I encourage readers to watch as much of the GOP convention as you can stomach.

I watched last night and was appalled by Chris Christie’s speech, in which he “prosecuted” Hillary for her “crimes” and invited the audience to shout “Guilty or Not Guilty.” Of course, they happily shouted “Guilty!” every time. Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Christie seemed to be auditioning for the job of Attorney General in the Trump administration.

The vitriol directed towards the Democratic candidate for president was truly disgusting. There were repeated chants of “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

I had the sick feeling in my stomach that if Hillary were to walk into the Quicken Loan Convention Center, the mob would burn her at the stake.

The Hillary Hatred was over the top.

When the election is over, one of the two major party candidates will be president. How can they govern when so much hatred is fomented? I would say the same about Democrats: They can rail about Trump’s inexperience, but they should not make him an object of hatred and contempt.

Fortunately I missed the spectacle on the first night when two black speakers ridiculed the Black Lives Matter movement and were lustily applauded by a nearly all-white audience.

But I did see Donald Trump Jr. compare American public schools to Soviet department stores, where the employees take care of themselves but not their customers.

If you want to see the most extreme rightwing convention in our nation’s history, you must watch. It is fueled by anger, hatred, and rage.

The Oregon legislature passed a bill requiring audits of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests (SBAC), the tests of the Common Core standards funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Oregon chapter of Parents Across America conducted its audit and determined that the tests are outrageously expensive in money and time. And, while so much attention is devoted to testing, the opportunity to spend time and money wisely and well are lost.

Here is a small sample:

Actual invoice costs of SBAC

Former Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton has been quoted as saying the actual dollar amount spent on SBAC is anywhere from $12 million to $27 million dollars, a sizable increase over the previously administered OAKS test said to have cost $7 million. What is the true dollar amount spent on SBAC for each of the years the test has been given in the state of Oregon? Include the per pupil cost of the test itself, proctoring, grading, retesting, communicating results, and in addition, itemize other cost directly related to the test.

What is the cost of resource materials purchased for both teachers and students to support SBAC?

What is the actual dollar amount spent to train teachers on how to proctor the test? Include any “professional development” that teachers are required to participate in to administer the tests.

What is the cost of substitute teachers for the test-related hours (days) classroom teachers were out of class?

In January, 2016, OEA president Hannah Vaandering told Symposium attendees that the SBAC was neither valid nor reliable, but the consortium had been invited back to “fix” that. How much does the fix cost? If such a thing can be fixed, how much has the state been billed? Was the test fixed before it was given in the 2015-2016 school year? If not, what is the cost of giving an invalid test?

Skyrocketing Technology Costs

What are the technology costs related to SBAC testing? How much is spent on computers to support testing?

Computer labs and entire libraries are dedicated to SBAC during testing season at many schools. What is the cost in lost learning when students can’t have access to books and the Internet because of weeks and months of testing?

There seems to always be money for technology and software when there is money for little else. Is the testing culture dictating school and district spending? How do we calculate the opportunity costs related to the favored testing agenda?

Poverty, Race, Cultural Bias, and Pushouts (Suspensions and Expulsions)

The Impact of Poverty, Race, and Cultural Bias on Educational Opportunity (July 2015) (PAA) presents data that exposes the price children pay when standardized test scores are the key measurement of success.

The basis of standardized testing is embedded in eugenics and is unfairly biased against students of color. (More than a Score) by Jesse Hagopian.) How do you put a price tag on that?

The correlation between poverty and school achievement cannot be denied. Numerous studies show that providing children with the necessities of life including housing, food stability, and healthcare are imperative to assure success at school. Covering the cost of these services to level the “testing field” seems to be a fair and logical step in assuring that all students are prepared for success at school. Should those costs be considered?

Testing has not closed the “achievement gap” between African American and white students. Since the mantra of the USDOE/ODE has consistently been that rigorous standardized testing is needed to close the achievement or opportunity gap, when do we finally stop and say, “Enough is enough! We will not waste another cent on this folly.” SBAC is not valid, reliable, or fair. Over 100 Education Researchers Sign Statement Calling for Moratorium on High-Stakes Testing, (SBAC/California Alliance of Researchers for Equity in Education.)

Rebelling against the test curriculum results in many more students being suspended or expelled from school. The number of kindergarten suspensions has skyrocketed — especially for African American boys. Wages lost and the cost of alternative childcare arrangements is an extra cost that parents cannot afford and is directly related to the testing curriculum.

High school students who do not pass the SBAC are more likely to drop out of school. The cost of completing a GED or attaining further future education can be attributed to punitive standardized tests.

Inane standardized testing policies have contributed to a school-to-prison pipeline culture. The costs of incarceration amounts to much more than properly educating a child. This cost may be an unintended consequence of SBAC, but it is a cost related to the test nonetheless.

Tom Nichols is a professor in Rhode Island.

He wrote this post for The New York Times.

Never-Trump Confidential
6:00 AM
My brother heard I’d been saying bad things about Donald Trump.

A retired police officer with a cop’s bone-dry sense of humor, he still lives in our hometown, a small New England city hammered by deindustrialization and visibly altered over the past few decades by an influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants. Trump has a lot of supporters there, and my big brother is one of them. When a local radio host mentioned a recent column I’d written criticizing Trump, he called and asked me about it.

I laughed. “Yeah, I wrote it. Does this mean I shouldn’t come home to visit?”

“I wouldn’t advise it,” he deadpanned.

Brothers can share that kind of joke, but for many people now in Trump’s camp, criticizing their leader is a serious offense, and I’ve been hearing from plenty of them. I am a Never-Trump Republican, as we’ve come to be known, part of the alliance of conservatives implacably opposed to the idea of Donald J. Trump becoming president of the United States. It’s a position that has estranged me from a plurality of my own party and put me at odd with friends, family, colleagues and a political movement that increasingly has taken on the character of an angry cult.

Trump has encouraged a with-us-or-against-us mentality among his voters, and it is an especially sharp division between Trump’s base and the Republican apostates who oppose him. “You are probably a Democrat and a socialist with literally half a brain,” one recent email from an angry Trump admirer began. “You are most likely wealthy, with no true commitment to God, but of the devil.” Another correspondent, in a common refrain, told me I was unfit to call myself an American. Yet another wished me a pleasant stay in Guantánamo in the near future. On Twitter, I’ve been barraged with words like “traitor” and “treason” along with a fair number of less printable terms.

During the primaries, it was easier to find common ground among Republicans and Republican-leaning voters. At the outset of this election season, I knew very few people who were behind Trump; more often, I found myself in arguments about whether Marco Rubio was too young, whether Ted Cruz was too annoying, whether Jeb Bush was too … well, too Jeb Bush. Even in those more amicable days, however, when I voiced my categorical opposition to Trump, I would see a head shake slowly or eyes look away for a moment. The same phrases would pop up: “We’re tired of political correctness.” “He says it like it is.” “He’ll shake things up.”

And always: “You don’t understand.”

This last charge, with its implication of detached elitism, always rankles. Although today I am a professor at a graduate institution and a practicing national security expert, I grew up in a Massachusetts factory town, in a modest home not far from the mills and the railroad tracks. Both of my parents were high-school dropouts from impoverished backgrounds, and they worked hard to make a life after a series of tough breaks and more than a few terrible personal choices. I worked my way through my education, sometimes two and three jobs at a time. As a young man, I cut my teeth in local and state politics, and so I was fully and painfully aware of how badly our area was hurt by the collapse of industry and the exodus of manufacturing jobs from the Northeast.

So I understand perfectly well how Trump is appealing to those voters. He’s promising to turn back time, to restore factories that were demolished years ago and to deport the Hispanic arrivals who turned the local barbershop into a storefront church. Trump is offering my friends and my family a buffet of economic impossibilities served up with sides of bitter racism and fantasies of revenge. And because I will not join them in their absolute belief in Trump, many of them now see me as an outsider. I’m no longer one of us. I’m now one of them.

I am not a natural choice for the part of Republican rebel. I spent a lifetime in the party, despite a short separation in 2012 when I quit it after Newt Gingrich and his plan to build Moon Base Alpha won South Carolina. For some time, I’d been concerned that the party was heading into a dead end of largely symbolic extremism, and Gingrich’s surge in a pack that included unelectable eccentrics like Herman Cain and Ron Paul, for me, clinched it. But I remained a conservative, and I never felt comfortable about leaving America’s conservative party.

Trump claims that he has expanded the ranks of the Republican Party. He’s right, at least in my case: I registered Republican once again this year specifically to vote against him. That might be quixotic — one of my fellow conservatives told me he admired my “John McClane in Nakatomi Plaza mentality” — but I came back because I felt that Trump’s capture of the Republican nomination was an existential threat to the future of American conservatism itself. Trump’s victory, if unchallenged from the right, would force conservatives to replace their own principles with his rancid stew of racism and sexism, along with his slew of various crackpot theories on politics and economics. If he wins, conservatism could be dead for a generation, if not longer.

Still, I had no intention at first of publicly planting a flag over Trump, in part because I never expected him to get this far. I lived through the unsuccessful 1992 nativist insurrection within the Republican Party led by Pat Buchanan and the third-party challenges mounted by Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. I assumed that Trump was just another populist virus that would pass after the American people got some rest and drank plenty of water.

And I admit that like many conservatives, I had at least a small reservoir of empathy for Trump voters at the start, especially in their nearly universal complaint about political correctness. Many of us had an almost-involuntary admiration for a candidate who vowed to brush away what many conservatives (and even some liberals) saw as the heavy hand of the language police on open and honest debate.

What soon became apparent, of course, was that Trump was not just politically incorrect: He was an uncontrollable fire hose of offensive lunacy. There was the endless sexual innuendo — during news coverage about Trump, I’ve taken to turning off the television when my young daughter is in the room — and his ghastly jibes at John McCain, a war hero tortured so badly that to this day his injuries prevent him from tying his own shoes or combing his hair. I assumed that every new straw would be the last one.

I was wrong. The hits kept coming. From his flirtation with 9/11 conspiracy theories to his promises to order the American military to commit war crimes, nothing seemed to matter to voters who believed in him and who would support him, as Trump himself said, even if he shot someone dead in broad daylight.

Soon, Trump started rolling up enough delegates to become an actual threat to win the nomination, and I had to make a decision: What would I do if actually faced with a choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton? The facile dodge would be to say “neither,” since I live in a reliably Democratic northeastern state where my vote would never be the deciding ballot. Instead, I decided to be honest about it, and to confront the full implications of opposing the Republican nominee.

I formally came out as a Never Trump Republican in February, when I wrote a column for the conservative online publication The Federalist titled “I’ll Take Hillary Clinton Over Donald Trump.” I made the case that Republicans could tough out four years of Clinton, but that neither the party nor the American conservative movement could survive even a single year of Trump. There is no editorial line on Trump or anything else at The Federalist, and my article was paired with one by a talented young writer named Nicole Russell who wrote in favor of him. Nicole and I made a friendly bet on whose argument would be more persuasive, and we left it at that.

I assumed I’d get some hate mail, because anyone who’s ever written an op-ed about anything gets hate mail. Sure enough, streams of rage poured into my email inbox and across my Twitter feed. I was sent everything from pornographic images featuring Hillary Clinton to neo-Nazi propaganda. Young white supremacists (who adore Trump despite his weird orange hue) told me I was a race traitor. Others, especially older people, thundered at me that Hillary murdered Vince Foster and then left our men to die in Benghazi, and that I was an accomplice to murder myself if I did anything that helped Clinton win.

Conspiracy theories were rampant in these complaints: I was secretly on the Republican payroll; I was secretly on the Democratic payroll; I was slated for a job in the Clinton, Cruz, Rubio or Bush administrations. The cynicism of the angry Trump supporters was so deep that my criticism of all these people in print was either dismissed or taken as evidence of an elaborate effort to conceal my true agenda, whatever it was.

There is also a triumphalist streak among the Trump supporters, who never tire of crowing about how old-school Republicans like me have “lost,” that the party has changed hands and that my kind needs to get in line or get out. Friendlier critics may not tell me I have to leave the party, but instead plead with me to understand how Trump’s primary victories were an important step toward getting even with the “elites” whom they believe control their lives. That term — the “elites” — slips from the mouths of not just casual acquaintances but also from friends and family. Even if they’re not trying to offend, the meaning is clear: They’re referring to people like me.

It’s not an entirely new line, of course. One of my uncles was a retired factory worker who for most of his life resented almost anyone who didn’t work with their hands. At dinner one evening many years ago, he issued the blanket declaration that everyone who works in Washington is corrupt. When I pointed out that I — someone he’s known for my entire life — was working in Washington as a Senate aide at the time, he blurted out: “I don’t care! Then you’re corrupt too!”

What he meant, of course, is that he saw me as part of system that was rigged against him. He saw the government as the servant primarily of rich corporations on one side and of unemployed minorities on the other. Like many of today’s Trump voters, he saw no middle ground, no connection between his own life and the many government programs like Social Security and Medicaid of which he was a beneficiary. For him, the government was just a group of bureaucrats stealing his money and then giving it away again — after taking their cut.

Today, I don’t even have to work in Washington to be accused of being corrupt. I just have to be someone who doesn’t love Donald Trump.

If Never-Trump Republicans are targets of rage to strangers and sources of disappointment to some of our friends and family, we are also objects of curiosity, especially among Democrats. Many people to my left see my opposition to Trump in the Oval Office as so obviously correct that it is ludicrous even to call attention to it, as though I have just bravely declared that I object to driving while blindfolded or to further wars with Britain. They treat me, somewhat condescendingly, as though I have finally come to my senses after years of misguided fraternization with the Republican enemy. For many liberals, of course, Trump is merely the natural endpoint of Republican evolution since the late 1960s. They might regret that it took the extremism of Donald Trump to make me finally see it, but better late than never.

Except that I don’t see it that way at all. To me, Trump is an alien presence in the Republican Party, an opportunist who could just as easily have hijacked white working-class voters among the Democrats or as part of a third-party bid. Nonetheless, strangers on social media and friends in my daily life mistakenly assume that my opposition to Trump equates to some sort of new sympathy for liberalism in general or for Hillary Clinton in particular. Some of them actually send me Clinton-friendly talking points, as though I might find them useful.

The reality is that in any other year, I would be arguing that Clinton not only should be disqualified from elected office but driven from our public life along with the rest of her insufferable family.

But not this year.

The Republicans and unaffiliated conservatives who have remained outside of the party’s civil war this year are less hostile to the Never Trump coalition than the Trump loyalists, but they are still conflicted about us. Whatever their feelings about the party’s nominee, they cannot endure the idea of Hillary Clinton in the White House (again). While many of them have vowed either to abstain or to vote for a third party, they still probe those of us who are determined to resist the Donald at all costs.

This can make conversation with fellow conservatives even more frustrating than with liberals or Trump supporters. They ask why we suddenly love Clinton. They wonder how we could possibly forget or forgive her manifest political sins. They demand to know if we understand the danger of allowing her to control the next nominations to the Supreme Court, as if this had never occurred to us.

Repeatedly, we’re asked if we’re serious about never voting for Trump. This is when a Never-Trump Republican winces, because only we can hear the silent scream inside our heads. I have lost count of the tweets and emails asking me, over and over, what I mean by “never” Trump. Do I mean “never,” as in “not during the primaries?” “Never” unless Clinton had been indicted? What if Clinton pulls off her skin and reveals herself to be an alien cyborg or one of our lizard overlords? Could I vote for Trump then?

My answer is always the same. Never means never. Even now, conservatives continue to ask me if I’m serious — mostly, I suspect, because they’re wrestling with their own consciences.

Soon after I made my stand as a Never-Trump Republican, however, I found that I was not alone. When my piece in The Federalist appeared, I had several media inquiries, including from talk-radio programs. At first, I assumed the worst. Talk radio is the natural habitat of many Trump supporters, and surely the hosts would want me to show up covered in barbecue sauce just to save time. Some of them were indeed gunning for an argument, but many actually agreed with me. “Maybe my audience will listen to you,” one host told me before the show, “because they’re sure as hell not listening to me.”

Going public against Trump was also heartening because it allowed me to see how many Republicans are in fact Never Trump themselves. In this sense, at least, to be a Republican in the Age of Trump is exhilarating, if also enervating. To oppose Trump from within the party means a real fight on the terrain of principles and ideas, which is what drew us to the party in the first place.

To me, it feels like the 1980s, which for many of us of a certain age was our introduction to a Republican Party that was about ideas. Supply-siders and evangelicals and Cold Warriors had competing priorities in those years, but there was an underlying consensus that were we all, in some larger and more important sense, on the same side. After the chaos of the 1960s and the stagnation of the 1970s, conservatives finally had a shot at governing, and nothing was off-limits for honest debate among us.

That feeling is in the air once again, especially now that the Republican convention’s Rules Committee has voted to shut down any formal challenge to Trump in Cleveland. This effectively ends fruitless parliamentary maneuvers. Instead, Republicans must now stand in the open and argue, right through to November, over the virtue of the party’s nominee (such as it is) and the quality of his ideas (such as they are).

In the end, to be a Never-Trump Republican is to feel a sense of relief, even of liberation, after the surreal craziness of the primary season. Donald Trump’s hijacking of the party is now no longer a threat but a fact, and to oppose him is to feel normal again by embracing clarity and principle against opportunism and crass huckstering.

Bracing as it is, this is not always a comfortable place to be. Not long ago, an old friend came to visit. We grew up together, and he’s now a working man who made a life in our hometown, eventually owning a home and raising children there. He understood how I felt about Trump, he told me, but “things had to change.” I asked him what, exactly, he would change. This is a question I’ve posed to many of my friends who are Trump supporters, because they’ve done well in postindustrial America and yet still see themselves as disadvantaged.

He admitted that his life had worked out, despite a few bumps along the way. But things are different now, he said. Worse than ever. A crisis, even. Pressed for details, he only shook his head. You could see what he was thinking: that I would never understand, that I’d become one of them, the educated and distant elites whom the common people must teach a lesson by electing Donald Trump, a billionaire scam artist from New York City, as the President of the United States.

I shook my head too. We embraced when he left. He might never know it, but I’ve always been on his side. I still am.
Tom Nichols is a professor and writer who lives in Rhode Island.

John Thompson thinks that reformers should definitely read Paul Tough’s new book, Helping Children Succeed.

They went gaga for his previous book, How Children Succeed. It introduced the concept of grit, and suddenly reformers thought they had the key to success.

Fortunately Paul Tough did not cling to his discredited dogma. He realizes now that grit can’t be taught, and it doesn’t matter nearly as much as attachment and decent nurturing.

John Thompson writes here:

Paul Tough begins Helping Children Succeed by noting that a central aim of school reform has been reducing the disparities between poor and affluent children, but that the achievement gap has not decreased and often it has grown. Governmental and philanthropic efforts have produced some individual successes but “they have led to little or no improvement in the performance of low-income children as a whole.” Moreover, Tough has witnessed another type of collateral damage. Although he doesn’t explicitly attribute it to accountability-driven school reform, Tough has spoken with hundreds of teachers in recent years who “feel burned out by, even desperate over, the frustrations of their work.”


Tough later becomes more explicit in concluding that current accountability measures “may be skewing teacher behavior in a way that is on the whole disadvantageous to students.” I wish Tough had connected some dots, linking reforms pushed by the federal government and philanthropic institutions, and that focused on high-poverty schools, to the ways that those schools operate under the “principles of behaviorism rather than self-determination.” However, readers who are not invested in defending output-driven reform are likely to grasp Tough’s point when he concludes that these high-poverty schools:

Are often the schools where administrators feel the most pressure to show positive results on high-stakes standardized tests and where teachers feel the least confident in their (often unruly and underperforming) students’ ability to deal responsibly with more autonomy. And so in these schools, where students are most in need of help internalizing extrinsic motivations, classroom environments often push them in the opposite direction: toward more external control, fewer feelings of competence, and less positive connection with teachers.

Tough doesn’t explicitly name the names of corporate reformers who imposed so much pressure to raise test scores, but it’s hard to read his analysis without questioning whether it ever made sense for technocratic reformers to use the stress of testing to overcome the education legacies of the stress of poverty and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). He cites a 2007 study by Joseph Allen and Robert Pianta which found that middle-class-and-above students:

Were about equally likely to find themselves in a classroom with engaged and interesting instruction (47 percent of students) as in one with basic, repetitive instruction (53 percent of students). But students in schools serving mostly low-income children were almost all (91 percent) in classrooms marked by basic, uninteresting teaching.

Neither did Tough explicitly connect the dots between pervasive basic skills instruction in high-poverty schools and competition-driven reformers who used the stress of competition and the stress of bubble-in test accountability, which increased socio-economic segregation, as a cure for the legacies of racial segregation.

As in his previous work, Tough emphasizes the role of “chronic early stress — what many researchers now call toxic stress,” of trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences, as well as how early education and aligned and coordinated socio-emotional supports are necessary but not sufficient. Poor children of color need the same engaging, holistic, creative, and respectful pedagogy as affluent kids. Tough cites Edward Deci and Richard Ryan about “three basic human needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.” However, he doesn’t mention a cornerstone of the contemporary school reform, “earned autonomy,” or the theory that autonomy should be bestowed only on principals and (perhaps) educators and students in schools that have proved themselves worthy by posting high test scores. Neither does he stress the cognitive science which explains how market-driven reform undermines relationship-building.

Tough gently chides accountability-driven reform with the words, “Because we tend to talk about school performance using the language of skills, we often default to the skill-development paradigm when considering these qualities.” I can understand why Tough didn’t go there, but I still wish he had reminded readers that virtually everything he writes about the disadvantages that children bring to school would have previously been condemned by data-driven reformers as the “benign bigotry” of low expectations, and excuse-making.

Tough then urged a “different paradigm, admittedly imprecise” that would offer “a more accurate representation of what is happening in effective classrooms.” First, we need to change our policies and institutionalize teamwork in order to address “the developmental journey of children, and particularly children growing up in circumstances of adversity, as a continuum— a single unbroken story from birth through the end of high school.” Tough would “change our way of thinking.” He would educate parents and teachers in better, more positive ways to communicate with children.

Tough stresses Allen’s and Pianta’s research showing how professional development improves outcomes, even when – or especially when – there is no punitive dimensions to the process. Moreover, he stresses intrinsic motivation for learning, not extrinsic rewards and punishments. In fact, this hints at the message that corporate school reformers should take from Tough in terms of accountability regimes. There are times when extrinsic measures and accountability measures are necessary. But, it’s time to reject the reformers’ seemingly unquestioned belief that disincentives must be central components of education policy.

I would be thrilled if reformers would read Tough, repudiate their dogma of test, sort, reward, and punish, and join teachers in making schooling a team effort which stresses the positive. In his discussions with edu-philanthropists, Tough must have gained a sense that this is possible. Perhaps he is borrowing a page from the researchers he cites and limiting himself to a positive tone of voice when communicating with reformers. I hope he’s right, but my sense is that the accountability-driven, output-driven, test-driven, data-driven, competition-driven, punishment-driven components of the contemporary school reform are so deeply engrained in their ideology that we will have to wait until they are defeated before Tough’s approach can be scaled up. But, I believe that day will come and Tough’s analysis will inform the next, more humane generation of reform.

Valerie Strauss interviewed Samuel Abrams, director of the Teachers College, Columbia University, National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, about his important new book, Education and the Commercial Mindset. The book is an in-depth, beautifully written history of the privatization movement.

Read the interview. It will make you want to read this brilliant book.

Here is one small excerpt:

Abrams: Privatization takes the form of nonprofit as well as for-profit school management, as privatization technically means outsourcing the provision of government services to independent operators, whether nonprofit or for-profit. Insufficient transparency and, thus, accountability can become problems. While nonprofit charter operators must file 990s with the IRS documenting expenses and salaries, for instance, many are less detailed in their reportage than they should be. Moreover, these charters report only indirectly, if at all, to elected school board members.

Yet there are far greater issues with outsourcing school management to nonprofit charter operators: First, this outsourcing generates the atomization of school districts, meaning the diminishment of neighborhood schools and the civic involvement such neighborhood affiliation involves; second, this atomization makes for navigational challenges for many parents, who either have a hard time finding the right school for their children or getting them there day after day when the school is across town; third, this atomization translates into “good schools” and “bad schools,” with students who can’t succeed in the “good schools” concentrated in the “bad schools,’ which are often default neighborhood schools, where learning can become far harder given the negative effects struggling students can have on other students. In sum, such outsourcing leads to opportunities at high-performing schools for some students but leaves many others behind.

Privatization accordingly amounts to a flawed response to state failure, not a solution. The solution calls for investing the resources necessary to make all neighborhood schools solid in the way all neighborhood schools are solid in middle- and upper-class suburbs, with well-paid teachers, good working conditions and smaller classes. But we have to go further than that. We have to invest in quality preschool, with college-educated teachers, so children show up to school ready to learn. We have decades of evidence of the positive impact of quality preschool. It’s expensive, but only in the short run. We likewise must invest in school-associated medical, dental and counseling services, which are also expensive but only in the short run. Privatization has brought many bright, dedicated agents of change, but it diverts us from addressing our state failure squarely.

When Strauss asked him what was the change he would make immediately if he could, he said he would abolish the annual testing that was mandated by No Child Left Behind, continued by Race to the Top, and is embedded in the “Every Student Succeeds Act.”

A group of Google expatriates decided to reinvent education. Really. They are chock-a-block with start-up funds from investors, and they have opened a few small for-profit schools. Rebecca Mead writes about AltSchool here. The founder is tech whiz Max Ventilla. He started AltSchool because he wanted something for his own children that fit with the world as he knew it and the world as he thinks it will be.

Mead visited an AltSchool in Brooklyn:

Inside, the space has been partitioned with dividers creating several classrooms. The décor evokes an ikea showroom: low-slung couches, beanbags, clusters of tables, and wooden chairs in progressively smaller sizes, like those belonging to Goldilocks’s three bears. There is no principal’s office and no principal. Like the five other AltSchools that have opened in the past three years—the rest are in the Bay Area—the school is run by teachers, one of whom serves as the head of the school. There is no school secretary: many administrative matters are handled at AltSchool’s headquarters, in the soma district of San Francisco. There aren’t even many children. Every AltSchool is a “micro-school.” In Brooklyn Heights, there are thirty-five students, ranging from pre-kindergarten to third grade. Only a few dozen more children will be added as the school matures. AltSchool’s ambition, however, is huge. Five more schools are scheduled to open by the end of 2017, in San Francisco, Manhattan, and Chicago, and the goal is to expand into other parts of the country, offering a highly tailored education that uses technology to target each student’s “needs and passions.” Tuition is about thirty thousand dollars a year.

In December, I visited a classroom for half a dozen pre-kindergartners. Several children were playing “restaurant,” and one girl sat in a chair, her arms outstretched as if holding a steering wheel: she was delivering food orders. “I’m taking a shortcut,” she announced. A teacher sitting on the floor told her, “That’s a good word—you used it correctly.” Then she took out her phone and recorded a video of the moment.

Another teacher and a student were looking at a tablet computer that displayed an image of a pink jellyfish. The girl had been drawing her own jellyfish with a violet crayon. “Let’s see if we can learn a name of a new jellyfish,” the teacher said. “Which one do you want to learn more about?” She touched the screen, and another jellyfish appeared—a feathery white one. “This is a . . . hippopodius?” the teacher read, stumbling over the name. “I wonder if this one glows in the dark.” The girl said, “Do you have another pink one?”

Students at AltSchool are issued a tablet in pre-K and switch to a laptop in later years. (For now, AltSchool ends at the equivalent of eighth grade.) When I visited a mixed classroom for second and third graders, most of the children were sunk into their laptops. All were engaged in bespoke activities that had been assigned to them through a “playlist”—software that displays a series of digital “cards” containing instructions for a task to be completed. Sometimes it was an online task. Two children were doing keyboarding drills on a typing Web site. Their results would be uploaded for a teacher’s assessment and added to the student’s online Learning Progression—software developed by AltSchool which captures, in minute detail, a student’s progress.

The curriculum is roughly aligned with the Common Core, the government standards that establish topics which students should master by the end of each grade. But AltSchool’s ethos is fundamentally opposed to the paradigm of standardization that has dominated public education in recent decades, and reflects a growing shift in emphasis among theorists toward “personalized learning.” This approach acknowledges and adapts to the differences among students: their abilities, their interests, their cultural backgrounds.

Here is another description of Ventilla’s school of the future. Ventillia is abright shining example of an entrepreneur who plans to disrupt education, to the applause of Silicon Valley.

Do you have some ideas for Max Ventilla of AltSchool? Share them here.

Ken Bernstein here recapitulates a blistering article by David Frum about the debacle of Melania Trump’s speech. David Frum was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush. Say this for Bush: whatever his faults, he knew how to run a campaign. Trump doesn’t.

Frum lists ten reasons why the speech was a disaster. Here is one of them:

Plagiarism draws attention to content of the passage plagiarized. In 2008, Michelle Obama summed up the values that she had learned from her parents and that she and Barack Obama now tried to instill in their children: work hard; tell the truth; keep your promises; treat others with dignity and respect. Donald Trump epically does not tell the truth, does not keep his promises, and does not treat others with dignity and respect. A plagiarized speech (and the failure to detect the plagiarism) pretty strongly confirms that the Trumps do not much care about hard work, either. “Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I: yea, thine own lips testify against thee.”

Jane Mayer of The New Yorker magazine interviewed writer Tony Schwartz at his home about his experiences as Donald Trump’s ghostwriter for “The Art of the Deal.”

It is one of the most enlightening articles you will read about Trump.

Last June, as dusk fell outside Tony Schwartz’s sprawling house, on a leafy back road in Riverdale, New York, he pulled out his laptop and caught up with the day’s big news: Donald J. Trump had declared his candidacy for President. As Schwartz watched a video of the speech, he began to feel personally implicated.

Trump, facing a crowd that had gathered in the lobby of Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue, laid out his qualifications, saying, “We need a leader that wrote ‘The Art of the Deal.’ ” If that was so, Schwartz thought, then he, not Trump, should be running. Schwartz dashed off a tweet: “Many thanks Donald Trump for suggesting I run for President, based on the fact that I wrote ‘The Art of the Deal.’ ”

Schwartz had ghostwritten Trump’s 1987 breakthrough memoir, earning a joint byline on the cover, half of the book’s five-hundred-thousand-dollar advance, and half of the royalties. The book was a phenomenal success, spending forty-eight weeks on the Times best-seller list, thirteen of them at No. 1. More than a million copies have been bought, generating several million dollars in royalties. The book expanded Trump’s renown far beyond New York City, making him an emblem of the successful tycoon. Edward Kosner, the former editor and publisher of New York, where Schwartz worked as a writer at the time, says, “Tony created Trump. He’s Dr. Frankenstein.”

Starting in late 1985, Schwartz spent eighteen months with Trump—camping out in his office, joining him on his helicopter, tagging along at meetings, and spending weekends with him at his Manhattan apartment and his Florida estate. During that period, Schwartz felt, he had got to know him better than almost anyone else outside the Trump family. Until Schwartz posted the tweet, though, he had not spoken publicly about Trump for decades. It had never been his ambition to be a ghostwriter, and he had been glad to move on. But, as he watched a replay of the new candidate holding forth for forty-five minutes, he noticed something strange: over the decades, Trump appeared to have convinced himself that he had written the book. Schwartz recalls thinking, “If he could lie about that on Day One—when it was so easily refuted—he is likely to lie about anything.”

It seemed improbable that Trump’s campaign would succeed, so Schwartz told himself that he needn’t worry much. But, as Trump denounced Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” near the end of the speech, Schwartz felt anxious. He had spent hundreds of hours observing Trump firsthand, and felt that he had an unusually deep understanding of what he regarded as Trump’s beguiling strengths and disqualifying weaknesses. Many Americans, however, saw Trump as a charmingly brash entrepreneur with an unfailing knack for business—a mythical image that Schwartz had helped create. “It pays to trust your instincts,” Trump says in the book, adding that he was set to make hundreds of millions of dollars after buying a hotel that he hadn’t even walked through.

In the subsequent months, as Trump defied predictions by establishing himself as the front-runner for the Republican nomination, Schwartz’s desire to set the record straight grew. He had long since left journalism to launch the Energy Project, a consulting firm that promises to improve employees’ productivity by helping them boost their “physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual” morale. It was a successful company, with clients such as Facebook, and Schwartz’s colleagues urged him to avoid the political fray. But the prospect of President Trump terrified him. It wasn’t because of Trump’s ideology—Schwartz doubted that he had one. The problem was Trump’s personality, which he considered pathologically impulsive and self-centered.

Schwartz thought about publishing an article describing his reservations about Trump, but he hesitated, knowing that, since he’d cashed in on the flattering “Art of the Deal,” his credibility and his motives would be seen as suspect. Yet watching the campaign was excruciating. Schwartz decided that if he kept mum and Trump was elected he’d never forgive himself. In June, he agreed to break his silence and give his first candid interview about the Trump he got to know while acting as his Boswell.

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

State officials in Michigan approved a new emergency plan to rescue Detroit public schools from its crushing debt, most of which was accumulated since the state took control of the district.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Michigan’s Emergency Loan Board on Monday approved measures to implement a $617-million financial rescue and restructuring plan for Detroit’s public schools, over the vocal objections of elected school board members and others who attended the meeting in Lansing.

The board approved borrowing to retire or refinance debt, plus the transfer of assets from the old Detroit Public Schools to a new Detroit Public Schools Community District.

There were shouts of “Shame!,” “Jim Crow” and “Black lives matter” as the three board members left an auditorium at the Michigan Library and Historical Center through a back exit.

Critics say the plan treats Detroit public school students as second-class citizens because they would be the only Michigan public school students who could be taught by uncertified teachers. They also say much of the debt addressed by the plan was rung up while Detroit schools were under state control.

“We believe that the state owes the district considerably more, and we have asked continuously for an audit,” said Lamar Lemmons, president of the elected school board.

House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, has called the legislation “an historic plan to save Detroit schools – and the rest of the state – from a disastrous and unprecedented bankruptcy,” adding “this incredible investment by Michigan taxpayers will erase decades of debt and set the new district up for success.”

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

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

He writes:

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

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

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

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

Trump is a clear and present danger to our society.


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