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

Monday, January 26, 2015

Rudd's Secret Corporate Giveaway Program at U of Memphis Not So Secret Anymore

Below you will find the individual slides from the secret powerpoint prepared last July in preparation for the publicly funded corporate "teacher" prep progam that David Rudd arranged without any consultation with University of Memphis faculty, either outside or inside the College of Education.  

This program was planned in secret, and it involved handing over teacher preparation for the urban charter system of Memphis to two corporate bodies, the Relay Graduate School of Education and the The New Teacher Project (TNTP). 

The need for corporate "no excuses" teachers in Memphis has been manufactured by the continuing closure or turnover of public schools in Memphis to charter operators chosen by the Achievement School District from the lowest scoring and poorest schools in Shelby County.  

When schools are closed by ASD or turned over by Shelby County to their "Innovation Zone," teachers are fired and must reapply for their jobs.  

Of course, the new corporate operators do not want professionally prepared career teachers but, rather, the inexperienced beginners who have been trained as rigid guards who treat children more like prisoners than pupils.  These beginners will do three years before moving on to become CEOs of their own charter hell schools.

Explanations and comments are included below the slides.

See any discussion or input by the Shelby County Board of Education or by the faculty and staff of U of Memphis?  Didn't think so.  

As a result of annual firing of teachers as ASD claims public schools and new charters open up, "offerees" will have plenty of spots to choose from.  In fact, there will always be a bottom 5 percent of schools to convert.

Wondering who is going to pay the cost of this program?  Hint: it won't be Bill Gates.

That's right: this corporate program will be paid for with public dollars from a cash-strapped public university.

Need some extra funding to put in the pockets of the predators who run this program? Just take it from Title I or II funding.

Notice that administrative costs top instructional costs.

 More managers, analysts, coordinators, and directors than you can imagine.

NJ parents say PARCC stinks like CCRAP!

Which stinks more? Our garbage dumps or the PARCC Test? Credit: NJ Spotlight

Four years ago I attended the very first Parents Across America meeting in New York City where I heard Diane Ravitch, Leonie Haimson, Karran Harper Royal, Andrea Merida, Rita Solnet, Julie Woestehoff, Mark Mishler and several other passionate and dedicated parents from all across the country speak about what was then a young but rapidly growing movement. At the time, Gov. Christie was at the height of teacher bashing, and many educators were wandering around like deer in the headlights. I remember Diane saying that ultimately nothing would change unless and until parents led the charge.

And she was right.

I expected it to happen over night. The destruction of public education was completely obvious not only to me, but rank-and-file education professionals all across the country, not to mention education researchers and scholars. Surely if parents could just see...

Ah, but change doesn't happen in a New York minute even if you live right next door. Steering this suburban ship away from the rhetoric and privatization schemes of education 'reform' required a lot more than teacher voices. 

It required parents to stop, look and listen: 

  • To the absurd claims being made by 'reformers'
  • To the nearly $6 billion in funding cuts that have been made to NJ's public schools
  • To their simultaneously skyrocketing property taxes
  • To the enormous amounts of money their districts have been forced to spend on PARCC testing at the expense of the arts, foreign languages, AP classes and a whole host of clubs and activities
  • To the narrowing of the curriculums
  • To the labeling as 'failures' and the closing of their neighborhood schools without their say
  • To the segregation of their children who may not speak the language or may be more challenging to educate
  • And ultimately to the complaints of their children as they were forced to spend more and more time in school on test prep and less on real learning
It took a few years for this sea change to occur because New Jersey has an abundance of mostly white, high-quality suburban public school districts where Gov. Christie and then Education Commissioner Chris Cerf have a lot of allies who pay a boatload of property taxes for their excellent schools. They couldn't risk ticking them off, so they took a slightly softer approach in the 'burbs— blame the teachers—and grabbed the low-hanging fruit (or so they thought) in the mostly poor, urban, minority districts where Black and Brown voices don't matter. 

All was going according to plan: urban schools were being closed and flipped to charters; state control was expanded; teachers fired; harsh penalties for 'failing' schools; and a steady stream of media-backed rhetoric. Seemed like a slam-dunk, except that Christie and Cerf didn't anticipate the backlash from urban parents and students. What?!?! You don't want to be saved from yourselves by rich white men who stand to become richer off your salvation?!? If they had been paying attention to what was going on in cities all over the country, they would have known what to expect. Such is the folly of the unchecked ego.

And then, speaking of unchecked egos, our fearless clueless leader, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, fired the shot heard 'round the 'reformy' world:

“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary. You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, ‘My child’s going to be prepared.’ That can be a punch in the gut.”
"Fascinating"... as if he's Mr. Spock observing us all under a microscope. Call me crazy, but I think Mr. Spock has more heart than Arne.

And then, slowly, steadily, the ship started turning. As the 2013-2014 school year rolled out, parents got a good look at the new evaluation system and the CCSS, and started scratching their heads. No longer able to help their kids with math homework, suddenly it seemed as if more parents took to Twitter and Facebook. They started blogging, writing letters to the editor, becoming activists and organizers, speaking out, asking questions and demanding answers. In May 2014, the voters of Newark sent a resounding message to Gov. Christie and Superintendent Cami Anderson by electing Central HS Principal Ras J. Baraka as their new mayor. The Newark Students Union started staging walk-outs, protests and sit-ins.

In September of 2014, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia toured the US on her anti-testing crusade with a stop in Camden. Education associations throughout the state started hosting screenings of 'Standardized', and 'Take the PARCC' events. The Delran Education Association and School District threw down the gauntlet with this powerful statement against the PARCC. While speaking at the New Jersey Education Association Convention in November, Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe uttered his now infamous line, "I'm not seeing an opt-out movement in New Jersey", and seemingly within minutes, the New Jersey Opt-Out Facebook group exploded with new members. There are now county affiliates all over the state and an abundance of online resources for parents wanting to opt their kids out. Earlier this month, over one hundred parents, students and educators crammed the NJ State BOE headquarters to testify on the insanity of PARCC testing, and when NJBOE President Mark Biedron told a group of attendees that the state "can't force any kid to put their hands on a keyboard", Twitter and Facebook lit up. My blog post got almost 10,000 hits in the first 24 hours.

So, is it any wonder that in recent polling, the PARCC test is stinking like, well, CCRAP? 

Take a look at these numbers as reported in today's op-ed co-authored by Susan Cauldwell of Save Our Schools NJ and NJEA President Wendall Steinhauer:

  • 71% of parents say there is “too much emphasis” on these tests.
  • 77% worry that testing “takes time and money from other educational priorities.”
  • 81% worry that “teachers are forced to teach to the test.”
  • 80% worry that “too much of the school year is spent preparing for standardized tests.”
  • 78% want to limit the number of hours of testing.
  • 84% want to forbid standardized testing for students below third grade.
  • 66% want the right to have their children opt out of the tests.
  • 88% want test companies to disclose taxpayer-funded profits, while 87% want them to disclose their political donations.
  • 74% want to delay any decisions based on PARCC tests for two years until the results have been studied.

And 82% of parents want legislators to pass a “Bill of Rights” that provides transparency on high-stakes tests, including costs and uses of student data. Parents also want an explicit right to refuse the tests for their children. (emphasis mine)
Folks, this is huge. As someone who's run for office a few times, I can tell you these are numbers candidates only dream of. These are bigger than Nixon vs. McGovern. They're bigger than a landslide. They are, aptly, a blizzard!

If the state legislature doesn't act on them, they're just flat-out crazy, and they should be held accountable by every voter in this state. Some State Board of Education members have told those of us who attend their meetings regularly that the best way to stop this madness is through the legislature. 

Christie's bags are packed for Iowa. His days in Drumthwacket are numbered. It's time for parents to turn up the heat on the state legislature and demand a stop to this torture and abuse of our children. Here's a link for the NJ State Legislature. Click on it, find yours and demand they take action—NOW.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Not whether but how to evaluate teachers

Sent to The Economist, January 25, 2015
According to "America's New Advocacy," (January 24), "Many schools are in the grip of one of the most anti-meritocratic forces in America: the teachers’ unions, which resist any hint that good teaching should be rewarded or bad teachers fired."
This is incorrect: The objection is to how teachers are evaluated, specifically the use of student gains on standardized tests. A number of studies have shown that rating teachers using test score gains does not give consistent results. Different tests produce different ratings, and the same teacher’s ratings can vary from year to year, sometimes quite a bit.

In addition, using test score gains for evaluation encourages gaming the system, trying to produce increases in scores by teaching test-taking strategies, not by encouraging real learning. This is like putting a match under the thermometer and claiming you have raised the temperature of the room.

We are all interested in finding the best ways of evaluating teachers, but using student test-score gains is a very inaccurate way to do it.
Stephen Krashen

Some sources:
Different tests produce different ratings: Papay, J. 2010. Different tests, different answers: The stability of teacher value-added estimates across outcome measures. American Educational Research Journal 47,2.
Vary from year to year: Sass, T. 2008. The stability of value-added measures of teacher quality and implications for teacher compensation policy. Washington DC: CALDER. (National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Educational Research.) Kane, T. and Staiger, D. 2009. Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation. NBER Working Paper No. 14607 http://www.nber.org/papers/w14607;
This letter posted at: http://tinyurl.com/pjous44
Original article: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21640331-importance-intellectual-capital-grows-privilege-has-become-increasingly

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ravitch Continues to Dissemble and Mislead on ESEA

Yesterday Diane Ravitch, who has been leading the lemmings to support Alexander's NCLB Lite, posted a letter by UOO on their position on ESEA.  Ravitch closed with this:
Senator Alexander conducted his first hearing on January 21 and plans another hearing on January 27. Senator Alexander proposed two options in  his draft legislation: option 1 was to replace annual testing with grade span testing; option 2 was to keep annual high-stakes testing (the status quo). UOO is opposed to high-stakes testing in the federal law, period. (So am I.)
What Ravitch does not say here is that her chum's "option 1" continues high stakes testing, just less of it (it's sort of like a law against half the murders committed).

What she does not say, either, is how she can be against high stakes testing and give full-throated support for legislation that provides another generation of high stakes testing.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Letter Re ESEA Reauthorization 2013

Posted at Common Dreams and Chalkface:

To Members of the 113th 114th Congress:

I write to express my concerns regarding the various versions of the new ESEA now circulating in Washington, all of which appear to have enough in common to be combined, perhaps, under a more fitting title–something like The Corporate Foundation and Education Industry Welfare Act of 2013.  All of the versions that I have seen appear to embrace the principle that known failure should never be sacrificed for untried levels of success.

The past four decades represent generations now of failed accountability efforts to assist, threaten, demand, shame, and bribe public school students and their teachers to raise school achievement as a way to demonstrate that testing accountability  can accomplish what racism and poverty have made consistently impossible in America.  The chimerical idea that increasing education access could cure social and economic injustice was and is an ambitious, though fanciful, project that has been embraced by both liberals and conservatives since  the late 1960s at least.  Increasing educational access during the 60s came to serve as a coward’s proxy for more substantive and politically risky structural changes in housing, health care, jobs, transportation, and safety–all of which were and are as desperately needed as they are studiously ignored.

Today we are reaping the harvest of what we sowed during four decades of doing more of the same testing accountability while expecting different results.  Today’s hot and breathless pursuit of the status quo is packaged with the label of “reform,” and it is bound together with pretty rhetorical ribbons like No Child Left Behind Act, Strengthening America’s Schools Act, the Student Success Act, and Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act.  All of these fine-sounding pieces of legislation depend upon schooling methods that were cutting edge a hundred years ago, when achievement testing and IQ testing were first used to create a pseudo-scientific and entirely fake meritocracy based on real economic privilege and the sordid sorting and segregating of the poor, the culturally “inferior,” and the socially “defective.”

During that era, millions of Mexican children had their futures determined by racist IQ tests and classist achievement tests given  in a language that they could not even read.  To show you how much things change and remain the same, today in Tennessee and other states wanting to “first to the top,” kindergarten children are taking standardized tests (the SAT-10) before they learn to read and count.  A hundred years ago society’s “defectives” (either mental, social, cultural, or racial) were offered, on the basis of junk IQ tests, a very different industrial training education that taught students to accept and to actively participate in their own subjugation.

Today we use state or  corporate achievement tests to justify closing public community schools and opening segregated corporate reform schools that no middle class parent would ever send they own their children to.  In these neo-eugenic schools, children are programmed to blame themselves if the propaganda fails to deliver.  Ask how many KIPP teachers or TFA missionaries would send their own children into the anti-cultural straightjacket chain gangs.  Ask your colleagues in Congress if they would make their children KIPPsters.

Today the hostility of corporate education reformers to the public interest and the common good is matched only a rapacious and unchecked greed that is supported now with hundreds of millions of federal dollars that your programs approve.  And all of the fine-sounding bills listed above want to scale up the KIPP model, TFA, and their emulators within the growing school incarceration industry of urban America.  Public schools, with your help, have become corporate revenue streams and miseducative, unhealthy testing labs.

If your plans proceed, more and harder tests from the Common Core Corporate Standards guarantee a continuing supply of hostile corporate takeover targets within poor communities.  More “turnarounds” equals more corporate reform schools, and there will always be a bottom five percent to prey upon.  Despite warnings from the science community, these same national tests you are planning are to be used in evaluating teachers, who will doubtless sacrifice care and commitment to students for the necessity of assuring their own paychecks. Testing performance has replaced student learning, and all of your bills further enable that tragic transition.

The bills you are offering, too, will help to make teaching even more unattractive than it is today (if that is possible), thus increasing the demand for more and more Teach for America temps who have no inkling of the damage they are doing.  You must understand that corporate reform is about building businesses of the most corrupt and exploitative variety–it is not about education.  I expect you will have quit reading my letter before you get to this point, but let me offer a picture of what will happen if high stakes is preserved in the new ESEA.

If the new ESEA does NOT eliminate high stakes tests and segregated corporate reform schools,

  • You will see a growing army of parents and teachers and grandparents and policymakers, all working together to nullify the grand schemes of your legislation, with its next generation of racist and classist high stakes tests and segregated chain gang schools.
  • You will see increasing numbers of students refusing to take the high stakes tests, enough to regularly cause test results to be useless.
  • You will see an increase in civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance that will use any non-violent means to stop corporate schooling and high stakes testing.
  • You will see very expensive technical snafus increasing as online high stake testing increases.
  • You will see testing data warehouses targeted by hackers.
  • You will see the end of corporate unionism and the rise of a real teacher union movement with the health and welfare of children’s physical, mental, and emotional health as the first and foremost non-negotiable demand.
  • You will see a multiplicity of new information sources that no longer print the lies and propaganda that corporate foundations offer to you and the corporate media for parroting.
  • You will experience increasing disruption of corporate education at every level, from pre-K to graduate school.
  • You will see increasing resistance from within the university, and you will see much new high quality research in the public interest rather in for corporate benefit.
  • You will see the vampire squid of the education industry exposed for public examination.
  • You will find your connections to the corporate reform schoolers the subject of constant and unceasing examination.
  • You will see that what Wall Street fears, the spirit of Jeffersonian and Deweyan democracy, that is alive and well and increasingly impatient with the status quo.
  • You will come to see that these demands are not negotiable.

Document Dump on Rudd's Privatization Effort at University of Memphis

Last updated January 25

Since being promoted from Provost to President of the University of Memphis, at the behest of Governor Haslam, the Hydes, and and their plutocrat club, the corporate insider, David Rudd, has been fixated on austerity measures and privatization of the university.

His favorite crackpot scheme of the moment involves bringing in a New York corporation to offer minimal "broken windows" temp teacher preparation to serve the children in Memphis who need the most experienced and professionally prepared teachers.

This would represent an experimental step toward a charter university model.

University faculty members have not been enthused.

Below is a summary of finding from public records documents.  Prepared by University of Memphis associate professor, Mate Wierdl, I have edited parts of the summary.

by Mate Wierdl

The main source of the findings below is a PDF file, which is a scanned compendium of public record documents that were obtained via a FOIA request in November. They cover the period June-November, 2014.  The contained documents are arranged in chronological order except the last document which is dated June 3.


(I refer to this source as S, and will make references as "S, page 22.")


The plan is that students, from all departments, will be recruited, via a professional ad campaign, to take part in the Relay program after their sophomore year.  After a student leaves her home department, she will take part in a one year teacher "internship" (as it's nowadays called), and will end up graduating from University College.  In other words, the teacher training program will try to cannibalize (not my word, as you will see) our majors.  One problem with this is that under the new budget model SRI, departments will get their $ based on the number of graduates they produce.  Every student, then, going to Relay will represent a loss of funding for other departments.

The program will cost $5 million per year to the University.  Relay will have full autonomy over the program, and they will  handle this taxpayers' $5 million without apparent accountability.  This the very essence of what they call privatization: public money goes into corporate hands without public scrutiny about its spending and without added benefit to the public.

The University will provide space and maintenance of facilities without charge.  Meanwhile, a professor in the math department is on the verge of giving back his half a million NSF grant, since the University couldn't find a space for him). 

The millions (about $20 million) to be provided by donors to the program during the first two years will pass through the university without any overhead, even though the University demands hefty accounting fees for other grant money coming through the university.

Here are some of the highlights from the source.

Professional marketing will take place to recruit majors from other departments (students personal data will be made available for this purpose)

S, page 40, Section titled "Structured campus engagement"

In addition to the upfront professional campaign, ongoing cultivation and recruitment strategies will be conducted on the University of Memphis campus. Ongoing campus-based outreach will include multiple forms of communication and informational sessions encouraging students to explore this pathway into teaching.

Targeted marketing and outreach, particularly to the sophomore class and with a focus on specific candidate pools (e.g., STEM, Honors students), will be conducted through similar on-campus channels as those for the campus-based-ontreach.

S, page 41, last paragraph

In addition, a one-time investment of up to $2M over the first two years of the program is envisioned to support the professional marketing campaign and candidate cultivation activities to encourage service through this innovative program. This funding would cover the development of the content and messaging for all marketing and communications related to this program, website development, professional agency fees, and media campaigns (e.g., social media, viral video, etc.) that aim to effectively reach high school students and first- and second-year students at the University of Memphis (and other colleges) and attract them to this new teacher preparation program at the University of Memphis.

Students will not graduate from home departments but from University College.

S, Page 44, Secion a.

Students who successfully complete the core program will be eligible to receive 30 credits (or the equivalent credits for one-quarter of the required courses for graduation from the University of Memphis). These credits will count towards graduation from the University of Memphis with a Bachelor in Liberal Studies awarded by University College.

The program will compete with the existing teacher training program, and the president knows this well.

S, Page 80

What happens to the current teacher education program? Are the current players on campus ready for a pretty radical new entity that will be “competing” and possibly cannibalizing their students/revenue?

S, Page 47

The success of the new teacher preparation program likely will lead to a material decline in demand for the current teacher preparation program and the University is prepared to manage this transition.

Relay program's planning was done in secret (reminder: we found out about the program from the Commercial Appeal)

S, Page 21, Email from Ed Dean Rakow to Legal Counsel Murry

When can we meet to discuss the status of this and what I am allowed to tell concerned faculty?

The president is asking ex-president Martin [Governor Haslam's mentor] how to "convince" faculty that the relay program is not competing with theirs [knowing full well, it will compete and may cannibalize it, as we saw above. Faculty trying to find out about the secretly planned relay program are called "loud voices."]

S, Page 61, president's email quoted in an email by ex-president Martin

2) needing to coordinate in some fashion with the College of Education faculty that this is a complimentary program (i.e. an urban teacher prep program to pair with the suburban work they're currently doing) not a competing one with the College, otherwise they'll likely see it as an "outside" program in direct competition. We'd need to coordinate with them a bit so a few loud voices don't drown out the good work and overshadow the effort.

No overhead fees for the donors' millions of dollars

S, Page 66, email from the President

2. The pass through on philanthropy dollars, with no recovery or over-head charges by the U of M ..

The above references are just samples.  Further documentation is required to determine the details of the proposed budget, salaries, university support, and other departmental sacrifices.

Investigators are combing records to figure out the exact responsible parties for this apparent intentional violation of shared governance at the University and to uncover the motivation and driving forces behind the Relay program.  

A wider issue than having a private company running a "department" on campus at our expense is the recent outsourcing of university functions to private companies: recruiting, web design, temp workers, etc.  In other words, the apparent privatization of higher education---arriving at the University of Memphis at the same President Rudd moves in.

Statement on Gates and Broad Foundation funded United Way Greater Los Angeles running LAUSD forums

"Philanthropy is not progressive and never has been."— Tiffany Lethabo King and Ewuare Osayande

"The United Way of LA is chief enforcer of Eli Broad’s corporate takeover of public Ed agenda. He’s the reason why I created the term “weaponized philanthropy” to describe how lefty-liberal groups in this city are under his sway. There’s NO good reason on earth the ACLU or LGBT Youth groups would support John Deasy except for the fact that they get money from UWGLA and much of that money comes from Broad."—Cynthia Liu, PhD

United Way Greater Los Angeles is the best  public relations firm that Eli Broad has ever hired
Left to right: Monica Garcia, the disgraced John Deasy, Casey Wasserman, billionaire Eli Broad, and Elise Buik. Five of the greatest enemies to public education in Los Angeles under the aegis of the United Way Greater Los Angeles.

The Nonprofit Industrial Complex in Los Angeles are using their unlimited resources to sway our schoolboard elections again. Here's a tweet linking to the Occupy United Way page that first pointed out the issue.

My slightly edited statement from that page.

With the possible exceptions of Public Counsel and CHIRLA, could the United Way of Greater Los Angeles (UWGLA) have gathered a more vile coalition of revenue hungry corporate charter chains and billionaire foundation funded Nonprofit Industrial Complex (‎NPIC) members? KIPP, Coro, Eli Broad's Dan Chang's GPS:LA, E4E, ICS, and more. It's a rogues gallery of organizations on the dole of the Koch's, Bloomberg's, Broad's, Gates', and Walton Family Foundations. How is it that these organizations with the clear-cut political agendas of their funders are allowed to host forums like this?

Just in case there's any doubt that this entire event has been orchestrated by the UWGLA, here's the text from the registration form. See the email address?

Please fill out this brief form to let us know you will attend a Candidate Forum.

Childcare, translation, refreshments, voter registration and ballot information will be provided free of cost.

For more information and media inquires, contact Sara Mooney at smooney@unitedwayla.org or 213-808-6290

UWGLA runs these events so that they have complete control over what questions get asked, the tone and content of the conversations, the composition of audience, etc. These so-called forums end up being informercials for their favored (read charter school industry connected) candidates, and more importantly, their neoliberal corporate education reform agenda. Remember, UWGLA is the same organization that pays for fake "research" papers from less-than-credible fellow neoliberal NPIC like National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). There is no depth too low for the UWGLA to plumb, evidenced by their now infamous April 2014 astroturf stunt.

United Way Greater Los Angeles is the best public relations firm that Eli Broad has ever hired.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Tribute to Mike Sage, a True Fighter for Indiana Education and Children

by Doug Martin

Michael Sage passed away last Saturday.  He was a true crusader for children and a critic of school privatization in Indianapolis.   Through parent and activist Matthew Brooks, I met and talked with Mike several times while in Indy for book events, and Mike was one of the first in Indiana to promote Hoosier School Heist and my research in so many ways. 

Mike was a sensitive and attuned soul.  I respect him immensely.

There will be a celebration of Mike's life in Indianapolis at 37th Place (2605 E. 25th St 46218) this Friday, Jan 23, from 4:00-8:00.

Here below is Parent Power Indianapolis’ John Harris Loflin’s tribute to Mike Sage.  It traces, among other things, Mike’s enormous positive influence in education and his many accomplishments for children in the city of Indianapolis and Indiana:

Michael Kent Sage

June 17, 1955 - January 17, 2015

Michael Kent Sage was a most unique Hoosier. Born and raised here, and a citizen of Indianapolis, Mike Sage loved that part of Indiana’s mid-west culture stressing conformity. It gave life and purpose to his basic noncompliant nature. He also loved the 1970’s during which he became of age. Mike fit perfectly into the anti-establishment and anti-war movements as well as the women’s rights, environmental rights, civil rights, and the student rights movements.

Mike was involved in the student “underground” at Washington Twp’s North Central H.S. in this era. His critique of traditional education helped inspire school staff there to create Learning Unlimited, Indiana’s first alternative public school of choice in 1974. In 1976, he helped Cities In Schools establish the Tech-300 Program at Arsenal Tech H.S. In 1978, he was director of Indy Prep, the first alternative school in IPS. He made sure this unique program loved and respected students.
He obtained a bachelor’s in Urban Studies from Indy’s Martin University and a master’s in counseling from the Christian Theological Seminary. He was a caseworker for Branches of Life Foster Care and so a defender of the rights of children in and after foster care.

In early 2012, Mike formed the Education-Community Action Team, a grassroots group questioning both IPS and corporate school reform. He wanted to make sure we “...do not leave education reform in the hands of 'experts' in business, finance, and law.” E-CAT continues Mike’s weekly breakfast each Friday morning around 9-9:30 at the Kountry Kitchen (19th/College). Anyone’s welcome. Check out E-CAT’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/287555804641345/
Mike is known locally for bringing youth to community meetings and events during the day and evening. He challenged both IPS and the Indiana Department of Education to 1) rethink job descriptions by requiring all employees to engage in providing direct services to youth, and 2) not allow student policies to be created by persons who do not currently engage with youth. Few adults have this level of understanding, commitment, and regard for young people.

As a critical friend of the privatization movement, he was one of the first to see through the guise and sales talk of the corporate school reform agenda of Dr. Tony Bennett, the Mind Trust, and the mayor’s Office of Education Innovation. He also exposed what he saw as the hidden political-economic agenda behind Teach for American, KIPP and Charter Schools USA, Chalkbeat Indiana, and the Stand for Children group whose “reformers” now run the IPS school board. From his perspective what was going on here with IPS and charter school expansion was actually gentrification and urban real estate development.

As a critical friend of traditional public education, he questioned the purpose of education at North Central H.S., and both inspired and ran alternatives to it. As the number of alternative programs grew in the 80s and 90s and became warehouses for students under-served by districts, he helped call out these schools as “soft-jails.” As a student and adult, he promoted student voice and proposed local school boards have a student representative. He knew children were naturally curious and didn’t need rewards or punishments to make them learn. Thus, he believed children learned from play and denounced those who stole playtime from children in order to make them good test takers.   This was besides his critique of standardized testing: ISTEP was “a false measurement” and didn’t assess anything.
Finally, he was an integral part of the Parent Power group and supported the democratic empowerment of parents and their ownership of their schools via the Local School Councils concept. Mike also co-authored the “Strength-based IEP” concept which proposes special education students get just as much attention paid to their strengths as their weaknesses. He had the “Education Cities” idea for Indy added to the Northeast Corridor Quality of Life Plan.  

What made Mike unique among his friends was his insistence that they not use the verb “to be” (is, are, was, were, etc.) when writing because a verb of being implies an amount of certainty and perfection which in reality only exists in words and ideas. To him, such exactness gives the reader a false sense of life which Mike saw as “all a dance.”
Right or wrong, Mike Sage questioned authority, which made him insubordinate; he had a critical consciousness which made him a gadfly; he respected children as they are which made him disliked by disciplinarians; and, he rejected adultism which made him the enemy of those who are prejudice and discriminate against children and youth systemically.

We Hoosiers have not only lost a guardian of and champion for young people, we’ve lost a social justice warrior for all of us. Mike Sage is now the example we must strive to follow.

A celebration of Mike's life will take place at 37th Place (2605 E. 25th St 46218), Friday Jan 23 4:00-8:00.

Below is a photo of Mike (left) and Doug Martin, taken by Parent Power Indianapolis' Merry Juerling, at the Rise Above the Mark movie event in Indianapolis:







Expanding the floor of the cage

Sent to the Washington Post, Jan 22, 2015
Re: "What are the odds that Congress actually rewrites No Child Left Behind? 50-50, Arne Duncan says." (Jan 21).
In their hearings on the reauthorization of the education law, the Senate Education committee is considering a number of options for testing: They include keeping the old system of testing every student every year, as well as various proposals to make moderate reductions in testing.
Not discussed is another option: Stop testing altogether, and take time out to consider the massive evidence that the standardized tests we are forcing on children are very harmful, both for cognitive and psychological development, and bleed money from places where it is badly needed.
We must insist that no test be given to students unless it has been demonstrated that the test is helpful. Even if a test is shown to be helpful, it must be demonstrated that the investment in the test is more beneficial for students than investing elsewhere (e.g. health care, food programs, libraries).  It is now time for a Real Testing Moratorium (see eg http://www.fairtest.org/time-real-testing-moratorium).
Modest reductions in testing only "expand the floor of the cage." 

Stephen Krashen

Segregation and High Stakes Testing/Grading Will End, With or Without NCLB 2.0

While the AFT, NEA, PAA, NPE, and Fairtest lemmings foolishly pick their poison from Column A or Column B of the toxic NCLB menu, the real work continues, which is to organize, strategize, and act to bring down the segregated corporate testing machine that has replaced public schools in America.   

From Chicago:
January 14, 2015; Chicago Now

The history of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil rights advocacy included a clear willingness to engage in civil disobedience. The tactic is applicable in many situations of unjust public policies. Teacher and education advocate Laurie Levy has been protesting what she thinks is an injustice, forcing children to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, a test required for Illinois students that she describes as an “unfair and meaningless exam.” Levy said that 30 Illinois school districts, including Evanston, where she lives, have signed onto a letter to the Illinois Superintendent of Education and the Illinois State Board of Education protesting the PARCC. With the help of state legislators as well as Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, they got the superintendent of education, Chris Koch, to delay the test temporarily.

This month, a final answer came back from the state: The test had to go ahead.

“So now those of us who are opposed to PARCC have two choices,” Levy wrote. “Go along with the dictates of the powers that be or exercise our right to civil disobedience.”

Levy offered parents, students, and teachers a handful of action options, most of which led to civil disobedience:

Parents and students could opt out and tell their teachers that they were going to refuse to take the test. “There are many good reasons to opt out,” Levy wrote, “but all take courage.”

Teachers and administrators could refuse to give the exam. However, Levy, a former administrator and teacher herself, noted that this form of brave civil disobedience could cost people their jobs.
Advocates could continue to write articles and send letters to public officials about the unfairness of the PARCC (for example, for students with special needs or for ESL students), which she said doesn’t involve the risks of civil disobedience.

People could peacefully protest, though even peaceful protests at school board meetings and other public assemblies could result in arrest.

She concluded that teachers could choose to “not allow the test to stand in the way of appropriate education for students” by choosing to “not ‘teach to the test’ or spend much time preparing for it…Stop spending any more time preparing for what we know is an unfair high stakes test that has no value to anyone except the test-making company and data-lovers.”

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, someone calling for civil disobedience over a student- testing regimen might seem inconsequential. Levy’s point, however, is that some actions are important enough as to warrant protest and civil disobedience, which Dr. King demonstrated could be a legitimate and powerful mechanism for policy change.—Rick Cohen

Andrew and the Magic pill: a moral dilemma!

I, as many NYS teaching professionals, am outraged, insulted, and hurt. However rather than be as venomous as the Governor, I offer this scientific analogy…
UnknownA pill may cure 5% of a population’s ailment. It is untested and is known for severe side effects. Scientists have warned that for the other 95% it will cause paralysis, loss of vision and hearing, and in perhaps death. The authorities decide to use it anyway. The magic pill kills far more than it cures. Funeral parlors rejoice.
The governor thinks his one size fits all “pill” will “cure” the very different 728 public school districts, 4817 public schools, 2.7M public school students, and 209.5k public school teachers in the state. Does he honestly believe it will cure them whether or not they have a disease, or is this more about the vengeful death of the 106 NYSUT locals in NYS?
Governor Cuomo wants to use his magic education pill that may cure less than 5% of the problems in education in NYS, but expert after expert has told him of its horrible side effects to the other 95%. He uses it anyway. Corporate profiteers rejoice!
Dave Greene
Also sent to NYT, LoHud and WAPO.
Please share or write your own letters to editors.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Than Half of American School Children Are Poor: More Accountability Testing, Anyone?

For the first time since the first ESEA was passed in 1965, the majority of U. S. school children qualify for free or reduced price lunch.  from The Washington Post:

Today the dipshits on Capitol Hill from both parties agreed wholeheartedly that the new ESEA will do nothing to address poverty or segregation, other than to weigh the hungry and to send more money to apartheid charters, while they disagreed mightily about how many tests should be demanded of kids who come to school unwashed and without food at home.  These poor kids' schools will be held accountable for their poverty and hunger, and the states and federal government will keep score and weigh the poor, while turning over the poor schools to corporations to impose more "broken windows" schooling to make the poor less dissatisfied.

All those who support this plan should join AFT or NEA and then send money to FairTest and Ravitch's NPE.

Beth Dimino Leads Opt Out Move on Long Island

While "resistance" groups cut deals with the corporate unions to support another generation of high stakes tests, the real resistance continues.  

From the Long Island Press:
Beth Dimino, an eighth grade science teacher in Comsewogue School District and president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, will refuse to administer state tests this spring.
Beth Dimino, an eighth grade science teacher in Comsewogue School District and president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, will refuse to administer state tests this spring.

Beth Dimino, an eighth-grade science teacher in the Comsewogue School District and president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, will be the first Long Island teacher to “opt-out” of administering mandated state standardized tests this April.

An outspoken opponent of the Obama administration’s controversial Common Core education reforms—new academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) rolled out nationwide last year that have sparked protests among countless students, parents and teachers across Long Island and the country—Dimino was just one of several local school officials, elected officials, parents, and nonprofit leaders who railed out against the program at a rally last March at Comsewogue High School attended by hundreds of “Opt-Out” supporters.

More than 20,000 LI school children refused to take the state tests last April. No local teacher, however, has gone so far as Dimino to publicly voice his/her intention to refuse to even proctor the exams. She tells the Press her unprecedented decision is simply a matter of conscience, and spelled out as much in a recent letter to Comsewogue Superintendent Dr. Joe Rella, who’s also gone on record as a staunch Common Core dissident.

“I find myself at a point in the progress of education reform in which clear acts of conscience will be necessary to preserve the integrity of public education,” she writes, adapting her language from a template of a letter sent to New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farino by city schoolteachers/education advocates Colin Schumacher, Emmy Matias and Jia Lee—co-founders of a movement aimed at inspiring others to refuse administering the exams. “I can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children.

“I will not distort curriculum in order to encourage students to comply with bubble test thinking,” continues her letter. “I can no longer, in good conscience, push aside months of instruction to compete in a state-wide ritual of meaningless and academically bankrupt test preparation. I have seen clearly how these reforms undermine teachers’ love for their profession and undermine students’ intrinsic love of learning.”

Dimino hopes other local educators will follow her lead and oppose subjecting their students to the tests by refusing to administer them.

“The next logical step has to be the movement of conscientious objectors,” she tells the Press. “I believe, and I said this to [New York State Education Commissioner John] King and [state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl] Tisch and [state] Senator [John] Flanagan at the Three Village Rally [in November 2013], that this is child abuse. I believe that it is child abuse. I believe that giving these tests to my students makes me culpable in the abuse of children and I can no longer do that.”

Dr. Rella supports and respects her decision.

“I have known Beth for over 20 years,” he says. “This was not something she has done lightly. There was a lot of soul searching that went on and she said to me, as a matter of conscience, she cannot participate. She cannot proctor this test. And I support that.”

Joe Rella
Comsewogue School District Superintendent Dr. Joe Rella (Jaime Franchi/Long Island Press)

Dimino and Rella harbor a host of reasons why they’re so opposed to Common Core, ranging from what they deem as a lack of focus and an erroneous substitution for actual hands-on, in-the-classroom, traditional teaching, to myriad issues with the actual exams themselves, which utilize problem-solving and reason-centric approaches to not only answering but understanding subject material questions.

“These tests are meaningless,” Dimino blasts. “They do not show us anything that a test is supposed to show us. Tests are supposed to show us how children are doing, how proficient children are in the work we’re teaching them. So now we can either modify our pedagogy and review it and do it again because the children didn’t get it, or understand that the children got it and move on to the next piece of the puzzle, which is teaching that particular piece of curriculum. These tests do not inform on that level at all.”

A major gripe of Dimino and other Common Core critics is that teachers are not part of crafting the test, not permitted to view the whole test and not even privy to tests’ answers. Additionally, she laments, instructors are not allowed to discuss the test among peers and do not get students’ scores until the next school year.

“So the children aren’t actually in third grade when they get the results of the test,” she explains. “The parents don’t get the test until the fourth grade, so the children have either been promoted or held back, but in fact, that third-grade test was not used in any way to help that third grader.”

Rella agrees, listing as one of his main critiques about Common Core that the passing score for the tests are actually set months after the tests are given.

In 2013, the first year students took the exams, for example, the state education department predicted a 70-percent failure rate, which came to fruition when results eventually came back that August. Similarly, last year’s pass rate was predicted to be 35 percent.

“At this rate, with the success rate going up 5 percent per year, it will be 10 years before these children will know success,” he blasts. “They will go through their entire education experience as failures.”

Rella thus believes these tests are “designed to make children fail [and] are unconscionable.” However, he makes the important distinction that if a child cannot pass a test, their score should reflect it—thereby not making the case for the educational equivalent of the participation trophy, but for sound testing practices that include, at the very least, input from the parents and educators who have been so vocal about their effect on students.

“The problem with these tests [is that] our kids believe everything we tell them,” says Rella, the Comsewogue School District superintendent. “They don’t know it’s a rigged game. You can’t lie to children and tell them that they are failures. You can’t lie and tell them that they were successful either just to boost them up. Tell them the truth. They believe us. You don’t get this time back. You don’t mess with children.”


Dimino, by refusing to administer the upcoming Common Core tests, is effectively risking her job for what she believes, and implores others to do the same. She believes there are many other teachers out there whom may feel the same way but are prevented from acting for fear of jeopardizing their positions, and because of those mixed signals, many parents are confused about whether or not opting out of the tests is the best option for their children.

To help clarify this, she’s also putting forth a proposal before the New York State United Teachers Federation (NYSUT) asking that all teachers who have school age children refuse to let them take the exams.

This resolution, which Dimino co-authored, passed her union unanimously, she says, and will be brought to the NYSUT general assembly meeting in April, and aims to coordinate local teachers unions across the state in opting their children out of the tests in solidarity.

Jeanette Deutermann, the mastermind behind the 17,000-plus member anti-Common Core Long Island Opt-Out Movement, who helped contribute to the more than 50,000 students refusing the tests in New York state last year, sees teachers refusing to administrate the tests as the next logical step in their mission to end them.

“This is the natural progression of our fight against high-stakes testing that is depleting public school resources, hijacking our children’s classrooms, and turning the love of learning into fear and punishment,” she says. “Parents of Long Island Opt Out and New York State Allies for Public Education stand behind any educator in the position to take this courageous action on behalf of our children.”


Dimino is part of the “Teachers Of Conscience Movement” started by Schumacher, Matias and Lee—who object to the “market-based” education reform and the standardization of public education as “conscientious objectors.”

They authored a position paper and letter to New York City Schools Chancellor Farina in the hopes that it would gain traction as a way for teachers to protest Common Core and raise awareness to state education officials—from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the chancellor to the education commissioner and Board of Regents—that the input of educators is valid and should be valued by those in policymaking positions.

“I’m not telling you that I’m opposed to raising standards, or making standards better,” summarizes Dimino. “What I’m opposed to is not having any educators be part of the process of making those standards better. I don’t believe that there’s any other industry that does that. I think if doctors are looking to improve something within their discipline, they have doctors as part of that system of change. I believe lawyers do that, accountants do that, and sanitation workers do that. Everybody does that. You need to have who are determined to be high caliber people in that field to help with that change.”

Dimino believes Common Core undermines the very ideals of high school education: preparing students for college and careers. If more teachers follow her lead and refuse to even administer these exams, she says, it could be the silver bullet so many opponents have been searching for since the reforms’ inception.

“These tests are not going to get these children ready for anything except to take tests,” she slams. “I really believe that getting rid of the testing will cause this entire nonsensical system to implode.”

The NCLB Band Is Back Together

Are you tired of federally mandated annual testing in your school?  If you are, the neocons and neolibs have joined forces once again in DC have a deal for you.  That's right--the band is back together!  And they're ready to kick out the jams from under that rickety uptight annual testing stage.  Sort of.

Leading off their set list is a song that tells the story of reducing the federal mandate for math and ELA to what is now required by NCLB for science: once in each level (3-5), (6-8), and (9-12). 

Buy your ticket today and you get the added bonus of a backstage pass where you can see the boys make allowances, nay encouragement, for annual testing to be mandated by states to take up the slack where the federal mandates leave off--or where the jams have kicked out, so to speak. 

Otherwise, there would be no device to assure the continued annual failures that feed the charter industry, which will continue to collect hundreds of millions in royalities under the new NCLB Lite. 

But wait, there's MORE!  With the new and improved NCLB Lite Act with mostly new players, states will have a free hand to take all of that Title I gate receipt money that never closed the achievement gaps, and now put it to good use.  How about a new cool voucher plan to give poor kids a chance to attend a Baptist Academy designed with their character and moral needs in mind?  Get down!

The possibilities are endless because, with the new NCLB Lite, there will be no possibility of onerous oversight by federal government.  The Man is no longer the Man, just the way that Strom Thurmond  sang about it in the old days! 

Sign up for the tour (soon to be announced), and you will be inspired to reach new levels, and who knows, you might decide to start your own local band to sing the many songs on the release. 

See NPE, FairTest, NEA, or AFT for details.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Not just "noise"

Letter to the Editor, Published in Reading Today (IRA), Jan/Feb, 2015
In response to the NovDec cover story, "Beyond the noise."
Concerns about the Common Core are not just "noise." It is a bad solution for a nonexistent problem. Our problem is not a lack of standards, but our unacceptably high rate of poverty. Poverty has a devastating impact on school achievement. When scholars control for the effect of poverty, American students' test scores are at the top of the world.
The Common Core does nothing to protect children from the effects of poverty. Instead, it spends billions on unnecessary testing.
The Common Core is a tsunami that could destroy American education.
Stephen Krashen
Original article: Hall, April. 2014.Moving beyond the noise of the common core.  Reading Today 32(3): 18-21