"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

. . .a pupil attitude factor, which appears to have a stronger relationship to achievement than do all the “school” factors together, is the extent to which an individual feels that he has some control over his own destiny. James Coleman, 1966

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Ravitch and Weingarten Sign on to Charter "Improvement Agenda"

AFT, as the lead corporate union where teachers send their hard earned money to be wasted, is busy preparing for the expected return to Washington of the neoliberal poster couple, Hillary and Bill Clinton.  Part of that massive task is to do whatever is necessary to provide political cover for Hillary's role in another generation of school privatization measures that will pick up where Bubba, Bush II, and Obama left off.  

Surely that is one reason that now that we see a sadly, simple-minded and unenforceable "charter school improvement agenda" that is now in circulation.  As may be expected, both Weingarten and Ravitch embraced the new plan on the same day to make sure that may charters may continue expanding unimpeded, and that Hillary can claim support by AFT, NEA, and Diane Ravitch

Below are the specifics of this 11 point "plan," with my some initial remarks to the "plan."

Require companies and organizations that manage charter schools to open board meetings to parents and the public, similar to public school board meetings.
Notice there is no call for charter boards to be elected by the same public that pours hundreds of millions of dollars into these corporate welfare programs.  Does anyone believe that, even if these unelected hedge fund operators and profiteers opened up their meetings, parent could have any effect on shaping policy, rules, or regulations? 

Require companies and organizations that manage charter schools to release to parents and the public how they spend taxpayer money, including their annual budgets and contracts. 
A report to parents, really?  What is to enforce this kind of reporting to parents, and what kind of effect is it supposed to have when there is no public accountability for charter policy, regulations, or expenditures.

Require state officials to conduct regular audits of charter schools’ finances to detect fraud, waste or abuse of public funds.
How about something with more teeth, like regular audits just like the ones public schools undergo?  This would involve critiques of bookkeeping and accounting systems, with suggestions for how to make finances transparent.  Surely, audits won't get in the way of the "bold innovations" that make these charter money sinks so popular among the enemies of public education. 

Before any new charter school is approved, conduct an analysis of the impact the school will have on neighborhood public schools. 

And who is to pay for this analysis and who is to conduct it?  Any charter organization should be required to hire a firm vetted by the state to conduct any analysis.  Otherwise, charter organizations will create their own spin-offs to conduct any analysis that would then be paid for with money intended to go for educational services.

Ensure that neighborhood public schools do not lose funding when new charter schools open in their area. 

This suggestion is just criminally dumb.  The inevitable loss of thousands of dollars per student will have to be absorbed by public school students somewhere, or by other public services that have to be cut to pay for unnecessary corporate welfare reform schools.

Require charter schools to return taxpayer money to the school district for any student that leaves the charter school to return to a neighborhood public school during the school year. 

This should be stated more strongly: Charter school operators will be fined twice the amount of any public funds that are not returned to the local education agency as a result of charter students returning to the public school system during the school year. 

Prohibit charter school board members and their immediate families from financially benefiting from their schools. 

This is, at best, a half-way measure, as it leaves open the possibility of financial benefit to anyone associated with a charter who is not a board member.  Ravitch adds her own stipulation to this to disallow for-profit charters.  That, of course, gives a free pass to all the non-profit corporations that are building empires based in tax-sheltered real estate deals and tax-exempt donations that are then used to decrease tax obligations.  KIPP, alone, receives close to a half-billion dollars each year in funds intended for public schools.  The result is a corporate bureaucracy to match anything the public sector could offer.
Prohibit charter schools from spending taxpayer dollars on advertising or marketing. 
This means nothing without clear definitions.  For instance, would free trips to Vegas or Orlando each year for teachers count as advertising or marketing? How about trips to Disneyland for students?  Or free laptops?  These benefits are offered by KIPP and other charter chains, and public schools cannot dream of doing the same with the money they receive.  

Stop the creation of new charter schools if state officials have not shown the ability to prevent fraud and mismanagement.

These watchdog elements should be created before any state begins to create charters. Missing here, too, are any new requirements to shut down charter operations where mismanagement or fraud have occurred or are occurring.  Most states find it almost impossible to shut down charters once they have been opened. See Ohio as a case study.

Require all teachers who work in taxpayer funded schools, including neighborhood public schools and charter schools, to meet the same training and qualification requirements. 

This simply provides an invitation to state legislatures with "CorpEd reform gone wild" (see TN, NJ, IN, MI, FL, PA, RI, NM, NC, etc.) to make all teacher preparation requirements equivalent to the non-preparation now allowed for charter operators.

Require charter schools to serve high-need students such as special education students, at the same level as neighborhood public schools. 

Requiring charters to accept special education students and ELL students simply means that more of these children will have their needs ignored.  Without public oversight and supervision, the chain gang charters will continue to treat special education and ELL as afterthoughts. 

Conspicuously missing here are any requirements for guidance counselors, librarians, art rooms, hot lunch facilities, humane treatment of students and teachers, transportation, or curriculum.   

Ravitch has added her own sad short list to this inadequate and sad collection of shortsightedness:

Capping the salary of charter school executives to be no higher than that of the local superintendent; 

So based on Ravitch's suggestions, in any community with one or two charter schools, the CEO or CEOs may be paid the same as a public school superintendent who has dozens or hundreds of schools.

prohibiting for-profit management of charter schools; 
See above.

and barring the use of taxpayer funds for political lobbying or campaign contributions. 

Really, Diane?  Charter organizations that accept millions in public money will simply stop using public money and start use corporate cash for campaign contributions and statehouse purchasing.  With millions raised from hedge funds and other money whales, charter chains may, how do you propose to stop the use those funds to further dismantle public education.   

By the way, for someone so committed to public schools and teachers, this toothless wish list above represents the worst kind of intellectual laziness, complacency, or outright corruption.  But, of course, we know that the Ravitch and Cody outfit, NPE, is an off-shoot of NEA and AFT.  In pretending to be independent, NPE can do its own lobbying for candidates that have been approved by the corporate unions. 

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

In support of opting out of the tests

Sent to the Chicago Tribune, March 4, 2015
Re: "Opting out of PARCC proves murky process for parents, students," March 4
Part of the reason for the growth of the opt-out movement, as noted by the Tribune, is that the tests are too long: We are now testing far more than we have ever done, even though studies have shown that increasing testing does not increase student learning, and there is no evidence that the new tests will help students or teachers.
The Tribune also mentions that there are "technological glitches." The new tests are delivered online, which means billions for infrastructure, up-to-date computers and operating systems for each student, and constant upgrades. This also means new technology whenever "progress" in made in the computer world, with the inevitable problems with new software and hardware. We can expect the glitches and financial drain on schools to continue indefinitely.
Parents are doing the right thing in opting their children out of this irresponsible, unresearched, nonstop testing program.
Stephen Krashen
Original article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-common-core-test-optout-met-20150303-story.html?track=rss#page=1

By my friend, Bernie Keller, a gifted teacher of English!

    In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I have corrected and/or edited thousands of essays and research papers, as well as a number of dissertations, in addition to having written a number of essays of my own, and not one of the aforementioned writings employs the current writing style espoused by the common core supporters. In addition, the current method, which asserts that the writer must provide a rebuttal in the introduction or at the beginning of the essay, makes no sense because you don’t rebut anything until there’s been some point that contrasts the point you are making.

The idea that an essay must contain a “rebuttal” makes no sense to me. First of all, if you were to look up the elements of an essay, you would not find a rebuttal listed as one of its elements, nor would you find it in a definition of the word essay. In fact, rebuttals are elements found in debates and in reference to speeches, (e.g. The State of the Union Address by the President).

In fact, if common core supporters are correct as it pertains to the value and importance of current essay writing techniques, that would argue that the style and methods and techniques of essayist such as Thomas Pain, Voltaire, Emerson, Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr., just to name a few, were not methods and techniques worthy of the esteem, reverence and acclaim that generations have bestowed upon them.

In point of fact, the purpose of an essay is to advance a point or idea and then provide reasons- proof, facts-that show your reader your point has substance, (even if your reader is not persuaded by your point). For me, the most important job of any essay is not to persuade the reader, but to clearly identify the point you want to make and then to defend it with proof- facts, reasons and logic.

The ability to cogently make a point and strongly defend it is the most important skill students need to develop and hone in order to become better thinkers, better speakers and better writers. In fact, ensuring their ability to this would make the act of writing the persuasive or argumentative essay much easier. The problem is today’s “experts” are conflating the ability to clearly advance your point with being persuasive. You don’t learn the crossover dribble before you learn to dribble, you don’t learn division before you learn multiplication, you don’t learn to run before you can walk, and you don’t learn to persuade others before you have learned to clearly advance and support your own point!

My essays have been read, discussed and published. With the occasional exception in which I intentionally juxtapose a contrasting point against my point in order to underscore or emphasize the absurdity of the contrasting point, my essays identify the point I want the reader to “walk away with” and provide the reasons I am advancing this particular point.
I teach people, “If you can talk, you can write.” This means if you can organize your ideas enough to clearly express yourself in speech, you can clearly express yourself in the written form as well. Any successful speaker or writer must be able to clearly identify his/her point and support that point with reasons that show that point has value or substance. After all, if you are thinking “I hate milk”, how would you express that in speech or in writing? Wouldn’t you say and write, “I hate milk”?

The current method of teaching writing makes writing far more difficult than it has to be. Essay writing didn’t start today or with the methods and techniques of the current experts. Essay writing has existed for centuries and produced essays that made cogent, logical, intellectual and edifying points, long before the supporters and experts themselves or today’s essay writing methods ever existed. This point asserts that, like many of the current educational theories and methods, the decision to obliterate what has existed and been successful before as meaningless and without value, is at best misguided or just flat out wrong.

Successfully writing an essay is not some inscrutable algorithm. It does not require some exacting, intricate calculus. Successful writing is the sum total of a clear understanding of the point you want to make, and the ability to provide the reasons, facts, or proof to support that point.

It’s really just that simple. Really.



 I wonder. Where is the in depth analysis of the causes briefly referred to in the beginning of the article? Why does it then go off to mention solutions like larger class size? What? Or merit pay? Why wasn't there a deeper look at the anti teacher privatizes? The bashers? The increasingly difficult conditions facing new teachers? The actual movement to create this loss of quality and perhaps questioning teachers to be replaced with follow the fold instructors of testing technique? Where is the discussion of so many districts attempts to lower labor costs both short term and long by reducing not only average salaries as people leave the profession, and leave it sooner... But also the number of teachers vested in a pension? Where is the "enough is enough" statement?

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Math Professionals say no to CCSS TESTS

From a friend and former colleague:
Hi Dave,
I am a trainer for Meaningful Math-a student centered program that is problem based. Years ago I taught IMP (Interactive Mathematics Program) which started in California and was a really great alternative way of teaching and learning. Today I received this email from Sherry Fraser, one of the authors of the IMP program and I think you will find it interesting.
Subject: Common Core testing
Many of you know Steve Rasmussen as he was president of Key Curriculum Press and sponsored many IMP functions. He is now spending his time researching the common core tests that are coming our way. I read this article and then took the SBAC practice test and I agree with everything he says. The article is long and detailed and definitely worth reading.
SR Education Associates Releases a New Report by Steven Rasmussen:
Common Core Mathematics Tests Are
Fatally Flawed and Should Not Be Used
An Critique of the Smarter Balanced Tests for Mathematics
Read the full report at www.mathedconsulting.com.
Summary: This spring, tests developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will be administered to well over 10 million students in 17 states to determine their proficiency on the Common Core Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). This in-depth analysis of sample mathematics test questions posted online by Smarter Balanced reveals that, question after question, the tests (1) violate the standards they are supposed to assess, (2) cannot be adequately answered by students with the technology they are required to use, (3) use confusing and hard-to-use interfaces, or (4) are to be graded in such a way that incorrect answers are identified as correct and correct answers as incorrect. No tests that are so unfair should be given to anyone. Certainly, with stakes so high for students and their teachers, these Smarter Balanced tests should not be administered. The boycotts of these tests by parents and some school districts are justified. In fact, responsible government bodies should withdraw the tests from use before they do damage.
If you read nothing else about Common Core assessments — read this!
— Sol Garfunkel, Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP)
Archives for the IMPTEACH list are available at:

Thousands of NJ Students Say "Out the Door with Common Core"


Students Walk Out on Common Core in New Mexico

The way to end the testing madness?  Don't participate!  Refuse the test! 

Out the door with Common Core.

From New Mexico:
Hundreds of students protesting a Common Core-oriented standardized test walked out of high schools across New Mexico on Monday.

The students, many carrying signs that read, "More teaching, less testing" and "Out the door with Common Core," ignored warnings from administrators who said they could face disciplinary measures and would not graduate if they continued the walkout.

Julie Guevara, a 16-year-old student in Albuquerque said students were tired of the constant testing and believed it was undermining their overall education.
Special: The One Thing You Should Do for Your Prostate Every Morning
"We hope the governor hears us and does something about this," she said. "We're not going away."

The office of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, a Common Core supporter, did not respond right away to a request for comment, the Associated Press reported.

The walkouts and demonstrations against Common Core started last week in Santa Fe, and students from several schools in Las Cruces also joined the movement by walking out of class on Monday. They were organized by a left-of-center group called ProgressNow/NM.

The largest demonstration was one at Albuquerque High School, where several hundred of its 1,800 students walked out, the Daily Caller reported.

The students are supposed to be taking the first day of standardized tests created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

PARCC is a consortium of 11 states and the District of Columbia that have banded together to offer similar tests all designed to adhere to Common Core.

Support for PARCC appears to be slipping. At its peak, the Daily Caller added, "23 states containing more than half the country’s population were a part of PARCC; now, more than half have pulled out."

Across the country, opposition to Common Core and its testing regime is growing. . . .

From Keiser U to Grand Canyon U: Seeking Billions More as Non-Profit Schemes

I have often made the point that there is no real difference between for-profit charter schools and non-profit charter schools--there are only different routes to getting the same public money into the same private pockets.  

Now it is clear that for-profit colleges have come to a similar conclusion, and with the Feds all aflutter about for-profit higher ed predators, these thieves are simply altering course into the non-profit schemes.  

As you can see, here, too, the public money ends up in the same private pockets, tax-sheltered. 

A clip from the NYTimes:
After a recent government crackdown on the multibillion-dollar career-training industry, stricter limits on student aid and devastating publicity about students hobbled by debt and useless credentials, some for-profit schools simply shut down.

But a few others have moved to drop out of the for-profit business altogether, in favor of a more traditional approach to running a higher education institution.

And the nonprofit sector, it turns out, can still be quite profitable.

Consider Keiser University in Florida. In 2011, the Keiser family, the school’s founder and owner, sold it to a tiny nonprofit called Everglades College, which it had created.

As president of Everglades, Arthur Keiser earned a salary of nearly $856,000, more than his counterpart at Harvard, according to the college’s 2012 tax return, the most recent publicly available. He is receiving payments and interest on more than $321 million he lent the tax-exempt nonprofit so that it could buy his university.

And he has an ownership interest in properties that the college pays $14.6 million in rent for, as well as a stake in the charter airplane that the college’s managers fly in and the Holiday Inn where its employees stay, the returns show. A family member also has an ownership interest in the computer company the college uses.

Keiser University, which has about 20,000 students spread over 15 campuses, is one of a handful of for-profit colleges that have switched to the nonprofit arena or are considering that move.

The shift means more restrictions on moneymaking ventures and loss of ownership. But nonprofit schools — defined as providing a public benefit — do not have to pay taxes, are eligible for certain state grants and can receive more money from the federal student loan program.

Consumer advocates and legal experts warn that some institutions might be shifting primarily to avoid stepped-up government scrutiny and regulation. Moreover, said Lloyd Mayer, an associate dean and law professor at Notre Dame Law School: “There is a concern that the now-nonprofit colleges may be providing an impermissible private benefit to their former owners. These sorts of arrangements raise yellow flags.” . . .

Why every state has an opt-out movement

Sent to the NY Times, March 2, 2015

"As common core testing is ushered in, parents and students opt out" (March 1) notes that "every state has a 'opt-out' movement.” This phenomenon is unprecedented in American education. 

The opposition to the common core tests is not simply because they are harder. As Alfie Kohn points out, making school harder is not the same as making it better. Also, the opposition is not because parents just don't want their children to be tested.

A great deal of the opposition is because there is far too much testing, more than we have ever seen on this planet, and because the tests are based on an unresearched set of standards that contradicts nearly everything known about learning.

Stephen Krashen

NY TIMES article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/02/nyregion/as-common-core-testing-is-ushered-in-parents-and-students-opt-out.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

Monday, March 02, 2015

Barbic Prays for Someone to Believe Him

Serial dissembler, Chris Barbic, was in Nashville today trying to fend off a bunch of legislators who have heard enough of his lies.  In doing so, Barbic offered another whopper:
“People are coming after us left and right on this thing, and it’s two years old,” ASD superintendent Chris Barbic told senators on the Education Committee.
In case you haven't been keeping up, Barbic was hired as Superintendent of the ASD in May 2011.  In May my calculator says it has been four years since the State has been paying him for the screwed up mess he has created in the public schools of TN that need the most help.

Using Common Core to Dumb Down College to Benefit Student Loan Predators

The New York Times had a "news story" yesterday that attempts to downplay the effects of the growing Opt Out movement on the survival chances of the fetid Common Core.  According to the Times, the Gates and Lumina Foundations don't have much to worry about from a bunch of disorganized and hot-headed parents who will, in the end, send their children to school to be hammered with the new failure production system known as Common Core.  We'll see.

The big underreported story of the Common Core debacle involves the corrupt Lumina Foundation's influence in helping to assure that the Core is used to shape state college undergraduate education along the Core's dumbed-down contours.  Most people, even university people, don't realize that in states adopting the Core, state colleges and universities are compelled to use the 11th grade CC test results as the only indicator of readiness for college.  In other words, state institutions of higher ed can only place students in credit bearing courses if they have passing Common Core test scores.  If students pass the test, they must be placed into credit-bearing courses.

Why is this important?  With increasing numbers of the present generation of high school completers having learned how to memorize, cheat, and bubble in test forms rather than how to think and to write, remediation in college has become more and more critical to bringing kids up to speed for college learning.  When another 11th grade Pearson test (Common Core) is to be used to determine college readiness for state schools, you can bet that college courses will necessarily be dumbed down to fit the lack of preparedness that will surely continue as long as testing continues to displace teaching and learning in high school, even as the thumb screws are tightened on K-12 teachers. 

The likely outcome of this dumbing down of undergraduate education in state schools will be a clearer demarcation within the college caste system that will offer one knowledge set to the kids at the Harvards and the Dukes, a lesser one for the kids going to state colleges, and a bottom one for those untouchable kids who can attend only the online diploma mill schools.

Meanwhile, the predators who provided the money to create the Lumina Foundation to begin with will get fatter and fatter from preying on more kids who are less prepared for real college work and who will come out of their undergraduate experiences with less knowledge and plenty of debt to make them permanently indentured to corporate America.  The student loan bubble will grow and grow until another economic meltdown allows the banksters to walk away once more with most of the country's assets. 

So you see killing the Core is even more important than many have so far realized.  University people need to wake up and smell the coffee.

Inside Higher Ed has a nuanced and somewhat-detailed article that I highly recommend.  Here is clip:
. . . .More than 800 colleges and universities, most of them public institutions, have already agreed to use the results of [Common Core] assessments for placement purposes. (Getting state colleges on board with college- and career-ready standards was a requirement for states seeking waivers for No Child Left Behind.)

“The practical result is going to be something like this,” says Hammang, of AASCU. “If you’ve taken the assessment and you are deemed college-ready in math or English, you don’t get put into a developmental class. You get put in a credit-bearing class and go from there.”

Colleges have agreed only to make the assessments one factor that they consider, and Smarter Balanced argues that institutions should take high school grades and other factors into account. “We know this is a high-stakes thing for kids in the 11th grade,” King says. “It’s not appropriate to make high-stakes decisions based exclusively on an assessment.”

But that’s what many colleges do now through Compass and Accuplacer. And there will be “tremendous political pressure” within states for colleges to rely on the new Common Core assessments instead when possible, Hammang says.

Whether the results match up -- whether students who score as “college-ready” on assessments are considered to be well-prepared once they actually enter college -- will be a stress test for the effectiveness of the Common Core. If colleges have reasons to doubt that standards are truly at college level, the trust between K-12 and higher education on which the entire initiative rests could easily erode.

“We’ve gone to all this trouble and expense,” Hammang says. “They should mean something when a student shows up at your door.”

The Other PARCC

PARCC should be called into question, not Peggy Robertson

The Denver Post ran a short article about our hero Peggy Robertson that ignored the reasons for the opt-out movement. It is at http://www.denverpost.com/News/Local/ci_27618118/Educators-refusal-to-give-PARCC-called-into-question-by-district?source=infinite
Look at the comments, heavily pro-Peggy.

My letter:

To the editor:

"Educator's refusal to give PARCC called into question by district," (March 1) fails to present the reasons for the success of the opt-out movement. Here are a few: (1) students are being tested more than anytime in history. The tests have bled huge amounts of class-time from real instruction. (2) The new tests have no scientific validity: No studies have shown that the new tests will be helpful, and no studies are planned. (3) The cost of the current testing program is gigantic, especially because the tests must be given online. Billions are being wasted that are desperately needed for legitimate educational purposes.

All educators understand the need for assessment, but the current nonstop and unresearched approach to assessment is wrong.  It is PARCC that should be called into question by the Aurora district, not Peggy Robertson.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Students in Democratic Schools Learn More

 by David Kirp:

ARMENIA, Colombia — IN a one-room rural schoolhouse an hour’s drive from this city in a coffee-growing region of Colombia, 30 youngsters ages 5 to 13 are engrossed in study. In most schools, students sit in rows facing the teacher, who does most of the talking. But these students are grouped at tables, each corresponding to a grade level. The hum of conversation fills the room. After tackling an assignment on their own, the students review one another’s work. If a child is struggling, the others pitch in to help.

During my visit to one of these schools, second graders were writing short stories, and fifth graders were testing whether the color of light affects its brightness when seen through water. The teacher moved among the groups, leaning over shoulders, reading and commenting on their work. In one corner of the classroom were items, brought to school by the kids, that will be incorporated in their lessons. The students have planted a sizable garden, and the vegetables and fruits they raise are used as staples at mealtime, often prepared according to their parents’ recipes.

During the past four decades, this school — and thousands like it — have adopted what’s called the Escuela Nueva (New School) model.

A 1992 World Bank evaluation of Colombia’s schools concluded that poor youngsters educated this way — learning by doing, rather than being endlessly drilled for national exams — generally outperformed their better-off peers in traditional schools. A 2000 Unesco study found that, next to Cuba, Colombia did the best job in Latin America of educating children in rural areas, where most of the schools operate with this model. It was also the only country in which rural schools generally outperformed urban schools. Poor children in developing nations often drop out after a year or two because their families don’t see the relevance of the education they’re getting. These youngsters are more likely to stay in school than their counterparts in conventional schools.

Escuela Nueva is almost unknown in the United States, even though it has won numerous international awards — the hyper-energetic Vicky Colbert, who founded the program in 1975 and still runs it, received the first Clinton Global Citizenship prize. That should change, for this is how children — not just poor children — ought to be educated.

It’s boilerplate economics that universal education is the path to prosperity for developing nations; the Nobel-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz calls it “the global public good.” But while the number of primary school-age children not in class worldwide fell to 57.2 million in 2012 from 99.8 million in 2000, the quality of their education is another matter. Escuela Nueva offers a widely adaptable model, as Unesco has described it.

“Unesco reported the successful diffusion of Escuela Nueva in 20,000 Colombian schools with poorly trained teachers,” Ernesto Schiefelbein, rector of the Autonomous University of Chile, who has evaluated the program, told me. “As far as I know, there is no other example of massive educational improvement in a democratic developing country.”

Another Nobel-winning economist, Amartya Sen, posits that political repression impedes economic growth — that prosperity requires that social and economic well-being be tethered to democratic values. Escuela Nueva turns the schoolhouse into a laboratory for democracy. Rather than being run as a mini-dictatorship, with the principal as its unquestioned leader, the school operates as a self-governing community, where teachers, parents and students have a real say in how it is run. When teachers unfamiliar with this approach are assigned to these schools, it’s often the students themselves who teach them how to apply the method. “In these schools, citizenship isn’t abstract theory,” Ms. Colbert told me. “It’s daily practice.”

In the schools, students elected by their peers shoulder a host of responsibilities. In a school I visited in a poor neighborhood here in the city of Armenia, the student council meticulously planned a day set aside to promote peace; operated a radio station; and turned an empty classroom into a quiet space for reading and recharging. I was there last Halloween, when students put on a costume contest for their pets.

PARENTS become involved in the day-to-day life of these schools, and the educational philosophy influences their out-of-school lives. Research shows that the parents of Escuela Nueva students are less prone to use corporal punishment; more likely to let their youngsters spend time at play or on homework, rather than making them work when they’re not in school; and more likely, along with their children, to become engaged in their communities.

Decades ago, John Dewey, America’s foremost education philosopher, asserted that students learned best through experience and that democracy “cannot go forward unless the intelligence of the mass of people is educated to understand the social realities of their own time.” Escuela Nueva puts that belief into practice. I’ve witnessed the demise of many ballyhooed attempts to reform education on a mass scale. But I’ve tabled my jaded skepticism after visiting Escuela Nueva schools, reviewing the research and marveling at the sheer number of youngsters who, over 40 years, have been educated this way.

I’m convinced that the model can have a global impact on the lives of tens of millions of children — not just in the developing world but in the United States as well.

There’s solid evidence that American students do well when they are encouraged to think for themselves and expected to collaborate with one another. In a report last year, the American Institutes for Research concluded that students who attended so-called deeper learning high schools — which emphasize understanding, not just memorizing, academic content; applying that understanding to novel problems and situations; and developing interpersonal skills and self-control — recorded higher test scores, were more likely to enroll in college and were more adept at collaboration than their peers in conventional schools.

But these schools are far from the mainstream. “It’s really different and quite impressive,” David K. Cohen, an education professor at the University of Michigan, told me. “I know of no similar system in the U.S.”

Rachel Lotan, a professor emeritus at Stanford, added, “Doing well on the high-stakes test scores is what drives the public schools, and administrators fear that giving students more control of their own education will bring down those scores.” Officials, and those who set the policies they follow, would do well to visit Colombia, where Escuela Nueva has much to teach us about how best to educate our children.

David L. Kirp is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools.”

Guest Post: CJ on Kittredge And Moskowitz talking corporate charter secrets

Apparently a charter spokesman, Jeremiah Kittredge in NYC, has difficulty---or feigns difficulty in order to manipulate folks---with the statistical concept of "average."  

(Kittredge is the high-paid and top spokesman for FAMILIES FOR EXCELLENT SCHOOLS, a non-profit that is funded by the Waltons, Eva Moskowitz' husbands' group, and hedge-funder-backed PACs.)

In a WCNY radio interview, Kittredge was asked to respond to irrefutable data that charters serve significantly less-than-average numbers of Special Ed. and ELL students. He countered by comparing charters' records to that of public schools.  

His proof.

Charters' dismal record for under enrolling Special Ed. and ELL students is no big deal because... try not to laugh... "over 50% of New York City public schools" serve "a less-than-average number of Special Ed. and ELL students."

Yeah, he actually said that.

Hey Jeremiah, when "over 50%" of ANY group does something, doesn't that mean that they will ALWAYS be doing it on a "less-than-average" rate or basis?

Put another way...

51% ALWAYS does something 49% or less (i.e. a less-than-average % or percentage) of the time.

52% will be doing it 48% or less of the time.... 

...and on and on..

This quote is from the NYC BAT's video "UNKNOWABLE":  (watch it, as it presents, then analyzes these and other answers from Kittredge & also from Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz in her interview with the Ayn Rand-ian libertarian website REASON):


Hmmm... what other brilliant defenses will Kittredge, Eva, and their ilk be making and publicizing next?

(Here goes my audition for THE ONION!)


Re: teachers' attrition & the longevity of TFA teachers (the vast majority of whom leave after two years, three at the most... RINSE & REPEAT ad infinitum) -

KITTREDGE:  "Oh... Attrition Schmmattrition.  The numbers don't lie, and they back us up here.  An impressive result from a key study indicates that up-to-49% of our TFA Corps Members staffing our charter schools have longer-than-average teaching careers, and remain in the classroom longer than their fellow TFA colleagues.  In turn, our charter scholars reap the benefits of this selfless dedication."


"And what about the sky-high attrition among unionized public school teachers and THEIR career length?  Nobody ever talks about THAT.  Is their record so much more impressive?  A damning statistical analysis reveals that over 50% of teachers in unionized schools leave teaching and abandon their students, on average, earlier than their fellow unionized teachers.  Just think of the resulting negative impact that is then visited upon their students.  Shame on them!  The system is broken!"

- - - - - - -

re: student attrition -

EVA MOSKOWITZ:  "We're extremely proud of our record on this issue, and never moreso than on Graduation Day.  To see the glowing satisfaction on the faces of our SUCCCESS ACADEMY scholars and parents makes all that we do so worthwhile.  Indeed, we're proving those cynics wrong, as the data incontrovertibly shows that a whopping 100% of our Success Academy scholars who are not kicked... err... 'counseled out' prior to Graduation Day actually walk across that stage to get their diplomas.  I mean, come on!  100 PERCENT??!!! You can't do any better than THAT!" 

- - - - - - -

re: co-location -

EVA MOSKOWITZ:  "This so-called 'co-location crisis' in NYC schools is way overblown by our detractors.  Indeed, 100% of the public schools that do not yet have a charter school co-located on their campus---and there are hundreds of them, mind you---report ZERO percent of the problems typically associated with charter school co-locations.  Why aren't our critics reporting this fact?"

- - - - - - -

re: charter school leaders' refusal to pay rent for the public school buildings---originally built and now maintained by taxpayers---that the charters do/will occupy -

KITTREDGE:  "Look, this is just Business 101.  It's a basic market principle:  the more you SPEND, the less you HAVE... so how can you then charge us rent, and steal money from the education of poor children?  Didn't you see our TV commercials with all those adorable Charter School kids?  How can you do this to them?"

- - - - - - -

re: enormous Charter industry executive & administrator salaries... in the mid-six-figures (i.e. Kittredge, Eva, Dave & Mike at KIPP, Deborah Kenney, etc.) -

KITTREDGE:  "Look, we don't overpay our top people.  Across the city, we see it again and again... and this needs to be reported more... over 50% of charter school executives and administrators take home a less-than-average salary in comparison to their fellow charter school administrators and executives.  The enormous amount of money saved then goes to the classroom, and to meet the needs or our scholars. Why can't our critics see this, then get off this topic, and find something new to whine about?"

- - - - - - - -

re: intensive test-prep for standardized tests, sometimes two hours or more a day (N.Y. Magazine reported this, along with a comment from a Success Academy administrator proudly describing the students as "little test-taking machines") - 

EVA MOSKOWITZ:  ""Look, what's wrong with a little practice before a standardized test?  We make it fun, and it's not even that much to begin with.  Our tracking of our scholars shows that an impressive 50% or more of our students spend a less-than-average time doing drill-and-kill test prep compared to their fellow Success Academy scholars.  That frees up time for ... what, exactly... oh... I dunno... I forget... "

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Evidence lacking for annual testing

Sent to the Los Angeles Times, Feb. 28, 2015

Paul Peterson (Op-ed, Feb. 23) asserts that yearly testing done under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) resulted in increased test scores ("modest" gains in math), "solid evidence" in support of annual testing. Ron Harris (letters, Feb. 27) argues that the increased test scores are due to better test-taking strategies. 

Researchers Jaekyung Lee and Todd Reeves analyzed data from all 50 states from 1990 to 2009 and concluded that the NCLB testing policy did not increase reading gains and did not close ethnic/racial and socio-economic achievement gaps in reading. Gains in math were not "modest" but small, and the reduction of the math achievement gap fell far short of reaching NCLB targets.  Lee and Reeves based their conclusions on the NAEP test, a "low-stakes" test that is immune to "test preparation."

NCLB test score gains were not due to better test-prep: Lee and Reeves' analysis strongly suggests that they never happened.

Stephen Krashen

Original articles: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-peterson-nclb-defense-of-testing--20150224-story.html
Lee, J. & Reeves, T. (June 2012). Revisiting the impact of NCLB high-stakes school accountability, capacity and resources: State NAEP 1990-2009 reading and math achievement gaps and trends. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34(2), 209-231.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Proposed reductions in testing: the boondoggle remains

LETTER Published in Substance
February 26,2015

In my e-mail today I received a note from President Obama which included this statement: "We need a better education plan -- one that cuts standardized testing to a bare minimum ...".

Of course I agree (see Krashen, 2008), but the proposed reduction in testing that has been submitted to congressional committees appears to be only a modest cutback from the current massive, nonstop testing program. I suspect that the plan of the US Department of Education is to reduce testing just enough to satisfy at least some critics and keep the same profits flowing to the testing and computer companies.

With the proposed reductions, there will still be plenty of tests, and they will still be administered online, a huge and ever-growing boondoggle that bleeds money from schools, money that is desperately needed for legitimate educational purposes. Even if the amount of testing is cut 50%, the profits will be about the same, and we will still have far too much testing.

Is the US Department of Education (or anybody else) making any serious efforts to determine just how much testing is necessary and helpful? The answer to a proper inquiry might be very disappointing to the testing industrial complex.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Krashen, S. 2008. The fundamental principle: No unnecessary testing (NUT).  The Colorado Communicator 32 (1): 7.   Available at: http://sdkrashen.com/articles.php?cat=4

National Adjunct Walkout Day

The first happened this week in Arizona.  Here is part of the story from Bill Moyers and Co.:
On Wednesday, adjunct faculty at the University of Arizona (UA), myself included, walked out and taught-in as part of the first-ever National Adjunct Walkout Day. At least 300 of us — adjunct professors, students and tenure-tracked faculty — came out to the campus mall, deciding to dig in and call for fair wages and better working conditions for the part-time, temporary employees who make up the majority of higher education instructors.

I’ve been teaching creative writing classes at UA since the fall, and have a one-year contract, which is good for an adjunct.

What most provokes my students about the situation facing the adjuncts who teach them are the numbers. Even fans of our top-seeded basketball team think $1.9 million a year — the salary of UA head coach Sean Miller — is grotesque. The next cringe comes when considering UA President Anne Weaver Hart’s potential performance bonus of $170,000, which would be the cherry to her $600,000 annual salary. And then this: UA English Department adjuncts teach over 100 writing courses to 2,500 students each semester. Teaching full-time, and often putting in more than 40 hours a week, we earn a salary of just $33,050 a year. And many adjuncts haven’t received a pay raise in over a decade, not even a cost-of-living adjustment.

Newly seated Republican Governor Doug Ducey recently slashed higher education spending in Arizona by $75 million dollars, while sending nearly the same amount of state funds, $70 million, to private prisons. Arizona State University (ASU) President Michael Crow responded by calling for “modernization,” wanting the state’s public universities to be “as free and able to operate on an entrepreneurial basis as possible.” (ASU is governed by the same Board of Regents as UA.)  . . . .