Archives for category: U.S. Department of Education

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.

Thirty-one years ago, I was invited by Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander to join him at the U.S. Department of Education as Assistant Secretary of Education in Charge of Research and Improvement. Before he invited me, he learned a lot about my work and my views. It was a big jump for me because I had never planned to work in government and was surprised to be invited. After I was confirmed by the Senate, I selected the person I wanted as my Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education. It was Francie Alexander, who had been Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Assessment in the State of California. I had gotten to know her when I worked on the California history-social science framework in the late 1980s.

Given this brief personal history, I am puzzled that the Biden administration is staffing up the key jobs in the U.S. Department of Education before any of the top officials (Secretary of Education, Deputy Secretary of Education, Undersecretary of Education) have been confirmed. The next layer of officials–the Assistant Secretaries–have not even been named.

Yet the administration continues to roll out lists of people who will be deputies to Assistant Secretaries who are as yet unknown; “chief of staff” to an official who has not been confirmed; “confidential assistant” to a high official. Most of these appointments have one of two things in common: 1) they worked on the Biden-Harris campaign; or 2) they worked in the Obama administration.

It is likely, highly likely, that Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona and his Deputy Secretary-designate Cindy Marten have never met or even heard of any of these people who will be their closest associates. They will not pick their team; when they take office, their team will be in place, chosen by someone else. Who? Arne Duncan? John King?

The important job of Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Programs in the Office of the Secretary went to Scott Sargrad, who was until recently vice-president for K-12 education at the Center for American Progress. CAP, as is well known, is pro-testing and pro-charter schools.

Will the Biden administration revive Race to the Top but call it something else?

Asking for a few million friends.

Nancy Bailey explains why we should worry about who is making the decisions at the U.S. Department of Education before any of its top officials have been confirmed. She suspects it is Education Trust, which favors charter schools and high-stakes testing. EdTrust is Gates-funded, and its leader is John King, who served briefly as Secretary of Education in the last year of the Obama administration. King was Commissioner of Education in New York, where he was an enthusiastic proponent of the Common Core and high-stakes testing. His background is charter schools; he founded Roxbury Prep, a no-excuses charter school in Massachusetts with the highest suspension rate in the state.

EdTrust pushed hard to persuade Biden not to issue any testing waivers this year. The Department’s announcement was made by Ian Rosenblum, acting Assistant Secretary, who previously worked for…wait for it…EdTrust in New York, advocating for testing.

The Biden administration selected San Diego Superintendent of Schools Cindy Marten to become Deputy Secretary of Education, the #2 job in the Department of Education.

She has a long career as a teacher, as principal of a high-poverty school in San Diego, and as Superintendent of the state’s second largest district since 2013.

Louis Freedberg of Edsource describes her career in this article.

Marten has been superintendent of San Diego Unified since 2013. But before that she had been a teacher for 17 years, as well as principal of San Diego’s Central Elementary School, a school in the diverse City Heights neighborhood where 96% of students qualify for free and reduced-priced meals.

It was after several years at Central Elementary that she made the virtually unheard of jump from an elementary school principal to being superintendent of her district — not just any district, but the second-largest district in California and the 20th-largest in the nation.

Derrick Johnson, President of the national NAACP, tweeted his support for her candidacy.

The San Diego chapter of the NAACP, strong supporters of charter schools, has criticized Cindy Marten for the high suspension rates of black students (black students are 4% of the SD enrollment but 12% of suspensions). The critics do not note that the San Diego school board passed a resolution to replace suspensions with programs of restorative justice, which will drive down suspension rates.

No such voices complained about John King, when he was nominated to be Secretary of Education by the Obama administration, after Arne Duncan stepped down. King’s no-excuses charter school in Massachusetts had the highest suspension rate in the nation (nearly 60%), but no one mentioned it. He was “the king of suspensions,” but no one cared.

Marten is committed to child-centered education, with a heaping dose of the arts and play. She is a worthy choice to serve as Deputy Secretary of Education.

Here we go again. Before either Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona or Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten have been confirmed by the Senate, key jobs in the Department of Education are being filled by staff from the Gates Foundation and DFER, both of which are champions of bad ideas and antagonists of public schools. From my experience in the U.S. Department of Education, it is customary to allow the Secretary and Deputy Secretary to choose their assistant secretaries, and the assistant secretaries choose their deputies. These appointments seem to have been made by the White House. Please note that the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development shapes policy for the Department. The administration previously announced a fervent supporter of high-stakes testing—Ian Rosenblum of Education Trust in New York—as the acting Assistant Secretary for that office.

Andrew Ujifusa reports in Education Week:

The latest round of political appointees to the U.S. Department of Education include a veteran of Capitol Hill and Beltway education groups, the former leader of Democrats for Education Reform’s District of Columbia affiliate, and two former Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation staffers.

The Biden administration appointments, announced Feb. 3, fill spots in key offices, although nominees forthe top jobs in the office for civil rights and office of planning, evaluation, and policy development. (We gave folks a heads up about two of the most recent appointments hereand here before they were officially announced.) However, a few such jobs are being filled on an acting basis.

It’s difficult to discern just one trend or policy direction based on Biden’s Education Department appointments so far; those who’ve worked for and supported teachers’ unions in the past, for example, will be working alongside union skeptics and those who’ve drawn labor’s ire in the past. The administration announced its first set of department appointees last month, and it included two former National Education Association staffers.

Here are a few notable names from the latest round of appointments:

Jessica Cardichon, deputy assistant secretary, office of planning, evaluation, and policy development. Cardichon is an education policy veteran in Washington. She comes to the Education Department from the Learning Policy Institute, a K-12 policy and research group founded and led by Linda Darling-Hammond, who led Biden’s transition team for the department. Cardichon was the group’s federal policy director. While at LPI, Cardichon contributed to reports about COVID-19 relief, how to “reimagine schooling,” and student access to certified teachers.  [I worked during the election on a committee on assessment chaired by Cardichon on behalf of Biden. I urged the committee to recommend a suspension of the federally mandated testing in spring 2021 and to propose the elimination of that part of the law. When my proposals were ignored, I resigned from the committee.]

She’s also worked as education counsel to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on the Senate education committee; the Alliance for Excellent Education, a research and advocacy group, and at Teachers College, Columbia University. A long-time ally of teachers’ unions and a critic of standardized testing, Sanders has taken on a big role in the Senate during the creation of a new COVID-19 relief package. 

Ramin Taheri, chief of staff, office for civil rights. Taheri comes to the department after serving as the District of Columbia chapter director of Democrats for Education Reform, a group that promotes charter schools, K-12 education funding, test-based teacher and school accountability, and other policies. The group divides opinion in the left-leaning K-12 policy space. Some have championed the group for focusing on issues they say will better served students of color and disadvantaged learners, while other claim DFER undermines teachers’ unions and traditional public schools. News that DFER was backing certain big-city superintendents to be Biden’s education secretary provoked pushback from union supporters and others skeptical of DFER. (Cardona was not on DFER’s list of preferred choices.) Taheri has also worked at Chiefs for Change, a group of district superintendents that provokes similar, if not identical, political sentiments. 

Last year, DFER’s D.C. chapter under Taheri provoked controversy by singling out a candidate for the District of Columbia Council for wanting to cut police funding. Asked about the negative advertising, Taheri told the Washington City paper that the group wanted to inform voters about issues beyond education, and that the candidate’s position on police budgets was “deeply unpopular” with voters. (The candidate, Janeese Lewis George, who accused DFER of fearmongering, ultimately won her election.) The question of whether police should be in schools, and educators’ attitudes toward school resource officers, gained prominence after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police last year. The City Paper’s story about DFER’s mailers focused on George was published three days after Floyd’s death. Taheri later said that the group’s mailers were a mistake. 

Nick Lee, deputy assistant secretary, office of planning, evaluation, and policy development; Sara Garcia, special assistant, office of planning, evaluation, and policy development. Both Lee and Garcia come to the department from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where Lee was a senior program officer and Garcia was a program officer. 

Although Lee previously managed $10 million in annual education grants covering both K-12 and higher education, according to his LinkedIn profile, he’s now listed himself as an assistant secretary for higher education at the department as of this month. Garcia also has a background in higher education, and used to work on the Senate education committee for Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who is now chairwoman of the committee.

The Gates Foundation has had a long, complex, and controversial involvement in education policy. For many years, it focused its considerable grant-making power on teacher effectiveness, teacher-performance systems, and support for the Common Core State Standards; by 2015, the foundation estimated it had put $900 million in grants toward teacher policy and programs. Previously, it had focused on supporting small high schools. These efforts became more politically controversial over time. 

Supporters have applauded its focus on educators and improving instruction, while critics say its outsized influence has had a detrimental effect on policymakers. A 2018 study of one of its biggest teacher-effectiveness efforts in three districts showed no gains for students. 

In recent years, the foundation has shifted its focus to support higher education access for students of color and disadvantaged students. (Note: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provides general operating support to Education Week, which retains sole editorial control over its content.) 

The full list of appointments announced Feb. 3 is here.

https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/department-education-announces-more-biden-harris-appointees

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, watched the Senate confirmation hearings of Miguel Cardona for Secretary of Education. She was delighted to hear his responses on issues that matter to friends of the public schools.

She wrote for this blog:

On February 3, I tuned in and listened to Dr. Miguel Cardona’s confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education.  I was anxious to hear his response to questions about school choice, integration, equity, testing, and schools’ reopening.

I was curious to see if Dr. Cardona would, like his three predecessors, Duncan, King, and De Vos, carry the banner for charter schools and seek to expand the Federal Charter Schools Program. Was he someone who believed that setting schools in the arena to compete benefits students?  Does he prefer the private governance of schools?

The first question on school choice was asked by Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina, who voiced his support for all manner of school choice.

Cardona had a practiced response. He did not mention vouchers. He gave the nod to charters saying that some are excellent, which is true. But then the incoming Secretary signaled where he would put his time and treasure.

“Most parents want to send their children to their neighborhood school. It is important to support all schools, including the neighborhood schools that are usually the first choice for families in that community.”

That statement gives me hope. Cardona did not fall into the trap of using the term “traditional public schools,” a term coined by the charter community. 

“Traditional public schools” is and was always meant to be a disparaging term. Cardona’s innovative elementary school was not “traditional.” The high school I led that had an enriched, challenging curriculum for all where support and racial integration of classrooms and activities were the highest priority was not “traditional.” 

Cardona deliberately chose the term–“neighborhood” to describe public schools. Unlike his predecessors he did not use “traditional” to distinguish them from charters.  And he stated that they are, as our friends at Journey for Justice remind us, “usually the first choice for families in that community.” 

If the listener did not understand what he meant by “neighborhood schools,” he clarified the term later.

He used the term “public,” then corrects himself, saying that charters are public schools (they are legally defined as such in his state). He then talks about the need to support neighborhood schools. He says, “Our neighborhood schools need to be schools where we want to send our children, and he calls neighborhood schools “the bedrock of our country.” Wow.

No person who has spent their life in public schools, especially in leadership, is universally liked. Miguel Cardona has his critics. But as I listened to Miguel Cardona, I was filled with hope. He is devoid of Duncan’s folksy goofiness, the arrogance of King, and the burning hatred of all things public of De Vos.

Miguel Cardona is a public school guy. He chose to spend his life walking among children in public school halls. He knows the road he is traveling, and the stars that guide his way will not be charter schools, vouchers, or billionaire reformers.  

Valerie Strauss posted this article that I wrote on her Washington Post site “The Answer Sheet.” The tests now required by federal law are worthless. The results are reported too late to matter. The reports to teachers do not tell them what students do or do not know. The tests tell students whether they did well or poorly on a test they took six months ago. They do not measure “learning loss.”

Diane Ravitch is a former assistant secretary of education and historian. For more than a decade, she has been a leading advocate for America’s public education system and a critic of the modern “accountability” movement that has based school improvement measures in large part on high-stakes standardized tests.


In her influential 2010 book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” Ravitch explained why she dropped her support for No Child Left Behind, the chief education initiative of President George W. Bush, and for standardized test-based school “reform.”


Ravitch worked from 1991 to 1993 as assistant secretary in charge of research and improvement in the Education Department of President George H.W. Bush, and she served as counselor to then-Education Secretary Lamar Alexander, who had just left the Senate where he had served as chairman of the Senate Education Committee. She was at the White House as part of a select group when George W. Bush first outlined No Child Left Behind (NCLB), a moment that at the time she said made her “excited and optimistic” about the future of public education.


But her opinion changed as NCLB was implemented and she researched its effects on teaching and learning. She found that the NCLB mandate for schools to give high-stakes annual standardized tests in math and English language arts led to reduced time — or outright elimination — of classes in science, social studies, the arts and other subjects.


She was a critic of President Barack Obama’s policies and his chief education initiative, Race to the Top, a multibillion-dollar competition in which states (and later districts) could win federal funds by promising to adopt controversial overhauls, including the Common Core State Standards, charter schools and accountability that evaluated teachers by student test scores.


In 2013, she co-founded an advocacy group called the Network for Public Education, a coalition of organizations that oppose privatizing public education and high-stakes standardized testing. She has since then written several other best-selling books and a popular blog focused primarily on education.


She was also appointed by President Bill Clinton to the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress, and served for seven years.

In the following post, she provides a historical overview of standardized testing — and takes issue with supporters who say that these exams provide data that helps teachers and students. Instead, she says, they are have no value in the classroom.


The subject has resonance at the moment because the Biden administration must decide soon whether to give states a waiver from the federal annual testing mandate. The Trump administration did so last year after schools abruptly closed when the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the United States, but said it wouldn’t do it again if President Donald Trump won reelection. Trump lost, and now Biden’s Education Department is under increasing pressure to give states permission not to administer the 2021 tests.

By Diane Ravitch


I have been writing about standardized tests for more than 20 years. My 2000 book, “Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform,” included a history of I.Q. testing, which evolved into the standardized tests used in schools and into the Scholastic Aptitude Test, known now simply as the SAT. The psychologists who designed these tests in the early 20th century believed, incorrectly, that you inherited “intelligence” from your family and nothing you might do would change it. The chief virtue of these tests was that they were “standardized,” meaning that everyone took the same ones. The I.Q. test was applied to the screening of recruits for World War I, used to separate the men of high intellect — officer material — and from those of low intellect, who were sent to the front lines.
When the psychologists reviewed the test results, they concluded that white males of northern European origin had the highest I.Q., while non-English-speaking people and Black people had the lowest I.Q. They neglected the fact that northern Black people had higher I.Q. scores than Appalachian White people on the Army’s mental tests. Based on these tests, the psychologists believed, incorrectly, that race and I.Q. were bound together.


One of the psychologists who helped create the wartime I.Q. tests was Carl C. Brigham of Princeton University. He wrote an influential book, called “A Study of American Intelligence,” in 1923, which proclaimed that the “Nordic” race had the highest intelligence and that the increasing numbers of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe were causing a decline in American intelligence.


His findings encouraged Congress to set quotas to limit the immigration of so-called “inferior” national groups from places like Russia, Poland and Italy. Brigham, a faculty member at Princeton, used his knowledge of I.Q. testing to develop the Scholastic Aptitude Test in 1926. Because they could be easily and cheaply scored by machine, the SAT tests eventually replaced the well-known “College Boards,” which were written examinations prepared and graded by teams of high school teachers and college professors.


Standardized testing occasionally made an appearance in American schools in the second half of the 20th century, but the tests were selected and used at the will of state and local school boards. The Scholastic Aptitude Test was important for college admission, especially for the relatively small number of elite colleges. Nonetheless, it was possible to attend an American public school from kindergarten through 12th grade without ever taking a standardized test of academic or mental ability.


This state of affairs began to change after the release of the Reagan administration’s “Nation at Risk” report in 1983. That report claimed that the nation’s public schools were mired in “a rising tide of mediocrity” because they were too easy. Politicians and education leaders became convinced that American education needed higher standards and needed tests to measure the performance of students on higher standards.


President George H.W. Bush convened a national summit of governors in 1989, which proclaimed six national goals for the year 2000 in education, including:


• By the year 2000, United States students will be first in the world in math and science.

• By the year 2000, all students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competence over challenging subject matter including English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history and geography.


Such goals implied measurement. They implied the introduction of widespread standardized testing.


In 1994, President Bill Clinton introduced his Goals 2000 program, which gave grants to every state to choose their own standards and tests.


In 2001, President George W. Bush put forward his No Child Left Behind legislation, which required every student in grades 3 to 8 to take a standardized test in reading and mathematics every year, as well as one test in high school. Test scores would be used to judge schools and eventually to punish those that failed to make progress toward having every student achieve competency on those tests. The NCLB law proclaimed that by 2014, virtually every student would achieve competency in reading and mathematics. The authors of NCLB knew the goal was impossible to achieve.


When Barack Obama became president, he selected Arne Duncan as secretary of education. The Obama administration embraced the NCLB regime. Its own program — Race to the Top — stiffened the sanctions of NCLB.


Not only would schools that did not get high enough test scores be punished, possibly closed or privatized for failing to meet utopian goals, but teachers would be individually singled out if the students in their classes did not get higher scores every year.
The Bush-Obama approach was recognized as the “bipartisan consensus” in education, built around annual testing, accountability for students, teachers, principals and schools, and competition among schools. Race to the Top encouraged states to authorize charter school legislation and to increase the number of privately managed charters, and to pass legislation that tied teachers’ evaluations to the test scores of their students.


Duncan also promoted the Common Core State Standards, which were underwritten by philanthropist Bill Gates; the U.S. Department of Education could not mandate the Common Core, but it required states to adopt “common national standards” if they wanted to be eligible to compete for a share of the $4.35 billion in federal funding that the department controlled as part of the recovery funds after the Great Recession of 2008-09.


The department was able to subsidize the development of two new national tests aligned to the Common Core, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). At the outset — in 2010 — almost every state signed up for one of the two testing consortia. PARCC had 24 state members; it is now down to two and the District of Columbia. SBAC started with 30 state members; it is down to 17.


Politicians and the general public assume that tests are good because they provide valuable information. They think that the tests are necessary for equity among racial and ethnic groups.


This is wrong.


The tests are a measure, not a remedy.


The tests are administered to students annually in March and early April. Teachers are usually not allowed to see the questions. The test results are returned to the schools in August or September. The students have different teachers by then. Their new teachers see their students’ scores but they are not allowed to know which questions the students got right or wrong.


Thus, the teachers do not learn where the students need extra help or which lessons need to be reviewed.


All they receive is a score, so they learn where students ranked compared to one another and compared to students across the state and the nation.


This is of little value to teachers.


This would be like going to a doctor with a pain in your stomach. The doctor gives you a battery of tests and says she will have the results in six months. When the results are reported, the doctor tells you that you are in the 45th percentile compared to others with a similar pain, but she doesn’t prescribe any medication because the test doesn’t say what caused your pain or where it is situated.


The tests are a boon for the testing corporation. For teachers and students, they are worthless.


Standardized test scores are highly correlated with family income and education. The students from affluent families get the highest scores. Those from poor families get the lowest scores. This is the case on every standardized test, whether it is state, national, international, SAT, or ACT. Sometimes poor kids get high scores, and sometimes kids from wealthy families get low scores, but they are outliers. The standardized tests confer privilege on the already advantaged and stigmatize those who have the least. They are not and will never be, by their very nature, a means to advance equity.


In addition, standardized tests are normed on a bell curve. There will always be a bottom half and a top half. Achievement gaps will never close, because bell curves never close. That is their design. By contrast, anyone of legal age may get a driver’s license if they pass the required tests. Access to driver’s licenses are not based on a bell curve. If they were, about 35 to 40 percent of adults would never get a license to drive.


If you are a parent, you will learn nothing from your child’s test score. You don’t really care how he or she ranks compared to others of her age in the state or in another state. You want to know whether she is keeping up with her assignments, whether she participates in class, whether she understands the work, whether she is enthusiastic about school, how she gets along with her peers. The standardized tests won’t answer any of these questions.


So how can a parent find out what he or she wants to know? Ask your child’s teacher.


Who should write the tests? Teachers should write the tests, based on what they taught in class. They can get instant answers and know precisely what their students understood and what they did not understand. They can hold a conference with Johnny or Maria to go over what they missed in class and help them learn what they need to know.


But how will we know how we are doing as a city or a state or a nation? How will we know about achievement gaps and whether they are getting bigger or smaller?


All of that information is already available in the reports of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), plus much more. Scores are disaggregated by state, gender, race, disability status, poverty status, English-language proficiency, and much more. About 20 cities have volunteered to be assessed, and they get the same information.


As we approach the reauthorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act — the successor law to No Child Left Behind — it is important to know this history and this context. No high-performing nation in the world tests every students in grades 3 to 8 every year.


We can say with certainty that the No Child Left Behind program failed to meet its purpose of leaving no child behind.


We can say with certainty that the Race to the Top program did not succeed at raising the nation’s test scores “to the top.”


We can say with certainty that the Every Student Succeeds Act did not achieve its purpose of assuring that every student would succeed.


For the past 10 years, despite (or perhaps because of) this deluge of intrusive federal programs, scores on the NAEP have been flat. The federal laws and programs have come and gone and have had no impact on test scores, which was their purpose.


It is time to think differently. It is time to relax the heavy hand of federal regulation and to recall the original purposes of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act: to distribute funding to the neediest students and schools; to support the professional training of teachers; and to assure the civil rights of students.


The federal government should not mandate testing or tell schools how to “reform” themselves, because the federal government lacks the knowledge or know-how or experience to reform schools.


At this critical time, as we look beyond the terrible consequences of the pandemic, American schools face a severe teacher shortage. The federal government can help states raise funding to pay professional salaries to professional teachers. It can help pay for high-quality prekindergarten programs. It can underwrite the cost of meals for students and help pay for nurses in every school.


American education will improve when the federal government does what it does best and allows highly qualified teachers and well-resourced schools to do what they do best.


Tom Ultican has written extensively about the insidious goals of “reformers,” who move forward despite multiple failures because of their billionaire funding.

In this post, he reviews the Biden education team, which is not yet fleshed out. He wrote this post before the announcement that Cindy Marten, the Superintendent of Schools in San Diego, was selected to be Deputy Secretary. This will be the first time in history that the top two jobs in the Department of Education were held by people who were actual educators with classroom experience. He added a comment about Superintendent Marten.

Tom Ultican defines the unanswered questions:

Joe Biden has chosen a person with an education background to lead the department of education but his experience running large organizations is almost non-existent. He was assistant superintendent of a school district with less than 9,000 students from 2013 to 2019. He then became Education Commissioner of Connecticut. That system serves less than 530,000 students. His primary strength seems to be he has not engaged with the controversial education issues of the day like “school choice” and testing accountability.

Which begs the question, will the Biden-Harris administration support and revitalize public schools or will they bow to big moneyed interests who make campaign contributions? Will Biden-Harris continue the neoliberal ideology of “school choice” or will they revitalize public schools? Will they continue wasting money on standardized testing that only accurately correlates with family economic conditions or will they reign in this wasteful practice?

Tom Ultican added:

Update added 1/19/2021: Today, Cindy Marten was nominated by Joe Biden to be Deputy Secretary of Education. I have met Marten a few times and believe she is a special kind of leader committed to public education. This gives me great hope. For the first time, we have two educators with deep k-12 experience running the Department of Education. This article from the San Diego Union gives a good synopsis of her education career. In his announcement Biden noted, “Superintendent, principal, vice principal and literacy specialist are all job titles Marten has held in her 32-year career as an educator.” The appointment makes me think the Biden administration may become the best friend public education has had in Washington DC since the Department of Education was created. Of course, Marten does not walk on water but from my perspective she is the real deal.
– tom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Biden-Harris administration announced the selection of Cindy Marten, superintendent of schools in San Diego for the past seven years, as its choice for Deputy Secretary of Education. I have known her for 15 years. I first met her when she was the new principal of Central Elementary School. This will be the first time in the history of the U.S. Department of Education that the top two jobs were held by people with experience as teachers and principals.

This 2018 article is a good portrayal of who she is.

Read her memo to the transition team here.