"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Random Quotes - June 2014


It would be nice if our leaders had this same philosophy.

Queen makes forceful and personal speech after day of emotion and frantic diplomacy at 70th anniversary of D-Day
Noting ‘the joy of becoming a great-grandmother’, the 88-year-old Queen added a telling sentiment that will, no doubt, be much quoted by future historians: ‘Everything we do, we do for the young.’


Author and Nerdfighter John Green talks about reading and being read to...
...imagine possibilities...


Holding Kids Back Doesn't Help Them - Deborah Stipek and Michael Lombardo

State after state is now holding back third graders based on the results of one test. There is no research that shows that flunking kids helps them. Indiana, Oklahoma, Florida, Ohio...the process is being repeated in state after state. Iowa, New Mexico, Tennessee, Colorado...

Remember that Glenda Ritz defeated Tony Bennett in part because she was against Indiana's law requiring students who fail IREAD-3 to repeat grade 3? The people agreed...but as Superintendent of Public Instruction she's not able to change the law...she can only speak out against it. It's up to the voters to elect the right legislators.
...retention does not help most children who have fallen behind, primarily because they are exposed to the same material in the same way that didn't work for them the first time around. When a strategy fails to work, the solution is not to do it again; it is to change the strategy.

“The problem with internet quotes is that you can’t always depend on their accuracy” -Abraham Lincoln, 1864


From former Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Fred Harris
Strange but true, in a country that professes to believe in the value of work, we tax money earned from work a lot harder than we tax money earned from money.


Education Reform: A National Delusion - Steve Nelson
In the cacophony of reform chatter -- online programs, charter schools, vouchers, testing, more testing, accountability, Common Core, value-added assessments, blaming teachers, blaming tenure, blaming unions, blaming parents -- one can barely hear the children crying out: "Pay attention to us!"


House Speaker John Boehner is self-aware enough to admit that he's not an expert on climate change...
"I'm not qualified to debate the science over climate change."
or an economist...
"‘I'm not an economist, I don't know what impact it's going to have on the economy,’ he said in response to a question from NBC News at his weekly press conference."
Former Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont) admitted that he was no expert on China (after he was nominated to be the next ambassador to China).
"I’m no real expert on China."
When is Arne Duncan going to admit he knows nothing about education?


What's Good for Rich Kids Is Good for Poor Ones, Too - Deborah Meier
...every child in America should have access to the wealth of talent and experience offered in elite private schools, PLUS ... for after school, weekend, and summer enrichment.


Speech of Benjamin Franklin on the Occasion of the Acceptance of the Constitution - Ben Franklin, 1787
For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Friday, June 20, 2014

2014 Medley #16

Teachers, Students, 
U.S. DOE, Money


Orange math teacher who decried 'toxic culture of education' running for school board

After going viral with his TED talk, Toxic Culture of Education, Joshua Katz has decided to enter the race for Orange County, Florida (Orlando) school board. When announcing his candidacy, Katz said,
When it comes to all the barrage of end of year tests, testing this, even teacher evaluations, school grades...is that the proper filter from the question "is this what's best for our students?"

...we need a voice that's going to speak up and say, "when are we going to involve the actual stakeholders [the students]?

As a teacher I've been impassioned about education for my entire career. I believe that someone with that passion for teaching and education needs to be making these education policies.

Rethinking Rookies: Why Are More New Teachers Quitting Early?

I spent my career in public education classrooms...and still work with public education students. I have heard more than one teacher comment that they wish they could get out of education...but for them, mid-career professionals with young children, homeowner and auto debt, it's too late to go back to college and plot another career path. These are not "bad" teachers...quite the contrary, some are among the best teachers I have ever worked with. They're frustrated, discouraged, and disillusioned by 1) a state government (legislature, governor and state school board) which seems to hate public schools and public school educators, 2) national, state and local media outlets which promote the false narrative of the "reformsters," and 3) a local school district strapped for cash, forced by the state and federal departments of education into a test-and-punish mentality. The phrase "I wish I could just teach" is heard often.

Teachers are not against being evaluated...or being held accountable. What they we are against is unfair evaluations...and sole accountability for that which they we are not responsible. Until that changes the number of high achieving students going into and staying in teaching will dwindle. We have to stop punishing teachers for taking on the hard task of working with difficult to educate students.

If we purposely wanted to discourage the "best and the brightest" from joining (or remaining a part of) the teaching profession we couldn't have devised a better plan.
Susan Headden of Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching said because teachers don’t have the support they need to be effective educators. (Read Headden’s new report on beginning teachers in the classroom here.)

Headden said a teacher in the first few years of his or her career is facing more pressure than previous generations of teachers because of higher stakes testing that have real consequences if students don’t perform well.

But Headden said the support to comfort a teacher through that stressful first year and provide effective teaching techniques and strategies doesn’t exist in most school districts.
For a more entertaining look at this topic see Edushyster's article, Have Elevator, Will Elevate (the Teaching Profession).

Higher Calling: To improve our schools, we need to make it harder to become a teacher.

High achieving nations do the exact opposite of what the USA does when it comes to teacher training and careers. The Indiana State School Board is not alone in considering plans to lower the qualifications for educators -- from teachers to superintendents. School systems are divesting themselves of older, experienced teachers for TFA-like temps with little training and experience, and even littler paychecks.
By accepting so few applicants, Finnish teacher colleges accomplish two goals—one practical, one spiritual: First, the policy ensures that teachers-to-be like Stenfors are more likely to have the education, experience, and drive to do their jobs well. Second (and this part matters even more), this selectivity sends a message to everyone in the country that education is important—and that teaching is damn hard to do. Instead of just repeating these claims over and over like Americans, the Finns act like they mean it.

Like All Americans, Teachers Deserve Tenure

Instead of saying, "In the real world workers don't have tenure. Why should teachers have it?" We ought to be saying, "Everyone deserves due process."
One way to ensure the economic security and independence of Americans is to afford them the simple workplace protection of due process.

Due process itself is as American as Apple Pie. It is enshrined in the US Constitution as a basic political right. FDR made the observation that “As our nation has grown in size and stature … political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness”. In other words, he said political rights were no longer enough.

“At will” employment laws create the potential for Americans to have that equality taken from them simply because another person feels like doing it. The laws expose people to capricious, even ‘grossly ineffective’ supervisors and place employees on a less even playing field with employers than they already are. The US is the only wealthy nation on Earth that still subscribes to the “Employment At Will Doctrine (here)” (here) and many nations, like Germany (cited only because it is the richest nation in Europe (here)), have laws that specifically spell out the type of due process every employee should have when faced with possible termination (here).

That’s why, instead of taking due process rights away from teachers, the better thing to do is to just give them to everyone else. Let’s not make judge Treu and his colleagues, nor me and my colleagues, the exception. Instead, let’s work to make that standard -that no person can have their job taken from him or her simply because another person “wills” it- the rule. Let’s not make this a rule just for teachers or just for judges, but for every person in California and beyond.

Seniority, Tenure and the Vergara Decision
There is no doubt that both the lawsuit and the decision are anti-public education, anti-union and fit entirely within the narrative of all that is wrong in public education can be understood by blaming the people who actually do the work within school: teachers, paraprofessionals, counselor, librarians, school nurses and psychologists. Secondly, it seeks to deflect the blame away from systematic underfunding of public education and the shredding of the social safety net in California that has led to losses in services to the most needy students and families across the state.

But the ruling isn’t ‘misguided’. On the contrary, it is entirely in line with Arne Duncan and Barack Obama’s wholesale attack on public education, which emphasizes merit pay for ‘good’ teachers and a streamlined dismissal process for ‘poor’ ones, which supports standardized testing and ‘value-added’ assessment for teachers to measure performance, and which seeks to replace public education with privately run (though publicly funded) charter schools that opens the estimated $1 trillion education industry to corporate control, profit, and plunder.

Henry: Tying high-stakes tests to teachers is harmful
Let's quit trying to "teacher-proof" education and stop the overreliance on data from one high-stakes test. The answers for improvement are recruiting, training and supporting our teaching professionals. Attention to these will deepen the effectiveness of what we do in the classroom and the biggest winners will be our children.

Henry is superintendent of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.


Kids whose time is less structured are better able to meet their own goals, study shows

Soccer, softball, dancing, gymnastics...do kids just get to "play outside" anymore? They should.
Children who spend more time in less structured activities -- from playing outside to reading books to visiting the zoo -- are better able to set their own goals and take actions to meet those goals without prodding from adults, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder.

Gonzalez: Students of much-touted Success Academy charter school score too low on entrance exam for top city high schools

Speaks for itself...
The founding class of Harlem Success Academy 1 graduated on Friday. The class started with 73 enrolled first-grade students in August 2006, but 32 students were at graduation. And none of the students, who are either black or Latino, got high enough scores test for top high schools.


U.S. Warning New York State on Teacher Evaluations

Arne Duncan threatens yet another state with loss of funds if they don't use an invalid method of teacher evaluation.
A federal education official warned Tuesday that if New York delays using student test scores as part of teacher evaluations this year, the state risks losing up to $292 million of a grant tied to making these reviews more rigorous.


Dirty Secret In The Education Wars: Money Matters

Let's quit wasting our funds on inappropriate, overused and misused standardized tests.
The dirty, little secret in America’s education wars is that spending more money on schools is what most people really want – and for good reason, because it really tends to help...

Equity, it must be understood, does not mean “every kid gets the same amount.” Rather, Baker explained, real equity is providing all children, regardless of their educational settings or personal backgrounds, the resources and opportunity they need to achieve similar outcome goals. In other words, if we want kids who come from low-income households or from families who don’t speak English – two demographic characteristics strongly correlated with lower achievement – to achieve the same common outcome goals as their better-off, fluent English peers, that requires funding adjustments to support the additional costs of achieving those outcome goals – whether those costs are for additional staff specialists, smaller class sizes, or more experienced, higher paid teachers. That’s what an approach to fairly funding schools would insist on.

What Baker found, however, was, “The recent recession yielded an unprecedented decline in public school funding fairness. 36 states had a three year average reduction in current spending fairness between 2008-09 and 2010-11 and 32 states had a three year average reduction in state and local revenue fairness over that same time period.”

Another finding in Baker’s analysis: Two factors, cuts in state aid to schools and “a shifting role for federal aid,” were chief reasons for the declining funding fairness during the downturn. [emphasis added]


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Father's Day Reminder: Read Aloud to Your Children


I started teaching elementary school in 1976 and from my very first day as a teacher I read aloud to my students. I had caught the read aloud bug from Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors and had it reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children. [I've referenced Jim Trelease quite a few times on this blog.]

I read aloud to all my classes because I'm convinced that reading aloud is one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us that
In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” [Emphasis added]

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” 
In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to a simple, two-part formula:
  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.
Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains...it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains...but, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:
  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model
Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their children become better readers.


In the newest edition of his book, Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease: CHAPTER 9: Dad—What's the score?
In case you’ve been off the planet for the past several decades, let me bring you up-to-date on our boys and their school woes.
  • In a 2008 study of reading tests in forty-five states, the girls exceeded the boys at every grade level.
  • Unlike four decades ago, it is now common for girls to dominate a high school’s highest academic positions (valedictorian), class leadership positions, advanced placement spaces, and school activities. While the girls are assuming responsibilities, the boys are playing sports or video games.
  • For the first time in history, women exceed their male counterparts in most collegiate achievements, from enrollment and graduation to earning advanced degrees, and the gap is widening annually. About the only significant area in which males dominate in college is “dropout,” where they lead by a 3:2 ratio.
(And an excellent pamphlet with important information specifically for dads....Fathers, Sons and Reading)

Boys, Trelease says, need their fathers to read to them. The relationship between fathers and sons has changed over the years, and not necessarily in a good way. Over the last few decades America's "male" culture has been dominated by sports and television -- ESPN (and ESPN2, ESPN Classic, etc.), Monday Night Football, and others -- and boys watch their role models carefully.
The landscape of the American male’s attention span was being dramatically altered and boys were soaking up the changes.
"Is there a connection," he asks, between the "decline in boys’ interest and achievement in school and the behavior of the male culture?"
Can a father play catch in the backyard after dinner and still read to the child that same evening? Can they go to a game one day and to the library the next? You betcha.
The question is...do they? Do fathers take part in their children's, and specifically their sons', intellectual development? Reading aloud to your child is an easy, fun way for fathers to have a positive academic influence on their children.
Dad—what have you done for your son’s head lately?
Make a Father's Day resolution. Read to your kids every day.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Friday, June 13, 2014

2014 Medley #15: Reactions to Vergara

Reactions to Vergara


How many bad teachers are there in California...and why do they seem to be located only in schools with high levels of student poverty?
  • FACT: High levels of poverty interferes with student learning to a much larger degree than is publicly acknowledged by "reformers."
  • FACT: Many states (here, for example) aware permanent status to K-12 teachers giving them the right to an impartial hearing in disputes. The right is to due process which simply means that there must be a legitimate reason to fire them. This is frequently misnamed "Tenure."
After an extended discussion with a (non-teacher) friend who lives in California it's clear that there are some aspects of California laws that could be changed. California has one of the shortest probationary periods in the country before permanent status is awarded. It was also clear that (in my friend's opinion) the process of firing a teacher for cause in California is too cumbersome and takes too long (similar objections have been made about the process in New York and other states).

Is there anything wrong with extending the probationary time for a beginning teacher?
  • No. Many states have probationary periods of between 3 and 5 years for beginning teachers. In most states, during that period teachers can be fired at the whim of the administration.
Is there anything wrong with streamlining the process of removing teachers who should not be teaching from the classroom?
  • No. Once it has been fairly proven that a teacher (even one with permanent status) does not belong in a classroom, removal from the classroom should be swift.
Is there anything preventing the California legislature from making these changes?
  • No. The legislature made the laws as they currently stand. They can change them.
Should teachers unions be allowed to defend teachers?
  • Yes. It's the teacher union's role (often required by law) to ensure that a teacher's rights to due process have not been denied. Once the teacher's rights have been guaranteed it is up to the union whether or not the teacher's position should also be defended. This would depend on the circumstances. In the United states, even accused criminals are afforded the right to due process and a defense against their accusers. Teachers, and all employees deserve no less.
The question we now need to ask is, who is responsible to make sure that all students have qualified, experienced teachers?
Who is responsible? Parents and students are responsible for individual effort and a positive home environment. Teachers are responsible for educating the whole student. School boards and administrations are responsible for providing the resources teachers need to do their jobs. States and municipalities are responsible for providing resources to school systems.
  • If states and municipalities don't provide school systems with the resources to fund their schools, and...
  • If the federal and state departments of education don't provide the resources for schools to adequately fund their buildings, hire enough teachers, and provide suitable programs, and...
  • If school systems don't have the resources to provide enough teachers to adequately teach students and incentives for teachers to work in low achieving schools, and...
  • If students come to school suffering from the effects of poverty (food insecurity, community violence, environmental pollution, inadequate health care, etc), and...
  • If teachers haven't got the tools to overcome the effects of student poverty and lack of support, then...
Teachers can't teach, and...

Students can't learn.
  • If people don't know what to do to solve the problems of inequity and poverty, and...
  • If some people find ways to profit from social upheaval, then...
  • There will be and attempt to place the blame somewhere else instead of accepting responsibility...
In the case of Vergara...the blame is placed solely on teachers and their unions.


CTU President Karen Lewis on California court tenure ruling

Chicago Teachers Union Reacts to Vergara Decision - Chicago Teachers Union
If we really want to improve public education, let’s provide all children the financial and social resources that children in David Welch’s home of Atherton, CA, the most expensive zip code in the US, have. Then we need to let teachers, the real experts in curriculum and instruction, do their work without fear that they could lose their jobs at any time for any reason.
Why that ruling against teacher tenure won't help your schoolchildren - Michael Hiltzik, LA Times
"Students Matter has done nothing that will put a needed book or computer in a school," Cohen observes. "Not one wifi hotspot. Not one more librarian, nurse, or counselor. Not one more paintbrush or musical instrument. Not one hour of instructional aide support for students or professional development for teachers. They don’t have any apparent interest in the more glaring inadequacies that their considerable wealth and PR savvy could help."

...it will make good teachers harder to recruit and harder to keep. And it will ensure that the real causes of California's educational decline--causes that require money to solve--will go utterly unaddressed. Arne Duncan and John Deasy should be very pleased.
Vergara Decision Blames Teachers, Ignores Injustices for Students in Poorest Communities - Jan Resseger
The Vergara attorneys sought to portray the needs of children as separate and very different from the needs of their teachers. In fact, teachers and children in our poorest communities share the need for society to invest in improving their public schools.
Is Teacher Tenure Really The New Brown V. Board Of Education? - NPR

This is an interview of Education Week's Stephen Sawchuck. Not once was it made clear that "tenure" means due process.
You know essentially the judge agreed with the plaintiff...these teacher protection laws, and by that we mean tenure, we mean the lengthy process for dismissing a tenured teacher, and also some of the seniority provisions which require more junior teachers to be laid off before more experienced teachers, were disproportionately saddling students of color and disadvantaged students with the weakest teachers...

This is the first ruling that said it is not just about the money. We have to make sure that there is equal access to quality teaching and instruction...

The ruling is saying that disadvantaged kids can not have a disproportionate share of poor performing teachers.
Op-Ed: Making it easier to fire teachers won't get you better ones - Jack Schneider, LA Times
Making it easier to fire teachers — even if we imagine that such powers will be deployed judiciously by school administrators — will do little to ensure an effective teacher in every classroom. Instead, it will further erode trust between teachers and school administrators...

Instead of imagining a world in which teachers are easier to fire, we should work to imagine one in which firing is rarely necessary. Because you don't put an effective teacher in every classroom by holding a sword over their heads. You do it by putting tools in their hands.
Due Process Prevents Capricious Firings - Diane Ravitch, NY Times
The loss of tenure will make it even more difficult to staff schools in the poorest neighborhoods. Abolishing tenure solves no problems for students and creates massive demoralization among teachers, who understand that their job depends now on compliance to administrators, at whose whim they serve.
Corporate ed "reformers" win initial lawsuit in attempt to take away due process - Indiana State Teachers Association
It is a fact that less money is spent on high poverty students and that student teacher ratios are less favorable in high poverty schools, much like those in Los Angeles County. It certainly didn’t help that like a lot of states, California has cut spending in education dramatically. School funding in California has received a cut of $18 billion since 2009.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel released a statement in response to the verdict. In part he says:

“Let’s be clear: This lawsuit was never about helping students, but is yet another attempt by millionaires and corporate special interests to undermine the teaching profession and push their own ideological agenda on public schools and students while working to privatize public education. Research shows experience enhances teacher effectiveness and increases student productivity at all grade levels, and that ultimately contributes to better outcomes for students. Yet, today’s ruling hurts students and serves only to undermine the ability of school districts to recruit and retain high quality teachers.

“NEA will continue to stand up for students and focus on the ingredients that are proven to help students the most—like supporting new teachers, providing ongoing training, paying teachers a decent salary, and developing reliable evaluation systems to measure teacher effectiveness.”
The Vergara Trial Teachers Were Not “Grossly Ineffective” - Diane Ravitch
Not only did none of them have a “grossly ineffective” teacher, but some of the plaintiffs attended schools where there are no tenured teachers. Two of the plaintiffs attend charter schools, where there is no tenure or seniority, and as you will read below, “Beatriz and Elizabeth Vergara both attend a “Pilot School” in LAUSD that is free to let teachers go at the end of the school year for any reason, including ineffectiveness.
Will California's Ruling Against Teacher Tenure Change Schools? - Dana Goldstein, The Atlantic
Educational equality is about more than teacher-seniority rules: It is about making the schools that serve poor children more attractive places for the smartest, most ambitious people to spend their careers. To do that, those schools need excellent, stable principals who inspire confidence in great teachers. They need rich curricula that stimulate both adults and children. And ideally, their student bodies should be more socioeconomically integrated so schools are less overwhelmed by the social challenges of poverty. Of course, all that is a tall policy order; much more difficult, it turns out, than overturning tenure laws.
Ineffective Forever
...by focusing on a bogus definition of effectiveness, you actually have no idea of which teachers are great for a particular classroom. It's not just that the reformster definition of effective is unjust and unfair; its innate wrongness will actively thwart any attempts to make anything better. It's almost-- almost-- as if reformsters actually want public schools to fail.

Teacher Tenure Under Attack: Time to Rise to Our Own Defense - Peter Greene
The big money plutocrats are after your job protections. Make no mistake about it. This move is part and parcel with the entire "blame the teacher" narrative of the corporate education reformers. By keeping the focus on teachers, the 1% can deflect attention from the real issue in education - income inequality.

You may find it difficult to argue for job protections with your friends and neighbors, when many of them do not have those protections. Here is a quick and dirty list of seven reasons teachers need tenure.
“Strict scrutiny” of Vergara ruling a setback for California teachers - David B. Cohen
Regarding the steps and procedures involved in teacher dismissal, Judge Treu says the defense must meet strict scrutiny to prove why teacher dismissal must involve “über due process” and he points out that if education code in this area is stricken, teachers will be treated like other public sector employees, who do have due process rights. I’m not sure teachers are well-served by alarmist social media messages suggesting Treu’s ruling would leave us without due process. At the same time, I think there are compelling reasons that teaching is different from other public sector employment, necessitating some special consideration in dismissal procedures. However, Treu’s discussion of the evidence in this area seems particularly selective; he says that the current system is so complex and expensive that “dismissal of a grossly ineffective teacher [is] illusory.” The word “illusory” suggests that it just doesn’t happen – when in fact, it does happen. LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, a witness for the plaintiffs, even testified about the fact that greater attention to ineffective teaching in LAUSD has led to more teachers being dismissed. (A former superintendent, called by the defense, also testified regarding the fact that ineffective teachers often choose to leave rather than engage in the full dismissal process). I’m entirely open to the idea that the process could be improved, and in fact, CTA has worked with legislators, key stakeholders, and education advocacy groups around certain dismissal procedures quite recently. But I do to take issue with “illusory” and question Treu’s vision in that regard. And keep in mind, no evidence was cited (nor is there any I’ve read about) to suggest that any of the plaintiffs endured a teacher who would have been fired if not for these burdensome laws; under strict scrutiny, it seems that’s not necessary – but it would be more compelling.
A silver lining in the Vergara decision? - Kevin Welner, in The Answer Sheet, Washington Post
Although I can’t help but feel troubled by the attack on teachers and their hard-won rights, and although I think the court’s opinion is quite weak, legally as well as logically, my intent here is not to disagree with that decision. In fact, as I explain below, the decision gives real teeth to the state’s Constitution, and that could be a very good thing. It’s those teeth that I find fascinating, since an approach like that used by the Vergara judge could put California courts in a very different role —as a guarantor of educational equality—than we have thus far seen in the United States.
Job Protections Do Not Hurt Students - Brian Jones
If teacher tenure is an important obstacle to achievement, Mississippi (with no teacher tenure) should have stellar schools and Massachusetts (with teacher tenure) should have failing ones. Instead, it’s the other way around. Correlation is not causation, of course, but across the country the states without tenure are at the bottom of performance rankings. States with the highest-achieving public schools have tenure (and teacher unions).
UPDATE: Fuzzy Math - Jordan Weissmann
...if you’re going to argue in court that a state law is dooming children to second-rate educations, you ought to be able to quantify the problem. Politically, it also seemed liked a pretty awful indictment of the state government if officials knew for certain that so many useless teachers were lounging around California’s classrooms. But where did this number come from?

Nowhere, it turns out. It’s made up. Or a “guesstimate,” as David Berliner, the expert witness Treu quoted, explained to me when I called him on Wednesday. It’s not based on any specific data, or any rigorous research about California schools in particular. “I pulled that out of the air,” says Berliner, an emeritus professor of education at Arizona State University. “There’s no data on that. That’s just a ballpark estimate, based on my visiting lots and lots of classrooms.” He also never used the words “grossly ineffective.”
UPDATE: Vergara v. California: When Teachers Lose, Schools and Students Lose Too - Matt Murray, NH Labor News

I'd add a correction to this comment. It's not just "the right wing attack" on public schools. Democrats often join in.
There is something seriously wrong in America right now and it all stems from blaming workers for the industry failures. Recently we have seen the right wing attacking the workers at the VA, completely ignoring the fact that the VA is underfunded and cannot handle the volume of new veterans in the already overloaded system.

This trend of blaming the teachers for a schools failure has been the staple of the right wing attack on our public schools. They blame teachers who spend their own money to supply their classrooms, and spend hours of their own time correcting students’ work.
UPDATE: Vergara Wasn’t About Tenure! It was About Making Fast Food Workers and Common Core Cheeseburgers - Nancy Bailey
The Vergara case was more about taking away any due process afforded to teachers. Now they can be fired without reason. They will be told even more than they were already, what to teach and how to teach. They will not be able to stand up for what they believe is right for their students. They literally will have no protections at all.

For those of you who wonder why your teachers don’t fight harder against Common Core State Standards, take a look at Vergara. No teacher who needs employment will say anything against any draconian program that comes your child’s way. They have been silenced…if they had much of a voice to begin with.
UPDATE: Letter to U.S. Education Secretary Duncan on the Vergara decision - Randi Weingarten, AFT
Educational equity and opportunity cannot be achieved with quick fixes, blame games or silver bullets. My fear is that the Vergara decision will set us back in our effort to help all kids succeed. We must focus on recruiting and retaining great teachers. We must hone in on poverty, underfunding and other factors that went unaddressed in the Vergara decision. We must listen to teachers, who—in being the closest to the classroom—are invaluable in providing a high-quality education to every child. We must bring teachers, students and parents together to scale and sustain solutions that work. If we do this, then we will be much closer to the goal of reclaiming the promise of public education.

The Text of the Vergara Decision


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Billionaires Win in California

The judge has ruled. Teacher "tenure" in California violates students' rights. The latest chapter in the "blame the teachers" script has ended (pending appeal).


Simply stated, teacher tenure for K-12 teachers in the U.S. is due process. Teachers cannot be fired unless there is a reason. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that no state shall
deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law
Due process for educators is similar. If you want to fire a teacher you need a reason. The process for evaluating teachers and getting rid of bad teachers is negotiated with school boards. Where state law provides for due process, there is usually impartial arbitration when a teacher is accused of being incompetent. The responsibility for keeping high quality people in a school system's classrooms falls equally on the School Board, Administration, and teachers...not just the teachers. Parents and students must also be held accountable for doing what's necessary to help children succeed.

Critics of due process claim that few teachers are ever fired, however, many teachers quit rather than subject themselves to firing, or leave the field before they are entitled to due process.
...between 40 and 50 percent of teachers will leave the classroom within their first five years (that includes the nine and a half percent that leave before the end of their first year.) Certainly, all professions have turnover, and some shuffling out the door is good for bringing in young blood and fresh faces. But, turnover in teaching is about four percent higher than other professions. [emphasis added]
Other critics may ask why do teachers deserve job protections that others don't get? The answer is that others deserve it too. No one deserves to be fired for spurious reasons. Everyone should have the chance to defend their job performance when questioned.


The supposed inability of California schools to "fire bad teachers" has been blamed for low achievement which is caused by poverty, lack of funding and a general lack of support for public education (including cuts of $18 billion since 2009).

Apparently, according to the lawsuit,
  • ...teachers were to blame for the teacher tenure law providing a shortened period for permanent status and due process.
Furthermore, apparently...
  • ...due process is too difficult a concept for politicians and administrators to deal with and administrators are neither capable nor responsible for providing proof that a teacher might not be competent.
Duncan claims that, if upheld on appeal, the legal ruling
...will bring to California "a new framework for the teaching profession that protects students' rights to equal educational opportunities while providing teachers the support, respect and rewarding careers they deserve."
What's that? The fact that teachers will no longer have job protections and due process provides them with "support" and "respect?"

Peter Greene responded to this in Arne Tells Teachers To Go To Hell (Again)...
Yes, the destruction of job protections will totally show teachers that they are supported and valued. But we're salivating now, because we can create a new framework, one that doesn't involve teaching as a career, or teachers' unions as a political force, or teachers as people who have a voice, or even stick around schools long enough to become a problem.
Professional educators provide students with high quality education -- we know this because wealthy "reformers" make sure that schools for their children are filled with highly qualified, well-trained professionals. In high poverty schools, however, educators alone can't overcome the effects of societal neglect. Nearly one-fourth of America's children live in poverty which has the single, largest affect on student achievement, yet the billionaires' battle is against teachers...not politicians.

When will politicians and their billionaire handlers accept responsibility for their part in the education of our children? Will removing all job protections from teachers have an impact on the number of people choosing education as a career...or the quality of people who choose education? Will high achieving college students with lots of options choose a relatively low paying job in education when there are no protections? Are "reformers" so hateful that they are willing to destroy America's public education system just to punish teachers and their unions?

Will destroying the profession of teaching improve poverty levels in the U.S.? Will removing job protections from teachers improve student achievement?

Do we need any other explanation as to why professional educators are leaving the field in droves?
  • if you had no job security
  • if your job evaluations depended on factors beyond your control
  • if you were demonized daily by the media and politicians
  • if your professional expertise was ignored because you weren't a billionaire
  • if your private personnel information (valid or invalid) were published in the newspaper
  • and if you still had to put in your 50 hours a week just to keep your head above water...
...what would you do?


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Friday, June 6, 2014

Summer Safety, Summer Learning Loss

Summer vacation has started...swimming, mosquitos, summer learning loss. Here's my annual reminder about summer safety, tips for preventing summer learning loss, and intelligent parenting 24/7.


Watch your children when they're in the water. Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning. Click the link. Be prepared...
  1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has two pages of safety information. Print them and save them...

Summer safety tips...(and en Español).
  • Fireworks safety
  • Bug safety
  • Playground safety
  • Bicycle safety
  • Skateboard, scooter, in-line skating and heelys safety
  • All-terrain vehicles
  • Lawn mower safety
and Sun and Water Safety Tips (also en Español)
  • Fun in the sun
  • Heat stress in exercising chidlren
  • Pool safety
  • Boating Safety
  • Open water swimming


The most important summer learning task for parents and care-givers -  read aloud to your children...EVERY DAY.
“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” -- Becoming a Nation of Readers
Need some help with read aloud? Try these...
Also see the National Summer Learning Association


Increase harmony during summer vacation with some tips from parenting experts. Don't just read the lists here...go to the sites and take a look.

10 Commandments of Good Parenting
  • What you do matters.
  • You cannot be too loving.
  • Be involved in your child's life.
  • Adapt your parenting to fit your child.
  • Establish and set rules.
  • Foster your child's independence.
  • Be consistent.
  • Avoid harsh discipline.
  • Explain your rules and decisions.
  • Treat your child with respect.

9 Steps to More Effective Parenting
  • Nurture Your Child's Self-Esteem
  • Catch Kids Being Good
  • Set Limits and Be Consistent With Your Discipline
  • Make Time for Your Kids
  • Be a Good Role Model
  • Make Communication a Priority
  • Be Flexible and Willing to Adjust Your Parenting Style
  • Show That Your Love Is Unconditional
  • Know Your Own Needs and Limitations as a Parent

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Monday, June 2, 2014

2014 Medley #14

Gates, Educators Speak Out,
Charters, Money, Public Schools


Join with Mark Naison, Leonie Haimson, Anthony Cody, Susan Ohanian and dozens of others. Go to this site and leave your name and information in the comments to sign this petition. It will be delivered on June 26.

We, the undersigned, demand the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation divest from corporate education reform.
Your imposition of corporate reform policies, which are measured using a single, narrow, biased yardstick, are successful in one area only: making a profit for you, test companies, publishers, and the privatizing corporate reformers. Your policies continue to use our children as guinea pigs in your corporate reform experiments and risk doing “irreparable harm to our schools and our students”.


The Q and A: John Kuhn

Thankfully, John Kuhn feels morally obligated to speak up about the damage that "school reform" has done to America's public schools.
There’s so much more to education than a single test score on a single subject, and trying to reduce quality education to something that is quantifiable, you have to leave out a lot of really important information...

Previously, I just kind of accepted whatever rolled down from Washington, D.C., and whatever rolled down from Austin. I kind of thought the role of a teacher and educator was just to live with dumb policies. And I don’t think that anymore. I think now that I have a moral obligation to speak up and say, “Hey, this policy is dumb. It doesn’t work, and this is what we’re seeing on the front lines.”
Like John Kuhn, teachers all over the country are speaking up -- demanding to be heard.

Heidi Nance: I Am Teacher, Hear Me Roar!
I have an amazing administration that allows me to do what is best for my students. The great Sir Ken Robinson gave an interview and in that interview he explained that for the children we teach, we are their educational system. The children know nothing of policy or politics; all they know is what we do in our classrooms. I took great solace in that, and I decided to make sure that I always did right by the children in my class...

The Toxic Culture of Education -- Joshua Katz
...because we have a toxic culture of education the teachers and the schools have accepted this accountability for all students...

We take the blame for a student who can't focus in class because she hasn't eaten since yesterday's lunch.

We take the blame for a student who's always in trouble in school because he doesn't know the difference between right and wrong.

We take the blame for a student who can't stay awake in class because she spends her nights on a different couch depending on which friend takes her in.
And some teachers are still afraid to let their voices be heard...

The Deafening Silence of Teachers
Teachers are terrified of voicing their opinions because many times it not only makes them a target but could possibly make them not get their contract renewed for the following year!


Five Ways Charter Schools Are Bad for Children and Other Living Things

This is an important article summarizing five ways that charters hurt public schools and students.
1. Failure to Improve Learning – Two consecutive reports from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), 2009 and 2013, have shown that public schools outperform charter schools...

2. Draconian Discipline Policies – Charter schools have notoriously high suspension rates. The driving philosophy behind many charter school discipline policies seems to be “shame the students into submission.”...

3. Draining Money from Public Schools – Charter schools proliferate in already financially strapped urban school districts. The effects can be devastating as it is in Philadelphia right now where the district is struggling to maintain financial viability in the face of the growing charter movement along with huge cuts in state aid...

4. Lax Oversight – Charter schools lack the oversight that is built into public schools. Public schools are run by publicly elected school boards answerable to the parents and community members...Charter schools are run by private boards who are not answerable to the community and hold private meetings...In this atmosphere corruption has been rampant. A recent report by Integrity in Education found $100 million in wasted public dollars through fraud and mismanagement in 14 states with charter schools...

5. Skimming Students – By definition public schools take on all comers. It is part of the responsibility of public schools to accept and educate students of widely varying backgrounds, languages, abilities and disabilities. Since charter schools are funded with public funds, most charter school laws call for charter schools to take on all students, too. Charter schools often accomplish this through a lottery system. But these under-regulated charters have many subtle and not so subtle ways to insure that they can shape their student population to make them look like they are doing better than public schools.

All hell breaks loose when Illinois charters are told to stop discriminating.

If charters couldn't pick and choose their students -- even when the law disallows it -- then they would be "no different than the public school system."
Republican Sen. David Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) spoke up. “One reason charter schools were set up in the first place was to give them that flexibility because a lot of things were not happening that needed to happen in the public school system.”

Flexibility to turn away students with Special Needs and non-English speakers.

Luechtefeld added, that if we take away the right of charters to turn away Special Needs students than charters would be “no different than the public school system and therefore … obsolete.”

Republican Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-North Aurora) used another favorite word of the charter vultures. He opposed HB 4527 because it would give parents “less choice” in their children’s education.

The choice to discriminate against children who speak another language at home. Children with autism. Children with Down Syndrome. Children in wheel chairs.

It would take away the right to make hateful choices.


Dale Hansen: Bad bills hamper teacher effectiveness

Myth: Public schools are failing and teachers are to blame.

Truth: Legislatures have defunded education and are trying to blame public schools for their own failure. Politicians are getting money from school privatizers and then are supporting private schools at the expense of public schools.

This is from Michigan, but I'm sure it will sound familiar.
Using the fallacy that our education system is broken and that public educators are squarely to blame, the Legislature has passed two bills that look to make teachers accountable for their student outcomes.

If the capitalist model is the basis for these changes, it is important to recognize that, in the private sector, when an individual is judged on the performance of others, that individual typically has the authority to remove any underperforming team members and chose a staff that they work well with.

Educators have no such option. They must teach and improve every student that walks through the door. Period.


Operation Discourage Bright People from Wanting to Teach

The goal of "reformers" seems to be the destruction of public education, the profession of teaching, and the corporatization of all schools. The reason for this is simple...as Rupert Murdoch said, "When it comes to K-12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed..."
...whose definition of "quality"? Arne Duncan and Bill Gates have no better grasp of the nuances of how children learn, and what constitutes meaningful evidence of deep understanding, than does your next-door neighbor -- which helps to explain why, when they talk about "quality" (or "achievement"), all they mean is higher standardized test scores. Unlike your neighbor, though, they have the power to compel schools -- whole states, even -- to enact practices that will cement that conflation into place...

While there's no official name for the dual strategy of micromanaging teachers and trying to root out the bad ones, it might as well be called 'Operation Discourage Bright People from Wanting to Teach'. After all, who would choose to focus on test preparation rather than helping kids to think and question? Who would agree to forego any real professional autonomy? Who would want to be treated like a pet, rewarded with financial doggie biscuits for toeing the line? And who, if he or she had other opportunities, would pick a career that featured a constant threat of public humiliation?

In fact, it does seem likely that more and more college students who become teachers will be those who lack other opportunities. The impact of this isn't difficult to predict. What's less obvious is the ironic fact that it's due, in large part, to what's known -- and uncritically celebrated in the popular press -- as "school reform.

Toward the Total Paralysis of an Unequal Society

The numbers here speak for themselves...
A Broken System of Compensation: The Combined Salaries of 350,000 Pre-School Teachers is Less Than That of Five Hedge Fund Managers

Pre-school teaching may be our nation's most important job. Numerous studies show that with pre-school, all children achieve more and earn more through adulthood, with the most disadvantaged benefiting the most.

Hedge fund managers, at the other extreme, are likely to bet on mortgages to fail or on food prices to rise.

It's a frightening commentary on our value system that the total income of over a third of a million pre-school teachers is less than the combined income of just five big-money speculators.


Quarter Million Served

The motivation to privatize our nation's public education system is not to benefit children, it's to make money.
I am always struck by the huge contrast between the Reformsters and the Resistance. On the Reformster side we find almost exclusively people who are making a buck from all this mess. We find glossy sites and paid consultant work and huge efforts (and expense) to push the carefully spun and crafted message out there. On the Resistance side, we find...well, we find a herd of cats. A big unpaid volunteer DIY widespread pay-your-own-expenses herd of cats. If Reformsters were working on the Resistance's collective budget, with the Resistance's expectation of monetary reward in their future, the battle would be over today, because they would have about three people left fighting for their cause.


On the Death of Childhood and the Destruction of Public Schools, by Gerald Bracey, 2003

The first Bush administration buried the information that our schools were not failing and our public school system was not broken. Click the link below to read about the suppressed Sandia Report.

When a large, federally funded report concluded that there was no crisis in American Education, the [George H. W.] Bush administration suppressed it.


Teachers: Children will remember who you are and how you made them feel, not how you drilled them to fill in bubbles on a test.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!