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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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November Comments 11/29/2017


Criticisms of Test and Punish and Privatization

Daniel Koretz is a well-respective testing expert. His important recent book The Testing Charade citing Cambell’s law provides persuasive evidence of the  tremendous harm to schools and classrooms from significant test score inflation and misleading results when math and reading annual test results are used as primary measures of school quality. He has chapters on the narrowing of curriculum, deleterious test prep, devaluation of good instruction at the altar of teaching for the test, and outright cheating. Campell’s law: The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.

California’s accountability system is attempting to combat some of these deleterious effects and its architecture is in keeping with most of his recommendations. He calls for such changes as broader measures of state and local performance, including measures of growth, building broader tests (even in math and reading the tests only cover a portion of the curriculum), making sure that other measures of school quality are included especially local ones, diminishing predictability of questions to decrease the ability to prep for tests, and, most importantly, orienting accountability primarily to improving instruction not providing consequences.  Still, if we believe his research and recommendations, there is some further work that needs to be done to combat the tendency for publicized test results to drive the system in the wrong direction. This is a worthy topic for discussion and Koretz’s book is a valuable read.

I only have two caveats with the book. Koretz does not like Common Core because of its origins as part of a test and punish orientation and offers the same curriculum for all. But the Common Core as articulated in the California frameworks which also include Science and History/Social Science promotes the very active instruction that Koretz finds diminished by the widespread focus on improving test scores. Discussions on how to teach Common Core’s more ambitious curriculum by school staffs also are a great catalyst for school site team building, cooperative efforts, and continuous improvement.

Secondly, Koretz never mentions the power of effective collective action at the school site and the support necessary to promote it as a worthy objective and important to include in any accountability system.

In an important post Mathew DiCarlo relying on a recent CREDO report https://credo.stanford.edu/closure-virtual-control-records questions school closure policies as producing no results but causing substantial community and family damage. http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/theory-and-practice-school-closures He writes:

The primary finding of the [CREDO]report is that students from closed schools ended up making less testing progress than similar students in “low performing” schools that didn’t close. The difference was statistically discernible but very small (about 0.01-0.02 standard deviations). In other words, if you (cautiously) take these results at face value, closing schools didn’t help students, on average.


In addition to no results, school closures cause substantial disruption and collateral damage. Such closures are very controversial, however, and for good reason. For one thing, given adequate time and resources, schools may improve – i.e., there are less drastic interventions that might be equally (or more) effective as a way to help students. Moreover, closing a school represents a disruption in students’ lives (and often, by the way, to the larger community). In this sense, any closure must offer cumulative positive effects sufficient to offset an initial negative effect. Much depends on how and why schools are identified for closure, and the quality of the schools that displaced students attend. In practice, then, closure is a fairly risky policy, both educationally and (perhaps especially) politically. This disconnect between the appeal of theoretical school closures and the actual risks, in practice, may help explain why U.S. educational policy has been designed such that many schools operate at some risk of closure, but relatively few ever end up shutting their doors.


Katherine Stewart writing in the American Prospect has written an important article exposing the extent of religious true believers assault on public education and how the charter movement has been duped by them. The Proselytizers and the Privatizers; How religious sectarian school voucher extremists made useful idiots of the charter movement.  http://prospect.org/article/proselytizers-and-privatizers

Education Next, a conservative publication, finds the “reform” test and punish effort in Douglas County, Colorado a disaster. http://educationnext.org/reflections-on-election-in-douglas-county-colorado/

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

The much hyped state achievement school district in Tennessee ends after flopping (which hasn’t stopped other states from replicating the idea). https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2017/10/19/the-great-tennessee-achievement-school-district-experiment-finally-comes-to-an-end/ Diane Ravitch reports on a copy-cat achievement district in Nevada that has also failed. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/11/01/nevada-the-achievement-school-district-is-failing/

Variation within schools is much greater than among schools. Marc Tucker raises the issue that our accountability priorities might be misplaced. Federal, state, and local policy have been based on belief that school variation in performance should be a major driver of policy. But Tucker relying on OECD research points out that within school variation is more than twice as important as between schools variation in science and by implication in other areas. This is consistent with the Coleman reports findings 50 years ago. In the US it is four times greater. The implication for policy  is significant. Variation within schools could stem from school policies on placement, discipline, and suspensions. Or from in-class instructional issues. Or from teacher differences in performance. Common-core and the frameworks contain advice on the classroom issues. Also, school variation means that in most schools there are very effective teachers and,  if the school can create effective learning communities where teachers learn from each other, those effective teachers could be a powerful resource in bringing up the performance of the rest and be part of school collaborative efforts at diminishing variation and offering differentiated instruction. This research validates California’s support and emphasis on site collaboration, instructional leadership, and district support of those efforts to engage in continuous improvement.

Tucker explains: We know where the differences are in school performance.  They are between the rich schools and the schools serving the poor; between the majority majority schools and the majority minority schools.  They are between the schools that can afford to hire the best teachers and the schools that cannot.  They are between the leafy suburbs and the grim inner cities.  In other words, while we know that there are differences in performance within schools, the big differences in student performance, the ones that really count, are between schools.  That’s why parents are willing to spend a lot more to get their children into schools in the leafy suburbs.  That’s why our accountability systems are focused on giving schools letter grades and singling out the poor-performing schools for special attention.

But then there is the graphic in front of me from the OECD titled “Variation in Science Performance Between and Within Schools.”  It tells a very different story.  Out of 68 countries surveyed, between-school variation accounted for 30 percent of differences in student performance, while within-school variation averaged 69 percent.  Hmm.  Maybe what we know is not true.  Among these countries, the variation in science performance is more than twice as much within schools as it is between schools. (In the US it is 20% between schools and 80% within schools). http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2017/09/differences_in_performance_within_schools_why_so_much_greater_than_in_other_countries_1.html?r=1820139693 Also see the original charts http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/pisa-2015-results-volume-i/variation-in-science-performance-between-and-within-schools_9789264266490-graph81-en#.Wgo5wLpFxPZ


American-style Taliban invasion of our public schools by religious extremists. https://tultican.com/2017/10/26/american-style-taliban-invading-public-education/

Ten major problems with Teach for America’s treatment of its teachers. https://cloakinginequity.com/2017/11/12/10-things-you-should-know-about-tfa-corps-member-realities/

A teacher’s defense of public education: the good, the deceptive, and the destructive. http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_in_a_strange_land/2017/11/talking_about_public_education_the_good_the_deceptive_and_the_destructive_1.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=teacherinastrangeland

Candidates who are speaking up for public education and against DeVos’s agenda are winning. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/11/19/the-devos-effect-on-the-november-elections/?utm_term=.433aa5694ab0

Peter Greene quotes another libertarian who misunderstands the public nature of our schools and argues that corporations should run public schools. https://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/11/schools-should-belong-to-corporations.html

The problems with grading schools. http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2016/03/problems-with-school-ratings.html

The more weight value added test score measures are given in teacher evaluation the flimsier the results. http://vamboozled.com/the-more-weight-vams-carry-the-more-teacher-effects-will-appear-to-vary/ . Another finding by expert that VAMS are inherently biased. http://vamboozled.com/

Schools as a community institution played a major part in disaster relief, another example which contradicts DeVos’s insistence that education is an individual consumer good. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/in-disasters-wake-public-schools-and-educators-defy-devoss-attacks-on-the-system/


Good Instruction

A strong liberal arts curriculum is the best (comparable to California’s standards and frameworks in ELA/ELD, Mathematics, Science, History/Social Science/Civics, Health, World Languages, Visual and Performing Arts, and Physical Education.) https://edexcellence.net/articles/the-lasting-value-of-a-classical-liberal-arts-education?utm_source=Fordham+Updates&utm_campaign=1b8f9f2f17-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_10_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d9e8246adf-1b8f9f2f17-71491225&mc_cid=1b8f9f2f17&mc_eid=ebbe04a807

The Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) has produced a report about the implementation of continuous improvement efforts in California. http://www.edpolicyinca.org/publications/continuous-improvement-in-practice

WestEd reports that based on a Rand survey study, California teachers are significantly more engaged in collaborative efforts to implement a high quality instructional program than their peers in other states. https://www.wested.org/resources/california-standards-implementation-what-educators-are-saying/ They found:

  • Increased site-based, collaborative professional learning and peer observation reported among California teachers
  • Higher levels of teacher involvement in key school decisions in California than in other states
  • Shifting approaches to standards-aligned materials among California teachers and leaders


Two prominent Americans, Robert Putnam (author of Bowling Alone and civic activist John Bridgeland published an op-ed supporting the revitalization of civic education.https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/america-needs-big-ideas-to-heal-our-divides-here-are-three

Dr. Putnam and Mr. Bridgeland state: “Another bold idea would be to engage philanthropy in a $1 billion annual campaign to restore American history and civic education to its rightful place in American schools. We need “problems of American democracy” courses that teach students about the importance of bedrock American values, educate them through real-world experience about institutions that secure rights, check power, and enable public service, and provide practical skills to turn the wheels of a diverse democracy to address public problems.”

Commenting on the article Ted McConnell of the Civic Mission of the Schools organization stated: Now is the time for all who advocate for more and better civic learning to re-double our efforts to ensure every single K-Higher Ed student in the nation receives the student centered, innovative civic and history learning, vital to the student’s attainment of civic knowledge and civic skills essential to informed and committed civic engagement.  For more examples please see our Facebook page www.facebook.com/civicmissionofschools) or Twitter feed: (https://twitter.com/CivicEdNow )

California initiates measures to revive civic education and engagement for students.https://edsource.org/2017/seal-on-diploma-will-be-badge-of-honor-for-civically-active-california-students/589598?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email



Sam Wineburg writing in the NYTimes about the inability of students to detect fake news. https://www.wsj.com/articles/most-students-dont-know-when-news-is-fake-stanford-study-finds-1479752576

Demystifying to help struggling students learn. https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/11/20/5-strategies-to-demystify-the-learning-process-for-struggling-students/?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=20171126Mindshift&mc_key=00Qi000001WzO2NEAV Also see a column on how to study smarter. https://hechingerreport.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=66c306eebb323868c3ce353c1&id=83422df8d0&e=4701278295

Deans for Impact paper on the science of learning. https://deansforimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/The_Science_of_Learning.pdf

An insightful examination of the pros and cons of personalized learning. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/11/08/the-cases-against-personalized-learning.html?cmp=eml-enl-cm-news1-rm&M=58280629&U=56558

In the same vein Education Week has produced a Special Report: Personalized Learning; Vision Vs Reality https://www.edweek.org/ew/collections/personalized-learning/index.html?cmp=eml-eb-sr-personalized-11082017&M=58266449

A reporter embeds in a public high-school and finds competence, love, and dedication. https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/10/18/558104287/a-year-of-love-and-struggle-in-a-new-high-school?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20171022&utm_campaign=NPREd&utm_term=NPR_Ed

Over 200,000 kids writing samples were examined. Here are the areas that stumped many of them. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/10/24/the-work-of-213284-kids-was-analyzed-these-are-the-writing-and-critical-thinking-skills-that-stumped-too-many-students/?utm_term=.b0019d0cb894

Why fractions are so hard. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/talking-apes/201709/why-is-doing-arithmetic-fractions-so-difficult and https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fractions-where-it-all-goes-wrong/



A video from the Learning Policy Institute on the power of performance assessment in Oakland Unified school district. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/power-performance-assessments-video?utm_source=LPI+Master+List&utm_campaign=2b710a15ec-LPIMC_OUSD_Video_2017_10_26&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7e60dfa1d8-2b710a15ec-42289731


Technology and the Future

Marc Tucker describes a curriculum for a digital future which combines a strong liberal arts base with critical thinking and technology skills. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2017/11/educating_for_a_digital_future_thoughts_on_curriculum.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=top_performers

A balanced look at the problems and benefits of technology in the classroom by EducationNext. http://educationnext.org/new-research-answers-whether-technology-good-bad-learning/ The article starts with the following paragraph: In the most recent issue of Education Next, for example, Susan Payne Carter, Kyle Greenberg, and Michael S. Walker write about their research finding that allowing any computer usage in the classroom “reduces students’ average final-exam performance by roughly one-fifth of a standard deviation.” Other studies have shown similarly dismal numbers for student learning when technology is introduced in the classroom. But continues on to say that in some instances targeted use of technology for enhancement and personalized learning in specific areas mediated by a personal touch can be helpful.

KQED’s Mindshift warns of the misuse of technology in the classroom. https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/11/06/its-time-for-a-deeper-conversation-about-how-schools-use-technology/

A caution by Kristina Rizga writing in Mother Jones about the potential negative influence on public schools by tech companies advocacy of “personalized learning”. Personalized learning is the latest trend to catch the eye of tech moguls—and Betsy DeVos. But does it work? asking But does it work?. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/11/inside-silicon-valleys-big-money-push-to-remake-american-education/#

John Merrow reviews a NY Times article by Singer and Ivory, How Silicon Valley Plans to Conquer the Classroom https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/03/technology/silicon-valley-baltimore-schools.html?_r=0 about how the Baltimore school district got snookered into squandering millions of dollars on technology while neglecting the district’s basic needs including payola and pay to play. https://themerrowreport.com/2017/11/07/greed-tech-schools-a-fiasco/

Another article, this one by Thomas Ultican, arguing technology in the classroom is highly problematical. https://tultican.com/2017/10/05/personalized-and-blended-learning-are-money-grabs/

The Curmudgucation blog warns of the AltSchool failures and shift to an off-the-shelf personalized learning product. https://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/11/altschool-lowers-bar.html

But see a paper on the science underpinning the Summit Learning charter school network. https://blog.summitlearning.org/2017/08/science-of-summit-framework-research/

School and the Future of Work: Ten research papers you should read. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2017/10/schools_future_of_work_research_roundup.html?cmp=eml-enl-dd-news2-rm&M=58240740&U=56558

Contrary to conventional wisdom, in many fields there are more science and technology graduates than there are jobs. STEM education is all the rage in the U.S. today, but we may be misleading students when it comes to which type of STEM jobs are in high demand and which are not. New data highlighted by Steve Lohr in the New York Times reveals that the number of students with STEM-related degrees is outpacing many of the job opportunities in STEM fields. For example, there were an estimated 169,000 engineering degrees (bachelor, master and Ph.D.) awarded in 2015-2106. But there are only 51,000 job openings projected per year. This gap holds true in other fields like life sciences and physical sciences. The one exception is computer science . . . where the number of jobs is equal to the number of computer science degrees.   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/education/edlife/stem-jobs-industry-careers.html

Good jobs which don’t require a four year college degree. https://goodjobsdata.org and an article in EdSource entitled California Has Millions of Good-Paying Jobs for Workers Without a Bachelor’s Degree. https://edsource.org/2017/california-has-millions-of-good-paying-jobs-for-workers-without-a-bachelors-degree/590131?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email

California poll shows the public wishes schools to do more to educate the non-college bound. https://edsource.org/2017/poll-public-schools-must-do-more-to-prepare-non-college-going-students-for-the-workforce/588549?utm_source=newsletter


Team Building and Collaboration

Five benefits from collaboration. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2017/10/how_five_schools_rethought_time–and_improved_teaching_and_learning.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=learningdeeply

International study finds teacher collaboration pays off. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2017/11/what_does_an_international_assessment_tell_us_about_collaborative_problem_solving.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=learningdeeply

School leadership counts for improving instruction—five findings from a major recent report. http://info.newteachercenter.org/school-leadership-report-download?submissionGuid=2b36a471-85e9-4b17-ad91-ab2828006f64 Key findings:

  • Students perform better in schools with the highest levels of instructional and teacher leadership.
  • Specific elements of instructional leadership are strongly related to higher student achievement: (a) Fostering a shared vision for the school; (b) Providing an effective school improvement team; and (c) Holding teachers to high instructional standards.
  • When teachers are involved in decision-making processes related to school improvement planning and student conduct policies, students learn more.
  • Schools rarely implement the instructional and teacher leadership variables most strongly related to increased student achievement.
  • High-poverty schools often lack the instructional and teacher leadership elements that strongly relate to increased student achievement, limiting students’ potential.


Voucher and Charter School Tribulations

A major, new well-researched report on charter schools demonstrates major problems and negative consequences and recommends policy remediations. https://networkforpubliceducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/NPE-Report-Charters-and-Consequences.pdf

Michael Petrilli comments that some of the better charter schools are shifting from a narrow no-excuse concentration on reading and math and embracing a broader liberal arts curriculum. https://edexcellence.net/articles/high-performing-charter-networks-are-finally-embracing-well-rounded-curricula?utm_source=Fordham+Updates&utm_campaign=d4153a4a17-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_10_25&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d9e8246adf-d4153a4a17-71491225&mc_cid=d4153a4a17&mc_eid=ebbe04a807

Julian Vasquez Heilig tells of the unfortunate history and segregation of charter schools. https://cloakinginequity.com/2017/11/29/the-unfortunate-history-and-segregation-of-charter-schools/

Former Ohio legislator explains how massive shifts to fund charter schools has hurt students in traditional public schools. http://10thperiod.blogspot.com/2017/11/how-kids-not-in-charters-are-hurt-by.html

Ohio charters have terrible college attendance and graduation rates far below regular public schools with harder to educate students https://10thperiod.blogspot.fr/2017/10/state-data-ohio-charter-school.html One of the more interesting — and telling — datasets now available with the state report card is how kids who graduate from Ohio’s schools perform after they graduate. For example, we now know the percentage of graduates who have a college degree within 6 years, as well as how many graduates have enrolled in college within 2 years of graduation.
Looking at these two metrics, it’s remarkable how bad charter school perform. Overall, Ohio school districts have 5 times the rate of students with college degrees that charters have. And Big 8 urban districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati. Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown) have twice the rate.

Ohio charters widening achievement gap compared to traditional public schools. https://10thperiod.blogspot.com/2017/10/state-report-card-disadvantaged.html

Vouchers don’t improve student performance. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/charterschoice/2017/11/precious_little_evidence_vouchers_improve_academic_achievement_research_finds.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news2&M=58281281&U=56558

Diane Ravitch reports that for the fifth year in a row every Pennsylvania cyber-school fails to meet state standards. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/11/12/pa-cyber-performance/

Debunking the “New Orleans Miracle” The New Orleans Tribune finds fault with the much hyped “progress” in New Orleans charter schools. http://www.theneworleanstribune.com/main/faking-the-grade/

The performance of a school touted as a “miracle success story” found to be bogus. http://www.realcleareducation.com/2017/11/29/exposing_the_school_where_039every_senior_got_into_college039_45550.html?utm_source=RC+Education+Today&utm_campaign=eca7cbb1fe-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_11_29&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8a051b373b-eca7cbb1fe-83803513

The Poison Fruits of Lax Charter Accountability

Founder of a prominent charter school network in New Mexico found guilty of embezzling millions. http://krqe.com/2017/10/25/former-charter-school-administrator-pleads-guilty-to-embezzling-millions/

Charter school chief in Ohio busted for stealing $2.7 million from school lunch funds to support a lavish life style. http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/news/ct-met-superintendent-fraud-underprivileged-students-20171114-story.html

Charter school principal in Delaware pleads guilty to misappropriating school funds. https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2017/11/21/ex-academy-of-dover-chief-noel-rodriguez-pleads-guilty-in-theft-of-145000/

The head of a small charter school in Texas paid himself a huge salary while neglecting teacher salaries and student resources. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/education/article/Small-Houston-charter-school-pays-top-dollar-to-12332395.php

Diane Ravitch reports on Laura Chapman’s findings of lax oversight on charters in Ohio. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/10/28/laura-chapman-on-the-failure-of-charter-oversight-in-ohio/

The Orlando Sentinel spent months investigating the $1 Billion voucher-like scholarship program and found massive fraud with little oversight. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-schools-without-rules-story-gallery-storygallery.html

In another expose, the Sentinel blew the whistle on the Florida voucher program entitled School Vouchers Gone Wild: A serious problem exposed by serious journalism http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-florida-school-vouchers-journalism-scott-maxwell-20171019-story.html

A virtual high-school in Indiana has one of the worst records in the US. One of Indiana’s largest high schools ended this past school year with almost 5,000 students, but no desks and no classrooms. The school also had very few graduates — 61 out of more than 900 seniors graduated last year. What Indiana Virtual School did have: Tens of millions in state dollars due to come its way over the next two years, and a founder whose for-profit company charged millions of dollars in management fees and rent to the school. https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2017/10/31/as-students-signed-up-online-school-hired-barely-any-teachers-but-founders-company-charged-it-millions/

In Chicago, the inspector general found that large numbers of teachers barred from Chicago Public Schools secured work at city charters. http://digitaledition.chicagotribune.com/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=a6f07c5d-79f0-4784-b8e9-28a5c7611556


Report finds that parents often make flawed choices in choosing schools because of lack of quality information vitiating one of the major rationales for choice. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/10/can-parents-really-pick-the-best-schools-for-their-kids/543201/

The World Education Blog published an article raising substantial questions about choice in OECD countries titled Does School Choice Really Exist? https://gemreportunesco.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/does-school-choice-really-exist/#more-11111

Jeff Bryant penned a compelling take-down of a badly argued paper by the Center for American Progress which failed to make a progressive case for charter schools. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/center-for-american-progresss-failed-progressive-case-for-charter-schools/

An article in the Cornell Law Review by Derek Black, Preferencing Educational Choice: the Contitutional Limits. https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=629021065069066002017098071115030072004042024048051009122064088096090116110026113092123124006123042032124103110126115022104072119033078019018126022009019103093126090082048070099120103066116006084007087107116026067009105087123123094113073112065112001&EXT=pdf


Where Can Teachers Find Resources to Implement the New California History/Social Science Framework?


During the past decade, especially at the elementary grades, history, social science, and civics have been neglected in many districts. As the country’s founders and the original advocates for public education were well aware, the survival of our democracy depends in large part on developing an attachment to our democratic ideals and practices as well as an historical perspective in each new generation. Since for several years we as a country and state have fallen short of our obligations to pass on these beliefs and supporting knowledge, the framework comes at a crucial time. It should provide a useful tool for the revitalization of the teaching of history, civics, geography, and economics in California’s schools. The framework adds much new content and contains several major shifts from previous documents. The framework:


  • Provides a much more active classroom instruction with each grade chapter posing engaging questions to encourage deeper learning for students.
  • Places a much greater emphasis on understanding our democracy and civic engagement throughout the grade levels—the knowledge of the basic principles of our democratic ideals, the struggles to honor those beliefs, the effort to incorporate democratic habits of discussion and debate into the classroom and school, and the involvement of students in projects such as Model UN and learning opportunities for civic participation and service learning.
  • Reflects the growing diversity of California’s students and the efforts in this country to broaden the social, economic, and political inclusion of all Americans.
  • Combines the power and engagement of strong narrative with the analytic skills of how to examine and evaluate primary and secondary sources, distinguish fact from fiction, conduct credible discussions, write essays or undertake projects on pertinent topics and perceive historical connections between current and past issues.
  • Follows our California History/Social Science standards as updated by legislation and is organized chronologically to cover United States and California history, world history, and incorporates civic, economic, geographic, and environmental ideas in each grade.


California Department of Education Website Links

The first place to look for resources and classroom ideas is the framework itself. Its individual grade level chapters contain useful links. https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/cf/sbedrafthssfw.asp (These links and the following links can be found at the California Department of Education (CDE) website page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/)

Additionally, the framework’s appendices are an invaluable resource and can be found at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/rl/.

  • Appendix A: Problems, Questions and Themes in History and Geography–seven key themes in History/Social Science. (page 847)
  • Appendix C covers teaching the Contemporary World (page 899)
  • Appendix D covers civics: Educating for Democracy: Civic Education in the History/Social Science framework. (page 919)
  • Appendix E relates to the teaching of religion in the framework. (page 930)
  • Appendix F deals with California and the Environment Initiative. (page 939) with curricular units
  • Appendix G outlines the capacities of literate individuals. (page 975)
  • Appendix H addresses Practicing Civic Engagement; Service Learning in the H/SS Framework. (page 978)

The CDE also lists the ten recently adopted instructional materials for K-8. https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/im/hssadoptedprograms.asp.

CDE provides links to resources which support the new framework. https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/re/ Further, there is a general recommended literature list which should be helpful with supporting materials such as biographies. https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/rl/  The CDE is currently working on a list of supporting materials specific to the H/SS framework.


The California History/Social Science Project

Their website has a wealth of resources to support the framework. (http://chssp.ucdavis.edu)

    • Their main framework page includes details on upcoming conferences, and links to other resources  (http://chssp.ucdavis.edu/programs/framework)
    • Their newest resource is a Textbook Adoption page, which includes their just-released adoption toolkit, and two blogs with strategies to help schools and districts pick resources for their teachers and students. (http://chssp.ucdavis.edu/programs/adoption)
    • Another popular tool is their Question Matrix – all of the Framework questions, organized by grade level in an excel spreadsheet with columns to help teachers align their existing resources with the new Framework. https://ucdavis.app.box.com/v/guidingquestions.

o   History Blueprint units:  massive units for grades 7 (Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World), 8 (Civil War), and 10 and 11 (Cold War).  All units incorporate inquiry approach, provide support for student literacy, primary sources, and innovative assessments. (http://chssp.ucdavis.edu/programs/historyblueprint)

o   ELD collection – three shorter lessons with specific support for English learners for grade 5 (American Revolution), 8 (Westward Expansion), and 10 (Democratic Roots). (http://chssp.ucdavis.edu/el-support)

    • Current Context – this resource highlights the Citizenship piece by putting current events in historical context.  Moreover, this year’s series includes a special focus on environmental literacy – recent issues focused on Water (Oroville Dam), and Forest Fires. (http://chssp.ucdavis.edu/current-context)
    • Environmental Literacy Webinars:  four part recorded webinar series that offers teachers both a description of how using the environment in HSS classrooms can engage students and concrete lesson plans so they can give it a try. (http://chssp.ucdavis.edu/programs/environment)
    • Teach the Election – another citizenship resource – lots of articles and lessons to help teachers incorporate current events into their history classrooms (http://chssp.ucdavis.edu/programs/election/issues-briefs-and-results)
    • All of these web resources align well with the CHSSP’s professional development programs which are being hosted in schools across California.  They work with school leaders to design introductory sessions, ongoing lesson study and original curriculum, and alignment to current school and district reform efforts.  For more information on that, they can contact Nancy McTygue’s office (chssp@ucdavis.edu; 530-752-0572).
    • Teaching California, a new program led by the California Historical Society, in partnership with the CHSSP, will provide a K-12 collection of primary and secondary sources and literacy support for California teachers, aligned to the new Framework.  Currently under development, resources from the collection should be available starting in 2019.  For more information:  http://chssp.ucdavis.edu/blog/teachcal

Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE)

LACOE’s History/Social Science page is chock full of resources.  https://www.lacoe.edu/CurriculumInstruction/HistorySocialScience.aspx Especially, look at the Civic Learning Compendium for the California History-Social Science Framework https://www.lacoe.edu/Portals/0/Curriculum-Instruction/HSS/Civic%20Learning%20Compendium%20FINAL.pdf

Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP)

SERP has developed an extensive series of units on tons of discussion questions for Civics and History. Word Generation: Infusing Civics into Everyday Teaching http://www.buildingbetterschools.com/2017/11/27/serp-word-genera…veryday-teaching/ ‎Other resources can be found at the SERP website http://serpinstitute.org/

For Some Specific Programs Aimed at Civic Education and Engagement

Educating for Democracy

This blog https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/deep_dive/ed4democracy/home/ was developed through a collaboration between the Teaching Channel and the Civic Engagement Research Group (CERG) at the University of California, Riverside http://www.civicsurvey.org/ .  They will be updating this collection on an ongoing basis. To receive updates on new resources and information about civic learning, follow @Ed4Democracy on Twitter and sign up for the Education for Democracy newsletter https://civicsurvey.us4.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=44e708ac3817f6114ff153358&id=befb721765 .

They have also curated a list of relevant, high-quality civic learning materials from national civic education organizations such as the well-respected ICivics.  https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/deep_dive/ed4democracy/learn-more/



Sam Wineburg’s Research and Units on Evaluating Online Civic Information

Sam Wineburg leads the Stanford History Education group and has produced materials to evaluate online civic information based on their research and reports that students have trouble judging credibility.

Here are the units: Evaluating Information: the Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning https://purl.stanford.edu/fv751yt5934; http://ncsmc.ca.lwvnet.org/files/teaching_students_how_to_identify_fake_news.pdf ;some short history performance assessments. beyondthebubble.stanford.edu ; and some lessons, Reading Like An Historian https://sheg.stanford.edu/history-lessons 

Here also are some articles with relevant research about his approach. https://ed.stanford.edu/news/stanford-researchers-find-students-have-trouble-judging-credibility-information-online ;http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/10/even-smart-people-are-shockingly-bad-at-analyzing-sources-online-this-might-be-an-actual-solution/ ;https://www.poynter.org/news/want-be-better-online-sleuth-learn-read-webpages-fact-checker ; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/09/19/the-nations-report-card-says-it-assesses-critical-thinking-in-history-but-naep-gets-an-f-on-that-score/?utm_term=.eaf92b15c520

These are just some of the resources available but should help many of you in designing top-notch classroom instruction.


Nov. 26th, 2017


What is Word Generation?
• Tier 1, discussion-rich program suite for grades 4 – 8 focused on discussion of controversial social issues while building grade-level academic skills:
• academic language
• perspective-taking
• argumentation skills
• comprehension
• writing
• science
• social studies

72 one-week interdisciplinary units for middle school

Social Studies Generation
18 one-week social studies units for middle school

Science Generation
18 one-week science units for middle school

Word Generation ELEMENTARY
24 two-week interdisciplinary
units for grades 4 & 5

Grades 4 and 5
• Tier 1 program for grades 4 and 5
• For each grade: 12 two-week units organized around a central question (plus a one- week introductory unit)
o 40-50 minute lessons each day
o 5–6 high-utility academic “focus words” emphasized in each unit


Unit Topic
4.00 Introduction to Word Generation
4.01 What is fair?
4.02 Should students share responsibility for each other’s behavior in school?
4.03 Who should decide what we eat?
4.04 Should students be required to wear uniforms?
4.05 Should everyone learn a second language?
4.06 Who cares where we came from?
4.07 Who gets to decide what’s safe?
4.08 Should wild animals be adopted as pets?
4.09 When is it acceptable to break the rules?
4.10 Why do we wear what we wear?
4.11 Why do we buy what we buy?
4.12 Why do we value what we value?

Unit Topic
5.00 Introduction to Word Generation
5.01 Where do I belong?
5.02 Should everyone be included?
5.03 Why should I care?
5.04 What divides us and how can we resolve our differences?
5.05 Why do we fight?
5.06 Do we need to give up our privacy to protect our communities?
5.07 The Power of Power
5.08 Why do communities have different ideas about what brings happiness?
5.09 How can one person influence a community?
5.10 Do we need laws to regulate our behavior?
5.11 What kind of protections justify restricting our freedoms?
5.12 Can we create a better society?

5.11 What kinds of protections justify restricting our freedoms?

restrict amend resistance target reliance persist

Typical Schedule

Day 1: Action News

Allows students to tune into a news report (a critical aspect of becoming an informed citizen).

Simultaneously builds comprehension skills by:
• using aural introduction of content with closed captioning
• using academic language in context
• hearing multiple viewpoints on a single issue.

Day 1: Action News

Day 1: Readers Theater

Students read aloud a dialogue among 4 students in their own everyday language

Grapple with four different perspectives, and the casual reasoning behind them

Day 4: Ask the Expert

Days 5-6: Science/Math/ Articles/Informational Text

Day 7-8: Discussion and Debate
On Day 6 you read about Olly Neal, who stole library books in high school and is now a judge.
Today, you will put yourself in Judge Olly Neal’s shoes and respond to the characters from the Reader’s Theater. Work with a partner to fill in the chart. There are many right answers, so be creative!

Days 9-10: Writing

Fully developed/free resources
• Word Chants
• Vocab Cards
• Letters for Familes (English, Spanish, Spanish, Arabic)
• Rubrics (Debate, Discussion, Argumentative Writing)
• Debate/Discussion Supports for ELLs

72 one-week interdisciplinary units for middle school

Social Studies Generation
18 one-week social studies units for middle school

Science Generation
18 one-week science units for middle school

Word Generation ELEMENTARY
24 two-week interdisciplinary
units for grades 4 & 5


People disagree about the specific factors that make a film inappropriate for children in the United States.

Those who like the rating system say it helps people decide if a product is right for them or their children.

Others say ratings are too simplistic, that they ignore the central messages in movies or books.

Some people don’t like rating systems because they can be used for maximizing profits rather than protecting the public.

Furthermore, a young gamer who is stopped from buying a title because it is “too mature” can often get someone older to buy it.

Social Studies Generation

Unit 6.1 — Pharaohs: Oppressors or Great Leaders?
Unit 6.2 — Pharaohs: Wise Investors or Wasteful Spenders?
Unit 6.3 — Was it better to be an Athenian or a Spartan?
Unit 6.4 — The Legacy of Alexander the Great: Great Leader or Power-Hungry Tyrant?
Unit 6.5 — Ancient Roman Government: Whose Voice Counts?
Unit 6.6 — Pompeii: An Irresponsible Decision or Unexpected Disaster?

Unit 7.1 — What happens to your life when you’re uprooted?
Unit 7.2 — Who do you trust when your life is at stake?
Unit 7.3 — Where is home?

Unit 7.4 — Who will we become?
Unit 7.5 — How do I fit in?
Unit 7.6 — Should we stay or should we return?
Unit 8.1 — What are governments good for?
Unit 8.2 — Who gets to say what I need to know?
Unit 8.3 — What is the value of your citizenship?
Unit 8.4 — When is a crime not a crime?
Unit 8.5 — Where is the justice in our justice system?
Unit 8.6 — How do we right the wrongs of the past?

Focus Words
agency • pressure • document • resolve • dual • renounce • universal • right


Reader’s Theater
Building Background Knowledge
Building Background Knowledge

It’s Debate Time!


Reader’s Theater
Building Background Knowledge
Building Background Knowledge

It’s Debate Time!




Reader’s Theater
Building Background Knowledge
Building Background Knowledge

It’s Debate Time!




Reader’s Theater
Building Background Knowledge
Building Background Knowledge

It’s Debate Time!





Reader’s Theater
Building Background Knowledge
Building Background Knowledge

It’s Debate Time!






Reader’s Theater
Building Background Knowledge
Building Background Knowledge

It’s Debate Time!



ELA Math Science
Supplementary Activities

Science Generation

Major design considerations:

‣ distinguishing prediction/guess and observation/inference

‣ the idea that “I don’t know” is a terrific first step

‣ learning to describe and construct controlled conditions

‣ using evidence instead of speculation when identifying cause/effect relationships

‣ using mathematics spontaneously, including appropriate units of measurement and graphing strategies

‣ the idea that revising plans is at the heart of what scientists do, but

‣ working to reduce bias, admitting bias

‣ hands-on WITH… planning, integrated text, creative strategies for capturing and displaying data, varied outcomes, communication

‣ recording data in stages and within processes

‣ the concept that skepticism is not disrespect in science

All SERP OERs: serpmedia.org

Fordham Institute’s Simplistic System for Evaluating State Accountability Systems Gets it Wrong for California.

The Fordham Institute recently published evaluation of state accountability system is dangerously off the mark. They use three criteria to give strong, medium, or weak rankings. https://edexcellence.net/publications/rating-the-ratings?v=publication

The first criterion elevates giving clear and intuitive annual ratings such as A-F grades to schools as an easily understood way for parents, educators and policy makers to evaluate a school and then push for improvements. California had persuasive reasons to reject that approach. A-F grades are simple and clear, yet often misleading as primarily based on reading and math scores which are much too narrow a definition of school quality. Several states which have used this system have experienced widespread misidentification of schools and found that the grades merely tracked socio-economics. Many schools with low grades were actually high performers.

California instead uses a broader set of measures called a dashboard which includes test results of annual exams but also such measures as graduation rates, preparation for college, preparation for careers, achievement gaps among groups, school climate, enrollment in advanced courses and suspension rates. Each measure is given a ranking using a quadrant method which combines growth and level of performance. This strategy is much more useful for educators and parents to determine where improvements need to be focused.

To mingle these diverse measures to produce an average score may be simple but could well mask major differences in performance. One school may have medium test scores but high engagement levels, graduation rates, and college attendance. Another school with the same ranking grade may have very high test scores but low college attendance. If the purpose of accountability is to provide useful information to school and district staffs to guide improvement efforts, then discrete information on each measure is warranted, and mushing these various measures together inappropriate and counter-productive.

If your car’s temperature gauge is in the red but all the other gauges are fine, a high average score will mask the seriousness of the situation. Or conversely, if the gas gauge is on empty but the temperature gauge is fine in one car and the opposite is true in another car, the same average score is highly misleading and doesn’t pinpoint the problem.

Fordham agrees that a variety of measures could also be provided but argues parents won’t be able to understand multiple measures so they need one rank even if it is not accurate. They produce no evidence that parents can’t use a dashboard to push for needed changes. The California PTA found that its parent members liked the dashboard idea as a more precise method of understanding strengths and weaknesses in their schools and had no difficulty understanding it. Moreover, even if multiple measures are offered, the single ranking will become the main way to judge schools and crowd out the more useful information to the detriment of the proper educational response.

I suspect the real reason Fordham advocates a flawed ranking system based on averaging measures is that they have wholly bought in to a “test and punish” policy of weaponizing a single grade as a way to put pressures on schools to improve, for districts or states to close “low performing” schools, and to encourage charter expansion.

The strategy of using reading and math test scores and supporting consequences for low performance was the basic policy idea behind No Child Left Behind (NCLB). That program and philosophy did not produced results but did cause large-scale deleterious consequences. NAEP (the National Assessment) scores were climbing before NCLB, slowed down during its first years and in the final years when consequences multiplied came to a screeching halt. Closing schools has also proven to produce no effect on average but has caused significant collateral damage to communities and families.  .http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/theory-and-practice-school-closures and Fordham has been an acknowledged advocate of charter expansion. California views accountability much differently. It is following a “build and support” approach” primarily aimed at producing useful information for educators and others to improve the quality of schools. The state policy assumes that teachers and educators are committed to continuous improvement and don’t need to be bludgeoned to get them to improve. http://www.buildingbetterschools.com/

In summary, using California as an example, there is strong evidence that the rankings for the first criteria are backwards—weak should be ranked strong and the strong states which rely on misleading letter grades should be ranked as weak.

Fordham’s second criterion is valid and important. Avoid basing test scores on reaching a set proficiency levels which encourages schools to only concentrate on those students just below that proficient level. Instead, use scaled scores or averages which results in all students contributing to the measure.

Unfortunately, the Fordham review for California was flawed and completely misrepresented the state’s approach. Fordham gave the state a weak designation because through sloppy staff work it thought that the state used proficiency levels to determine its measures. It didn’t and even a cursory view of California’s system would have proven it. The state uses the distance from a standard met level, which is fully in keeping with the scale score or average approach. David Sapp, deputy policy director and assistant legal counsel for the state board, said the report [Fordham’s Rankings] also contained a big error. California already has moved away from the old standard of rating achievement based on the percentage of students who scored proficient. The dashboard measures performance in relation to the point identified as minimum proficiency on the Smarter Balanced math and English language arts tests. It measures how far above or below that point students, on average, scored.  https://edsource.org/2017/california-at-bottom-in-nationwide-ranking-of-accountability-systems-state-board-president-disagrees/590271?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email

Fordham’s third criterion Fairness to All Schools has a very helpful basic idea—growth scores on tests are fairer to low income schools. One of the major problems with NCLB was its reliance on levels of performance which disadvantaged schools with lower socio-economics and gave a pass to schools with higher income children. Under that rubric school scores almost completely tracked the socio-economic level of the school.

However, Fordham’s fix is terribly flawed. They want growth in student test scores in math and reading to be at least fifty percent of the total grade of the school. If growth is emphasized to the exclusion of status (the actual performance level), then schools which have historically produced students scoring at high levels are mistakenly identified as mediocre or worse. Imagine a school with low-income students who after considerable effort has reached a high plateau of performance and maintained that level for several years. They would unfairly look mediocre or worse on a measure heavily weighted to growth.

California solved this problem in a clever way based on what some of the best jurisdictions in the US and Canada have instituted. They use a quadrant method so schools get high marks if they produce high scores in either growth or status—the fairest method around. So in reality growth could be higher than 50% for some schools on this measure. This solution completely escaped the pundits at Fordham and they gave the state a weak designation as minimizing growth. Furthermore, while California has used cohort growth instead of student score growth, this is only temporary until four years of student data is available.

In addition, Fordham made a major strategic error in this criterion. To emphasize growth their standard requires that the growth score should be at least 50% of the total score or grade. If status scores are added at a somewhat smaller percentage to protect schools already achieving at high levels, the overall score becomes essentially a math and reading annual test score. That strategy in NCLB resulted in a profound narrowing of the curriculum shortchanging history, civics, science, and the arts and humanities. It also produced widespread gaming by extensive test prep. de-emphasizing quality instruction, and outright cheating, and yet results were still meagre or non-existent. It also ignored local measures of quality which are essential for a realistic picture of school performance. Daniel Koretz in his recent book The Testing Charade persuasively demonstrates how placing high-stakes on math and reading scores was so devastating. Campbell’s law is still potent: The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.

Finally, Fordham’s selection of only these three criteria is highly questionable. Why aren’t there measures of the strength of the curriculum or instructional program, of teacher and community engagement, of effective school teams devoted to continuous improvement, of performance gaps among groups, or of social and community support? In a rush for a club to beat schools Fordham has ignored those measures which actually produce results. As an example, effective team building and promoting teacher efficacy produce extremely high effect sizes which are large multiples greater than giving letter grades to schools or the punitive use of testing. Fordham at one time supported such valuable measures, but, unfortunately, lately the Institute has neglected them as Fordham became chained to a much narrower approach.

California has developed some of the strongest efforts in the country in developing and implementing a powerful curriculum, school site team building and continuous improvement, district support for those efforts, and state policies which enhance them. See the report on standards by Achieve which give California the highest rankings for the quality of standards, frameworks and instruction. https://www.achieve.org/files/StrongStandards.pdf  Of course, these policies fly in the face of Fordham’s reliance on a discredited “test and punish” agenda. A piece of advice to Fordham: back to the drawing boards and base your efforts on the best research and proven experience of what works and what doesn’t.



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

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