Archives for category: Principals


In this post, Mercedes Schneider does her trademark “deep dig” into the career of one Jon Schnur. It turns out that he is the quintessential corporate reform careerist.

If you have ever wondered why some people make tons of money in education without ever teaching, study Schnur’s opportunistic and profitable career.

He did it all while working for Clinton, Gore, and Obama, demonstrating the profitable career one can forge with Big Ideas, all the while helping blur and dissolve partisan lines, helping the Democrats lose their identity as champions of public education.

His first big idea was a program that enabled rank amateurs to become principals, although he had never been one himself. His work aligned with that of his Princeton classmate, Wendy Kopp. Both made money by tearing apart the education profession and opening it to amateurs.


John Rogers and his research team at UCLA have completed a valuable study of the effect of Trump and his ideology on schools, students, and society. 

If you go to the link, you can open the report.

Here is a summary:

“This study examines how a broad set of social issues at the forefront of the Trump presidency are felt and affect students and educators within America’s high schools.  We look closely at:

  1. Political division and hostility;
  2. Disputes over truth, facts, and the reliability of sources;
  3. Opioid misuse and addiction;
  4. The threat of immigration enforcement;
  5. The threats of gun violence on school campuses.

“In addition to assessing the impact of these challenges on students’ learning and wellbeing, we also report on how high school principals throughout the U.S. are addressing these issues.  Further, we measure how the impact and responses differ across schools depending on student demographics, geographic location, or partisan orientation of the surrounding community.

“The study findings are based on an online survey conducted in the summer of 2018 by UCLA’s Institute for Democracy Education and Access (IDEA) of 505 high school principals whose schools provide a representative sample of all U.S. public high schools. UCLA IDEA also conducted 40 follow-up interviews with principals who participated in the survey selected to be representative of the larger pool of schools.

“Our findings make clear that in the age of Trump, America’s high schools are greatly impacted by rising political incivility and division.

  • Eighty-nine percent of principals report that incivility and contentiousness in the broader political environment has considerably affected their school community.
  • Eighty-three percent of schools see these tensions intensified and accelerated by the flow of untrustworthy or disputed information and the increasing use of social media that is fueling and furthering division among students and between schools and the communities.
  • Sixty-two percent of schools have been harmed by opioid abuse.
  • Sixty-eight percent of the principals surveyed say federal immigration enforcement policies and the political rhetoric around the issue have negatively impacted students and their families.
  • Ninety-two percent of principals say their school has faced problems related to the threat of gun violence

“In the face of these societal challenges, it is students themselves who bear the brunt of the impact.  Many students feel greater anxiety, stress, and vulnerability, and parental opioid misuse and aggressive immigration enforcement have both resulted in greater material deprivation for young people—unstable housing, insecure food supplies, and a lack of other necessary supports.

“School principals are also impacted. The average principal in the study reports spending six and a half hours a week addressing the five societal challenges. One in four principals spend the equivalent of one workday a week responding to the challenges.  That time represents lost opportunity costs, taking time away from efforts to meet students’ academic needs and enhance the quality of teaching and learning.

“The report closes with a call for relationship-centered schools that attend to the holistic needs of young people and their families, while building social trust and understanding.  We recommend:

  1. Establish and communicate school climate standards emphasizing care, connectedness, and civility and then create practices that enable educational systems to document and report on conditions associated with these standards.
  2. Build professional capacity within educational systems to address the holistic needs of students and communities and extend this capacity by supporting connections between school-based educators and other governmental agencies and community-based organizations serving young people and their families
  3. Develop integrated systems of health, mental health, and social welfare support for students and their families.
  4. Create and support networks of educators committed to fostering care, connectedness, and strong civility in their public education systems.”



Valerie Jablow, D.C. parent, blogger, and activist, read two reports on teacher and principal attrition and retention. One of them was prepared by the highly respected D.C. civil rights attorney Mary Levy, who has been tracking data in D.C. for many years. Levy looked at both public schools and charter schools.

One conclusion: staff turnover is startlingly high, especially in schools with the most disadvantaged students.

Overall, our public school teacher turnover rates dwarf national averages and have socioeconomic implications, such that the more at risk students a school has, the higher its teacher turnover. The data examined by Levy from the last 3 years alone show that fully a quarter of our public school teachers leave each year—a much higher rate than other jurisdictions. The result is that over half a decade, most of our publicly funded schools will see the majority of their teachers leave.

Our DC public school principal turnover is high as well, averaging about 25% annually. Although that is closer to the national average for principal turnover, in DC it is (like teacher turnover) also correlated with socioeconomics, such that schools with the most at risk students often have the most principal turnover.

Levy had to hand-calculate some of the data because data-collection is slipshod:

For one, we have this data on teacher turnover in DCPS only because Levy herself has spent years comparing staff rosters for individual DCPS schools and budgets and reported what she found. Consider, for a moment, the painful irony of Levy being commissioned to do a report on teacher attrition in DCPS through a painstaking process of backing out data that the school system may already have in a better format–and, for all any of us knows, could provide in a much easier way.

For another, the charter school data on teacher turnover is suspect, as Levy discovered that a number of charter schools appeared to have confused teacher attrition with retention in their required annual reports.

Thus, whenever the reported teacher attrition rate in a charter school was higher than 50%, Levy painstakingly compared staff rosters from one year to the next in the same school. Roster comparisons were, however, inexact because different schools defined “teacher” in different ways, and the rosters themselves changed in form and format from year to year. (Not to mention that the attrition/retention confusion happened within LEAs–so each school had to be looked at separately.) Nonetheless, Levy recorded how many teachers appeared to stay and leave each year; used that to determine whether the reported high rate of attrition above 50% was accurate; and, if it was not accurate, flipped the percentage.

Imagine that! The schools reporting data often didn’t know the difference between retention and attrition! Are any of the data credible when the people responsible for reporting don’t inow the meaning of basic terminology?

D.C. public schools have been controlled by the mayor and by “reformers” including Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson (now looking for a new chancellor since Antwan Wilson left) since 2007, and there in no accurate data collection and analysis program.

Foundations including Gates, Walton, and Broad have poured tens of millions into DCPS, and there is no accurate collection and analysis program.

Whenever D.C. makes a claim about graduation rates, test scores, teacher and principal attrition and retention, they are probably just guessing. Or boasting. They really don’t know.

If you want to learn more, you can attend this meeting:

This Wednesday November 28, from 6 pm-8 pm, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) and teacher advocacy group EmpowerEd will hold a joint forum on staff retention in DC’s publicly funded schools. The forum will be held at Walker-Jones Education Campus, 1125 New Jersey Ave. NW. RSVP here.

The principal of Sacramento Charter High School resigned in protest, siding with the students who were demonstrating against teacher turnover, a change in the dress code, and other arbitrary rules.

The school is part of the St. Hope Charter Chain, founded by former Sacramento Mayor (and basketball star) Kevin Johnson, and managed by him and his wife Michelle Rhee.

“Sacramento Charter High School’s top administrator has resigned just days after students left classes in protest and she blasted St. Hope administrators for what she said was the school’s “sustained history of neglect from above” and their “reactionary finger-pointing” in their handling of the student walkout.

“Christina Smith in a strongly worded one-page letter dated Monday and obtained Wednesday by The Sacramento Bee, threw her support behind the students, saying the demonstrations and the blame laid at Smith’s feet in its wake by leaders of St. Hope Public Schools, which runs the charter high school, were among the tipping points that led to her resignation as the school’s site lead…

“Some 100 students staged four days of walkouts frustrated that student-led changes to the campus’ handbook approved at the end of the 2017-2018 school year were set aside by St. Hope officials and that students were ordered by the officials to wear costly school-mandated uniforms.

“We feel like we’re being stripped of our voices,” said senior Keishay Swygert during Friday’s demonstration, part of four days of protest against St. Hope administrators. “We want our school back.”

“Other students on Wednesday bemoaned a high teacher turnover rate, a lack of textbooks, arbitrary rule-making by school leaders and an environment that does not properly prepare its students for college.”

Read more here:

Greg Windle, a journalist at The Notebook, has drawn together the many strands of the tangled web of Reformer groups in Philadelphia, as seen through the lens of a contract awarded to The New Teacher Project for principal training. TNTP, Michelle Rhee’s creation, was designed to hire new teachers. When did it develop an expertise in training principals? Were there no veteran educators, no one in the Philadelphia School System, capable of training new principals? Or were they recruiting principals who had been a teacher for a year or two?

As Windle gets deeper into the story of a contract dispute about hiring TNTP to train principals, a familiar cast of money-hungry Reform groups washes up on the beach.

“Marjorie Neff, a former School Reform Commission chair who voted against the TNTP contract to recruit and screen teachers, said that in her experience such national education vendors use an approach that is “formulaic” and doesn’t tailor well to the needs of an individual teacher or the “context” of teaching in Philadelphia, where a teacher’s needs are different than in the suburbs. Neff is a former principal at Samuel Powel Elementary and J.R. Masterman who earned a master’s degree in education from Temple University.

“They’re selling a product. From that perspective, their formula is their vested interest,” Neff said. “Their bottom line is profitability, and we need to take that into account. Is it the most effective way to do this, or is it the most profitable? I don’t think those necessarily have to be in conflict, but sometimes they are.”

“In 2017, TNTP reported that its expenses were $20 million higher than revenue. In 2016, its revenue was nearly $21 million higher than expenses, but this was entirely due to the $41 million it brought in from “all other contributions, gifts, grants” (excluding government grants). That pot includes grants from outside philanthropies, such as foundations, but also investments from venture capital firms. In 2015, the nonprofit lost $6.1 million, despite millions in outside funding.

“Shifting funding, but consistent ideology

“Bain Capital’s consulting firm has two members on the board of TNTP. Since 2009, Bain’s consulting arm has partnered with Teach for America to develop “high-impact leaders in education” by placing TFA alumni in “leadership” positions in public education. Together, TFA and Bain designed “a series of programs to inspire, prepare, match and support Teach for America alums on the path to leadership.” Bain aimed to bring leadership development practices from the private sector into public education.

“In 2012, the two organizations got together to “expand the scope of work” of their partnership — the same year that Teach for America founded School Systems Leaders to train TFA alumni to “serve at the highest levels of leadership in public school systems.”

“Matt Glickman, an employee of the Bain consulting firm and board member of TNTP, has also served on the board of the NewSchools Venture Fund. That fund has invested in free-market education reforms since 1998. The Sackler family – whose fortune is based on profits from Purdue Pharma, developer of OxyContin – decided to invest heavily in the fund.”

When will education be returned to educators?

Anyone advocating for edupreneurs should be fired. As Neff said quite well, these national vendors are in it for the money.


Mercedes Schneider did some research and discovered that a very large proportion of the “deans” at the Relay “Graduate Schools of Education” got their start in Teach for America.

This makes sense. TFA bypasses traditional professional education and places ill-prepared “teachers” in urban and rural classrooms with only five weeks of training. Who would go to a doctor who never went to medical school but had five weeks of training? Who would go to a “lawyer” who skipped law school and read law books for five weeks?

Relay is the right place for “deans” with no real education background. These faux “graduate schools” have none of the authentic markers of a genuine graduate school of education. Few, if any, of their faculty have doctorates. They have no programs in the foundations of education, in cognitive development, in learning the skills need to be a teacher of children with disabilities or a teacher of English language learners. Libraries? I don’t think so.

Relay grew out of a program created at Hunter College called TeacherU, whose purpose was to prepare young people to teach in charter schools. It was sponsored by three no-excuses charter chains: KIPP, Achievement First, and Uncommon Schools. What matters most to the no-excuses charters are strict discipline and test scores. Who needs research? Who needs scholarship? Who needs experts in school finance or history or psychology? Not Relay.

Like the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy, Relay is a means of bypassing professional education while mimicking it.

The Atlanta Board of Education just awarded a $600,000 sole source contract to Relay to prepare leaders.

Schneider reviews the background of the 15 Relay “deans” and concludes:

There you have it: 15 “deans”; no Ph.D.s (but one almost); no bachelors degrees in education; no refereed publications, and not a one “dean” qualified for a tenure-track position in a legitimate college of education. But who needs legitimacy when you can franchise yourself into a deanship?

What a farce.

P.S. Mercedes Schneider has an earned Ph.D. in research methodology and statistics. She chose to teach high school students in Louisiana. She knows what a legitimate graduate school of education is.

I call a moratorium on bashing our students and our teachers. If I could manage it, I would make that moratorium a permanent ban.

If you have been watching the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on television, you have seen young people who are smart, eloquent, well-informed, and reasonable. They are so much smarter than so many of our elected officials. The elected officials who dare to debate them are quickly shown to be empty suits.

These students are the best in the world. They survived a horrific attack on their school, stepped over the bodies of their friends and teachers, and emerged to tell the world that this American carnage (as Trump put it in his inaugural address) must stop. Now. No more school shootings. They are old enough to vote; the others will be voters by 2020. They are angry and they are focused, and they know what the problem is: guns. Too many guns. Easy access to guns. NRA money buying politicians.

They will not be bought off by empty promises to increase background checks. To extend the waiting period for an assault weapon. To raise the eligibile age to 21 for buying a weapon of mass murder. They know that mass murderers can pass background checks, can wait three days, and may be older than 21, like the killers in Orlando and Las Vegas. They want a ban on selling military weapons to civilians. They want a ban on sales of military weapons at gun shows and online. They will not be hoaxed. They call BS on phonies.

As we saw in the Sandy Hook massacre, the teachers and principal of these students defended them with their own bodies. They took the bullets to shield their students. They didn’t sign up to be targets for a homicidal maniac, but when the time of reckoning came, they gave their lives to save their students.

Meanwhile, “the good guys with guns” heard the shooting but stayed out of the building. The deputy assigned to protect the students has resigned, and two other officers are being investigated.

Would you have the courage that these teachers and principal had? Would you lay down your life to save that of others?

Would you have the courage and eloquence of the students who left the funerals and memorials for their friends and teachers to fight for a better world?

Revolutions are made by the young, not by tired middle-aged, comfortable folk.

These young people are amazing and admirable.

Their teachers are heroes.

The kids praised their teachers. They know who is on their side.

I praise them all.

I stand with the students, the teachers, and the other educators who fight for children every day.



This video is a vivid demonstration of the public school as the heart and anchor of the community.

Mickey Reynolds, principal of Lake Mary High School in Seminole County, Florida, surprised everyone by joining the school’s step dancing team and putting in a very creditable performance. The students in the stands and on the floor of the school gym roared with delight as Ms. Reynolds kept up with her students. She is a trouper!

Lake Mary High School is no fly-by-night. It has been at the center of its community since 1981-82. Take a look at its comprehensive program.

This is public education.

This is a School for all the people’s children.

Betsy DeVos. You lose.

Try step dancing with students.

My money is on Ms. Reynolds.

Ms. Reynolds, thanks for reminding us that the experience of school is about fun and games as well as academics.

For your courage and good humor in daring to step dance with those beautiful students, I name you to the honor roll of this Blog!

This is a heartening story about the schools in Wine Country in California, which just suffered through horrifying fires.

Educators who lost their own homes were back on the job, to make sure the children had a safe space.

This is what educators do.

“Principal Teresa Ruffoni greeted students at Crane Elementary School in Rohnert Park on Monday morning, their first day back in class after a series of deadly fires burned through thousands of homes in neighboring Santa Rosa and in other cities and towns across the region.

“What Ruffoni didn’t tell the children was that a week earlier she had grabbed a few of her most vital belongings and fled from flames that would soon consume her home in Hidden Valley Estates, a hard-hit subdivision in the hills of northern Santa Rosa.

“She was too focused on the students, and navigating an extraordinary period for education in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties…

“Amid the chaos and uncertainty, district administrators and teachers have been scrambling to get schools back open, knowing it was a critical step to bring a sense of security and normalcy to children traumatized by the destruction.

“That’s why on Friday, Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified Superintendent Robert Haley gathered the entire district staff in a school gym.

“Do you want to try and reopen Monday?” he asked.

“The answer, he said, was a solid yes.

“I looked up, and front and center was a teacher with a smile on her face,” he said. “Her house burned down, but she was ready to help her colleagues get kids back in school.”

“Ruffoni, despite possessing only a hodgepodge of mismatched clothes grabbed in the dark of night, was ready to go, too.

“It felt like the right thing to do, Haley said, to help the whole county move forward.

“For many of our students, the place they feel safest other than at home is school,” Haley said. “The adults they trust more than anyone other than their parents are their teachers. That’s why we’re here today.”

The North Carolina legislature will go down in history as the most anti-education lawmakers in the history of the state. I would say the nation, but Wisconsin’s hostility to educators is tough to beat.

The legislature enacted a principal pay plan that cuts principal pay and drives out veteran principal. In North Carolina, this is called “reform.”

Education journalist Lindsay Wagner write about it here:

“State Board of Education members expressed shock this week upon learning just how seriously the General Assembly’s newly enacted principal pay plan could hurt school leaders, particularly those who have devoted decades of service to the state’s public schools.

“I don’t think it was anybody’s intent for principals to lose pay as a result of [this plan],” said the State Board of Education’s vice chairman A.L. “Buddy” Collins. “I have three different principals who are very veteran principals with over 30 years who believe they are being adversely affected to the point that they may need to retire—which is certainly not what we want.”

“North Carolina’s principals, whose salaries ranked 50th in the nation in 2016, watched this year as lawmakers changed how they are compensated, moving away from a salary schedule based on years of service and earned credentials to a so-called performance-based plan that relies on students’ growth measures (calculated off standardized test scores) and the size of the school to calculate pay.

“But the plan’s design has produced scenarios that result in some veteran principals conceivably earning as much as 30 percent less than what they earned on the old pay schedules—prompting some to consider early retirements.

“I just want to point out this one principal who wrote to me,” said vice chair Collins. “He’s got 35 years of experience, 58 years old…and he’s expecting to have his salary reduced by 30 percent next year. And I’ve got two others with greater [amounts] of experience with a similar result.”

State board members wondered who came up with this nutty idea.

“The new plan appears to create a disincentive for school leaders to take on the challenge of heading up low-performing schools, said Amanda Bell, a Rockingham school board member and advisor to the State Board.

“It is going to be almost impossible for us to find principals who would even want to take on that challenge,” said Bell. “Because eventually they’re gonna lose salary, based on this model.”