I read/heard two interesting reflections on the election this morning.

First, I heard someone (name unknown, surely a Democratic spokesperson) ask the question on the radio: Why is breaking into the email of John Podesta different from the Watergate burglary where Republican operatives broke into the Democratic National Committee offices to steal its documents and plans?

Then I read this article in the Washington Post written by a professor of international relations who read the transcripts of Clinton’s speeches to Goldman Sachs and found them unremarkable.

Since the future of our nation is at risk, I can’t stop thinking about what is at stake if a sociopathic billionaire wins the Presidency, and what is at stake as he crisscrosses the country telling his followers that our electoral system is “rigged.” He offers a choice: Elect me and I will jail my opponent, or if I lose, the entire electoral system is a sham.

This is an attack on America. I heard Douglas Brinkley, the historian of the presidency, say this morning that Trump has turned against democracy itself. He is now in a rule-or-ruin frame of mind.

But I return to the original point about Watergate. When a group of conspirators broke into DNC offices, they were trying to help President Nixon get re-elected. When their identities were revealed, as well as their ties to the Nixon re-election campaign (CREEP–Committee to Reelect the President), the media went into overdrive and public opinion joined in outrage. How dare they break into the files of the opposition party?

What is the difference between the Watergate burglars and Wikileaks today?

Brendon Cunningham is the Democratic candidate for State Assembly in District 9, Suffolk County. He is running against an incumbent who is not a friend of public schools or teachers.

Brendon graduated college in 2015. He is currently Deputy Director of Communications for the Town of Babylon. He is a graduate of the Babylon public schools. Both of his parents are public school teachers.

He promises to make education his top priority if elected.

He has the youth, energy, optimism, and knowledge that is needed in Albany.

If you live in his district, I urge you to work for him and vote for him.

P.S. I have it on good authority that his father is a BAT. Another reason to elect Brendan!

Perhaps you read the editorial in the New York Times a few days ago, blasting teacher education programs and approving John King’s new regulations to judge them by the test scores of the students who graduate from them. The editorial cites the Gates-funded National Council on Teacher Quality’s claim that 90% of teacher education institutions stink. NCTQ, you may recall, publishes rankings of teacher education programs without ever actually visiting any of them. It just reads the catalogues and decides which are the best and which are the worst, based in part on their adherence to the Common Core and scripted reading programs.

I agree that the entry standards for teacher education programs must be higher, and I would love to see online teaching degree programs shut down. But King’s new rules don’t address entry standards or crummy online programs. Their main goal is to judge teacher education programs by the test scores of the students who studied under the graduates of the programs. They will discourage teachers from teaching in high-needs districts. They will allow the U.S. Department of Education to extend its test-crazed control into yet another sector of American education. This is federal overreach at its dumbest.

John Merrow, who knows much more than the Times’ editorial writer on education (the same person for the past 20 years or more), has a different and better informed perspective.

He writes that the problem is not teacher education but the underpaid, under-respected profession.

The federal government thinks that tighter regulation of these institutions is the answer. After all, cars that come out of an automobile plant can be monitored for quality and dependability, thus allowing judgments about the plant. Why not monitor the teachers who graduate from particular schools of education and draw conclusions about the quality of their training programs?

That’s the heart of the new regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Education this week: monitor the standardized test scores of students and analyze the institutions their teachers graduated from. Over time, the logic goes, we’ll discover that teachers from Teacher Tech or Acme State Teachers College generally don’t move the needle on test scores. Eventually, those institutions will lose access to federal money and be forced out of business. Problem solved!

Education Secretary John B. King, Jr., announced the new regulations in Los Angeles. “As a nation, there is so much more we can do to help prepare our teachers and create a diverse educator workforce. Prospective teachers need good information to select the right program; school districts need access to the best trained professionals for every opening in every school; and preparation programs need feedback about their graduates’ experiences in schools to refine their programs (emphasis added). These regulations will help strengthen teacher preparation so that prospective teachers get off to the best start they can, and preparation programs can meet the needs of students and schools for great educators.”

Work on the regulations began five years ago and reflect former Secretary Arne Duncan’s views.

John Merrow says that the Department is trying to solve a problem by issuing regulations that will make the problem worse. Teacher churn and attrition are at extraordinary high levels. The regulations will not encourage anyone to improve teaching.

He writes:

Strengthen training, increase starting pay and improve working conditions, and teaching might attract more of the so-called ‘best and brightest,’ whereas right now it’s having trouble attracting anyone, according to the Learning Policy Institute, which reported that

“Between 2009 and 2014, the most recent years of data available, teacher education enrollments dropped from 691,000 to 451,000, a 35% reduction. This amounts to a decrease of almost 240,000 professionals on their way to the classroom in the year 2014, as compared to 2009.”

Merrow writes, in the voice of wisdom, a voice that has been non-existent in Washington, D.C., for the past 15 years:

I am a firm believer in the adage, “Harder to Become, Easier to Be.” We need to raise the bar for entry into the field and at the same time make it easier for teachers to succeed. This approach will do the opposite; it will make teaching more test-centric and less rewarding.

This latest attempt to influence teaching and learning is classic School Reform stuff. It worships at the altar of test scores and grows out of an unwillingness to face the real issues in education (and in society). While it may be well-meaning, it’s misguided and, at the end of the day, harmful.

Listen up, New York Times editorial writer!

Mercedes Schneider dissects the decision by the national board of the NAACP to call for a moratorium on new charter schools until charter schools agree to transparency and accountability. As she points out, the New York Times education editorial writer chastised the NAACP in advance for expecting charter schools to be accountable.

The Times acknowledges that some charters are disasters, and that more than half the students in Detroit are in charters, with no discernible benefit.

It is worth noting that the same person has been writing the Times editorials on education for the past 20 years. He loved No Child Left Behind, he loved Race to the Top, he loves charters. He loves tests and the Common Core. Once when he was on vacation, the Times ran a reasonable education editorial.

Who is out of touch?

Mercedes writes:

“It is not good enough to note that when charters excel, they’re great, or tossing off the charters “are far from universally perfect” line (which the NYT does in its op-ed) and that failing charter schools “should be shut down”–another pro-charter, clichéd non-solution that only leads to unnecessary community disruption– disruption that could be curbed if there were stronger controls in place to begin with.

“As is proven by its “misguided” editorial, the NYT editorial board is ‘reinforcing an out of touch impression,’ not the NAACP.”

There is a phenomenon these days known as Hillary Derangement Syndrome, which characterizes people who are consumed with hatred of Hillary.

Alexandra Petrilli of the Washington Post read all the Hillary Haters’ books and wrote a summary of the theories that animate those who see Hillary as the essence of evil: a witch, a devil, a robot.


It is pretty funny. She must be a super-powerful woman to inspire so much fear and fantastic theorizing. Must be her Wellesley education.

Former tennis star Andre Agassi opened a charter school in Las Vegas a few years back. He collected millions of dollars from adoring fans. He promised that his school would prepare every student for college. It was supposed to be easy. But there were many problems. Principals came and went. Teachers came and went. The school was a disaster. An article written in 2012 said:

More than 10 years after it opened, Agassi Prep, one of the first charter schools in Nevada, and arguably the most high-profile, is still finding its way. The school serves students from kindergarten to 12th grade (it’s arranged into elementary, middle and high schools), and graduated its first class in 2009. Like all public schools, it receives more than $6,000 per student from the state and county, and supplements that with private funding. During the last school year, Agassi Prep spent $11,069 to educate each of its 600 students.

“My impressions were that everyone wanted the school to be one of the best schools in the nation,” Piscal said. “It hasn’t all come together, and there is some frustration about that. But people still wanted to make it happen.”

Piscal has been on the job for more than a year. He is the sixth person to lead the school since it opened in 2001. But high turnover is not restricted to the chancellor’s office. Teachers, principals and staff come and go like visiting teams. Former teachers said the constant turnover creates a chaotic learning environment. Although the school has a high graduation rate and sends most of its graduates to college, it has had little success getting students into top-tier institutions, and many of its graduates attend community college.

Piscal wants to change that. The charter school veteran came to Agassi in January 2011. Not only is he trying to increase academic rigor, especially at the high-school level, he’s also supervising an increase in enrollment that will almost double the student body.

He’s already had some success staunching turnover at the high school and middle school. When he arrived, many positions were held by long-term substitutes. Some students had four or five teachers over the school year. Most of those subs have since been replaced by teachers who survived a rigorous interview process, Piscal said.

(The interesting thing about this article–which is unique in describing the struggles of the school– is that I quoted it in my 2013 book “Reign of Error.” At the time, it was easily discovered through googling by the school’s name. However, when I searched for it to link for this post, the article had disappeared. It took repeated efforts to find it, and it is filed under the name of a state assemblyman. I can’t help but suspect that an Internet mechanism was used to bury this piece.)

Agassi, bear in mind, is a high-school dropout.

But he saw a good money-making deal and he went for more, leaning on the alleged success of his Las Vegas charter school. He teamed up with an equity investor named Bobby Turner, and they raised nearly a billion dollars for charter investment deals. The first one they built was sold to KIPP in Philadelphia, and the Agassi team made a profit of $1 million.

The team recently opened its fifth charter school and its first charter in Washington, D.C., called the Rocketship Rise Academy. On the day it opened, it declared itself a high-performing school.

Peter Rawitsch teaches first grade. He has been a teacher for 40 years. He was invited to participate in the New York State review of Common Core standards for the early grades.

He deliberated with the group and came away convinced that the standards, however written, will do more harm than good. In this article, he calls for a moratorium on standards for the youngest children.


He thinks that children need a childhood more than they need standards.

This is off-topic. It is for dog owners only.


Those who have read this blog for a long while know that I have a dog and a cat, and I take very good care of them.



Ever since I got my big mutt named Mitzi, she has had a tendency towards diarrhea. As a puppy, she had giardia, which is a fancy way to say that her intestines are prone to diarrhea.


For a year or so, I took her to the vet and almost always got a prescription for a pill called metronidazole. That always works for her.


Then the woman who boards her when I travel told me a secret. Metronidazole is sold over the counter and online as Fish Zole. It is used to cure bacteria in fish (i.e., the kind in aquariums). I have since ordered it online, saving huge amounts of money in vet bills and prescriptions. And it works. Although Mitzi hates taking pills, I wrap them in roast beef or cheese or bologna. No problem.


I don’t have many helpful hints, but this one is a winner.





This is one of the very best poems from Some DamPoet. He/she wrote it after the Gates Foundation admitted that its plans were not working out as well as they hoped, but that they intended to double down on their foundering efforts. The Los Angeles Times reprimanded the Gates Foundation for its hubris. So does Our Poet.

“The Charge of the Gates Brigade” (based on “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

Half a wit, half a wit,
Half a wit onward,
All in the Valley of Dumb
Bill and Mel foundered
“Forward, the Gates Brigade!
Charge for the schools!” he said.
Into the Valley of Dumb
Bill and Mel foundered


“Forward, the Gates Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the Coleman knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and lie.
Into the Valley of Dumb
Bill and Mel foundered


Teachers to right of them,
Teachers to left of them,
Teachers in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with fact and stat,
Boldly they tuned out that,
Into the Ravitch jaws,
Into the mouth of cat
Bill and Mel foundered


Flashed all their BS bare,
Dashed was their savoir faire
VAMming the teachers there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wondered.
Plunged in with mir’s-n-smoke
Valiantly went for broke;
Cluelessly rushin’
Reeled from reality’s stroke
Shattered and sundered.
VAMming attack, for naught,
Bill and Mel foundered


Teachers to right of them,
Teachers to left of them,
Teachers behind them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with fact and stat,
While Bill and Mel chewed fat
They that had fought the BAT
Came through the Ravitch jaws,
Back from the mouth of cat,
All that was left in end:
Bill and Mel foundered


When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Gates Brigade,
Bill and Mel foundered

Arthur Goldstein has taught ESL students in New York City for decades, and he has one of the best blogs in the city, state, and nation, written from the view of a teacher.

In this post, he lacerates the administration of the New York City Department of Education for a grading policy that further diminishes the discretion of teachers to make judgments about what their students need and how they are progressing. I can’t help but think about the paradigm of all national systems, where teachers are carefully selected, well prepared, treated as masters of their profession, and trusted to do what’s best for their students.

The new NYC rule, Arthur says, is “you will differentiate instruction the same way for everyone.”

He writes:

“That seems to be the main thrust of the new grading policy. A big thing, for me at least, is the policy on what is and is not acceptable for participation. I had been doing precisely the thing that the DOE seems to loath—granting a participation grade at the end of each marking period. I essentially gave a positive grade for students who raised their hands and were active all the time, a negative grade for those who spent most of the time sleeping, and various degrees in between for others.

“Now here’s the thing—DOE gives an example that you give credit each day when a student brings a pencil and notebook. That is, of course, measurable. It’s also idiotic, as it’s a preposterously low standard. I think the reason they gave that example was because it was very easy for them to think of. And thus, we part ways. I actually think about grades a lot. To me, bringing a pencil is only a marginal step above breathing.

“But they don’t need to think about it. They just need to sit in air-conditioned offices and tell us what to do. Why bother considering the real lives of lowly teachers, let alone the students they ostensibly serve? Treat everyone the same.

“So if someone places a student in my class, tells me she has a 70 IQ, and the girl looks appears so fragile that if you touched her she would break, well, rules are rules. If she doesn’t participate each and every day, screw her, she gets zero. If one of my students is from a country where they have classes of 50, if she’s been taught all her life to sit down and shut up, if she’s so painfully shy that she actually trembles when you ask her a question, give her a zero. Everything is black and white in the ivory towers of the DOE.

“Your opinion cannot be quantified. Let’s say you teach strings. Let’s say one of your students comes in and plays a beautiful piece, with perfect vibrato. She makes you feel as though you have reached nirvana. I come in and scratch out something that sounds like I’m strangling a cat.

“But we’ve both brought in our violins and cases, and how the hell are you gonna prove she plays better than me? Is it on the rubric? And who’s to say I didn’t find my own piece to be breathtakingly beautiful? Who the hell are you to judge me without a rubric? And if you do have one, and you tell me how badly I played, maybe I’ll just report your ass under Chancellor’s Regulation A-421, verbal abuse. You made me feel bad. So screw you too.

“After all, the supervisors are using rubrics. They come in with that Danielson thing and check boxes. These boxes contain the evidence. Plus they have notes. So who cares if the notes came from the voices in their heads and nothing they say actually happened? I’ve seen supervisors outright make stuff up.”