitutional law.

The bad faith of these foundations and advocates started decades ago when the state considered the nation’s first charter school legislation. History shows that the prime mover behind this legislation was the Minneapolis Foundation, and its ideological guru Ted Kolderie, the charter whisperer. Most people have probably never heard of him, but there are more than a hundred references to him in former DFL legislator and author of the charter school legislation Ember Reichgott Junge’s book, Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story, that chronicled how that first charter school legislation came to be.

In a 1990 monograph titled “The states will have to withdraw the exclusive” that argued for competition in the education space, Kolderie told a bunch of whoppers, including that charter schools would increase teacher pay, allow them to control schools, and characterized students as “customers.” None of those predictions have come true. Minnesota now has about 170 charter schools. TWO of them are unionized, so, no, charter schools have not empowered teachers.

Then there’s the organization actually leading this constitutional amendment campaign, Our Children MN, an opaque non-profit incorporated just a year ago whose sole purpose seems to be passing the amendment. Our Children has not disclosed one penny of its funding.

The organizing leading the charge is Our Children, an opaque non-profit that has not disclosed one penny of its funding.

According to Our Children’s website, Michael Ciresi, Minnesota philanthropist and former DFL senate candidate sits on its board of directors. Ciresi hates the Minneapolis Public School District so much that he bought billboards across the street from district headquarters to spread racial disinformation.

Ciresi himself is no slouch when it comes to failing at education reform. His foundation has funded a number of now closed charter school entities, including Charter School PartnersMinnCANHarvest Prep charter school, and last but not least, Minnesota Comeback.

Ciresi’s foundation gave Comeback about a half million dollars over five years. Comeback was a project of the Minneapolis Foundation, which incubated it internally as the Education Transformation Initiative. Lots of other local foundations, including the BushJohn & Denise GravesGeneral Mills, and others contributed to the nascent effort.

When it opened in 2016 Comeback announced $30 million in commitments from funders and promised to create “30,000 rigorous and relevant charter school seats in Minneapolis.” Whatever that meant educationally it was really a death threat to the Minneapolis Public School District, which had about 35,000 students at the time.

Three years later Comeback disappeared into the night with no announcement or media reports after reporting less than $4 million in philanthropic contributions. But don’t fear for them – Comeback was merged into Great MN Schools, an organization it formerly owned, and which is now a “Page Partner.”

This kind of abject failure of philanthropic avatars in the field of education in Minnesota is more the rule than the exception. In 2009 the Bush Foundation, a philanthropy born of 3M money, started the largest project in its history – the 10 year, $50 million Teacher Effectiveness Initiative (TEI) (not to be confused with the Minneapolis Foundation’s failed Education Transformation Initiative).

The TEI postulated that the problem with education is teachers, and by the foundation’s strategic application of its largess so-called ‘achievement gaps’ would be ELIMINATED in three states and 50% more kids would be going to college. The foundation was also so confident of its success that it predicted the changes it would help implement would spread like wildfire nationwide. They also announced that not only would it perform this educational miracle, it would prove it with metrics!

This feat would be done by extending the so-called Value Added Model (VAM) to gauge the ‘effectiveness’ of teachers by analyzing the test scores of their students. The job, and a promise of millions of dollars in revenue, was awarded to a place called the Value Added Research Center at the University of Wisconsin.

Their task was to extend this discredited model originally invented to increase production of farm animals to apply to places where teachers are taught. The idea was to judge schools of education based on the standardized test scores of students taught by their graduates! One doesn’t need a PhD in social science or statistics to know that this is an insane, impossible and worthless goal.

Sure enough halfway through the project the Bush Foundation abandoned its quixotic VAM method and VARC had to be satisfied with only $2 million for its efforts. By the end of the 10 year project ‘achievement gaps’ were the same or worse, and in Minnesota instead of there being 50% more students in college, enrollment actually was down six percent. By any measure – including their own! – this project was a spectacular failure. Turns out teachers aren’t the problem! But that’s not how they saw it.

In an in-house magazine article titled “Goals for a decade revisited,” Jen Ford Reedy, president of the foundation, offered up a bold summary of the project: “We [the Bush Foundation] are proud of what we helped to make happen!”

Failure can also take different forms for the philanthropies. In 2013 the Minneapolis Foundation launched yet another huge education project called RESET Education. They even created a website for it and brought in John Legend to sing at the kickoff. Along with blaming teachers for poor test scores among some demographic groups, RESET was essentially a formula to turn Minnesota schools into testing factories. Sandra Vargas, the head of the foundation at the time, got an op-ed in the Star Tribune to tout the project, just as Our Children got one there a few weeks ago to tout the Page Amendment.

And of course the Minneapolis Foundation turned to MinnPost for coverage, as it often had, as it has been funding the organization to the tune of over $1 million since its inception. For the year of 2013 – the year of RESET – the Bush Foundation also gave MinnPost $82,000 for “Coverage and writings on K-12 education issues, best practices and overall reform efforts.”

At MinnPost reporter Beth Hawkins put the best possible face on the RESET program with gushing words about meeting celebrities and flogging the factually wrong assertions of the Minneapolis Foundation about education. That same year RESET faded into the ether just as Comeback, Charter School Partners, MinnCan and others have.

And as usual when Beth Hawkins wrote at MinnPost it was left to commenters to correct the record. It fell to Jim Barnhill, a former union leader and former Board of Teaching Member who currently works in high school administration, to get to the heart of the matter:

“How about exploring the real agenda of the Minneapolis Foundation? Why not ask the obvious question, ‘How does a business foundation posit themselves as experts in education?’”

The same question could be posed to the Federal Reserve Bank. And just what gives these foundations that have failed at education reform time and time again the right to continue intervening? A prescient person once said that “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” A corollary might apply to self-appointed ‘experts’ with deep pockets who repeatedly fail and hurt society. It’s time for Alan Page, Mike Ciresi and the Minneapolis Foundation to grab some bench.

Our brilliant reader Laura Chapman, retired educator, decided to dig deep into the politics of education reform in Minnesota in response to a post about a dubious constitutional amendment sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank.

Chapman, who lives in Ohio, writes:

I am not from Minnesota, but this post sent me deep into some policies there. The idea is to frame education as a fundamental right to “quality schools” as “measured against uniform achievement standards set forth by the state.”

No. This law is written as if the standard-setting process is a business-as usual-review of existing standards and benchmarks for learning, with periodic revisions. It is not.

Right now, there is a huge controversy over the social studies standards. The battle is about whose histories count and whether conservatives should settle for anything other than patriotism as the major purpose of teaching American history. https://patch.com/minnesota/across-mn/controversy-over-mn-s-social-studies-standards-explained

Students Learning English (ELLs), are unlikely to pass the absurd requirements being proposed by the Federal Reserve (why bankers?) and as a constitutional amendment (why bankers?).

Minnesota has NO academic tests except those in English. According to a 2020 report from the Migration Policy Institute, and the 2015 American Community Survey, at least 193,600 Minnesota residents have children still learning English. All are in harm’s way. The largest foreign-born groups in Minnesota are from Mexico (67,300), Somalia (31,400), India (30,500), Laos including Hmong (23,300), Vietnam (20,200), China excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan (c), Ethiopia (19,300), and Thailand including Hmong (16,800). One of the fastest growing immigrant groups in Minnesota is the Karen people, an ethnic minority in conflict with the government in Myanmar. Most of the estimated 5,000 Karen in Minnesota came from refugee camps in Thailand. Ojibwe and Dakota are the indigenous languages of Minnesota.

Many of Minnesota’s charter schools are devoted to segregating and strengthening the identities of linguistic/ethnic groups. There are three dual language Spanish-English schools. Eight charter schools are devoted to immersion in these languages/cultures: Chinese, French, German, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, and Spanish. There are at least five Hmong immersion charter schools, and two for Ojibwe immersion. Two charter schools offer ELL education for East African families and one offers education using American Sign Language/English bilingual approach.

Recent reports also show how charter schools are racially segregated. In St Paul, one hundred percent of students at Higher Ground Academy are black or African-American. This percentage is about the same for Minneapolis’s Friendship Academy. In both cities the overall population of black or African-American residents is below twenty percent. By design, many charter schools in Minnesota are segregated schools. Will these schools be subjected to the wishes of the bankers or not?

In 2021, the Minnesota Federal Reserve, having no expertise in education, called in “experts” to make suggestions on a fix for so-called achievement gaps, meaning differences in scores on standardized tests. This “we-can-fix it” program was sponsored by all 12 of the nation’s District Banks in the Federal Reserve System. In other words, what happens in Minnesota may not be limited to Minnesota but extend to the orbit of District Banks in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Kansas City, New York City, Philadelphia, Richmond (VA), San Francisco, and St Louis,

Among the highly visible “experts” called in for this multi-state program were Geoffrey Canada, president of the well-endowed Harlem Children’s Zone (endowment about $148 million, and sponsor of Promise Academy brand of K-12 charter schools), and CEO Salman Khan, founder of online Khan Academy, and Kahn Academy for Kids. The papers for this program also featured the post-Katrina takeover of New Orleans schools as if exemplary. https://www.minneapolisfed.org/article/2021/feds-racism-and-the-economy-series-explores-racial-inequity-in-the-education-system.

Bankers are clueless about education but they have an agenda certain to harm thousands of students in Minnesota, especially ELL students, and if applicable to charter schools, the many students ill prepared to take a test only available in English.

The last thing we need to have are the nation’s clueless bankers making permanent changes in education based on proposed Minnesota’s model of “quality.”

Imagine a state that adopts a state constitutional amendment that ties student rights to an education to their test scores. Would anyone be so dumb as to imagine that the test scores of students of different races would change because of a constitutional amendment? Remember that Minnesota was the first state to pass a charter law, promising to close the academic gaps. That was in 1992. Thirty years later, the state’s Big Thinkers are still grasping at straws.

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EDUCATION EXPERTS AND SCHOLARS: PROPOSED MINNESOTA CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT THREATENS STUDENTS’ RIGHTSFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Today, prominent experts on constitutional law and education sent a letter to Minnesota legislators voicing significant concerns that a proposal to amend the Minnesota Constitution would undermine and weaken students’ right to public education. 
In January 2020, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve proposed to eliminate the current guarantee of a free public education in the Minnesota State Constitution and replace it with language to make education “a fundamental right” to “quality schools” to be “measured against uniform achievement standards set forth by the state.” 


Proponents of the change contend that this new language would reduce gaps in achievement between Minnesota’s white students and students of color. A proposed bill to amend the constitution, H.F. 874, was introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives on February 8.


In their letter, nationally known constitutional scholars and education law experts outline the negative effects the proposed amendment would have on Minnesota students’ right to public education. The letter explains that while “efforts to strengthen education rights” are welcomed, current Minnesota law already recognizes the rights contained in the amendment. 


The letter points out that the proposed amendment adds new language that may well undermine existing constitutional protections. Most notably, the amendment explicitly links the right to education to state achievement standards, a focus that “may encourage courts to measure rights through the narrow lens of tested academic achievement,” according to the scholars and experts.


In addition, the proposed amendment would eliminate core obligations imposed by the Minnesota Constitution on the state legislature to establish and maintain a statewide system of public schools. These include the requirement that the school system be “general and uniform” and “thorough and efficient.” The letter notes that, in 2018, the Minnesota Supreme Court interpreted this language as prohibiting schools segregated by race, a ruling that is considered “one of the most unqualified restrictions on school segregation that can be found in American law.” The scholars and experts underscore that the proposed amendment could endanger this crucial decision advancing racial justice. 


The letter concludes that “the Federal Reserve’s proposed amendment to the Minnesota education clause threatens to reduce, rather than increase, the rights of Minnesota students.”


Signatories include professors from Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, Rutgers, the University of the District of Columbia, University of Colorado, University of North Carolina, University of South Carolina, Michigan State University, West Virginia University, Loyola University New Orleans, and the directors of several national civil rights organizations.


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(FORGIVE MY SENIOR MOMENT–BEING SO UPSET WITH THE DAY’S NEWS, I MISTAKENLY PLACED ST. PAUL IN THE WRONG STATE, WHEN I KNOW IT IS ONE OF THE TWIN CITIES OF MINNESOTA. I HAVE LEARNED TO OWN MY MISTAKES.)

The teachers of St. Paul, Minnesota, are on strike. Their number one demand is the expansion of mental health services and counseling for their students. The #Red4Ed movement continues, as teachers become first-line protectors of their students.

Teachers and support staff in Saint Paul, Minnesota, are on strike for the first time since 1946.

The union says students need more counseling and mental health support than the district and current staff can provide.

The strikers are demanding a mental health team at every school. The team would include social workers, psychologists, nurses, and behavior intervention specialists, in numbers proportional to the number of students in the school.

Despite marathon bargaining sessions over the weekend, the district made no real movement on the core issues. The union rejected the district’s last-minute offer to call off the strike and take the contract dispute to arbitration instead.

“There are so many kids with so many issues,” said middle school teacher Leah Van Dassor. “Kids are depressed because they have problems at home. They don’t have anyone to talk to.”

St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) Vice President Erica Schatzlein sees a wide range of needs in her work as an elementary teacher with English language learners.

“A students that had a parent pass away, instead of acting out, becomes completely withdrawn,” she said. A newly homeless student “has a meltdown, and I have to evacuate the classroom.”

In addition to its mental health demands, the union is asking for more bilingual teacher’s aides and limits on class size for special education.

“It’s too bad that all these important social services fall on the shoulder of the schools, but they do,” said Van Dassor, who is also on the bargaining team. “We have to try to figure out a way to help.”

Sarah Lahm writes here that teachers in St. Paul, Minnesota, are on the verge of striking to secure better funding for the public schools and their students.

In the early morning of February 26, a chill hung in the air as a line of teachers and school support staffers clad in bright red union hats, jackets or some combination thereof stood on a busy street corner outside of Highland Park Middle School in St. Paul, Minnesota.

As cars sped past, some with horns blaring in support, the teachers and school workers—who are members of the St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE)—hoisted signs proclaiming their willingness to fight on behalf of students.

SPFE represents more than 3,500 teachers, education assistants and school and community support staff members. Minnesota state law requires districts to negotiate with their unionized employees every two years, and the current round of contract talks between SPFE and the St. Paul Public Schools, under the leadership of Superintendent Joe Gothard, has been going on since last May.

Now, SPFE President Nick Faber says the union and the students and families they serve can no longer wait for Gothard and his team to step up and negotiate in good faith. On February 20, a majority of SPFE members voted to authorize a strike against the St. Paul Public Schools.

If an agreement between the union and the school district is not reached by March 10, thousands of SPFE members will walk off the job for the first time since 1946.

The key contract items SPFE is pushing for include fully staffed mental health teams in all schools, a greater investment in special education staffing and programming, and an increase in the number of multilingual staff members.

This puts the union squarely in line with other social justice-oriented labor movements that have been revived in recent years, as seen in events such as the teacher strikes in Chicago and Los Angeles in 2019. Like SPFE, the Chicago and Los Angeles unions also advocated for more than the typical bread-and-butter issues of union contracts, such as salary increases and seniority rights, and additionally pushed for better living and learning conditions for students.

Rob Levine, a Resistance-to-Privatization blogger in Minneapolis, reports here on the failure of the Bush Foundation’s bold “teacher effectiveness” initiative, which cost $45 million. All wasted.

The foundation set bold goals. It did not meet any of them.

Levine writes:

Ten years ago the St Paul-based Bush Foundation embarked on what was at the time its most expensive and ambitious project ever: a 10-year, $45 million effort called the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative (TEI). The advent of the TEI coincided with the implementation of a new operating model at the foundation. Beginning in 2009 it would mostly would run its own programs, focusing on three main areas: .

  • “developing courageous leaders and engaging communities in solving problems”
  • “…supporting the self-determination of Native nations”
  • “…increasing the educational achievement of all students”

Bush foundation president Peter Hutchinson told a news conference that the initiative would “increase by 50 percent the number of students in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota who go to college.”

The Teacher Effectiveness Initiative was the foundation’s real-world application of its broad educational philosophy. Peter Hutchinson, the foundation’s president at the time, told a news conference announcing the plan that the initiative would “increase by 50 percent the number of students in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota who go to college.” How was this miraculous achievement to be done? By “[enabling] the redesign of teacher-preparation programs” at a range of higher educational institutions where teachers are educated in the three-state area.

The foundation also said that, through “Consistent, effective teaching” it would “close the achievement gap.” It would achieve these goals by “producing 25,000 new, effective teachers by 2018.”

Not only was the Bush Foundation going to do all these things, but they would prove it with metrics. It contracted with an organization called the Value Added Research Center (VARC) to expand its Value Added Model (VAM) to track test scores of students who were taught by teachers graduated from one of its programs. The foundation, which paid VARC more than $2 million for its work, would use those test scores to rate the teachers ‘produced’ – even giving $1,000 bonuses to the programs for each ‘effective’ teacher.

10 years later: Fewer students in college, ‘achievement gap’ unchanged

By just about any measure the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative was a failure. Some of the top-line goals were missed by wide margins. The promise of 50% more college students in the tri-state area over the 10 years of the project? In reality, in Minnesota alone the number of post-secondary students enrolled actually dropped from almost 450,000 in 2009 to 421,000 in 2017 – a decline of about six percent.

Just one more example of the complete and utter failure of the hoax of “reform,” which was always about privatization and union-busting, not improving schools or helping students.

 

Sarah Lahm writes about education in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis.

In this post, she says that Democratic candidates should speak out against nonprofit charters.

Charter schools, once the darling of politicians on the right and left, have become a hot potato in the Democratic Party 2020 presidential primary with nearly every candidate voicing some level of disapproval of the industry. A common refrain among the candidates is to express opposition to “for-profit charter schools.” Charter school proponents counter these pronouncements by pointing to industry data indicating only 12 percent of charter schools are run by overtly profit-minded entities, and that most charter schools are overseen by outfits that have a nonprofit, tax-exempt status.

But the singling out of for-profit charter schools is somewhat beside the point as residents of a St. Paul, Minnesota, neighborhood learned this summer when a treasured local landmark was threatened by an expanding charter school. The charter was decidedly nonprofit, but as families and preservation advocates would learn from their tenacious, but ultimately unsuccessful, battle to save a beloved, historic church, charter schools, regardless of their tax status, have become powerful players in a lucrative real estate market in urban areas where land values are high and empty lots or school-ready buildings are hard to find.

 

Sarah Lahm wrote in The Progressive about a community battle in St. Paul, Minnesota, over the fate of a historic church building. 

The church in question is St. Andrew’s. Built in 1927 in the Romanesque Revival style, the brown brick church boasts an impressive, multicolored terra-cotta tile roof and a handsome bell tower. From the street, it looks alive and well kept, although Mass hasn’t been celebrated there since 2011.

Back then, the shrinking parish was merged with another one nearby while the building sat in limbo for two years. In 2013, the Twin Cities German Immersion School, a growing charter school in search of a permanent home, began leasing the church building and its accompanying school site by taking on $8 million in construction and real-estate debt.

The local community didn’t mind that the charter school moved in. It does object, however, to plans to tear it down. The St. Paul NAACP joined the opposition to the charter’s plan to grow.

But money isn’t the reason the St. Paul NAACP opposed the proposed expansion of the Twin Cities German Immersion School. Instead, it is segregation. The group, in a statement issued on December 19, 2018, cited the national NAACP’s 2016 call for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools and argued that allowing the Twin Cities German Immersion School to grow further would “exacerbate the racial and economic segregation in the St. Paul schools.”

The Twin Cities German Immersion School is almost 90 percent white, the NAACP statement noted, while just 7 percent of its students live in poverty, as defined by federal guidelines. That represents a sharp difference from the student population at Como Park Elementary, a neighborhood school in the St. Paul system that sits just one mile away from the Twin Cities German Immersion School.

At Como Park Elementary, only 10 percent of its nearly 500 students are white and the majority live in poverty.

Opponents of the plan to tear down the church appealed to the City Council to designate the building a historic landmark. The council turned them down, 5-0.

The fight is far from over. On Monday, the group Save Historic St. Andrew’s filed a lawsuit under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act to prevent demolition. Goldstein said the suit was in anticipation of the council voting against historic designation.

 

Rob Levine, a critic of Ed Deform, created a website called edhivemn.com that tracks funding of education reform orgs in MN –  and it has a feature called Charter School Scandals of the Day

Levine created a graphic to demonstrate the damage that charters do to public schools. He focuses on the charter schools in Minneapolis, which are well funded and highly segregated. Defenders of charters in Minneapolis actually think that racial and ethnic segregation is a good thing. They think that as long as families choose segregation, it is okay. George Wallace would have agreed with them.

The cycle of destruction begins as the districts loses students and money to charters. The district must cut programs and increase class sizes. When they cut programs and class sizes grow, they lose more students to charters. The cycle continues until the district shrivels to insignificance or disappears.

Rob writes:

Though specifics vary, across the nation charter schools are draining the students and finances of public school districts, creating distress in many. In Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Foundation is trying this very strategy with its created entity, Minnesota Comeback, whose goal is 30,000 new charter seats in the city.

Does the Minneapolis Foundation want to destroy public schools in Minneapolis? Look at its partners: all the same “reform” groups that are working with DeVos, the Waltons, and the Koch brothers.

Rob’s graphic shows that tens of millions spent by “Reformers” to disrupt and destroy public schools in Minneapolis.

 

The board of the Boston Public Schools selected Brenda Cassellius as its new superintendent. She is the former state superintendent in Minnesota, where she served from 2010 until last January. She is an educator, not a refugee from the corporate world, so that’s a good sign.

The board hopes she will repair relationships that frayed during the brief tenure of Tommy Chang. It is also hoping she will raise test scores,  stop the decline of enrollment, and close achievement gaps.

That is a tall order for any superintendent, and Cassellius would be wise to set her sights on realistic and achievable goals. She will need to obtain new state resources to improve struggling schools, for example, by using research-based methods like reducing class sizes for the students who need e trap attention and support.

”Reformers” like to set public schools up to fail by setting unrealistic goals that they can’t reach in their charters except by kicking out kids they don’t want. The public schools must enroll everyone, including the kids pushed out by charters.

One troubling note. In interviews, Cassellius identified one of her “victories”:

She pointed out that while she served for eight years as education commissioner, she pulled together the state’s teachers union and the administrator and school board associations to craft a new teacher evaluation system. The process included trade-offs, including a major concession by teachers: the use of student test scores in their performance reviews, a practice that teachers nationwide tend to oppose.

Does she know that test-based evaluation has been discredited over the past five years? Does she know that the Gates-funded program to try this methodology in three urban districts and four charter chains was evaluated by AIR and RAND and found to have no effect, other than to discourage teachers from teaching high-needs students, who are likely to reduce their ranking? It did not raise test scores or graduation rates, did not close achievement gaps, and did not weed out “bad” teachers. Teachers oppose it because it is unfair and ineffective.

Cassellius does not arrive spouting Reformer ideology. That’s a good sign. Bostonians must work together to support their public schools and to restore confidence in them. If she can do that, she will succeed.