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What Advice Did Our Founders and First Presidents Offer On Preserving Our Democracy?

What Advice Did Our Founders and First Presidents Offer On Preserving Our Democracy? by Bill Honig

In today’s political arena many of the basic tenets of our democracy are being challenged  and there is evidence that too many young people (and adults) are not attaching to democratic ideas and responsibilities.  It is fitting on President’s day that Americans should revisit the ideas, warnings, and advice of our first leaders. They understood that governance resting on popular consent was a huge gamble since no previous efforts at creating a successful democracy had survived. The effort would be difficult and would require continued vigilance by each generation of citizens and political representatives to last.

Our early leaders were very specific about what was necessary for our great democratic experience to endure and tried to inoculate the country against three main dangers:  Majority rule degenerating into anarchy from irreconcilable conflicts, growing inequality re-instating oligarchy and corruption, and the democracy succumbing to tyranny from fear-based and dishonest demagoguery.

Building on the colonists experience in self-governing churches and local government they proposed a constitution based on representative government and majority rule which built a structure for the separation of powers, federalism, periodic elections to hold government accountable, and protections for individuals and the democratic system enshrined in our Bill of Rights.  That was their first line of defense against our democracy failing.

But Madison, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton and Franklin also knew that the structure of government was necessary but not sufficient. They and those that followed made several other crucial suggestions. Citizens needed to be well-versed in democratic ideals and experience, willing to participate, exercise self-discipline and be law-abiding, and develop the habits of tolerance and democratic deliberation. Representatives needed to respect our institutions and be accountable for their actions and veracity.

James Kloppenberg in his masterful recent book, Toward Democracy chronicles the development of democratic ideas and beliefs culminating in the creation and subsequent development of our country. He found three main themes and three supportive ideas which are helpful in understanding how best to fight for and protect our democratic ideals.

First, representative government deriving from “the people” and how that could work was evidenced in our Constitution. The founders were aware of the danger of quick but misguided action and created mechanisms to increase deliberation and spread power such as an independent judiciary both at the national and state level. They also were cognizant of the tension between majority rule and the rights of minorities and individuals and attempted to balance those interests. They also knew that some protections against government were crucial for individuals and for the system to work such as a free press to hold those in government accountable and root out corruption, mendacity, and self-dealing, free speech for the free exchange of ideas, free expression of religion and a proscription of the government establishing one religion, due process, a fair and equal administration of our laws, and that everyone, even the president, should be subject to our laws. They thought that citizens and representatives must understand and value the legitimacy of these structures.

Second, increasing liberty or autonomy of individuals was a key purpose of our democracy. Free individual choices and spheres of action and protection from overbearing government or repressive majorities was part of it. But they were also aware of the dangers of untrammeled self-interest, ignoring the common good, and a lack of the individual self-discipline needed for a free democracy to survive.

Third, equality or respecting the humanity and brotherhood of all citizens, in practice limited at first, but setting the stage for the struggle for legal, political, social, and economic equality for all (liberty and justice for all from our Pledge of Allegiance). The history of the 228 years since our constitution was adopted has been the slow struggle in fits and starts and backsliding to broaden the definition of “We, the People”

The founders also believed that three other habits and beliefs were crucial for a democracy to survive.

First, a commitment to democratic deliberation. Most of our founders were well aware of the religious wars in Europe and oppressive countries which only tolerated one set of beliefs. In a successful democracy truth and policies should arise from discussion which necessitated respect for opponents, listening, and supporting decisions resulting from democratic deliberations.

Second, pluralism and tolerance of diverse groups—religious, racial, ethnic, national origin, class, and regional. The United States is attempting something unique in human history. A large country composed of diverse interests and groups comprised of the world’s populations who find enough common purpose to sustain a democracy. This goal requires a higher stage of ethical behavior than in more homogeneous countries. It is human nature to identify with our respective groups and become hostile to others and our country has gone through decades of racial, religious, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, and class prejudice, hostility, and legal discrimination even in the face of our democratic ideals. Keeping group ties while being tolerant and respectful of others is a difficult but crucial task for our country. This mission is undermined by leaders who appeal to group hatred which dishonors a basic principle of our heritage.

Our founders and first presidents confronted the dilemma of slavery knowing that slavery violated the democratic principles of representative government, liberty, and equality on which our country was created. It wasn’t until Lincoln and the Civil war finally determined that the continued existence of slavery sullied the ethical component to democracy and established that the idea that majority rules could mean a majority could oppress one group of humans (Stephen Douglas’s position in the Lincoln/Douglas debates) was morally unacceptable. It took another 100 years for equality and fair political and legal treatment to be established in reality by the Civil Rights movement—a position we are still struggling with. Similar efforts were made for other repressed groups such as women, ethnic and religious minorities, and gays and the working class.

Finally, Kloppenberg, enshrines the founders belief in idea of reciprocity as an essential ingredient of successful democracies. Our founders understood the importance to a democracy of the religious belief that all individuals were equal before God, the central Christian doctrine of love, (Love your neighbor as yourself) and the ubiquitous belief in the Golden Rule. In a democracy citizens must accept the underlying humanity, legitimacy, and significance of all even while disagreeing on specific policies. The founders thought that in successful democracies majorities didn’t try to crush their opponents but saw the importance of continued debate with them to reach better solutions.

Our country almost disintegrated in the harsh political atmosphere of the 1790’s. After flirting with wholesale demonization and false accusations of the opposition both Jefferson and Adams and their followers relented and the “era of good feelings” occurred with the election of Jefferson. Years later, Lincoln in his first Inaugural Address asked the South to discuss not fight and appealed to the “better angels of our nature” and when the war appeared won in his Second Inaugural was not vindictive to Southerners as many in the North wished but advocated reconciliation. (with malice towards none, with charity for all)

Our founders also strongly believed that an educated citizenry was essential to the success of a democracy to counteract the belief that the lack of education and perspective made people susceptible to demagogic appeals and unable to fully participate in democratic deliberations. Most importantly, each new generation needed to be well-versed and attached to democratic ideas, democratic history, democratic habits, and a willingness to participate in self-government and engage in ethical self-discipline. An educated citizenry was viewed as a key bulwark for democracy.

Our early leaders eventually proposed free public education as a necessary component to allow our democracy to succeed. This idea that the government not solely parents should provide a common education and that all citizens should pay for the education of children not their own was unsuccessfully resisted by many in the 19th century as public education became widespread.  Those advocating for the importance of a “common schools” won the debate. (Some people today want to re-litigate the issue decrying “government schools”, supporting large cuts for public schools, and advocating privatizing of public education.)

Benjamin Franklin when asked by a women after the Constitutional Convention what kind of government they decided on “a republic or a monarchy” he quickly replied “A republic if you can keep it.” Lincoln in his immortal Gettysburg address alluded to the fragile nature of our democracy and that our devotion to a continued effort to perfect our ideals of freedom and equality was necessary so that “government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth”. That fight goes on.

Bill Honig was Superintendent of Public Instruction in California from 1983-1993. He is currently Vice-Chair of the California Instructional Quality Commission which develops K-12 content frameworks and reviews instructional materials for the California State Board of Education. That board recently adopted a History/Social Science framework which incorporates many of the ideas in this article.

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administrator, policymaker, elected official, professor, and educational
entrepreneur. My perspective and beliefs about what we should and should not
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October Comments 10/15/17

Effective School Improvement Measures

The national teacher organizations NEA and AFT initiate a nationwide effort to involve their locals in improving schools through teacher engagement. Our TURN:  Revitalizing Public Education and Strengthening Our Democracy  Through the Collective Wisdom of Teachers http://www.turnweb.org/attachments/196/Final%20Report%20-%20%20Our%20TURN_October%202017.pdf

9th grade student grade point averages has been found to be the most effective prediction of high school success. https://p.feedblitz.com/r3.asp?l=143044603&f=945019&c=5783331&u=27575903


A major report on the state of civics education in the US. The Republic Is (Still) at Risk and Civics is Part of the Solution http://www.civxsummit.org/documents/v1/SummitWhitePaper.pdf

Another study showing the low level of understanding of our democratic and constitutional values and the need for civic education and engagement in our schools. https://cdn.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Civics-survey-Sept-2017-complete.pdf

Civic education needs a makeover. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2017/10/civics_needs_a_makeover_now_how_keep_it_student-centered_stupid.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=learningdeeply

An debunking of the recent articles asserting that college students don’t value free speech. https://www.alternet.org/activism/college-students-and-first-amendment-what-right-doesnt-want-you-know?akid=16182.2679055.rBOPRh&rd=1&src=newsletter1083584&t=22

Some good news from California

There has been a huge expansion on the numbers of students eligible for the University of California and the California State University systems prepared by California educators. Applying eligibility rates to the number of students graduating from California public high schools gives an estimate of the number of students eligible, for each system. For UC, the 2015 eligibility pool was an estimated 60,000, up from 46,800 in 2007. The CSU eligibility pool was up from 114,400 in 2007 to 175,400 in 2015, an increase of over 50%. This reflects acceleration of a trend that had already emerged (in 2007, the CSU pool grew by 20% relative to 2003). http://www.opr.ca.gov/docs/RTI_Eligibility_Report_071417_FINALtoOPR.pdf

Charter and Voucher Travails

A community in Florida successfully organized to stop the giant Charter Schools USA from expanding into their district. http://www.gainesville.com/news/20171002/no-application-from-charter-school-giant

Researchers find charter schools enroll easier to educate students, spend more per student (after adjusting for student population), suffer from wide variation in spending with large sums from some sponsors and for-profits devoting significantly less to classrooms, and exacerbate segregation.https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/incompatible-policy-preferences-comparability-expanded-choice/

Since 2007 the states that expanded charter schools the most also cut funding for the regular public schools the most. https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/choice-as-a-substitute-for-adequacy/

How not to improve schools. The terrible results of Michigan’s reliance on charters and choice and regular school cutbacks. https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2017/09/11/michigan-shows-nation-not-improve-schools/?utm_source=cerkl&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter-09272017&cerkl_id=497524&cerkl_ue=gn0yTs8anzhtPwP92BJYA4qgHtvxcGpagv9WsJZDr1A%3D

ProPublica and USA today slam a drop-out recovery charter program Ohio which has had terrible results and claimed funding for non-existent students but is still being funded by the state. https://www.propublica.org/article/for-profit-schools-get-state-dollars-for-dropouts-who-rarely-drop-in

The Ohio ECOT chain continues to be funded after numerous studies showing low-performance, fraud, and mismanagement. The latest scam is a $20 million overbilling of the state. Diane Ravitch writes:

Ohio legislators and the State Department of Education continue to fund the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, despite scandal after scandal.

Phantom students.

The lowest graduation rate of any school in the nation.

And now auditors discover that ECOT overbilled the state by another $20 million last year, by inflating the number of students it claimed to enroll.

Read the article to see what an awful “school” this is. Only 2.9% of its graduates earn a college degree within six years.

What an amazing trick can be accomplished with campaign contributions! Ohio officials should be ashamed. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/09/29/ohio-low-performing-ecot-overbilled-state-by-at-least-20-million-last-year/

In Ohio, school districts in the bottom 5% of districts are subject to charter school expansion. The problem: 9 out of ten charter schools which aim to replace them score worse than these low scoring districts. https://10thperiod.blogspot.com/2017/10/the-quiet-importance-of-ohios.html

An Arizona reporter published an expose on how a Tucson charter chain turned itself into a huge money-making machine using tax dollars. https://news.azpm.org/p/news-articles/2017/9/29/117489-public-schools-inc-when-public-education-turns-into-big-business/

Arizona charter advocate can’t believe the school she started got an F in new state grading. Maybe school grades aren’t that accurate. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/10/15/arizona-charter-school-graded-f-in-home-district-of-charter-booster/

Another article about the failure of voucher programs. This time in Washington DC. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-weakness-in-dcs-voucher-program/2017/09/01/09a61694-8cd5-11e7-84c0-02cc069f2c37_story.html?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.2564dd20365f

Study shows that Wisconsin voucher program has caused a rise in inequitable education funding in the state. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/funding

Under a new state law Cleveland tried to stop a horribly performing charter school but was prevented by an overly charter friendly state Superintendent. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/10/15/cleveland-tries-to-block-low-performing-charter-authorizer-state-says-no/

A North Carolina newspaper reports that charter school students in that state are richer and whiter than the remaining public school attendees and that charters have become the enablers of white flight. http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article178022436.html

Parents in North Carolina organize to stop their schools from being in the state’s Opportunity School District as being low performing. The recently adopted state district is based on the Tennessee model which was an abject failure. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/10/02/north-carolina-forges-ahead-with-plan-to-copy-tennessees-failed-achievement-school-district/

The largest virtual charter school network in Oklahoma (a state notoriously lax in charter accountability) is growing rapidly despite extremely low test scores and graduation rates, high profits, and questionable accounting practices. http://www.woodwardnews.net/news/epic-charter-school-growing-at-breakneck-pace/article_6ec5541c-86f1-11e6-880d-bf916eee0dc7.html

Jeff Bryant reports on Betsy DeVos providing massive federal funding for low performing and largely unaccountable charter schools in Indiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/new-federal-grant-feeds-charter-school-gravy-train-in-new-mexico/  Also see this article revealing the notoriously lax auditing and accountability of fraud and illegal practices in  New Mexico charter schools. https://www.abqjournal.com/1071709/previous-audits-of-la-promesa-questioned.html

The mayor of Allentown, PA helps contributor turn a $32 million dollar profit (on an $850,000 investment) by expediting the rezoning of an abandoned building purchased by the contributor to a charter school. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/09/28/mayor-of-allentown-helps-real-estate-developer-make-huge-profit-by-converting-empty-building-to-charter-school/

Test-score teacher evaluation woes

After a judge finds the test-score VAM teacher evaluation program arbitrary and unjustified Houston abandoned the program. http://vamboozled.com/breaking-news-the-end-of-value-added-measures-for-teacher-termination-in-houston/  


Three lesson from a review of the technology research. http://hechingerreport.org/three-lessons-rigorous-research-education-technology/

Tech reporter questions whether the push for teaching coding is warranted. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/21/coding-education-teaching-silicon-valley-wages

Some teacher’s takes on how technology helps or hinders classroom instruction on Larry Cuban’s blog. (who has done a magnificent job of discussing technology issues) https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2017/10/11/a-few-teachers-speak-out-on-technology-in-their-classrooms/

Another two teachers on the misuse of technology. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/hitting-the-return-key-on-education/2017/10/08/01215334-a932-11e7-b3aa-c0e2e1d41e38_story.html?utm_term=.fd2dfa46c8c2


Fred Hess reviews Dan Koretz’s new book The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better. Both point out major deficiencies in how tests are used. http://educationnext.org/five-thoughts-dan-koretzs-testing-charade/

Curriculum and Instruction

Joy Hakim has produced powerful science history books about the ideas and people that matter in science. https://www.google.com/search?q=joy+hakim+science+books&ie=&oe= and has updated her popular and award winning A History of US http://www.joyhakim.com/newsletter.htm

An insightful article on why fractions are so hard. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/talking-apes/201709/why-is-doing-arithmetic-fractions-so-difficult

Community Schools

Evaluation of community schools in NY finds positive results but implementation complexity. https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2017/10/11/five-takeaways-from-a-new-study-of-new-york-citys-massive-community-schools-program/

Policy and Politics

Social policy and economics are more important than education in economic mobility according to Jesse Rothstein’s new study reviewed by Rachel Cohen in the Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/09/education-and-economic-mobility/541041/  Mike Petrilli rebuts by arguing that just because social, geographic, and economic forces influence the ability of education to enable youngsters to escape poverty, for individual students who succeed it is still a potent way to get to the middle class. https://edexcellence.net/articles/education-is-still-a-sturdy-path-to-upward-mobility?utm_source=Fordham+Updates&utm_campaign=0749ff8ac1-20160918_LateLateBell9_16_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d9e8246adf-0749ff8ac1-71491225&mc_cid=0749ff8ac1&mc_eid=ebbe04a807

John Oliver explains why ALEC is such a malign influence on educational funding and policy (as well as other important social expenditures). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIMgfBZrrZ8


September Comments 9/23/2017

The Fight for Public Education in the US.

An extremely important article appeared in the Atlantic about the efforts in the US to cripple public education and the key role of public schools in fostering attachment to our democratic ideals. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/10/the-war-on-public-schools/537903/

Joann Neem writes in the Washington Post about the importance of public common schools not schools of choice. The Founding Fathers Wanted Public Schools; We Should Protect Their Vision. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2017/08/20/early-america-had-school-choice-the-founders-rejected-it/?utm_term=.89545365adeb


Positive “Build and Support” Efforts

Michael Fullan compliments California’s school improvement efforts and recommends some next steps. https://michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/17_Californias-Golden-Opportunity-Taking-Stock-FinalAug31.pdf

A survey of teachers’ views of professional learning opportunities by Learning Forward. https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/default-document-library/professional_learning_teacher_survey_2017.pdf?sfvrsn=2&utm_source=Informz&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=MemberSuite+List&_zs=g313f1&_zl=bO864


Charter School and Privatization Disasters

The New York Times exposes the charter school debacle in Michigan. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/05/magazine/michigan-gambled-on-charter-schools-its-children-lost.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fmagazine&_r=0 and the chaos caused by charter schools in Detroit. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/29/us/for-detroits-children-more-school-choice-but-not-better-schools.html

The Grand Canyon Institute released a report which shows that Arizona with notoriously lax charter school accountability suffers from one of the highest incidences of charter school scams. http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/09/az-leading-in-charter-profiteering.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FORjvzd+%28CURMUDGUCATION%29  Here is a quote from the review in Curmudgucation: The Grand Canyon Institute (“Arizona’s Centrist Think Tank”) has just released a meta-study of twenty years of Arizona charters. “Following the Money” comes to some fairly appalling conclusions that suggest that Arizona is one of America’s pre-eminent charter scam factories and that taxpayers are getting hosed. Here are some of the conclusions reached by this forensic analysis. They list self-dealing (77% of charters implicated), high executive salaries, questionable profit distribution, low classroom spending, academic underperformance, and financial irregularities.

Also see Curt Cardine’s review which covers that report and two others. http://arizonadailystar.az.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=34e5c9d9 Since 1994, 424 charter schools have shuttered their doors, a failure rate of 43 percent. Thirty-four percent of all charters that fail do not meet the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools Financial Performance Recommendation. Another 90 charter groups that failed did not meet the Cash Flow Standard.

Another expose in Harpers about the disinvestment in Arizona public schools while encouraging unregulated and for-profit alternatives. https://harpers.org/archive/2017/09/class-dismissed/3/

Jeff Bryant reports on the destruction of the public schools in St. Louis by privatization policies.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/09/07/the-sad-story-of-public-education-in-st-louis/?utm_term=.9c132caa1874

Another article by Bryant on how Republican privatization policies have decimated Florida’s public schools. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/like-her-boss-betsy-devos-makes-a-disaster-all-about-herself/

Why the DC Voucher Program is Failing by the Crumudgucation blog. http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/08/why-dcs-vouchers-are-failing.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FORjvzd+%28CURMUDGUCATION%29

Failing Florida charter school resurrects itself as a voucher school. https://www.propublica.org/article/failing-charter-schools-have-a-reincarnation-plan

Even school districts cheat under the charter laws. A California district is under investigation for creating an online virtual academy which received payment for students already enrolled in a Catholic school. http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-edu-lennox-virtual-academy-20170920-story.html

Atlanta charter school founder charged with stealing $1.3 million. http://www.ajc.com/news/local-education/new-charges-against-atlanta-charter-school-founder-brings-alleged-theft-total-million/YXFjSGTvkwh6acjDjBJ7EO/

Pennsylvania non-profit charters use loophole in state law to reap millions in real estate transactions. See the section on Charters by Rich Lord in the extensive expose of the non-profit sector. https://newsinteractive.post-gazette.com/nonprofit/#chCharterSchools Charter schools spin off building ownership to nonprofits, reap money from quirk in state law.

Diane Ravitch reports on the findings of Bill Phillis, an Ohio watchdog, who . . . reports that the state of Ohio has allowed the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) to use public money [$33 million] in its public relations blitz to avoid accountability for inflation of enrollment and the state’s efforts to claw back more than $60 million. ECOT is notable for having the lowest graduation rate of any high school in the nation, as well as dubious quality standards. Its founder is a major contributor to elected officials. In return, he has collected many millions of dollars of profit. Bill Phillis writes: According to a September 3 Columbus Dispatch article, ECOT has spent $33 million on TV ads, lobbyists, lawsuits and William Lager’s for-profit companies since January 2016, all in pursuit of gaining state approval to continue to count students that are not participating. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/09/16/bill-phillis-ohio-allows-ecot-to-spend-33-million-on-ads-lobbying-lawsuits-and-profits/

State Auditor in New Mexico finds likely embezzlement by charter school employee who siphoned $500,000 of school funds to a personal account. Lax laws encourage fraud. http://krwg.org/post/keller-uncovers-likely-fraud-embezzlement-new-mexico-charter-school

Florida charter school closes leaving academic failure and a mountain of debt. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/08/12/florida-charter-school-closes-leaving-behind-academic-failure-and-mountains-of-debt/

Chalkbeat of NY reviews the latest CREDO study on school closures. https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2017/08/24/schools-with-more-students-of-color-are-more-likely-to-be-shut-down-and-three-other-things-to-know-about-a-big-new-study/.


Failures of “Reform Nostrums”; Special Reform Districts and Closing Schools

Tennessee’s Achievement School District, a reform favorite, has been a bust. https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/tennessee-asd-gets-lowest-possible-growth-score-in-2017/

Mercedes Schneider refutes the New Orleans “miracle” story by showing extremely low ACT scores for the state takeover district. https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2017/08/12/if-state-takeover-of-new-orleans-schools-worked-act-scores-below-16-wouldnt-be-embarrassing/

Study shows closing schools doesn’t improve test scores (the questionable measure used to close the school) but does result in wide-spread community damage. https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/26/study-closing-schools-doesnt-increase-test-scores/  The CREDO report can be found here. https://credo.stanford.edu/closure-virtual-control-records


Far Right Follies

New Mexico scrubs any mention of the earth’s age or climate change in its science standards to appease the far right. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/09/new-mexico-remove-climate-change-evolution-public-education/


Education Funding

While the rest of the world is increasing investments in education, the US is cutting back. http://hechingerreport.org/rest-world-invests-education-u-s-spends-less/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_campaign=795360deed-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_09_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a4f3e0748b-795360deed-296190865

North Carolina, whose principals are fiftieth in the country in salaries, just made severe cuts in veteran principals pay and many are leaving the profession according to local NC reporters as covered in Diane Ravitch’s blog. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/09/15/north-carolina-new-principal-pay-plan-cuts-pay-drives-out-veteran-leaders/

Another refutation of the canard that US school funding has increased while scores have decreased. https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/realty-check-trends-in-school-finance/


The Purposes of Public Education, Content and Civic Engagement

A compendium of the civic engagement portions of the new California History/Social Studies framework is now available at https://www.lacoe.edu/CurriculumInstruction/HistorySocialScience.aspx

The Aspen Institute issued a report on the evidence for social, emotional and academic learning The Evidence Base for How We Learn; Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional and Academic Development https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/evidence-base-learn/?utm_source=iContact&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Education%20and%20Society&utm_content=

Daniel Willingham debunks the continuing erroneous belief in learning styles by many educators and speculates why it persists. https://edexcellence.net/articles/3-reasons-most-teachers-still-believe-the-learning-styles-myth?utm_source=Fordham+Updates&utm_campaign=840f7c2dfa-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_09_05&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d9e8246adf-840f7c2dfa-71491225&mc_cid=840f7c2dfa&mc_eid=ebbe04a807


Future Jobs

Many high paying jobs in the future won’t require a 4yr degree but a rigorous tech/prep community college degree or certificate. Here is a list of 42 of the most promising of them (and 10 to avoid) https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/great-careers-without-college-degree/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=091717

Hal Sulzman, an economist from Rutgers university, challenges the conventional wisdom that there is a shortage of STEM graduates. http://news.rutgers.edu/qa/there-stem-worker-shortage-rutgers-professor-debates-issue-national-academies/20140310  See the review of his interview by Diane Ravitch https://dianeravitch.net/2017/09/04/the-stem-shortage-is-a-scam/

Another study on taking a more realistic view of job projections. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/08/28/laura-chapman-beware-think-tanks-predicting-the-future/


New Teachers/Teacher Shortages/Teacher Pay

An article by Jeff Bryant, What Happened to All the Teachers. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/what-happened-to-all-the-teachers/

The best way to beat the teacher shortage– lower attrition rates by fostering teacher engagement. New report by the Learning Policy Institute Teacher Turnover: Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/teacher-turnover-report?utm_source=LPI+Master+List&utm_campaign=a0dab795ef-LPI_MC_Teacher_Turnover_Extrava_20170913&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7e60dfa1d8-a0dab795ef-42289731

According to OECD’s Education at a Glance, (2017)http://www.oecd.org/edu/education-at-a-glance-19991487.htm US teachers earn 60% of what professionals with similar educational levels earn in other industrialized countries (below every other country) and US teachers work significantly more hours than their international counterparts. U.S. teachers make less than 60 cents on every dollar made by others with their education level, the biggest gap of any OECD country. And at every grade level, U.S. teachers work longer hours than their international counterparts. In America, for example, a 7th grade teacher puts in 1,366 hours at school each year, including more than 980 hours of teaching—which is nearly 270 more hours of teaching than the international average. Also see http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2017/09/us_ranks_last_in_relative_teacher_pay.html

America Needs More Teachers of Color and a More Selective Teaching Profession, a new report by the Center for American Progress. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/reports/2017/09/14/437667/america-needs-teachers-color-selective-teaching-profession/



School Finance 101 blog questions the promise of edupreneurs and tech-based solutions and misguided innovation. https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/reality-check-edupreneurs-tech-based-solutions-misguided-innovation/

Do we learn better from printed books than digital versions? The answer from researchers is a qualified yes.  EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_08_28&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a4f3e0748b-55f36c9c7b-296190865


School Performance

Marc Tucker reports that in the US within school variance is much greater than between schools, which is much different than what occurs in other countries. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2017/09/differences_in_performance_within_schools_why_so_much_greater_than_in_other_countries_1.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=top_performers One big reason–our teachers don’t get the time or resources to work together to improve performance compared to other countries.



August Comments


Building Better Schools: What Our Best Districts and States Do

Jeff  Bryant describes how the Long Beach Unified Schools District avoided the “reform” platform, concentrated on building the teaching profession and capacity to improve and became one of the highest performing districts in the country. http://progressive.org/magazine/a-southern-california-district-resists-bad-education-policy/

John Hattie finds four educational strategies with super-size positive effects. The highest is collective teacher efficacy (building effective school teams which continually improve instruction) which produces a huge 1.6 SD gain or 16 times the effect of charter schools at .1 SD) https://www.eschoolnews.com/2017/07/24/teachers-supersize-hattie-effects/?ps=billhonig@comcast.net-001a000001PNtzI-003a000001rID20

Nine elements of effective leadership development programs. http://ncee.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/9-blocksv011217.pdf; National Institute of School Leadership’s strategic plan http://www.nisl.org/what-we-do/ and their “wheel” approach. http://www.nisl.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/NISL-Wheel-v110716.pdf

New Jersey’s effort to develop physics teachers. https://www.csmonitor.com/EqualEd/2017/0712/Looking-for-leaders-in-physics-education-Try-New-Jersey

One school’s quest for deeper learning. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2017/07/the_radical_act_of_leading_for_deeper_learning.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=learningdeeply


Charter School and Voucher Foibles

Scientific American magazine reports that vouchers don’t work so why is the current administration pushing them. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/trump-administration-advances-school-vouchers-despite-scant-evidence/?wt.mc=SA_Twitter-Share

The NAACP issued a July report reiterating its opposition to charter school expansion until effective accountability measures are adopted, its opposition public education funds diverted to for-profit schools, and its support of giving more power to local communities to choose what type of schools they desire. http://progressive.org/public-school-shakedown/naacp-seeks-to-ban-for-profit-charter-schools-and-increase-l/

Jersey Jazzman critique of studies which show “days of learning” increases for some charters which they characterize as “significant”. The actual effects are trivial and are several multiples below what other strategies produce and “days of learning increases” are a highly misleading metric without research support. http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2017/08/credo-charter-school-studies-x-days-of.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FCqnJA+%28Jersey+Jazzman%29 The lack of research on days of learning http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2017/08/credo-charter-school-studies-x-days-of.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FCqnJA+%28Jersey+Jazzman%29

Fraud in Nashville https://www.facebook.com/AmyFroggeTN/posts/1650175358340055?notif_t=feedback_reaction_generic&notif_id=1499688411795230

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer exposes fraud in Cleveland and Florida. http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2017/08/operators_of_new_west_park_cha.html#incart_m-rpt-1

Charter schools stifle innovation according to Mark Nelson. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/07/12/mark-naison-how-charter-schools-stifle-innovation/

A destructive teaching environment in many charter schools causes huge teacher churn. http://www.alternet.org/education/charter-schools-churn-through-teachers

New Orleans charter schools are punishing students for being poor. http://www.alternet.org/new-orleans-charters-punish-students

The Miami-Herald exposes state legislators who personally benefit from diverting funds from public schools to charters. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fabiola-santiago/article151418277.html


Questions about Current Panaceas

Rand has an extensive report on the pros and cons of personalized learning. Including teachers in the mix is a must. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2042.html

Two articles raise problems of implementing personalized learning. http://hechingerreport.org/hyped-school-model-proves-difficult-replicate/; http://hechingerreport.org/tipping-point-can-summit-put-personalized-learning-top/

Requiring Intermediate Algebra for all college bound students is not warranted. https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/07/20/does-algebra-do-more-harm-than-good-community-colleges-rethink-requirements/?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=20170723Mindshift&mc_key=00Qi000001WzO2NEAV

Larry Cuban has some cautionary words about “coding for all”. https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2017/07/11/coding-the-new-vocationalism-part-1/; https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/coding-the-new-vocationalism-part-2/

Teacher evaluation using scores on standardized tests is becoming increasingly discredited. http://prospect.org/article/teacher-tests-test-teachers

Some tech companies find value in hiring liberal arts major. https://www.fastcompany.com/40440952/why-this-tech-ceo-keeps-hiring-humanities-majors

The false choice between academic and vocational education. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2017/07/the_false_choice_between_vocational_and_academic_education.html

Want to cause a medical disaster for patients: privatize emergency care. https://www.google.com/amp/s/mobile.nytimes.com/2017/07/24/upshot/the-company-behind-many-surprise-emergency-room-bills.amp.html

Does digital reading work? http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2017/08/what_we_dont_know_digital_reading_literacy.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=curriculummatters

Morgan Polikoff suggests that we publicize examples of programs and strategies which harm not help. https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/the-dont-do-it-depository-morgan-polikoff/


The Fight for Our Public Schools

A state legislator discovers the details of the ALEC plot to kill public education. http://progressive.org/dispatches/alec’s-attack-on-public-education-a-report-from-the-frontlin/#.WYHxRiBFHJk.facebook Betsy DeVos is a major sponsor of ALEC and has patterned her anti-public school agenda on its proposals.

Jim Hightower blasts Betsy DeVos’s plans to damage public schools. http://www.salon.com/2017/07/15/betsy-devos-plan-to-sell-out-public-schools-is-a-koch-brothers-dream-come-true/

A Florida editorial criticizing the latest attempt by a Republican legislature and governor to harm public education in that state. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-op-editorial-public-education-assault-20170713-story.html

A St.Louis politician treats public school parents and criminals as equals in “costing” public dollars. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/how-budget-austerity-puts-public-school-parents-on-par-with-criminals/

JULY POSTS 7/08/17


Back-door collusion among Florida governor Rick Scott and the Republican legislative leadership with severe conflict issues passed one of the most hostile public school measures in the country. http://fundeducationnow.org/hb-7069-floridas-k-12-nightmare-foreshadows-nations-future/ See also Diane Ravitch’s comments on the bill https://dianeravitch.net/2017/06/26/florida-the-legislatures-plan-to-destroy-public-schools-and-enrich-their-cronies/


An NEPC report finds expansion of virtual schools by for-profit management companies in friendly states despite terrible results. http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2017/06/virtual-schools-five  Based on a national data set, the April NEPC Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017 report included two key findings: (1) that the growth of full-time virtual schools was fueled, in part, by policies expanding school choice, and (2) that this growth is seen most among the for-profit education management organizations (EMOs) that dominate this sector. All five states (Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Idaho, and Washington) follow these national trends. Also, and again consistent with national trends, students that attend the virtual schools in these five states tended to perform quite poorly compared to their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

South Carolina’s online charter schools: A $350 million investment with disappointing returns. http://www.postandcourier.com/news/south-carolina-s-online-charter-schools-a-million-investment-with/article_6539ef90-511f-11e7-adba-d706dfdb4027.html

The Lubienski’s, who wrote the definitive work on why public schools outperform private schools, The Public School Advantage wrote a commentary in Ed. Week, entitled  Student Vouchers Aren’t Working: Here’s Why. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/06/16/student-vouchers-arent-working-heres-why.html and https://dianeravitch.net/2017/06/20/lubienski-why-is-betsy-devos-pushing-vouchers-when-research-shows-they-dont-work/

Another thoughtful article by Jeff Bryant listing multiple examples of self-dealing and fraud by unaccountable and un-transparent charters. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/charter-schools-do-bad-stuff-because-they-can/

Jeff Bryant calls for a moratorium on new charters until states pass stronger accountability measures and take into consideration the effect on existing public schools. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/why-democrats-should-unite-on-a-charter-school-moratorium/

In the same vein Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post penned an article, Problems with Charter Schools that You Won’t Hear Betsy DeVos Talk About which incorporated an important piece by Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/06/22/problems-with-charter-schools-that-you-wont-hear-betsy-devos-talk-about/?utm_term=.25b9397aa95b Burris explains that the NAACP voted for a moratorium on charter school expansion until:

  • Charter Schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools.
  • Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system.
  • Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate.
  • Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious


A new CREDO research report on Charter Management Organizations and other forms of multiple charter governance finds trivial gains overall compared to traditional public schools. Some CMO’s with strong teacher, student, and parent engagement policies do better. https://credo.stanford.edu/pdfs/CMO%20FINAL.pdf

Detroit’s charters: Expensive but no results. http://www.freep.com/story/opinion/columnists/nancy-kaffer/2017/06/07/detroit-schools-charters/375076001/

Five questions researchers are asking about charter schools beyond the test-score horse race. http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2017/06/15/beyond-the-test-score-horse-race-5-big-questions-researchers-are-asking-about-charter-schools/

  • How do charter schools impact students beyond standardized test scores?
  • Why are some charter schools especially effective?
  • Why do charter schools in some places outperform charters elsewhere?
  • How are charter schools changing over time?
  • How do charter schools affect public education more broadly — including finances and segregation?


A new entry on the Curmudgucation website arguing that choice won’t save money, won’t unleash competition that will spur excellence, and won’t put power in parent’s hands. http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/06/what-choice-wont-do.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FORjvzd+%28CURMUDGUCATION%29

A US News magazine opinion piece Don’t Gamble on Vouchers—Invest in Public Schools, Not Private School Voucher Schemes, to Improve Education for All Children. https://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/articles/2017-06-21/dont-gamble-on-private-school-vouchers-invest-in-public-education

A Huffington Post article arguing that school choice expands privilege at the expense of needy students. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/is-school-choice-just-expanding-privilege_us_5943d48ee4b024b7e0df4aff?section=us_education


Some states are moving to broaden the curriculum from just concentrating on reading and math to include history, civics, science, and the humanities. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2017/06/Under_ESSA_an_end_to_curriculum_narrowing.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=curriculummatters

The best professional learning occurs when teachers are given the chance to practice what they teach and how best to use instructional materials. http://www.aspendrl.org/portal/browse/DocumentDetail?documentId=2969&download&admin=2969|3571821778

John Hattie of Virtual Learning fame, describes a powerful learning model of how to deepen instruction and how to know when a teaching strategy is effective based on a huge number of research projects. http://www.nature.com/articles/npjscilearn201613?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=20170618Mindshift&mc_key=00Qi000001WzO2NEAV; and from the Mindshift website https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/06/14/how-do-you-know-when-a-teaching-strategy-is-most-effective-john-hattie-has-an-idea/?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=20170618Mindshift&mc_key=00Qi000001WzO2NEAV


Many corporations have lobbied states for substantial tax cuts or incentives which has severely depleted funds available for education and health. http://www.epi.org/blog/does-corporate-america-see-a-future-in-the-united-states/?utm_source=Economic+Policy+Institute&utm_campaign=ed09e5e05b-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_06_16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e7c5826c50-ed09e5e05b-55912853&mc_cid=ed09e5e05b&mc_eid=efc5546f61


Another astute paper on what effective professional development demands—active teacher agency. https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/pdf/teacheragencyfinal.pdf

The New Teacher Center’s latest research finds that that teacher mentoring raises student performance. https://newteachercenter.org/news-story/ntc-i3-release/


Report shows a disconnect between test scores and later outcomes in life. http://educationnext.org/disconnect-educational-measures-life-outcomes/ 


A Michigan Educational Achievement Authority which commandeered low-performing schools in Detroit six years ago has terminated due to its miserable track record and transferred its 15 schools back to Detroit. http://michiganradio.org/post/after-six-years-education-achievement-authority-leaves-behind-lackluster-legacy  The EAA was created in 2011 to turn around Detroit’s lowest performing schools. But, according to Michigan State University education professor David Arsen, it fell far short of that goal.

“The EAA could fairly be regarded as a train wreck of educational policy,” Arsen said. 

Arsen says a rushed policy process, plus a lack of state investment, meant the EAA had little chance of turning around Detroit’s failing schools. 


The Iceberg Report is comprehensive look at children’s health and well-being in developed countries. http://www.superintendentsforum.org/featured-briefings/archives/2015-2/the-iceberg-effect#download The report shows how low the US ranks on trauma for kids, family support, and inequality all of which strongly effects kids ability to learn. Also see a great book by Sapolsky Behave: the Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst especially pages 194 – 201 which show the devastating effect on brain functioning by childhood adversity, witnessing of violence, lack of emotional support, etc. severally hampering future cognitive abilities and social and emotional health.

An interesting study on the attitudes of six subgroups of high-school students. Most students are intrinsically motivated and most try their best. https://edexcellence.net/articles/what-teens-want-from-their-schools?utm_source=Fordham+Updates&utm_campaign=48215fb1b8-Gadfly__2017_06_28&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d9e8246adf-48215fb1b8-71491225&mc_cid=48215fb1b8&mc_eid=ebbe04a807


Students rebel against cubicle-based personalized learning. http://hechingerreport.org/students-sat-cubicles-using-computers-wasnt-popular/

Six Reasons Why Charter School Expansion Is a Problem


    Is Replacing Neighborhood Schools with Charters Worth the Risk?

  1. The question of charter expansion becomes critical when a neighborhood school is slated for closure to be replaced by a charter. The trade-off should be framed as follows: based on the evidence, closing a public school for a charter will improve performance about one-fourth of the time and will make it worse about one-fourth of the time. Thus, the one-in-four chance of an improved school must be weighed against the massive dislocations local school closures cause families, students (e.g., long bus rides or walking through alien turf), and communities. In addition, the very real chance of worsening school performance one-quarter of the time must be factored in. Further, widespread charter expansion can reach a financial tipping point crippling the school district’s ability to improve the remaining open public schools. One underreported consequence of charter expansion is that the remaining schools must rely increasingly on late placements and substitutes, which substantially harms student performance. So even if some students are able to attend a successful charter school, many more are stranded in the remaining starved public ones. The experience in Newark exemplifies this tragedy:

What parent would agree to a policy that benefits one of her children but seriously damages one or two of her other kids? The Prize [a recently published book about Newark] does an invaluable service in helping to explain how true believers in top-down reform may or may not have benefitted many of the 30 percent of students headed for charters. They did so, however, by harming the schools serving the majority of poor children. They created even more intense concentrations of children from extreme poverty and trauma; they took failing schools and made them worse.

Stated that way, the widely advocated policy prescription of replacing low-performing schools with charters looks horribly off the mark. Of course, if there are stringent controls to assure that only the better performing charters (determined by legitimate measures and practices) can replace a low-performing public school, then the odds of increased student achievement improve. Whether the increased benefit to the individual student who qualifies for a high-performing charter justifies the larger number of students who are left behind and neglected is a tough question each community must address.

No or Trivial Gains

2.     Most studies find no or trivial gains from charters. CREDO effect sizes are in the .01 SD range (.05 for some ethnic groups). (Charter advocates keep saying the CREDO studies show significant advantage for of charters. Statistical significance is different than whether the effect is worthwhile.) Where there are gains, they are very small and are 1/10-1/20 of the gains of effective interventions as chronicled by John Hattie such as building teams for continuous improvement, reciprocal teaching, strong curriculum, etc. Also the evaluations matching charters to traditional public schools never take into account the several thousand charters which were forced to close (which would substantially lower charter results) and that on the natural with active parents and a receptive student body charters should be scoring substantially higher.  Also all the evidence that many charters don’t backfill (it’s not attrition rates which are similar but schools such as Success Academy start with say 100 children and end up with a rarified group of 40 which they then use for comparison purposes or use other methods to now enroll or to get rid of low performing students.

How About Giving Parents the Choice to Improve Their Neighborhood School?

3.      One powerful argument on choice is what about giving parents who want to choose their neighborhood school and for it to be improved that choice. Several studies have shown around 70% of parents want that option over charters. Closing a neighborhood school  and offering enrolling in a charter robs them of  that choice. Often public schools are starved and offered limited support causing low performance and then closed to make way for charters. . Under the Parent Empowerment Act in California which gives a majority of parents the right to convert their neighborhood school to a charter, only a handful have actually approved the conversion.

 Competition Forces Marketing Pressure Which Leads to Harmful Educational Practices

4.      Contrary to the charter argument that charters would be innovative most are no different than their traditional public school counterparts. In fact the pressure for marketing leads them to narrow the curriculum and emphasize test prep or, even worse, the widespread anti-child, harsh, no excuses policies which may get better short term test results at the expense of deeper learning and emotional harm. Many of these schools are dreadful places to attend.

Charter Expansion Is Used As an Excuse to Privatize and Reduce Funds for Traditional Public Schools

5.      Many conservative governors and legislatures have used charter expansion as an excuse to make massive cuts in traditional public schools  driven by a privatization anti-public school philosophy. In Indiana, for example, from 2009 to 2013 traditional public school funding was cut by more than $3 billion. During the same period, charter funding was increased by $539 million, vouchers by $248 million, and virtual schools by $143 million. Students who attend public schools account for 94% of Indiana students and took a huge hit. The remaining six percent gained more than $900 million. Similar policies were adopted in North Carolina, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

 Lack of Accountability Leads to Fraud, Self-Dealing, and Low-Performance

6.      For-profit organizations often offer stripped down education to maximize profit and by clever marketing mislead parents. In states with unregulated charters, vouchers, or on-line virtual academies there have been significant examples of fraud, self-dealing, and low performance. There are nearly 7000 charter schools existing today. But over 1000 other charters have failed causing massive disruption to the children enrolled. Even charter advocates estimate that over 1000 existing charters should be closed for low performance. Even non-profits often mask self-dealing by promoters paying themselves high salaries, setting up dummy corporations to sell stuff to the schools at outrageous prices, making money from floating bonds, and buying property which the owners get to keep.

The New Charter School and Voucher Debate

The New Charter School and Voucher Debate

Some charter school and voucher advocates have shifted their arguments in the face of a large number of studies which show trivial or negative results of choice and privatization schemes as well as evidence that such policies causing substantial harm to traditional public schools and their communities. http://www.buildingbetterschools.com/charter-schools-are-not-the-key-to-improving-public-education/

These advocates now argue that the performance of charters and vouchers is not the primary issue. Instead, enshrining parental choice should be the driving value in education and developing a pluralistic delivery system (traditional public schools, magnet schools, charters, for-profit schools, online schools, schools funded by tax credits and vouchers, religious schools, etc.), of publically funded education to maximize choice should  be the  policy goal. https://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/articles/2017-03-06/test-based-evidence-alone-doesnt-tell-us-whether-school-choice-works?platform=hootsuite  If that means abandoning the central role of traditional public schools, so be it.

There are several fatal flaws in this argument. First of all, why start with maximizing parental choice as the main aim of our publically funded educational system. Aren’t there much more important educational goals such as broadly educating each generation to be prepared for work, citizenship, and reaching individual potential? Parents and their desires are important, but so is broadening their children’s perspectives so that they gain the ability to choose, and since the public, not just parents, is paying for schools, there are key public interests involved. Then the question becomes which structure can best deliver these goals which does raise the issue of performance and impact.

Before the country entertains radical policies to devalue our public education system we need to answer two questions. Will choice and market-driven strategies improve overall performance? So far they haven’t but have caused considerable damage to public education in decreased state and local funding, significant levels of fraud and self-dealing, and the elimination of neighborhood schools. And are we willing to risk severely undermining our existing public schools by undertaking questionable large-scale choice strategies? That is what happened in Chile and Sweden when they initiated a choice and market-driven system. Performance plummeted and income segregation increased dramatically in what became a two-tiered system.

It seems to me that the burden of proof is on those who want to scuttle our nearly 200 year commitment to locally and democratically governed public schools—an institution which has served this democracy so well. If the objective is improving performance there are much many successful build and support strategies which have delivered much greater improvement than choice, market-based policies, and privatization without the collateral damage.

Often, parental values conflict with the public goal of broadly educating students and expanding their horizons through democratically developed educational policies. Some parents have problems with current scientific knowledge but our democracy needs a scientifically literate population and the proper education of scientific personnel. Schools teaching science based on creationism won’t deliver that.  Some have strong prejudices or bigotry, are conspiracy cranks, or have a skewed view of our history. Should schools cater to those beliefs even if they run counter to our democratic ideals?

Here is Robert Pondiscio’s argument for the primacy of choice. Choice exists to allow parents to educate their children in accordance with their own needs, desires and values. If diversity is a core value of yours, for example, you might seek out a school where your child can learn alongside peers from different backgrounds. If your child is a budding artist, actor or musician, the “evidence” that might persuade you is whether he or she will have the opportunity to study with a working sculptor or to pound the boards in a strong theater or dance program. If your child is an athlete, the number of state titles won by the lacrosse team or sports scholarships earned by graduates might be compelling evidence. If faith is central to your family, you will want a school that allows your child to grow and be guided by your religious beliefs. There can be no doubt that, if you are fortunate enough to select a school based on your child’s talents or interests or your family’s values and traditions, the question of whether school choice “works” has already been answered. It’s working perfectly for you. https://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/articles/2017-03-06/test-based-evidence-alone-doesnt-tell-us-whether-school-choice-works?platform=hootsuite

Fair enough. But what if parents choose a racist black panther or white nationalist school. A school with an anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim curriculum. An extreme Christian academy teaching erroneous science or hostility to religious pluralism.  An anarchist or communist or fascist school. A fanatical Sharia school. A Koch sponsored  school which is organized around an Ayn Rand view of history.  All these are antithetical to our democratic ideas and values.

Or what if for-profit organizations offer stripped down education to maximize profit and by clever marketing mislead parents. In states with unregulated charters, vouchers, or on-line virtual academies there have been significant examples of fraud, self-dealing, and low performance. There are nearly 7000 charter schools existing today. But over 1000 other charters have failed causing massive disruption to the children enrolled. Even charter advocates estimate that over 1000 existing charters should be closed for low performance.

Second, the debate is about how to organize publically funded education. Currently nothing prevents parents from sending their child to any specialized school of their choice if they are willing to pay for it. If public funds are used, then the public interest should be paramount.

Third, there is a significant cost issue. Money matters in educational results. Who will pay for the 10% of students attending private schools currently funded by their parents. Currently about 90% of students attend public schools (6% of these are charters) and 10% are in private schools. Shifting to a pluralistic delivery system with vouchers for private schools would mean that educational spending would need to increase by over 10% just to cover the funds for those currently in private institutions. However, private schools wouldn’t get the benefit of these funds. These expenditures would mainly be a subsidy to wealthy parents of private and religious school students . State legislatures have the unfortunate habit of making existing public school budgets pay for expanded support for private school parents In Indiana, for example, from 2009 to 2013 traditional public school funding was cut by more than $3 billion. During the same period, charter funding was increased by $539 million, vouchers by $248 million, and virtual schools by $143 million. Students who attend public schools account for 94% of Indiana students and took a huge hit. The remaining seven percent gained more than $900 million. Similar policies were adopted in North Carolina, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

As for charters, often extensive charter expansion puts the traditional public school sector at financial risk or replaces a neighborhood’s public school with the right to attend a school far away such as happened in Chicago or New Orleans. Dual delivery systems of public goods cost more but our representatives have been unwilling to pay for the extra costs of dual systems.

One major choice that is never discussed is the desire of most parents to improve their neighborhood school. In many cases that choice is off the table. Local schools are starved for funds and effective support, performance suffers, the school is closed, and parents are offered space in a distant school or a voucher. That is not what they wanted.

Many of the most vociferous advocates of choice such as our present Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos also strongly resist any financial and academic performance accountability. As a result many states with lax accountability such as Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Florida have suffered numerous incidences of embezzlement, high administrative salaries, self-dealing in procurement and property, and weak educational programs. We restrict individual’s choice of buying tainted meat, dangerous drugs, and unsafe cars by legislative protections. Why should our students not be similarly protected?

For more information on this topic see http://www.buildingbetterschools.com/charter-schools-are-not-the-key-to-improving-public-education/ and the talking-points on charters  http://www.buildingbetterschools.com/talking-points/

June Posts 6/20/17



The Highest Performing Countries and Provinces Have Developed a Comprehensive Build and Support Approach to Upgrade the Teaching Profession and Build Continuous Improvement Around Powerful Content. A new extensive report Empowered Educators by the Learning Policy Institute and the National Center for Education and the Economy describes what the highest performing countries and states do supports a build and support approach to upgrade the teaching profession and invest in a comprehensive system to assist teachers in continuously improving their craft. http://ncee.org/empowered-educators/  You can find the general report, country reports, slides, videos, and the streaming of their conference on June 6th at http://ncee.org/empowered-educators/   They identified nine aspects of a systems approach to upgrade teaching and the teaching profession, all of which need to be addressed. Recruitment, preparation, induction and mentoring, on-going professional learning both individual and collaborative, appraisal and feedback, career and leadership development, curriculum, instruction, and assessment, and school funding and organization. The materials give specifics of what these jurisdictions did in each of these areas.

Learning Policy Institute Report on the Elements of Successful Professional Development. The Learning Policy Institute released a brief last week on effective professional development https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/effective-teacher-professional-development-brief They found that successful efforts included the following elements:

  1. Is content focused
  2. Incorporates active learning utilizing adult learning theory
  3. Supports collaboration, typically in job-embedded contexts
  4. Uses models and modeling of effective practice
  5. Provides coaching and expert support
  6. Offers opportunities for feedback and reflection
  7. Is of sustained duration

The report also contained suggestions for policies to improve practice.

John Hattie Outlines a Key Strategy to Improve Student Performance: a model of learning that takes into account students’ skills and knowledge, learning dispositions and motivation. https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/06/14/how-do-you-know-when-a-teaching-strategy-is-most-effective-john-hattie-has-an-idea/?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=20170618Mindshift&mc_key=00Qi000001WzO2NEAV; http://www.nature.com/articles/npjscilearn201613?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=20170618Mindshift&mc_key=00Qi000001WzO2NEAV;

Incisive comments on accountability issues by Mathew DiCarlo–including the effect of individual scores versus school score measures: http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/improving-accountability-measurement-under-essa


The Importance of Team Building and Continuous Improvement Around identified Problems in Improving Instruction  A very good argument for helping schools to solve educational performance problems by adaptive school strategies (team building and continuous improvement around identified problems) and implications for district strategies by renowned superintendent Joshua Starr: http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/organizing-adaptive-change-management

Two Articles by Professors at the Universities of Chicago and Buffalo Supporting the Importance of Building Relationships at a Schoolhttp://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/preparing-future-leaders-building-relationships and http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/how-relationships-drive-school-improvement—and-actionable-data-foster-strong-relationships

Practicing What Is Being Taught By Connecting Curriculum to Professional Development Yields Results http://www.aspendrl.org/portal/browse/DocumentDetail?documentId=2969&download&admin=2969|3571821778

The Case for Community Schools as a Strategy for Improving School Performance. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/community-schools-equitable-improvement-brief


The Problems with School Closures as a Remedy for Low Performance. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/closures  The authors conclude that school closures as a strategy for remedying student achievement in low-performing schools is a high-risk/low-gain strategy that fails to hold promise with respect to either student achievement or non-cognitive well-being. It causes political conflict and incurs hidden costs for both districts and local communities, especially low-income communities of color that are differentially affected by school closings. It stands to reason that in many instances, students, parents, local communities, district and state policymakers may be better off investing in persistently low-performing schools rather than closing them.

Another Article on the Mixed Reviews on School Closings. https://www.cabinetreport.com/facilities/closing-schools-gives-mixed-results-on-performance-savings

On the Other Hand, Focused Specific Guidelines Encouraging School-wide Planning, a Strategic View of the School Instead of Fragmentation, and Concentrating on Professional Development as well as Embeding Struggling schools with More Successful Schools in a Comprehensive Improvement Strategy Produced Results. A study of Kentucky focus schools by Stanford researchers. https://cepa.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/wp17-05-v201706.pdf  Under waivers to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, the federal government required states to identify schools where targeted subgroups of students have the lowest achievement and to implement reforms in these “Focus Schools.” In this study, we examine the Focus School reforms in the state of Kentucky. The reforms in this state are uniquely interesting for several reasons. One is that the state developed unusually explicit guidance for Focus Schools centered on a comprehensive school-planning process. Second, the state identified Focus Schools using a “super subgroup” measure that combined traditionally low-performing subgroups into an umbrella group. This design feature may have catalyzed broader whole-school reforms and attenuated the incentives to target reform efforts narrowly. Using regression discontinuity designs, we find that these reforms led to substantial improvements in school performance, raising math achievement by 17 percent and reading achievement by 9 percent.

The Top Ten Research-based Reasons Why the Use of Large Scale Standardized Tests Should Not Be Used to Evaluate Teachers http://vamboozled.com/also-last-thursday-in-nevada-the-top-ten-research-based-reasons-why-large-scale-standardized-tests-should-not-be-used-to-evaluate-teachers/



5 Key Questions to Ask Beyond Whether Charter Test-Scores in Annual Tests Increased. http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2017/06/15/beyond-the-test-score-horse-race-5-big-questions-researchers-are-asking-about-charter-schools/

How Some Non-Profit Charter Schools Game the System For Financial Self-Dealing. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/are-nonprofit-charter-schools-a-distinction-without-a-difference/  Here is a quote from the article:

Quick, is this school a nonprofit or for-profit?

In the most recent financial filings available, the couple who run the chain of 18 schools pay themselves $315,000 a year plus nearly $39,000 in benefits. The school also employs their daughters, their son, and even a sister living in the Czech Republic.

Families who enroll their children in the schools are asked to contribute at least $1,500 a year per child to the school to fund its teacher bonus program. They also must pay a $300 security deposit, purchase some books, and pay for school activities that would normally be provided free at a public school.

The school chain contracts its operations to a management company, also owned by the same couple. In the most recent financial accounting available, the management firm received $4,711,699 for leased employee costs and $1,766,000 for management. Nearly $60 million total was charged to the management corporation to provide services to the schools.

After 2009, the owners made a legal change that made it possible to hide from the public much of the school’s financials, including their salaries and expenses. But what we do know is that between 20012 and 2015 administrative costs of the schools were some of the highest in Arizona, where most of the schools are located, spending an average of $2,291 per pupil on administration compared to $628 per pupil spent by the average public school district in the state.

How For-Profit Charters Are Ripping Off California Taxpayers by California Legislator Kevin McCarty. http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article154084079.html

How Some Charters Extract Money From Their Employees.  https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/the-charter-school-company-store/

South Carolina Has Invested $350 million in On-line Charters With Terrible Results http://www.postandcourier.com/news/south-carolina-s-online-charter-schools-a-million-investment-with/article_6539ef90-511f-11e7-adba-d706dfdb4027.html

Detroit Charters: Expensive But No Results http://www.freep.com/story/opinion/columnists/nancy-kaffer/2017/06/07/detroit-schools-charters/375076001/

Charters Don’t Help Students Most In Need http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/is-school-choice-just-expanding-privilege_us_5943d48ee4b024b7e0df4aff?section=us_education

Vermont Voucher Plan Pays Wealthy Parents to Attend Elite Private Schools. https://www.propublica.org/article/voucher-program-helps-well-off-vermonters-pay-prep-school-at-public-expense?utm_source=pardot&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailynewsletter

The Network for Public Education’s Position Statement on Charter Schools https://networkforpubliceducation.org/2017/05/network-public-education-issues-position-statement-charter-schools/

  • An immediate moratorium on the creation of new charter schools, including no replication or expansion of existing charter schools
  • The transformation of for-profit charters to non-profit charters
  • The transformation of for-profit management organizations to non-profit management organizations
  • All due process rights for charter students that are afforded public school students, in all matters of discipline
  • Required certification of all school teaching and administrative staff
  • Complete transparency in all expenditures and income
  • Requirements that student bodies reflect the demographics of the served community
  • Open meetings of the board of directors, posted at least 2 weeks prior on the charter’s website
  • Annual audits available to the public
  • Requirements to follow bidding laws and regulations
  • Requirements that all properties owned by the charter school become the property of the local public school if the charter closes
  • Requirements that all charter facilities meet building codes
  • Requirements that charters offer free or reduced priced lunch programs for students
  • Full compensation from the state for all expenditures incurred when a student leaves the public school to attend a charter
  • Authorization, oversight and renewal of charters transferred to the local district in which they are located
  • A rejection of all ALEC legislation regarding charter schools that advocates for less transparency, less accountability, and the removal of requirements for teacher certification.

Newark’s Charters Don’t Take Their Fair Share of Harder-to-Educate Students. http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.fr/2017/05/facts-about-newark-charter-schools-that.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+blogspot/CqnJA+(Jersey+Jazzman)

Florida Takes the Lead as the State Most Hostile to Public Education in New Charter Expansion Bill http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/06/fl-death-to-public-education.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FORjvzd+%28CURMUDGUCATION%29 



Why We Should Care About Educating Other People’s Children. A great article by the renowned Arthur Camins. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/593ea655e4b094fa859f1a49  It is time to care about the education of other people’s children. Other people’s children are or will be our neighbors. Other people’s children – from almost anywhere in the United States and beyond – could end up as our coworkers. Other people’s children are tomorrow’s potential voters. How, what, and with whom they learn impacts us all. That is why we have public schools, paid for with pooled taxes. They are designed to serve the public good, not just to suit individual parent’s desires.

An Excellent Paper on the Early Support For Public Schools from the Federal Government Through the Land Grant Program. https://greatschoolwars.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/usher_paper_federallandgrants_041311.pdf

The foundation of our political institutions, it is well known, rests in the will of the People, and the safety of the whole superstructure, its temple and altar, daily and hourly depend upon the discreet exercise of this will. How then is this will to be corrected, chastened, subdued? By education—that education, the first rudiments of which can be acquired only in common schools.  

Report of U.S. House Committee on Public Lands, 1826

From the late 18th century through the middle of the 20th century, the federal government granted control of millions of acres of federal land to each state as it entered the Union. These lands were given in trust, with the stipulation that proceeds from their sale or lease be used to support various public institutions—most notably, public elementary and secondary schools and universities. These state land grants have played an important role in the development of the American system of public education and continue to provide revenues to maintain that system today. 

Leadership in Many States Hostile to Public Education Is Forcing Devastating Cuts by Jeff Bryant http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/our-school-funding-crisis-has-a-cause-bad-leadership/

What Betsy DeVos Calls Education Transformation Is Actually Public Theft By Jeff Bryant https://ourfuture.org/20170523/what-betsy-devos-calls-education-transformation-is-actually-public-theft

May Posts

May 16, 2017


  1. Benjamin Barber’s tribute to the importance of public schools as a common not private good. http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-war-on-education-as-public-good-11124896.php
  2. In the same vein the Hechinger report’s opinion piece argues that we are not consumers but citizens when it comes to public education http://hechingerreport.org/opinion-not-consumers-citizens-comes-schools/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_campaign=2ce81b1044-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_05_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a4f3e0748b-2ce81b1044-296190865
  3. William Damon demonstrates how schools can instill a greater sense of purpose in students—so important for their futures and for our civic health. https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/05/02/how-schools-can-help-students-develop-a-greater-sense-of-purpose/?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=20170507Mindshift&mc_key=00Qi000001WzO2NEAV and https://coa.stanford.edu/?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=20170507Mindshift&mc_key=00Qi000001W
  4. Gary Rubenstein reviews Rick Hess’s (himself a reformer) book “Letters to a Young Reformer” on deficiencies in the policies and a actions by “test and punish” and “privatization” reformers. https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/my-review-of-letters-to-a-young-education-reformer/


  1. Sue Legg reports on wide-spread corruption and conflict in Florida’s essentially unregulated charter schools. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/05/10/sue-m-legg-will-erik-fresen-go-to-jail-is-charter-corruption-in-florida-out-of-control/
  2. Lax transparency and accountability of charter schools is causing Enron type fraud. http://www.lmtonline.com/news/article/Is-charter-school-fraud-the-next-Enron-11105078.php
  3. An Incomplete (but totally terrifying) Ohio Charter School Scandal Chronology http://progressohio.org/an-incomplete-yet-totally-terrifying-ohio-charter-school-scandal-chronology/
  4. Conservative rural legislators block vouchers in Texas as harming rural schools. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/05/09/why-republicans-blocked-vouchers-in-texas/ Also seehttp://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/04/are-charters-rural-solution.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FORjvzd+%28CURMUDGUCATION%29 for a critique of charters in rural areas.
  5. Three big problems of large charter expansions—financial drain to remaining public schools, costs to taxpayers from tax credits, and lack of transparency and accountability has resulted in fraud and self-dealing. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/05/03/three-big-problems-with-school-choice-that-supporters-dont-like-to-talk-about/?utm_term=.5b6f920241fa
  6. An article by Russ on Reading No Betsy, School Choice is Not a Good Thing http://linkis.com/blogspot.com/Zjodl
  7. Vouchers do poorly in DC. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/04/do-vouchers-actually-work/524676/
  8. A warning on the coming privatization assault on public institutions including schools. http://prospect.org/article/incoming-privatization-assault
  9. Eight problems with vouchers by Justin Vasquez Heilig http://progressive.org/public-school-shakedown/eight-questions-about-school-vouchers/
  10. Bill Quigley’s article on Everything Wrong with Charter Schools on Display in New Orleans https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/04/25/everything-wrong-charter-schools-display-new-orleans
  11. California closes down a charter school for the founder’s egregious self-dealing and fraud. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/05/14/california-charter-school-will-close-because-of-founders-audacious-misuse-of-school-funds/
  12. A new report was just issued by The Center for Popular Democracy http://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/Charter-School-Fraud_Report_2017_web%20(1).pdf CHARTER SCHOOL VULNERABILITIES  TO WASTE, FRAUD, AND ABUSE: Federal Charter School Spending, Insufficient Authorizer Oversight, and Poor State & Local Oversight Leads to Growing Fraud Problems in Charter Schools.


California’s graduation rate continues to rise. It was 74.7% (the percentage of ninth graders who graduate on time) in 2010 to 83.2% in 2016  which was .9% growth last year. In what officials described as another sign of progress< the latest dropout rate was 9.8 percent, compared with 10.7 percent in 2015 and 16.6 percent in 2010. http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/10/17/498246451/the-high-school-graduation-reaches-a-record-high-again; and https://edsource.org/2017/californias-high-school-graduation-rate-improves-for-7th-straight-year-but-ethnic-gaps-remain/580041

The percentage of students who say they were afraid of attack or harm at school decreased from 12 percent in 1995 to 3 percent in 2015. Researchers documented an 82 percent decline in victimizations There were 33 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2015, the most recent year of data available, compared to 181 in 1992. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017064.pdf  


  1. Courts in Nevada and Houston hold test-driven teacher evaluation is unfair and unscientific. http://vamboozled.com/also-last-thursday-in-nevada-the-top-ten-research-based-reasons-why-large-scale-standardized-tests-should-not-be-used-to-evaluate-teachers/; http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/05/houston-court-throws-out-vam.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FORjvzd+%28CURMUDGUCATION%29


  1. Schools spend too little time on science in elementary schools. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2017/05/4th_graders_getting_thin_diet_science_instruction.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=curriculummatters  California is among the lowest.http://changetheequation.org/blog/new-data-will-we-make-time-science-and-engineering-our-elementary-schools


  1. Teacher pay in Miami measured in constant dollars has fallen significantly in the last decade. In 2007, a 15 year veteran would be making almost $47,000. In inflation adjusted dollars in 2017, that amount would be almost $56,000. Most 15 year teachers currently working in Miami Dade currently don’t break $45,000. And apparently, that’s exactly what Miami Dade County thinks 15 years teaching experience is worth if you look at the bottom portion of the 2017 salary teachers who transfer in from another state or district, $45,000. Back in 2007, if a 22 year veteran transferred into the district they would have been entitled to $64,000. Now they will get paid $46,000.”“In 2007, a 15 year veteran would have made $10,000 more than a first year teacher. Most 15 year veterans in Miami Dade currently make about $4,000 more than a first year teacher.” https://kafkateach.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/miami-dade-teacher-salaries-then-and-now/

April Posts

April 21, 2017


In the past two decades the number of students who qualify for California State University English and Math work has doubled. http://www.dailynews.com/social-affairs/20170321/cal-states-incoming-students-better-prepared-for-college-level-classes-report-says


Senator Patty Murray published a comprehensive paper on the dangers of the push for extensive public school choice and privatization at the expensive of our public schools entitled Real Choice vs. False Choice: The Repercussions of Privatization Programs for Students, Parents, and Public Schools   https://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Murray_Privatization%20Caucus%20Memo.pdf

Are charters offering true choice? What about the historical beneficial choice of a common public good available to all? The Atlantic magazine published a perceptive article on this issue, How School Choice Turns Education into a Commodity. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/04/is-school-choice-really-a-form-of-freedom/523089/

The Network for Public Education has published a toolkit explaining various issues of charter schools and privatization such as Do Charter Schools and School Vouchers “Hurt” Public Schools? https://networkforpubliceducation.org/9121-2/?link_id=0&can_id=cea050dcef20333abf235c3ba9bc6d51&source=email-the-npe-toolkit-school-privatization-explained-is-out&email_referrer=the-npe-toolkit-school-privatization-explained-is-out&email_subject=the-npe-toolkit-school-privatization-explained-is-out

Charter school marketing excesses and misleading claims are documented in this extensive report by researchers Jessen and DiMartino, Perceptions of Prestige: A comparative analysis of school online media marketing. http://ncspe.tc.columbia.edu/working-papers/OP. In a similar vein the podcast, Truth in Edvertising chronicles the huge emphasis on marketing by charter chains. One chain spends over $1000  per child on selling their brand. https://soundcloud.com/haveyouheardpodcast/truth-in-edvertising

Massive school choice expansion policies with weak oversight in Michigan have resulted in wide-spread segregation. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/04/17/how-school-choice-segregated-the-public-schools-of-michigan-home-of-the-devos-family/

Charters don’t work well in rural areas. Schools are sparse and charters divert substantial funds from the existing small number of existing public schools. http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/04/are-charters-rural-solution.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FORjvzd+%28CURMUDGUCATION%29

A troubling report by the Public Interest group Spending Blind: The Failure of Policy Planning in California’s Charter School Facility Funding https://www.inthepublicinterest.org/report-the-failure-of-policy-planning-in-californias-charter-school-facility-funding/, finds that California has more charter schools than any other state in the nation, in large part because of generous public funding and subsidies to lease, build, or buy school buildings. But much of this public investment, hundreds of millions of dollars, has been misspent on schools that do not fulfill the intent of state charter school policy and undermine the financial viability of California’s public school districts.

In the report, In the Public Interest reveals that a substantial portion of the more than $2.5 billion in tax dollars or taxpayer subsidized financing spent on California charter school facilities in the past 15 years has been misspent on: schools that underperformed nearby traditional public schools; schools built in districts that already had enough classroom space; schools that were found to have discriminatory enrollment policies; and in the worst cases, schools that engaged in unethical or corrupt practices. See also  http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/4/15/1652901/-California-is-undermining-public-education-by-spending-big-on-charter-schools-it-doesn-t-need#read-more

A report by Sephanie Farmer, Closed By Choice: The Spatial Relationship between Charter School Expansion, School Closures, and Fiscal Stress in Chicago Public Schools  https://greatschoolwars.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/closed-by-choice.pdf demonstrates the detrimental effect closing large numbers of public schools and replacing many of them by charters. A similar report by the Urban Institute gives chapter and verse on who gets harmed by closing schools. http://www.urban.org/features/subtracting-schools-communities

A recent book by Mercedes Schneider discusses the danger of unfettered school choice policies. https://www.amazon.com/School-Choice-End-Public-Education/dp/080775725X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490366320&sr=8-1&keywords=school+choice+the+end+of+public+education

Peter Greene (Curmudgucation blog) breaks down the various types of charter school supporters in this insightful article. http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/04/field-guide-to-choice-advocates.html


A recent report “State Tax Subsidies for K12 Private Education.”  blew the whistle on the specious nature of voucher tax credits promoted as charitable contributions. Many states are enacting tax credit schemes which give the rich or corporations a 100% credit for scholarships to private schools (some then incredibly allow a further charitable deduction) thus depleting government revenues needed to support education, health, and other services. Some states such as Nevada and Indiana used a bait and switch approach. First pass vouchers for the poor and only those currently enrolled in public schools, then later take off the restrictions and pay all parents for any type of school. This essentially is a subsidy to those currently paying for a private school education. See the coverage by Mercedes Schneider https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/tax-credit-scholarships-neovoucher-profiteering-disguised-as-philanthropy/Neovoucher” Profiteering Disguised as Philanthropy.

Another bait and switch voucher scam, this time in Arizona. http://ed2worlds.blogspot.com/2017/04/what-goes-around-comes-around-voucher.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+EducationInTwoWorlds+(Education+in+Two+Worlds)&m=1


Teachers in the US spend 40% more annual hours in the classroom (981) than the average of OECD schools (694). They don’t have the time to participate in the critically important team building that teachers in other countries enjoy. http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/education-at-a-glance-2016_eag-2016-en#page439   (Lower Secondary Teacher Annual Hours in 2014)  US 981; Germany 750; UK 745; Canada 740; France 648; Italy 616; Japan 611; Finland 581


DeVos out to scuttle civil rights of our students? http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/early-signs-betsy-devos-will-not-support-civil-rights/


A call to fight for public schools during the Congressional recesses. https://ourfuture.org/20170413/during-resistance-recess-join-the-fight-for-public-schools


The Learning Policy Institute issued a report on the value of socio-emotional learning. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/encouraging-social-emotional-learning-new-accountability-report?utm_source=LPI+Master+List&utm_campaign=357a30710e-Raikes-SEL_2017_04_14&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7e60dfa1d8-357a30710e-42289731 and another on how to survey to improve SE learning for accountability and continuous improvement. http://www.dailynews.com/social-affairs/20170321/cal-states-incoming-students-better-prepared-for-college-level-classes-report-says


Holding back third-graders has been a disaster in Mississippi for many students. A significant number are being held back twice. http://hechingerreport.org/repeating-third-grade-good-kids/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_campaign=5e0b761cef-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_04_17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a4f3e0748b-5e0b761cef-296190865


A new report from KnowledgeMatters http://knowledgematterscampaign.org/dig-deeper/ and StandardsWork https://standardswork.org/  demonstrates the importance of a rich curriculum, effective instructional materials, and attention to instruction. These should be central to any effort to improve our schools. Here is a description of David Steiner and his team’s working papers from Johns Hopkins University entitled,  “WHAT WE TEACH ISN’T SOME SIDE BAR ISSUE IN AMERICAN EDUCATION; IT IS AMERICAN EDUCATION” 

Two papers released today by the nonprofit StandardsWork, Inc., on behalf of the Knowledge Matters Campaign, shed new light on the questions raised by the proliferation of K-12 curriculum options. The papers affirm that curriculum choices make a major difference in students’ learning outcomes but also highlight the fact the current research provides little insight into why this is the case.

The first paper, entitled Do Curriculum Choices Matter?, contains results from the most exhaustive analysis to date of the impact of curriculum. The audit, conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and Center for Research and Reform in Education, examined individual research reports and comprehensive meta-analyses that, all told, comprise more than 5,000 studies of the curriculum effect. While the methodological rigor of the studies varies greatly, the authors confirm the following general findings: curriculum is a critical factor in students’ academic success, and the cumulative impact of top-quality curriculum across a student’s academic career can be significant.

The second paper, a policy brief entitled, “Curriculum Research: What We Know and Where We Need to Go,” is a wake-up call to the research community. The paper identifies seven complex issues affecting the study of curriculum that will need to be tackled if we are, as author Dr. David Steiner says, “to make sense out of the chaos.” The issues include: the field has no shared definition of curriculum; curriculum created by individual teachers is almost impossible to research for collective impact; the absence of a taxonomy that identifies the salient features of a curriculum means it is difficult to isolate their effects; there is suggestive, but not yet confirmatory, evidence that content-rich curricula deliver better results than those that are largely skills-based; and professional development and fidelity of implementation can play a key role in a curriculum’s effectiveness but are often loosely described in the research.

“Perhaps the most important finding from this review is how messy the research on curriculum is,” said Barbara Davidson, President of StandardsWork. “Given its potential impact, and the fact that so much new curriculum is being developed in response to higher college- and career-ready standards, there is an urgent need to organize ourselves to better study the new materials, their methods, and their impact.”

Dr. Steiner, who is Executive Director of the Institute for Education Policy (IEP), notes that the impact of a student’s being taught through a high-quality curriculum can be a full years’ worth of additional learning over that achieved by a comparable student working with weak material – and that this impact only increases the longer a student continues to receive the advantage of a quality curriculum.

Citing mediocre results on the 12th-grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) over the past twenty-five years, the persistence of the achievement gap, and the disappointing impact of so many education reform efforts, What We Know and Where We Need to Go concludes by noting, “What we teach isn’t some side bar issue in American education; it is American Education,” and suggests that policymakers should “put the materials we use to teach at the core of serious education reform.”

The policy brief and the full working paper are available on StandardsWork’s website. For interviews, contact info@standardswork.org.  

StandardsWork, Inc. is a nonprofit consulting firm that has worked hand-in-hand with school districts, state agencies, and charter management organizations to improve student achievement for over 25 years. Known for leading collaboration and creating breakthrough solutions, StandardsWork is committed to advancing the vital role of strong curriculum, the importance of deep content knowledge in students, and the impact that evidence-based instructional practices can provide teachers.

The Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy exists to bridge the worlds of research, practice, and policy, and as such advises state chiefs, superintendents, and national membership organizations across the United States. The Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Reform in Education’s primary goal is to improve the quality of education for children in grades pre-K to 12 through high-quality research and evaluation studies and the dissemination of evidence-based research.

Contact: Archana Sridhar 202-835-2000 info@standardswork.org


Evidence for Build and Support and Team Building; Problems with Charters and Vouchers


Build and Support Works

Jeff Bryant writes about the success of Long Beach Unified School District in pursuing a build and support approach focusing on building capacity to focus on improving instruction. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/yes-schools-can-improve-heres-how/

Building teams and continuous improvement

A recent excellent book on building teams and continuous improvement—critical elements in improving teacher and school performance. The Internal Coherence Framework Creating the Conditions for Continuous Improvement in Schools by Forman, Stosich, Bocala with a foreword by Richard Elmore.

One of the authors Elizabeth Stosich, who studied the implementation of common core in several districts and then authored a very astute article in the AERA Journal. She states:

Recent research on the relationship between standards and teachers’ practice suggests that teachers are unlikely to make changes to practice without extensive opportunities for learning about standards with colleagues. This article extends this line of research, using a comparative case study of three high-poverty urban schools to examine the nature of teachers’ collaborative work around the Common Core State Standards and the conditions that support this work. It argues that collaborative practices that encourage joint examination of instruction and student learning against standards support teachers in noticing and attending to differences between their current practice and standards. In addition, it examines the role of teachers’ instructional knowledge and principals’ leadership in supporting teachers’ collaboration around standards. https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/scope-author-stosich-joint-inquiry-article.pdf   

Another report on building effective teams and continuous improvement. https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/pdf/teacheragencyfinal.pdf and https://learningforward.org/publications/blog/learning-forward-blog/2017/02/14/nyc-district-teams-use-improvement-science-to-strengthen-teaching-practice

A report by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching on implementation science, an important method for developing continuous improvement in schools. https://www.carnegiefoundation.org/blog/quality-improvement-approaches-implementation-science/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=list&utm_campaign=blog_3-16-17

An article about how a High-Tech charter elementary school in Chula Vista brainstormed how to improve literacy using implementation science techniques. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2017/03/using_improvement_science_to_think_deeply_about_literacy.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=learningdeeply The article starts with a quote from Albert Einstein: If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.

A whole issue of the journal Quality Assurance in Education was devoted to improvement science. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/toc/qae/25/1

A new report from the Center for American Progress on broadening accountability to examine school and district capacity building. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/reports/2017/03/03/427156/a-new-vision-for-school-accountability/

The report identified five broad categories into which states are organizing their reforms and used those categories to formulate a new concept for accountability. The categories are:

Measuring progress toward college and career readiness

Diagnosing and responding to challenges via school-based quality improvement

State systems of support and intervention

           Resource accountability

Professional accountability

A new PACE report finds a positive effect of social-emotional learning. http://www.edpolicyinca.org/publications/using-sel-and-cc 

Betsy DeVos Watch

DeVos has a skewed view of public education. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/what-betsy-devos-means-when-she-says-public-schools/

Charter School Problems

A charter school written up in USA Today brags about an 88% graduation rate, but just a rarified 38% of the students who started the cohort in sixth grade remain so the statistic is meaningless. Democracy Prep claims an 87.5% graduation rate. New York State has a pretty good public data system, so I investigated the numbers for Democracy Prep’s first cohort, the ones that 87.5% of their graduates are on track to graduate from college.  What I found was that in 2006-2007, they had 131 6th graders.  According to their testing data from that year where 127 students were tested, there were 63 girls and 64 boys tested.  Also, of the 131 students, 80% were Black while 20% were Latino.Six years later they had 50 12th graders.  This represents just 38% of the original 131 students.  Of those 50, 13 were boys and 37 were girls.  So they went from 50% boys to 33% boys.  Also of their 50 students, they went from 80% Black in 2006 to 66% Black in 2013. https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/charter-school-with-38-high-school-completion-rate-brags-about-88-college-completion-rate-in-usa-today/

Lax accountability leads to self-dealing third-party transactions much like the Enron debacle even with non-profit charters. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2924886

More evidence that on-line charters substantially underperform, this time from Ohio. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.3102/0013189X17692999

Another example from Arizona where an unregulated for-profit on-line charter siphoned off $10 millions of dollars of profit and $84 million in revenue from a non-profit online charter in an egregious case of self-dealing. From Diane Ravitch’s blog. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/02/28/arizona-online-high-schoolcollects-10-million-profit-in-one-year-and-devos-wants-more-of-them/

Arizonans for Charter School Accountability:

The Consequences of Unregulated Charter Schools:

For-Profit American Virtual Academy Nets $10 Million Profit in 2016 After Siphoning $84 Million from Non-Profit Primavera Online. (Full report)

In its first year of operation as Primavera Online High School, for-profit charter holder American Virtual Academy (AVA) made an astounding $10 million profit in 2016. American Virtual Academy was given the charter for Primavera Online by non-profit Primavera Technical Learning Center (PTLC) in 2015 without compensation.

PTLC operated Primavera Online from 2002 to 2015 and had annual revenues of over $30 million a year with accumulated total cash assets of over $44 million with no debt. PTLC was the richest non-profit charter holder in Arizona in 2015.

On May 21, 2015 the PTLC Board suddenly decided to relinquish their charter to their software supplier, American Virtual Academy. There was no money exchanged in the transaction. PTLC is now out of the charter school business and is sitting on $44 million in assets.

Both PTLC and AVA were incorporated and directed by the same man, Damian Creamer. Creamer and his family members have received over $2 million in compensation as officers of PTLC. PTLC has employed Creamer’s software company, American Virtual Academy, since 2005 – paying AVA over $84 million from 2009 -2015 just to use software created by Creamer for Primavera Online.

In 2016 Primavera Online had a record year earning over $40 million. Creamer paid his new software company, FlipSwitch Inc., $13 million for software licenses and another $2.5 million for software support. Despite these huge expenditures, AVA cleared $10 million in profit that went to the company’s only stockholder, Damian Creamer.

Jim Hall, founder of Arizonans for Charter School Accountability commented, “This is worst case of a private citizen profiting from the actions of a non-profit organization imaginable. There is a charade going on in the charter school industry, both in Arizona and around the nation, that allows charter owners like Damian Creamer to control non-profit charter schools to enrich their for-profit subsidiaries – and themselves.”

The full report is at www.azcsa.org

A persuasive opinion piece by David Hornbeck about the problems with charters. His quote: chartering schools is not an education reform; it’s merely a change in governance.http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-hornbeck-charters-20150301-story.html

Heartbreaking testimony by a teacher who quit on the harsh atmosphere at a Success Academy charter in NY City from Diane Ravitch’s blog. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/02/28/jane-doe-why-i-quit-as-a-teacher-at-success-academy-charter-schools/

When I applied to teach at Success Academy Charter Schools, I was just out of college with little teaching experience, and I was interviewing at every school I could, hoping to get my first real teaching job. As soon as I walked into Success’s Wall Street office for the interview, I knew this was a different kind of school. The space looks and feels like corporate headquarters, complete with glass-walled conference rooms and a minimalist aesthetic.

I was called into a boardroom with five or so other applicants, and someone from the “Talent” team (in charge of hiring) showed us a slick marketing video: we were being seduced. Then, one by one, we were asked to deliver a mini-lesson to everyone present. After each turn, we were given explicit feedback, which the next person was expected to implement immediately. It became clear that this was less of an interview, and more of a practical test to determine how well we could emulate the specific teaching style Success subscribes to. It was also an early introduction to the network’s trademark language and unique demands: we were told that every employee pledges support for the “dual mission,” which is to say that our job description included advocacy for “school choice” in addition to our roles as teachers.

I was placed at Success Academy Cobble Hill, which made news last year after The New York Times released a video of “Labsite teacher” Charlotte Dial berating a first-grader for stumbling during “Number Stories,” before she publicly rips the young girl’s worksheet in half. (This practice is common enough to have a nickname within the network, the “rip and redo.”) Contrary to statements made by Ms. Dial, CEO Eva Moskowitz, and Principal Kerri Tabarcea, this type of interaction is not at all out of the ordinary at Success. Ms. Dial’s harsh classroom management was known – in fact, celebrated – by school leaders. Newer hires were even sent to Ms. Dial so they could learn to model her “no-nonsense” teaching, earning her the “Labsite teacher” title and a higher salary. Perhaps most disturbingly, Charlotte Dial is still employed as a first-grade teacher at Success Academy Cobble Hill, sending a clear message to students, families, and other teachers in the network.

One of the real and valuable benefits to working at Success is that there is remarkable focus on professional development. Teachers are observed often, given feedback almost constantly, and participate in formal professional development sessions at least once a week. The caveat is that this training is entirely geared towards the specific strategies developed by Success for the purposes of social control over “scholars” and high test scores for the network.

“Scholars” are taught to value urgency. Children are expected to complete transitions in a given amount of time, often as short as ten seconds – taking any longer is considered unacceptable. This teaches students that learning is precious. It also teaches that taking one’s time, moving at one’s own pace, is irresponsible. It was heartbreaking to know that I was imparting on my young students the very same constant pressure that I felt from my supervisors.

Teachers’ directions to students must follow a stubborn formula, and are enforced just as strictly. “When I say go, safely and silently walk to your desk, take out your book, and begin reading. You have ten seconds, go.” Once at their desks, students will already know the correct posture for reading; they know that to avoid a “consequence,” their feet need to be flat and still on the floor, with their backs straight against their chairs, and two hands on their books. When I allowed for a more relaxed atmosphere in my classroom, I was reprimanded and lectured about the value of posture while reading. Any wavering from Success philosophy is treated as heresy, and often encourages unwanted attention from administrators – for instance, a teacher who fails to maintain perfect silence while students are on the carpet might be ordered to participate in “live coaching,” wherein a superior stands in the back of the room during the lesson, whispering directions into a microphone, which the teacher hears through an earpiece. In the middle of a sentence, the teacher will hear, “narrate and consequence voice,” and is expected to immediately use pre-practiced language to correct a murmuring student in the corner. Part of the reason I accepted a position at Success was for the professional development, but this was not what I had in mind.

Most of the students I taught at Success dreaded coming to school, as did most of the teachers. It is a grueling, relentless atmosphere where every second is cherished as potential learning time, and every slip-up garners an immediate consequence. There is a small fraction of people – students and adults alike – who thrive in this extreme environment. More often, the constant pressure makes for tense relationships, high anxiety, and negative affects on health and behavior. During testing season, each Success school is shipped extra pairs of pants to keep on hand, because inevitably several third graders will be so scared to sacrifice test time for a bathroom trip, they’ll have an accident. Some students react to this extreme environment in extreme ways; at the strictest Success locations, it is commonplace to hear screaming and crying in the hallways throughout the day as children as young as five break down for one reason or another. Different Success locations have different ways of dealing with this behavior, ranging from the infamous “got to go” list at Fort Greene to School Safety interventions elsewhere. If there was screaming in the hallway, one of my students would silently get up to close the classroom door. Other students continued working, both because they were unfazed and because they knew they would be held accountable for being on-task regardless of what was happening around them.

Every teacher imparts learning to students outside of their explicit lesson content. Given the tenor of current events, I have been thinking about what priorities and values I want to model in my teaching and embody in my curriculum. I want my students to know the importance of empathy, respect, and generosity. I want them to know that they matter, and that every other human matters too. I want them to feel empowered to speak up to an authority figure – including me – if they feel they are being treated unjustly. These are crucial social-emotional understandings, and though they may not affect test scores, they will surely affect students’ lives. Not only does the curriculum at Success ignore social-emotional learning, but the structure of the day allows for such minimal peer-to-peer interaction that students are unable to learn such skills from each other.

Like so many others, I quit Success because the brand of teaching the network demands prevented me from providing the quality of education my students deserve. When I tried to accommodate a restless student by allowing her to fidget on the carpet, I was told I was doing her a disservice and was ordered to keep her still. When I tried to advocate for under-performing students to undergo psychological testing so that they might receive services they needed, I was ignored or admonished, and in one instance told flat-out that the school was not testing students so as to avoid being legally obligated to provide services to them. I watched coworkers struggle to decide whether to report suspected family abuse when leaders didn’t share their concerns, given that network protocol is for school administration to make such calls. (Legally, teachers and psychologists are mandated reporters and cannot be punished for reporting suspected abuse. But with no union representation, it is difficult for an employee to feel confident that this will hold true in practice.) I was sick of overlooking the profit-driven motivations of the network, and sick of being forced to comply with practices that I believed were damaging my students.

When I use the word scammed, I am not just talking about money, and I am not just talking about those who send their kids to Success. I’m talking about the whole country, because all of us are being scammed by Charter advocates like Betsy DeVos and Success CEO Eva Moskowitz. The changes they seek put public schools at a disadvantage, as they are being forced to fight with Charters for space, funding, and high-engagement/high-resource families. Meanwhile, not all Charters perform like Success. Some are much better, with more emphasis on experiential learning and less emphasis on strict behavioral expectations. Others, like those DeVos lobbied for in Detroit, have test scores similar to or worse than nearby public schools, with the same downsides of Success – no unions, poor treatment of special education students, and high suspension rates, to name a few.

What I want people to know when they see advertisements for Success Academy is that to enroll or apply to a charter chain is to propagate a very specific brand of education. Success is funded in part by private donors like the Koch brothers and the family that owns Wal-Mart, because conservatives and big corporations have a vested interest in chipping away at public education. I call upon all teachers, all parents and caregivers, and all who care about public education to resist this model of teaching and learning. Our students deserve better. NYT article on Dial vid: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/nyregion/success-academy-teacher-rips-up-student-paper.html

Charter school with a 19% graduation rate. http://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/education/5030445-151/charter-school-killed-crook-county-grad-rate

Problems with Vouchers

Three big research reports on the largest voucher programs in the US show dismal results. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/upshot/dismal-results-from-vouchers-surprise-researchers-as-devos-era-begins.html?_r=0

A comprehensive article on why vouchers haven’t worked in this country or abroad— low performance, draining funds from public schools and re-segregation by Martin Conroy. http://www.epi.org/publication/school-vouchers-are-not-a-proven-strategy-for-improving-student-achievement/ Studies of U.S. and international voucher programs show that the risks to school systems outweigh insignificant gains in test scores and limited gains in graduation rates

More evidence demonstrating vouchers don’t work but cause considerable harm. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-miner-betsy-devos-education-voucher-schools-20170212-story.html

In a similar vein, a comprehensive report on the problems caused by Chile’s voucher plan. https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/edcentral/chiles-school-voucher-system-enabling-choice-or-perpetuating-social-inequality/ What lessons does Chile offer to the United States? First, it provides a cautionary tale on the potential for voucher programs to exacerbate school socio-economic segregation. Here in the U.S., schools in urban areas are not only racially segregated but have high levels of concentrated poverty and policymakers are right to be concerned that universal voucher programs may exacerbate this problem. Second, Chile’s recent reforms highlight the importance of considering equity up front and ensuring that private vouchers schools are held to the same standards as public schools. Evidence from Milwaukee’s voucher program suggests that holding private voucher schools to different standards can foster the creation of low-quality schools that do little to advance student learning and achievement. Finally, the inconclusive evidence on boosting student achievement is a red flag for policymakers who believe that simply shifting students into a private school will lead to stronger academic performance. Voucher systems are no cure for the inequities that plague our education system.



Vouchers would not help rural and sparsely populated counties. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/news/2017/03/03/414853/vouchers-are-not-a-viable-solution-for-vast-swaths-of-america/

Jeff Bryant warns that Trump’s and DeVos’s voucher plans are attempts at funding religious fundamentalism at taxpayers expense. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/trumps-school-choice-plan-religious-fundamentalism-at-taxpayer-expense/

Voucher plans become subsidies for up-scale private school parents or religious schools while not showing any performance benefit but draining large amounts from non-charter public schools. To quote from Diane Ravitch’s blog https://dianeravitch.net/2017/03/13/karen-francisco-indiana-and-the-great-voucher-scam/

 Karen Francisco, editorial page editor of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette in Indiana, reviews the state’s disastrous experiment with vouchers. In 2011, state lawmakers started the voucher program with the promise of helping low-income children get better schooling. As time has passed, the income level for eligibility has gone up, the costs have gone up, but the vouchers have never fulfilled their promise. Instead, they have become a permanent drain on public school funding even as the schools remain unaccountable and non-transparent. Over time, they have become a subsidy for private school parents who never sent their children to public schools and never intended to. Over time, they have developed a strong political constituency in the legislature that is unwilling to hold voucher schools accountable for performance

Vouchers have been a disaster in North Carolina according to a report by Duke University. https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf To quote from the executive summary:

The North Carolina voucher program is well designed to promote parental choice, especially for parents who prefer religious education for their children.  It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so.

In 2013, the NC General Assembly enacted the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Program to make taxpayer-funded grants, or vouchers, available to low-income students to assist with payment of tuition at private schools.  A voucher can be a grant of up to $4,200 per year.  

The number of children receiving vouchers has increased from approximately 1,200 in the first year to 5,500 in 2016-17.  The General Assembly has authorized an additional 2,000 vouchers for each year over the next decade, bringing the total to 25,000 by 2017.  

The Opportunity Scholarship Grant Program is funded through general revenues.  The initial annual appropriation was $10 million; the current annual appropriation is $60 million; the anticipated annual appropriation by 2027 is $145 million. At this rate, the total expenditure by 2027 will be $900 million. 

Approximately 93% of the vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools.  

  Based on limited and early data, more than half the students using vouchers are performing below average on nationally-standardized reading, language, and math tests.  In contrast, similar public school students in NC are scoring above the national average.  

Accountability measures for North Carolina private schools receiving vouchers are among the weakest in the country.  The schools need not be accredited, adhere to state curricular or graduation standards, employ licensed teachers, or administer state End-of-Grade tests.   

Because private schools receiving vouchers are not required to administer the state tests nor to publish detailed achievement data, researchers will be unable to develop thorough and valid conclusions about the success of the program at improving educational outcomes for participating students. 

Lax accountability for voucher plans leads to a $400,000 embezzlement of tax dollars in North Carolina. http://ajf.org/employee-states-largest-recipient-school-voucher-funds-accused-embezzling-nearly-400000-public-tax-dollars/

Similar disappointing results for the Louisiana’s voucher plan. http://educationresearchalliancenola.org/files/publications/ERA-Policy-Brief-Public-Private-School-Choice-160218.pdf

A passionate speech by a Texas superintendent on the dangers of vouchers on Anthony Cody’s blog. http://www.livingindialogue.com/john-kuhn-educates-texas-legislature/

An article by the blogger Russ on Reading decries vouchers as welfare for the rich, racist, and religious right. http://russonreading.blogspot.com/2017/03/school-vouchers-welfare-for-rich-racist.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+RussOnReading+%28Russ+on+Reading%29

Problems with For-Profit Colleges

The cycle of scandal at for-profit colleges. https://tcf.org/topics/education/the-cycle-of-scandal-at-for-profit-colleges/?utm_source=TCF+Email+Updates&utm_campaign=99c814cf9e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_03_09&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e5457eab21-99c814cf9e-92593749

Research on Turnaround Strategies

Massive Investment by the Feds in harsh turnaround strategies didn’t work. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/obama-administration-spent-billions-to-fix-failing-schools-and-it-didnt-work/2017/01/19/6d24ac1a-de6d-11e6-ad42-f3375f271c9c_story.html?utm_term=.3a356250c9a1  Contrary results occured in California with a more positive approach. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/es_20170209_loeb_evidence_speaks.pdf Two studies from California show not only that schools improved student learning outcomes as a result of participating in the SIG program, but also some of the mechanisms by which this improvement occurred. In particular, rich data on SIG schools in one of the studies shows that schools improved both by differentially retaining their most experienced teachers and by providing teachers with increased supports for instructional improvement such as opportunities to visit each other’s classrooms and to receive meaningful feedback on their teaching practice from school leaders. https://www.brookings.edu/research/continued-support-for-improving-the-lowest-performing-schools/ 

High-School Grades Are a Better Predictor of College Performance Than College Admission Tests

Which predicts college performance better—grades or college admission tests?  Study after study finds grades are a better predictor. https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?projectID=4546

Test and Punish Federal Policy Didn’t Work

Another report on the failures of test and punish. No Child Left Behind: A Deeply Flawed Federal Policy by Helen Ladd. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pam.21978/full

California Education: Students Rank 5th in the Nation on Advanced Placement Exam Scores.


Merit Pay Didn’t Work

Another study, this time in Florida, that finds merit pay plans don’t work. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/02/17/trump-backs-merit-pay-for-teachers-but-one-florida-school-system-now-says-it-doesnt-work/?utm_term=.3a3208634a7d


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