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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Computer science for all?

Sent to the New York Times, Jan. 31
President Obama has called for "a Deeper Commitment to Computer Education," (January 30), proposing that $4 billion be invested in computer science education. In the past, these proclamations were based on the assumption that there is a serious shortage of technology-trained workers in the US. This claim has been shown to be false. In fact, there is a surplus.
Now the message is that computer knowledge is needed in many professions. (The president mentioned auto mechanics and nursing.) But this is computer use, and does not require knowing how to program and design software.  It requires knowing how to use specific programs. It is not "computer science," just as driving a car does not require deep knowledge of auto mechanics.  Nevertheless, the president emphasized programming and learning to code, "computer science for all."
My daughter has pointed out to me that to learn how to use many programs, all you need is a good friend to show you how.
I was not surprised to read that the president of Microsoft thought the president's proposal was a good idea.
Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California

Original article: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/us/politics/obamas-budget-urges-a-deeper-commitment-to-computer-education.html?_r=0
Sources: Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1034801 Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.Salzman, H. 2012. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12) http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-foreign-stem-graduates-get-green-cards/no-shortage-of-qualified-american-stem-grads. Teitelbaum, M. 2014: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-teitelbaum-stem-fears-20140420,0,120851.story#axzz2zYCn7SCA; Weismann, J. 2013. More Ph.D's than the market can absorb:The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts. The Atlantic, Feb 20, 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/the-phd-bust-americas-awful-market-for-young-scientists-in-7-charts/273339/

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Alabama Leads the Way toward 19th Century Education

Ever heard of an adjunct K-12 teacher?  I had not, either, until Alabama defined it for me, as someone with at least a high school diploma teaching part-time in an Alabama public school.
Someone who is not a certified teacher can now teach your children in Alabama.

The State Board of Education approved a new category of educators called adjunct teachers.

The board says it is a way to solve the teacher shortage in Alabama for certain subjects.

An adjunct teacher is someone who has worked in a career field other than education, will work part time under a licensed teacher and has a high school diploma or equivalent.

Katy Bryan is a mother of two elementary school kids in Huntsville.  In theory, under the new resolution, her kids could soon be taught by someone who does not have a state teaching certification. Bryan has some concerns with the idea.

"I think that they probably need to have a teaching certificate because just because they're knowledgeable about a subject might not mean that they're skilled at teaching techniques," Bryan said.

Mary Scott Hunter sits on the State School Board who approved the resolution. Hunter represents District 8 which includes Madison, Limestone, Jackson, DeKalb and Etowah Counties in Alabama. She says the goal is to find people to fill specialized classes like welding, because those can be hard for a district to fill.

Beverly Sims is the District 3 Director for the Alabama Education Association, who represents Madison County, Madison City, J.F. Drake Technical College and John C. Calhoun Community College.

Sims says she is okay with the idea of adjunct teachers for career tech classes, but is worried that some of these adjunct teachers might not be fully prepared to handle the challenges of a classroom.

"Classroom management and the various learning styles of the kids and the biggest problem is going to be learning the federal laws and the state laws," Sims said.

While Bryan says she has concerns as a parent, she says there could be a place for adjunct teachers.

"I think there could be advantages like a lot of engineers in our area are good at mathematics, physics and those types of topics," Bryan said.

WAAY 31 reached out to some area school districts.  Huntsville City Schools and Madison City Schools spokesmen say the resolution is on their radar, but the people who can talk on the issue weren't available Monday.

Susan Ohanian's Letter in Today's NYT

Re “A Teacher, Beloved but Disillusioned, Decides to Walk Away” (Side Street column, Jan. 25):
As a longtime teacher, I thank David Gonzalez for giving voice to the bizarre and capricious assaults on teacher professionalism that infect the many schools enforcing the dictum “Common Core or die.”
Tom Porton, a Bronx teacher, clearly offered unique gifts to students, but he is not alone in finding that the work he so loved for decades has turned to torture.
Charlotte, Vt.

CURMUDGUCATION: UT Offers Gobbledeegook Education Program

CURMUDGUCATION: UT Offers Gobbledeegook Education Program: Here's one for the Has To Be Seen To Be Believed file, or perhaps the Ugly manhandling of English Language file, or most especially, the...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TN's Cheap Choice School Model for the Needy

Last spring Tennessee passed a limited school voucher bill that offers just over $6,000 per year to disabled students who, otherwise, would attend public schools.  Ostensibly, the purpose of the legislation was to give parents more educational choices for their special needs children.

When we consider, however, that the best private schools for special needs students like the Curry Ingram Academy in Brentwood costs $38,000 per year, what kind of educational services can parents hope to find with their $6,000 voucher? Something marginal at best.

Since private schools are not bound by federal requirements, these bargain basement vouchers are only available to students whose parents are willing to give up most of their educational rights secured by IDEA. Governor Haslam was quick to sign the bill into law.

This year Haslam and his privatizing Tea Party allies in the General Assembly have the same morally-bankrupt voucher deal ready for the children of Tennessee's poorest parents.  It offers a $6,500+ voucher to parents whose children attend the highest-poverty schools to go shopping for a marginal private school education, minus any oversight or regulations to guarantee teaching and learning quality.  And the average tuition cost for private schools in Tennessee is about $1,500 more than the voucher provides.

Hot breakfast and lunch provided in these marginal private schools?  Forget it.

To borrow from Jonathan Kozol, the day that Tennessee conservatives are willing to give every poor child in Tennessee a $30,000 voucher to attend Ensworth School or Montgomery Bell Academy, that's the day I will become a Republican.

Until such time, we should all call publicly out the hypocrites in the state legislature who mouth words about helping poor children, as they continue to refuse to provide full funding of the Basic Education Program for Tennessee's public school children.  Tennessee's abysmal record for funding public schools (ranks 47th in 2015) goes hand-in-hand with the legislative determination to further limit better educational options in the name of a phony cheap choice.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Great Schools Partnership, Duke Albanese, and the Gates Foundation

Today in professional development meetings all over the country teachers are learning the virtues of "proficiency based learning," which is sometimes referred to as "competency based" education (CBE), and sometimes referred to as "personalized learning," and sometimes referred to as "self-paced computer assisted learning," and sometimes even referred to as more Gates Foundation-sponsored bullshit. 

The dream of teacher proof schools has been around for more than a hundred years, and it became an obsession after early 20th Century "reformers" took Frederick Winslow Taylor's idea of scientific management of job tasks and tried to apply those concepts and methods to educational tasks.  

What has always stood in the way of the perfect system of efficient rote learning, however, has been the caring and inefficient teacher whose understanding of child needs has always intruded upon the requirements of the most measurably efficient delivery system.  (See Part 1 of The Mismeasure of Education for the skinny on the social efficiency movement during the early 20th Century).

Among business elites, social managers, and entrepreneurial opportunists, the dream of teacherless learning is very much alive today, and with the financial help of arrogant billionaires like Bill Gates and back-slapping, deal-making middle men like Duke Albanese of Maine, it is being tried on a large scale once more in states like Maine.  In fact, competency-based computer assisted parrot learning promises is planned as a principal delivery system for the Common Core that Gates has spent billions to promote.  CBE promises to be a primary tool to get back that money and more for tech companies.

The conduit from Gates to the classroom in Maine flows through financially-connected front groups like the Great Schools Partnership, and the "Duke" occupies positions on that Boards of Directors and others linked to Gates money.  As a former Commissioner of Education in Maine, he knows how to use influence and to get Gates money from Point A to B to C and, of course, to the D.

Below is a letter from Duke to his new friend, Tom Vander Ark in 2002, when Duke was Commissioner of Education and Vander Ark was head of the Gates Foundation.  

It is important because it threw open the door to the massive experiment underway today on the children of Maine today. 

Here is the Press Release from the Gates Foundation in 2002 for its $10 million grant to Maine.  Note that University of Southern Maine is a primary recipient, and you may note, too, that a number of the main actors from the Great Schools Partnership are in charge of this charade being played out in Maine.  These same folks received their credentialing from USM.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Moskowitz Should Be Kept Away from Children

When you think there is nothing more that charter school titan, Eva Moskowitz, could say to top her previous litany of dehumanizing gut punches to the poor children or parents of New York who have made her fabulously wealthy, she comes through with another incredible utterance that shows her unsuitability to be in charge of a dog pound or even a worm farm, not to mention dozens of schools filled with vulnerable and needy children.

At the end of a piece in the Times that describes her snarling response to parents who have sued Success Academy for ignoring their disabled children's rights under IDEA, she had this to say about the inhumane methods used to teach children they are responsible for the academic shortcomings that are entirely predictable for children trapped by poverty:
“We find in schooling that kids are resilient. You know, they sometimes get upset when they don’t do well, and many people think that’s a tragedy.”

“But,” she said, “Olympic athletes, when they don’t do well, they sometimes cry. It’s not the end of the world.”
Really, Eva? Is there any cry from any animal, human or otherwise, that could reach the bottom of your emptiness?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

While Calling for Unity, Ravitch Lies About Critics

Diane Ravitch's capacity for subtle manipulation has allowed her to put together an army of bloggers and commenters, all of whom would, doubtless, march off to battle the corporate education reformers if talk had legs.  

Just like the pronouncements of their FairTest predecessors, however, NPE and Ravitch's political movements are encased by the corporate leadership of NEA and AFT, whom they must either mimic or allow to take the lead in any matters related to moving against the rephormist status quo that continues to be supplemented by millions of corrupting dollars from philanthrocapitalists.

One thing Ravitch cannot stand is criticism of her conservative permanent basecamp posed as a revolutionary front, and she is known to use any method at her disposal to silence critics and/or to discredit them.  The most recent example comes in her defense of FairTest, whose history of depending upon the kindnesses of collaborationist insiders and corporate foundation front groups recently came under scrutiny as a result of FairTest's unerring advocacy for ESSA, the new states rights version of ESEA.  

With FairTest's continuing defense of the indefensible ESSA and FairTest's silence on the dangers of competency based assessments and the thousands of new charter schools that ESSA guarantees, FairTest has moved beyond the role of celebrating the accomplishments of real activists that Bob Schaeffer made famous.

Ravitch is incensed that I and others would question the sanctity of FairTest, and she has called us out to her online principal's office to account for our indiscretion.  In doing so, she has made up a story that Jim Horn, Mary Porter, and Emily Talmage have accused FairTest of accepting cash from the Gates Foundation, which Ravitch says that FairTest has acknowledged.  Unfortunately, this is untrue.  

Whether intentional or simply the sloppy work of a Ravitch's underling, readers must know that I have never made such a claim, nor have I read such a charge by either of the other purported miscreants called out by Ravitch.  I have pointed out that FairTest has received grants from both NEA and Nellie Mae, and that its political position is defined by the positions that Washington corporatists allow for NEA and AFT. 

So when you hear Diane or fellow campers talk about "big tents," "standing together," and "harmony among allies," know that someone has, 1) intruded upon truths that should remain mysteries, or 2) called out Diane or one her acolytes or emissaries for sleeping with the enemy.  

And know, too, that in order to talk to Diane, you must play by her rules.  Otherwise, pipe down.  As she told Mary Porter in comments at her blog when it became apparent that Mary would not be contained by Ravitch's smarmy oppression, 
Mary, enough. I asked for harmony among allies. I never told Emily to shut up nor did I call her toxic. Stop attacking your allies.
In other words, stop telling me that I am telling you to stop.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Lamar's Office Answers Diane's Questions about ESSA

Diane Ravitch's close relationship with Lamar Alexander goes back at least to the early 1990s, when Diane was a leading testocrat at ED for George Herbert Walker Bush.  This was the period when Diane used her office as Assistant Secretary to suppress the Sandia Report, which presented a picture contrary to the educational doomsday message that began with Reagan's opposition to public schools ten years before. It was that high time when Lamar as Secretary of ED led his unsuccessful campaign to get federal sponsorship for his former business partner's Edison Schools.  As the NY Times reported in 1992 (my bolds),
At the heart of the Edison Project is an idea that also guides the strategy developed under Education Secretary Lamar Alexander, a former business associate of Mr. Whittle. It is hopeless to expect change from within this school system, this reasoning runs, so parents must be given the weapon of choice to force changes in public schools.

Indeed, the prime architect of the Bush strategy, Chester E. Finn Jr., is a longtime critic of public schools who is now a member of the Edison Project's design team.

Although Mr. Whittle's schools would be private, his Edison Project is remarkably similar to Mr. Alexander's New American Schools proposal to create 535 radically different public schools, one in each Congressional district and two in each state, which would then spur other schools to change. Later this summer the New American Schools Development Corporation will give out privately financed grants to design teams, many of whom have suggested proposals similar to Mr. Whittle's.
Thanks to the Times reporting, Congress pulled the plug on this corrupt scheme, which could have been the first example of federal money going to fund privately-run schools. 

Almost 25 years later, Alexander is now in the catbird's seat in terms of his long-standing desire to privatize public schools, and he is not about to miss this opportunity.  And even though Diane Ravitch has ostensibly undergone a conversion from her earlier preaching of the corporate dogma, she and Lamar remain very close.

So close, in fact, that Diane and her lieutenants at NPE were crucial in keeping resistance to the new ESSA calmed until it was too late to do anything.  In April 2015, in fact, Ravitch had already given her thumbs up on a federal plan that will set back education policy by a half century:
One may quibble with details, but the bottom line is that this bill defangs the U.S. Department of Education; it no longer will exert control over every school with mandates. This bill strips the status quo of federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators. This is a far better bill than I had hoped or feared.
Ravitch lieutenant and NPE Board member, Dr. Heilig, rashly boasted recently on Facebook that he had known the details of ESSA before it was rushed through, but that he was sworn to secrecy.  When a Facebook reader suggested that his silence signaled complicity with this awful legislation, he responded by saying that, as a mere academic, he had no power to alter the course of history.  (The children who become prisoners of chain gang charters in the years to come may surely question such a rationalization.)  I guess you could say he was only following orders.

Who will question Diane Ravitch on her continued silence on the massive charter expansion guaranteed by ESSA?  Recently, Alexander told Ed Week,
“What I believe is that when we take the handcuffs off, we’ll unleash a whole flood of innovation and ingenuity classroom by classroom, state by state, that will benefit children,” Alexander said in an interview. “We’ve got a law that will govern the federal role in K-12 education for 10 or 20 years.”
For Diane's part, she has just posted Part IV of a series where she asked, in writing, softball questions to Alexander's office about ESSA, which were were answered by Alexander's Chief of Staff.  How long can she pretend to not know what is coming from ESSA in the months and years ahead?  How long can she blame others for policies that she supports?

But the more serious question is, how long will those who still believe in public schools believe in the misleadership of Diane Ravitch and the neoliberal agenda she represents? 

FairTest and Nellie Mae

Thursday, January 21, 2016

In Defending FairTest, Ravitch Inadvertantly Opens Door to the Truth

Diane Ravitch has posted a response by FairTest to recent commentary by Emily Talmage that shines a light on the close connections among FairTest, Citizens for Public Schools, the Center for Collorative Education, AFT/NEA, and corporate cash.  

I have pasted the post below, along with revealing comments by Mary Porter and others, who provide further details about the secretive connections that allow the corporate foundations and corporate unions to coopt, undercut, and neutralize honest efforts to reclaim public education to benefit children and what is left of our democracy.

You will note that it does not take Diane Ravitch but a moment to jump into the discussion to condemn anyone who criticizes her own willingness to include arsonists inside the anti-corporate reform tent.  

It must be noted that, while Ravitch prefers a big tent that includes corporate collaborators, she has been quick to exclude yours truly from her tent.  I was barred from commenting at her blog when it became evident to Ravitch and NPE that their complicity with AFT's pro-corporate agenda was no longer a secret.  It is good, finally, to see that others are reaching the the same conclusions and are unafraid to share them.

Read and understand.  From Diane Ravitch at the Ravitch blog:

Lisa Guisbond of Fairtest wrote to inform me that the opt out movement in Massachusetts is growing and has noconnection [sic] whatever to the Gates Foundation. As we know, state officials are terrified of a massive parent opt out; they threaten, they cajole, they will try anything to con parents into staying away from opt out. The most powerful tool that parents have is opt out. The state can’t force your child to take the test. Parents have the Power of No.

Fairtest released this statement.

“This Saturday’s opt-out meeting is sponsored by Citizens for Public Schools and the Less Testing, More Learning Campaign and will be at the office of Center for Collaborative Education (CCE), 33 Harrison Ave., Boston, 6th floor.

“Because the meeting is at CCE, a few people have attacked LTML, Citizens for Public Schools and the meeting itself in a blog and on Facebook. It will take a lot of focused, hard work to get a strong opt-out campaign going. We want to include as many interested people as possible and don’t want misguided attacks to undermine and confuse activists. But because such attacks are circulating (in MA and even in other states), and to avoid confusion and damage, we want to clarify a few things.
“First, the main basis for the attacks is the list of funders on the CCE website, which includes Gates, the Boston Foundation, Barr and Nellie Mae. Dan French from CCE (who is on the CPS board and has for decades battled against MCAS and for locally-controlled performance assessment) has been open about when CCE received specific grants and for what. The Gates and Boston Foundation grants are not current (e.g., a Gates grant in 2000 to develop pilot schools, a Boston Foundation grant to support pilot schools granted before Boston Foundation switched to boosting charters).

[As Emily Talmage pointed out in comments below, it is not true that Gates grants are only somewhere in the dusty past:

 But I digress.]

“At a minimum, attacking a meeting and a campaign because we are using an organization’s space is very misguided politics. Beyond that, CCE and Dan have been long-standing allies in the testing resistance and reform movement.

“These attacks are an unfortunate distraction. We’d rather use our energy and resources to build a strong opt-out campaign to stop the misuse and abuse of testing in our schools. We look forward to working with others who share these goals.”

14 Comments Post your own or leave a trackback: Trackback URL

  1. CCE works at the state, district and school levels to create professional learning communities of educators who are deeply engaged in the work of continuous improvement. Data-based inquiry with an equity lens is at the heart of our work, with a particular focus on the challenges that most impact curriculum design, instruction, and assessment.”

    • Dan French, Executive director of the Center for Collaborative Education, has in fact sat on the board of CPS for years. Lisa’s salary is split between Fairtest and CPE, and there is considerable other organizational overlap.

      French did indeed attend the Opt Out launch meeting personally, and attempted to take a leading role, pitching his organization’s data-driven embedded accountability products as part of the opt out movement.

      Other participants spoke out against French’s proposals. It actually took some courage, because as you can see, there is now a Fairtest campaign to discredit opponents. It’s those people Lisa is attacking in this letter.

      We are going forward full force with the Massachusetts Opt Out movement, and are determined to insulate it from exploitation by Fairtest and CPE’s data-driven partners.

    • Mary Porter,
      I think it is poisonous for supporters of opt out to make war on one another. Sectarian fights are the plague of progressive movements. The best hope for success is a big tent with many groups working together.

    • Diane, it is you and Fairtest who are attacking the honest people working in this movement.

      I’ve worked with CPS for years. I always though it was just their association with the “Teacher Union Reform Network”, that made them so limited. Lisa once told a conference workshop we couldn’t publicly support parent actions against the Boston public school closings, because we “couldn’t get out ahead of the unions”, which support CPS financially.

      This is sad but true. Please don’t attack Emily for her courage in following through on it, or the parents who spoke up at this meeting.

      The Boston Federation of Teachers, and the MTA under former presidents Toner and Waas, were major players in supporting the disastrous Massachusetts education reform legislation of 2010 and 2012.

    • Christine Langhoff
      To my knowledge, there is no such organization as the Boston Federation of Teachers.

    • I’m sorry, Christine, I know it’s the Boston Teachers Union. I’m working hard to present these links cogently, and again I apologize. I had been working to support the Minneapolis effort for several hours.

      But you know I am raising a real issue. Unity behind corrupted insider influence doesn’t strengthen our movement. Please take a minute to open this this link and for once, somebody, please address the content. Defend it if you find it defensible, as apparently Diane does.

      We have to free our own organizations from this river of dark money, because it delivers our public schools again and again into their grip..

      Principal Member Union Locals

      The National Teacher Union Reform Network members represent a total of 30 AFT and NEA locals:

      Albuquerque Teachers Federation
      Boston Teachers Union
      Castaic Teachers Association
      Cincinnati Federation of Teachers
      Cleveland Teachers Union
      Columbus Education Association
      Decatur Education Association
      Denver Classroom Teachers Association
      Douglas County (CO) Federation of Teachers
      Elgin (IL) Education Association
      Fairfax (VA) Education Association
      Hart District Teachers Association
      Jefferson County Education Association
      Memphis Education Association
      Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association
      Minneapolis Federation of Teachers
      Montgomery County (MD) Education Association
      Newhall Teachers Association
      Organization of DeKalb (GA) Educators
      Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers
      Portland (ME) Education Association
      Poway (CA) Federation of Teachers
      Prince George’s County Educators’ Association
      Providence Teachers Union
      Rochester Teachers Association
      San Diego Education Association
      San Juan (CA) Teachers Association
      Saugus Teachers Association
      Springfield Education Association
      Syracuse Teachers Association
      Toledo Federation of Teachers
      United Educators of San Francisco
      United Teachers of Dade
      Westerly Teachers Association

  2. Nellie Mae, current funder of the Centr for Collaborative Education, is a huge money laundering conduit for the Gates Foundation. Emily Talmage describes how she traced it.
    “within a very short time, it became unmistakably obvious that the Common Core Standards, our new Smarter Balanced test, and Maine’s one of a kind (but not for long if they have their way, so watch out!) proficiency-based diploma mandate were all linked like pieces of a puzzle to a corporate-driven agenda to transform our schools into “personalized” (digital!) learning environments. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, see here for more.)

    Quite literally sick to my stomach, I emailed a union rep to ask if he knew anything about the paper I had found.

    “It’s ghastly,” he replied, “but in Maine, it has been the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the Great Schools Partnership that has been behind these policies.”

    “Just to be sure, I went to the “Awarded Grants” section of the Gates Foundation website, and typed in the words “Nellie Mae.”

  3. Here is a direct quote from a paper Monty Neill co-authored, in case you wondered how you got fired when your school was turned around.

    May 14, 2010
    Common Elements of Successful School Turnarounds: Research and Experience
    Gary Ratner, Esq., Executive Director, Citizens for Effective Schools, with
    Monty Neill, Ed. D., Interim Executive Director, FairTest

    “D. Replacement Non-Participatory and Ineffective Teachers with Motivated, Capable Teachers –

    Principals closely observe teachers in their classrooms, help them improve their teaching and encourage them to collaborate with other teachers.

    Teachers who are not motivated to participate in the school‟s turnaround efforts frequently leave voluntarily to avoid close scrutiny; if not, and they are persistently ineffective, they must be removed.xv

    Schools seek capable teachers who want to participate in the school‟s reform.xvi”

  4. If you follow their web pages, you’ll see that Fairtest has become affiliated with an organization called The Forum on Educational Accountability, which is using it as a mouthpiece to promote turnaround models. These are the new participatory, personalized formative accountability products already rolled out for the new ESEA.


    From Fairtest’s “Forum on Educational Accountability”
    “FEA Recommendations for Successful School Turnaround Efforts”
    “See the FEA statement, “A Research- and Experience-Based Turnaround Process,” that focuses on flexible local use of elements common to school improvement, and that Congress should include in ESEA/NCLB reauthorization.”
    “See Ratner and Neill, “Common Elements of Successful Turnarounds: Research and Experience,” for analysis and summary of research on successfully improving schools.”

  5. FairTest’s current projects include the following:

    Working with other groups in Testing Resistance and Reform Spring to help local activist builds their campaigns and link up with one another.

    Leading the national Forum on Educational Accountability, which seeks to overhaul the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind and related programs.

  6. Christine
    Diane, I don’t understand the comments! Fairtest has been a reliable info source for me and one with great credibility.

  7. Duane Swacker
    By its name FairTest believes in educational standards and standardized testing. Bob S pooh pawed Wilson’s study both times I brought it up with him at the NPE conferences. My take is that the folks at fairtest are those who have benefited from those standardized tests and therefore the tests are valid and good (which we know they are not) I’ve gotten a very GAGA take on testing from them.

    • Thank you or being awake, Duane. Hi, I’m just chemtchr using my own name now.
      Fairtest’s argument in conferences and workshops has been that “accountability isn’t going away”, and we would expose ourselves to opposition if we argued against the concept. They promoted an accountability system of “locally-controlled performance assessment”, which has now merged with the corporate NextGen competency-based wraparound products Emily Talmage has seen implemented in Maine..

      This letter is part of an aggressive attack, against parents and teachers in Massachusetts and Maine who have been active and effective long before Fairtest’s sudden corporate-sponsored conversion to Opt Out.

      No, they were not transparent about their alliances or funding until Emily Talmage (and I) pointed it out. Shame on them for disrespecting that courage.

      Far from merely offering a nice office, “Center for Collaborative Education” tried to hijack the movement, and put forth a campaign to lobby the state for imposition of his data-driven embedded assessment by force of law, as part of Opt-Out!.

      Parents did have to stand up to Dan French at the Opt-Out launch meeting, where CCE and Fairtest tried to dominate and co-opt a much larger authentic popular movement.
      “a few people have attacked”
      “misguided attacks to undermine and confuse activists.”
      ” attacking a meeting and a campaign”
      “to avoid confusion and damage”
      “an unfortunate distraction”
      ” poisonous for supporters of opt out to make war ”
      ” Sectarian fights are the plague”

      Daring to follow their corporate money and challenge their corporate agenda is not “toxic”, as no less than Diane Ravitch now accuses on their behalf.

      Opt-Out Massachusetts is going to move forward without their control.

      An honest answer from Fairtest would be,

      “Okay, we will support this movement even if we can’t dominate it, and we promise will allow activists to assure that Opt Out listings are independently controlled, and will never be be diverted to lobbying for corporate “alternative assessment” legislation”.

  8. Alison McDowell
    Anyone whose eyes are open to where the next phase of education reform is headed knows why the end of year tests have to go. Folks like Tom Vander Ark cannot move ahead with competency-based education and constant data-mining with stealth assessments if states hold onto end of the year tests and Johnny is four months ahead of Sally. They want to be able to mine all of Johnny’s and Sally’s data in real time.Their own planning documents say as much.
    I have been active in Opt Out in Philadelphia for several years. I wondered through much of last year why our Broad superintendent didn’t try harder to squash us. In fact, District officials were very accommodating, almost like they wished us well in our endeavors. I simply couldn’t figure it out until Obama did his song and dance about high-stakes testing right after appointing King AND our District wanted to start an Assessment Task Force to look into these “bad” tests.
    About the same time I began to uncover the extensive groundwork that had been laid for CBE. It’s all throughout New England. I reached out to those I know at Fairtest to say that the work they were doing/had done was in the process of being co-opted. Sad to me, they did not seem very open to considering the implications of CBE as it related to what they were doing. They are very smart people. I can’t speak to why they chose not to hear or see it, but there it is. They can’t say they weren’t notified.

    CBE and Mass Customized Learning is being rolled out across New England right now. The end of the end-of-the-year big test is inextricably linked to CBE. Wake up people. Wake up. I am not going to stop talking about opt out with parents, because kids shouldn’t be taking these harmful tests, and they don’t have to. Plus, it is an easy entry point that empowers parents. But it is going to have to move way beyond that if we have any chance to stop the grand, scary plans that folks at Global Education Futures have planned for us.

    The powers that be, including it seems many familiar faces, are going to do what they want no matter what. Sure it would be convenient for them to be able to point to very high opt out numbers and say, see we knew those tests were “bad” and parents know it, too. Now, we are going to do “better” tests online with real time actionable data that measures the whole child including socio-emotional data and we’ll measure them ALL year, so they don’t have to stress about end of year tests.

    The players involved are too numerous to count. The wield great power. They’ve built some unexpected alliances. It’s all starting to come out now that the ESSA has passed and plans made in back rooms can roll out publicly. There is a lot of money in the mix. I think some people may think that they can influence these forces and mitigate the harm, but I honestly think that is entirely the wrong approach.

    I am helping facilitate an Inquiry to Action Group this spring in Philadelphia about reclaiming authentic assessment, but the first part will be understanding this new education landscape and the players involved. People ask me often, how did you find out all of this? My answer is that it isn’t hidden. These folks are very proud of what they are doing, and if you know the right words and who the players are, it’s all over the internet. Here’s my draft word list. Feel free to get in there and poke around and see what you find. I keep turning up amazing things. So many hands are in on this. This goodie if from this morning, a 2012 discussion document from the Future of Museums Initiative of the American Alliance of Museums. We are headed for dystopia if we don’t take the time to recognize their game and stop it. So many pieces are already in place: http://www.aam-us.org/docs/default-source/annual-meeting/exploring-the-educational-future.pdf?sfvrsn=0

    Competency / Proficiency Based Education
    Anytime Anywhere Any Pace Learning
    Student-Centered Learning
    Personalized Learning
    Stealth Assessment
    Digital Badging
    Big Data
    Extended / Expanded Learning Opportunities
    Non-Cognitive Assessment
    Adaptive Learning Systems
    Learning Relationship Management System
    Mass Customized Learning
    Data Dashboard
    Pathways to…education…higher education…training…careers
    21st Century Community Learning Centers
    Learning is Constant, Time is Variable
    School-Level Autonomy
    Community Based
    Cradle to Career
    Nellie Mae Foundation
    Lumina Foundation
    Tom Vander Ark
    Center for Secondary School Redesign
    Global Education Futures
    Christensen Institute
    McArthur Foundation

    Emily Talmage
    I realize I am implicated in all of this. As a teacher, mother, and staunch opt-out advocate, I assure readers that I have no intention of harming this authentic grassroots effort – only to bring more clarity to what is a far more complex movement than many realize. For now, I just want to point out the following: The defense above is not accurate. It claims that CCE grants from Gates are not current, but this is untrue. A quick search of the Gates Foundation’s awarded grants section reveals a grant of 350k made in 2014. Also, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, which has served as a funnel for Gates money and is part of the corporate push toward competency-based education, awarded FairTest 5k for a “performance assessment” event.

    My thesis: assessment reform is corporate reform.

Privatization: Remembering the Real Purpose of NCLB

Although the education scholars who had looked closely knew it, and hacks like Sandy Kress and Margaret Spelling who designed it knew it, the general public did not, and most still do not know.  EVen after the article below appeared in Time Magazine in 2008, many folks still view NCLB as a well-intentioned but failed effort

We know, of course, that NCLB was never designed to achieve its ostensible goal to close the achievement gaps.  But it did succeed mightily in achieving its unacknowledged goal of privatizing great swaths of the public education landscape.  At a time when corporate apologists are trying to paper over the privatization extravaganza that NCLB initiated, it is worthwhile to recall this piece.

And so, "No Child Left Behind: Doomed to Fail?" by Claudia Willis:
There was always something slightly insane about No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the ambitious education law often described as the Bush Administration's signature domestic achievement. For one thing, in the view of many educators, the law's 2014 goal — which calls for all public school students in grades 4 through 8 to be achieving on grade level in reading and math — is something no educational system anywhere on earth has ever accomplished. Even more unrealistic: every kid (except for 3% with serious handicaps or other issues) is supposed to be achieving on grade level every year, climbing in lockstep up an ever more challenging ladder. This flies in the face of all sorts of research showing that children start off in different places academically and grow at different rates.
Add to the mix the fact that much of the promised funding failed to materialize and many early critics insisted that No Child Left Behind was nothing more than a cynical plan to destroy American faith in public education and open the way to vouchers and school choice.

Now a former official in Bush's Education department is giving at least some support to that notion. Susan Neuman, a professor of education at the University Michigan who served as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education during George W. Bush's first term, was and still is a fervent believer in the goals of NCLB. And she says the President and then Secretary of Education Rod Paige were too. But there were others in the department, according to Neuman, who saw NCLB as a Trojan horse for the choice agenda — a way to expose the failure of public education and "blow it up a bit," she says. "There were a number of people pushing hard for market forces and privatization."

Tensions between NCLB believers and the blow-up-the-schools group were one reason the Bush Department of Education felt like "a pressure cooker," says Neuman, who left the Administration in early 2003. Another reason was political pressure to take the hardest possible line on school accountability in order to avoid looking lax — like the Clinton Administration. Thus, when Neuman and others argued that many schools would fail to reach the NCLB goals and needed more flexibility while making improvements, they were ignored. "We had this no-waiver policy," says Neuman. "The feeling was that the prior administration had given waivers willy-nilly."

It was only in Bush's second term that the hard line began to succumb to reality. Margaret Spellings, who replaced Paige as Secretary of Education in 2005, gradually opened the door to a more flexible and realistic approach to school accountability. Instead of demanding lockstep, grade-level achievement, schools in some states could meet the NCLB goals by demonstrating adequate student growth. (In this "growth model" approach, a student who was three years behind in reading and ended the year only one year behind would not be viewed as a failure.) "Going to the growth models is the right way to go," says Neuman. "I wish it had come earlier. It didn't because we were trying to be tough."

Neuman also regrets the Administration's use of humiliation and shame as a lever for school reform. Failure to meet NCLB's inflexible goals meant schools would be publicly labeled as failures. Neuman now sees this as a mistake: "Vilifying teachers and saying we are going to shame them was not the right approach."

The combination of inflexibility and public humiliation for those not meeting federal goals ignited so much frustration among educators that NCLB now appears to be an irreparably damaged brand. "The problems lingered long enough and there's so much anger that it may not be fixable," says Neuman. While the American Federation of Teachers was once on board with the NCLB goals, she notes, the union has turned against it. "Teachers hate NCLB because they feel like they've been picked on."
Is there a way out of the mess? Neuman still supports school accountability and the much-maligned annual tests mandated by the law. But she now believes that the nation has to look beyond the schoolroom, if it wishes to leave no child behind.

Along with 59 other top educators, policymakers and health officials--including three former surgeon generals, she's put her name to a nonpartisan document to be released on Tuesday by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank. Titled "A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education," it lays out an expansive vision for leveling the playing field for low-income kids, one that looks toward new policies on child health and support for parents and communities. The document states that much of the achievement gap between rich and poor "is rooted in what occurs outside of formal schooling," and therefore calls on policymakers to "rethink their assumptions" about what it will take to close that gap. Neuman says that money she's seen wasted on current programs, including much of the massive Title 1 spending should be reallocated according to this broader approach. "Pinning all our hopes on schools will never change the odds for kids."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Snyder's Team Ridiculed Citizens Who Complained Flint's Poisonous Water

A clip from the NYTimes this evening:
. . . . For almost five decades, Flint drew its water from the city of Detroit’s water system, but concerns about high prices from Detroit helped lead to a switch. The city’s mayor at the time, Dayne Walling, encouraged leaders to “toast” the switch with a taste of the “regular, good, pure drinking” water, the governor’s emails show.

The mood grew less upbeat as time went on. People talked about smells and rashes. Residents carried jugs of brownish water to meetings. One state legislator warned the governor in a letter that his constituents were “on the verge of civil unrest.”

At points, the water was found to have bacterial contamination, and then disinfectant used to kill the bacteria caused a chemical contamination. Even after those problems were resolved, many residents said the water was bad.

Within months of the switch, a General Motors engine plant in Flint found that the city’s water had corroded parts, and stopped using it. A hospital saw that the water was damaging its instruments, and stepped up its own filtering and use of bottled water, as did a local university.

Still, officials seemed slow to respond. In one memo for the governor from February 2015, officials played down the problems and spoke of “initial hiccups.”

“It’s not ‘nothing,’ ” the memo said, adding that the water was not an imminent “threat to public health.” It also suggested that Flint residents were concerned with aesthetics. . . .

Peg with Pen: A Parent Speaks Up at a “Turnaround” School in Aur...

Peg with Pen: A Parent Speaks Up at a “Turnaround” School in Aur...: The following is an interview I conducted with a parent from my school. The parent chose to remain anonymous. Thanks for doing this interv...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Billionaires coaltion pleased with Oxfam report, look for more progress in amassing wealth


Reacting  to the news from Oxfam that the richest 62 billionaires are worth as much as half the world's population, a coalition of the top five billionaires announced today that they were pleased with their progress in cornering so much wealth but "much more needs to be done."

Noting that as recently as 2010, it took 388 billionaires to match the worth of half the world's population, a coalition proclaimed that its goal now was to reduce this number from the current 62 to five: "We will renew our efforts to build our fortunes, " a coalition spokesperson explained. "Our experts are constantly searching for new tax havens, and we will continue our efforts to keep wages down and eliminate costly benefits for workers."

"We are particularly pleased with our efforts to divert public funds to our corporations, especially in the area of education.  We are pleased with our plan and the results: A strong public relations campaign to convince the public that teachers are incompetent, and are, in fact, responsible for most economic problems throughout the world, and a parallel campaign informing the public of the wonders of computers.

We have easily convinced the public that computers are the answer to most of their problems, and will magically improve education. We have also convinced nearly everybody that there is a serious shortage of technically-trained computer-savvy workers in all fields, which of course encourages more computer use in schools.  It is then a simple thing to begin to replace teachers with computers: We have had great success doing this with flipped classrooms, and the new trend we began toward competency-based instruction is the next step."

At the same time, we have managed to encourage elimination of due process for teachers, seniority-based payraises, and, of course, with flipped classrooms and competency-based education, we have significantly reduced the need for teachers. This means, of course, that the billions in tax dollars now spent on teacher salaries and benefits will go to our companies, which we think is a much better investment.

Question from a reporter: "Several scholars have said that none of this has any basis in the research: In fact, research comes to opposite conclusions on all these issues: There have been regular reports showing that there is no shortage of technical workers, that teachers are in general quite competent, and that computer-based instruction has not been shown to be effective.  Are you aware of this?"

Coalition spokesperson: "These discouraging conclusions do not disturb us because the public has little chance of finding out about them. By the time they do, we will have achieved our goal of bringing our number down to five:The worth of only five of us will equal the net worth of half the world's population."

(At this Bill Gates whispered to an associate, "only one".)

Oxfam report: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/18/richest-62-billionaires-wealthy-half-world-population-combined

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Tennessee Taliban Strikes Again

It is great to be back home and living in Nashville, which is to Tennessee what Austin is to Texas--a small blue dot surrounded by poor red counties where the majority of people who vote still vote their whiteness over their best economic interests.

And so the real regrettable part of living here has to do with state politics, which is controlled by ALEC and run by a new crop of corporate welfare dimwits who would be looking for assistant managers'  jobs at Walmart if it were not for the sponsorship of billionaires and Wall Street scumbags who buy state legislative offices for these new Brooks Bros. hillbillies.

Last week I was downtown with a few platoons of good folks protesting the continued refusal by the state legislature and our corrupt oilman governor to accept free Medicaid money that would insure 280,000 Tennesseans if it were not for carefree know-nothings who parade around the Capitol as if they owned the place.  Which I guess they do until such time as Tennesseans awaken from their tea slumber party to find their government owned by corporate interests.  See Michigan, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, etc. etc, where the deep sleep continues.

This week the Tennessee Taliban majority in the General Assembly has made news once again.  This time they have passed a school voucher bill that gives special education students a few thousand dollars to attend a privately-run school if the students' parents will give up all their rights under IDEA.   Andy Spears has the story. Read it and read it again to believe it.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

CA Magnet Schools Outperform Charter Schools

All of the available research on the intellectual, moral, and social value of school integration underscores the bald hypocrisy of the corporate segregationists who insist that they are interested in raising achievement and character among poor children.

If the charter school empire builders were simply interested in test performance (never mind their civil rights cynicism), these businessmen would be fashioning their schools around diversity.

But, of course, the white venture philanthropists' policies must abide by the paternalistic social control mechanism that binds any of their decisions regarding pedagogy or any other social institution.

Part of a letter by Todd Mann to the Editor of Ed Week:

To the Editor:
Based on the spring results of the California Smarter Balanced assessments, the Los Angeles Unified School District recently announced that 55 percent of the district's magnet students met or exceeded state standards in English/language arts, compared with 39 percent in charters, 33 percent in the LAUSD overall, and 44 percent in traditional schools statewide. The breakdown of math results followed a similar pattern.
The results represent the online scores of the state's 3rd through 8th graders, as well as 11th graders, from 48,000 charters and 37,000 magnet schools. The numbers paint a clear picture: Students from LAUSD magnet schools are not only being prepared effectively for college and future careers, they are also outperforming their peers in other schools by significant margins throughout the state, at every grade level.
The scores were released just as the influential Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation floated the idea to provide the LAUSD with a $490 million incentive to double the number of charter schools in the district. The timing was ironic.
Magnet schools explicitly promote school integration and diversity as a core mission. Unlike charters, magnet schools do not operate autonomously, outside the public school system, and are never run by for-profit organizations. This provides a level of direct accountability to decisionmakers and taxpayers. Most magnet schools also adhere to collective bargaining agreements made with educators. . . .

Friday, January 15, 2016

What LAUSD needs now: Protect students from the effects of poverty

Sent to the Los Angeles Times, January 15, 2016

From "What LA Unified needs now," (January 15) it is apparent that neither the Times nor new superintendent King know what LA Unified needs now.
   The biggest problem is poverty, a problem shared by many big city school districts. Eighty percent of LAUSD students live in poverty, far above the national average of 25%, already unacceptable and well above that of other industrialized countries. 
   High poverty means food deprivation,  lack of health care, and little access to books: All of these have devastating effects on school performance.  The best teaching in the world will not help if students are hungry, ill, and have little to read.
   What LAUSD needs to do now is  protect children from the impact of poverty. This means improve school food programs, school nurses, and libraries:  To paraphrase education expert Susan Ohanian,  our goals should be no child left unfed, no child without health care, and no child without access to books.

Stephen Krashen
original article: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-0115-lausd-superintendent-20160115-story.html

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The testing-industrial complex is not giving up easily

Posted as a comment  on "Opt-out activities aim to build on momentum in states,"  Education Week.  http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/01/14/opt-out-activists-aim-to-build-on-momentum.html

The opt-out movement seems to have worked: the new education law did not increase the amount of required testing (except for adding some science tests), and the president supports limits on the amount of testing done.
But the testing industrial complex is not giving up easily, working eagerly to establish what could mean testing every day. It is called competency-based education.
Competency-based education (CBE) is a radical and expensive innovation that replaces regular instruction with online "modules" that students work through on their own. Students take tests in order to move to the next module. It is being pushed by computer companies without consulting educators and without a proper research base.  
The new education law specifically encourages competence-based education and testing (sections 1201 and 1204).

Want to read more about it?  Start here:
Steven M. Singer, Standardized Tests Every Day: the Competency Based Education Scam. http://tinyurl.com/j8s2tuh

Emily Talmage,  Warning: Gates is Infiltrating Opt Out. http://emilytalmage.com/2016/01/05/warning-gates-is-infiltrating-opt-out/

Morna McDermott, Reading between the lines. http://educationalchemy.com/2015/10/25/reading-between-the-lines-obamas-testing-action-plan/)

Peggy Robertson, Opt-out revolution, the next wave.   http://www.pegwithpen.com/2015/10/opt-out-revolution-next-wave.html

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

California's charter school law repeal movement update

“charter schools comprise a divisive and segregated sector” — Frankenberg, E., Siegel-Hawley, G., Wang, J. (2011)

Voices Against Privatizing Public Education

Voices Against Privatizing Public Education's (VAPPE) grassroots campaign to repeal the 1992 charter school laws imposed on California by corporate reactionaries Donald Fisher and Reed Hastings has been moving forward. In addition to their online petition, they've established a contribution committee, grown their endorsements, setup online fundraising, and have submitted their final ballot proposition language.

Recently VAPPE picked up a major political endorsement in the Green Party of San Diego County. In general the Green Party, unlike the Democratic Party, has been very astute on the grave dangers of charters, vouchers, and all other school privatization schemes proffered by the plutocrat class. Green Party Presidential Candidate Dr. Jill Stein is a stalwart defender of public education. The following are quotes from two different interviews, as well as a video of Dr. Stein and Kshama Sawant discussing the scourge of charter schools.

Public education is another example where there has been a complete scam [regarding privatization]—charter schools are not better than public schools—and in many cases they are far worse. They cherry-pick their students so they can show better test scores. The treasure of our public schools system has been assaulted by the process of privatization. (Phone interview on 2016 presidential race by OnTheIssues.org , Jul 6, 2015)

Unfortunately, charter schools draw down on funding for our public schools, and they siphon off the more capable students and their families. At the same time they concentrate the real social problems in the public schools, which is guaranteed to collapse our public system from within. The advantages of charters ought to be features of all public schools: family engagement, additional resources and budget, and so on. (2011 AmericansElect interview questionnaire with Jill Stein, Dec 21, 2011)

VAPPE also picked up support of the brilliant Sharon Higgins of The Perimeter Primate, Charter School Scandals, and The Broad Report. Higgins was one of the first to bring to public consciousness the fact that the largest chain of taxpayer funded charter schools in the United States is run by a shadowy religious cult — the Gülen Network. I've used Higgins research extensively in documenting the ties between Gülen friendly Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board members elected with big money from the corporate charter school industry and their billionaire backers. Both political opportunist Monica Garcia, and charter school profiteer Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez have deep ties to the secretive Gülen religious cult.

VAPPE lists their significant endorsements as follows:

  • AFT Local 6161 (Palomar Faculty Federation)
  • North County Labor Alliance
  • Escondido Public School Advocates
  • Wellstone Progressive Democrats of Sacramento
  • Chicano Latino Caucus of the California Democratic Party
  • Labor Council for Latin American Advancement-Sacramento chapter
  • Actor and Activist - Danny Glover
  • Bill Freeman - NEA Board member California
  • Alita Blanc - United Educators of San Francisco President
  • Julian Nava - Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico
  • Wayne Johnson - Past President of California Teachers Association (CTA)
  • Sharon Higgins - parent activist, public education blogger & researcher, Gulen charter school researcher and public speaker
  • Francisco Martinez - KPFK Radio Producer (Los Angeles)
  • Susan Rowe - Chair California Democratic Party Madera County
  • Green Party of San Diego County
  • International Socialist Organization - San Francisco chapter

This email was sent out to those who signed VAPPE online petition:

You have signed the petition in support of repealing the California Charter School Act of 1992. 

We have officially filed the text of the initiative with the CA Attorney General's office and requested a title and summary to allow us to gather the necessary signatures to place this on the ballot for November 2016. The link to the text of the proposed intiative at the Attorney General's office can be found here at this link: https://oag.ca.gov/system/files/initiatives/pdfs/15-0114%20%28Repeal%20Charter%20Schools%29_0.pdf?

We will need to gather approximately 400K signatures. 

There are volunteers working hard throughout the state to make this happen. But we will still need to raise funds to gather all the necessary signatures. Please make a donation to this campaign - every little bit will help.

Make your check out to:

Repeal Charter School Laws

Send your check to:
Repeal Charter School Laws  (FPPC# 1378057)
Attention: Diana Mansker-Treasurer
7753 Laurie Way
Sacramento, CA 95832

This campaign recipient Committee is registered with the CA Secretary of State's Office:  http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1378057

Please help us save our public schools from the greedy profiteers!!

Thank you for your support,

Kathleen Carroll

Voices Against Privatizing Public Education—Repeal Charter School Laws Committee

Support this movement, it represents an important united front against the billionaire's privatization project.