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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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January Comments 1/25/18

Charter School, Voucher, Test and Punish, and Privatization Tribulations

Robert Pondiscio, of the conservative Fordham Institute, advocates shifting “reform” goals from an emphasis on policies encouraging high-stakes testing, privatization, over-reliance on charters, and anti-unionism, to classroom and school instructional issues. This is exactly what we have been attempting to do in California with our “build and support” philosophy opposed to “test and punish”. https://edexcellence.net/articles/education-reform-is-off-track-heres-how-to-fix-it?utm_source=National+Education+Gadfly+Weekly&utm_campaign=4f24000567-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_01_24&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ef00e8f50e-4f24000567-71635837&mc_cid=4f24000567&mc_eid=ebbe04a807  For the California approach see www.buildingbetterschools.com

How Charter Schools Fleece Taxpayers by Timothy Noah in the New Republic about widespread fraud and embezzlement in Arizona’s charter schools.

A quote: In government, if I help myself to taxpayer dollars, we call that embezzlement and I go to jail. In the private sector, if I help myself to taxpayer dollars, we call that innovation and I get hailed as a visionary exponent of public-private partnership. That’s the lesson of a Nov. 17 investigation by Anne Ryman of the Arizona Republic into the state’s charter schools.

In her examination of Arizona’s 50 largest nonprofit charter schools and all of Arizona’s nonprofit charter schools with assets exceeding $10 million, Ryman found “at least 17 contracts or arrangements, totaling more than $70 million over five years and involving about 40 school sites, in which money from the non-profit charter school went to for-profit or non-profit companies run by board members, executives or their relatives.” That says to me that in Arizona, at least, charter-school corruption isn’t the exception. It’s the rule. And that’s just in the nonprofit charter schools. Documentation for the for-profit schools is not publicly available. What are the odds that charter-school proprietors operating in the dark are less inclined to enrich themselves at public expense?

How North Carolina ruined its schools by pursuing privatization policies. http://www.ncjustice.org/?q=education/education-policy-perspectives-unraveling%E2%80%94poorly-crafted-education-policies-are-failing

Diane Ravitch reports on Wisconsin expanding a failed voucher program and dividing the state. https://dianeravitch.net/2018/01/10/wisconsin-expansion-of-vouchers-divides-communities/

Charter schools in Ohio have a dismal record of eventual college graduation. http://10thperiod.blogspot.com/2017/10/state-data-ohio-charter-school.html From Stephen Dyer’s blog who states:

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.

Meanwhile, of the 31 Ohio charter schools that have graduates counted for this metric, 7 (23 percent) had zero graduates with college degrees within six years of graduation.

The outrageous story of the ECOT scandal in Ohio. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/01/the-gops-biggest-charter-school-experiment-just-imploded/

Small charter school network in Houston buys expensive condo’s saying they are for storage. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/education/article/Houston-charter-network-bought-Dallas-condo-for-12452726.php

A cautionary tale from Newark. http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2017/12/test-scores-gains-are-not-necessarily.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FCqnJA+%28Jersey+Jazzman%29

The GOP/Trump tax break for 529 education savings accounts almost exclusively benefits those making $100k or more. https://www.brookings.edu/research/a-tax-break-for-dream-hoarders-what-to-do-about-529-college-savings-plans/

New Mexico charter school CEO steals money for 15 years before being caught. https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2017/12/24/nm-charter-school-ceo-steals-public-money-for-15-years-hows-that-for-oversight/

Chapter and verse about how Success Academy inflates student performance by refusing to back-fill when students leave resulting in huge attrition and then falsely comparing that remaining rarified group to other schools. https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2018/01/04/the-hidden-attrition-of-success-academy/

Michigan has allowed large-scale expansion of charters. It is also the second most segregated state in the nation. http://michiganradio.org/post/report-michigan-schools-second-most-segregated-nation

John Oliver blows the whistle on charter school abuses and lax oversight. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_htSPGAY7I

Mathis and Welner warn  of charter school expansion causing increasing school segregation stratifying our society and harming the common good. http://my.aasa.org/AASA/Resources/SAMag/2018/Jan18/MathisWelner.aspx

Jersey Jazzman debunks claims of “miracle school” in New York City and asks reporters not to be so gullible. http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2018/01/miracle-school-journalism-and-gorilla.html

Betsy DeVos visited Excel Academy in D.C. and praised it as a model of school choice and its benefits. So did Melania Trump. The school is closing because of poor academic performance. http://wjla.com/news/local/dc-charter-school-must-close-despite-white-house-praise-as-exceptional

Abusive Practices: Recess at a Summit Charter School https://charterschoolnightmares.tumblr.com/post/168778032602/this-is-what-recess-at-a-bay-area-charter-is

Diane Ravitch’s speech to the California Schools Board Association on defending public education. https://dianeravitch.net/2018/01/12/my-speech-to-the-california-school-boards-association/

Diane Ravitch exposes the roots of school choice in Milton Friedman’s writings who unabashedly proposed choice as a way to privatize public education. Friedman was also dead set against Social Security and believed all social support programs should be eliminated in favor of market solutions. Sound familiar? https://dianeravitch.net/2018/01/23/milton-friedman-the-father-of-school-choice/

Castellanos, Mathis, and Welner critique the stealth voucher programs—Educational Savings Accounts—providing pulic funds for private school parents being enacted in Republican controlled states. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/ESAs

The Great School Voucher Fraud by Edd Doerr—an historical analysis. http://www.arlinc.org/pdf/Doerr_The_Great_Voucher_Fraud.pdf

The right wing, anti-public schools group, ALEC, causes harm in Indiana. http://www.aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/JSPWinter2018.FINAL.pdf Hoosier Lawmaker? Vouchers, ALEC Legislative Puppets, and Indiana’s Abdication of Democracy by Michael B. Shaffer, EdD; John G. Ellis, PhD; Jeff Swensson, PhD

For an ongoing list of charter schools abuses and scandals visit the Network for Public Education site https://networkforpubliceducation.org/9734-2/


Testing and Accountability

Two favorable reviews of Daniel Koretz’s new book, The Testing Charade https://newrepublic.com/article/145935/settling-scores; https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/please-read-daniel-koretz-the-testing-charade_us_5a568cb5e4b088f20c39593c

What’s the best way to measure schools? https://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/10/a-better-way-to-measure-school-quality.html

New report shows that NEAP proficiency levels as a measure of school performance are set too high. Public education has been severely criticized for failing to get most students to “proficiency” levels as evidenced by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). However, NAEP proficiency levels (levels 3 or 4) are geared to success in a four year college. They were never meant to be the standard for all students. Proof of that proposition is shown in this report by the Superintendent’s Roundtable and the Horace Mann League which shows no country in the world gets most of its students above that bar. https://www.streetinsider.com/Press+Releases/Study+finds+most+students+in+most+nations+cannot+clear+the+bar+set+by+Common+Core+or+NAEP+benchmarks/13693312.html A quote from the report:


  • In no nation do a majority of students meet the NAEP Proficient benchmark in Grade 4 reading.
  • Just three nations have 50 percent or more of their students meeting the Proficient benchmark in Grade 8 math (Singapore, Republic of Korea, and Japan).
  • Only one nation has 50 percent or more of its students meeting the Proficient benchmark in Grade 8 science (Singapore).


In diverse California, on the culminating  Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) assessment of 11th grade reading,  60% of students reached the proficiency level or better (SBAC designed its proficiency levels to be similar to NAEP levels) which compares very favorably with other states and countries. That’s not the way the story is usually told.

Florida is a cautionary tale of what not do. http://progressive.org/public-school-shakedown/floridas-education-reforms-a-warning-sign-not-a-model-180111/


Washington Follies

How not to model good behavior. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/12/28/seven-highly-unfortunate-lessons-kids-learned-from-official-washington-in-2017/?utm_term=.ac445fcc8c4b


Technology/Personalized Learning


Diane Ravitch writes on Five Risks Posed by the Increasing Misuse of Technology in Schools. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-12-29-5-risks-posed-by-the-increasing-misuse-of-technology-in-schools?utm_source=EdSurgeTeachers&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=12-28-2017&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWkdVNE9UaG1PVGhqWldFeCIsInQiOiJoNHpTeEZwRTRHN1pOVHBsZ2J6ZkVUeUVNSGpsT01JaUN2cnhiSHc4VGZhQUFZVWlsNVJxN0lcL2w0Rnk1ZkR1UFhwWXJVWTk0bHdxK3poeGU2YW1ZMzl5WW1MekE4WkE3UlpSWHc0dzQrczAwbktMQWU1MUVyTjZ6dXhpK1JabG8ifQ%3D%3D

A caution on teaching coding and computer science to young children. http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Why-we-shouldn-t-teach-tech-in-kindergarten-12303395.php?utm_campaign=fb-premium&utm_source=CMS+Sharing+Button&utm_medium=social


Curriculum, Instruction, and Deeper Learning

Jal Mehta on the integration of deeper learning into all instruction. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2018/01/a_pernicious_myth_basics_before_deeper_learning.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=learningdeeply

The benefits of helping teens identify a purpose in life. https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2018/01/03/the-benefits-of-helping-teens-identify-purpose-in-life/?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=20180107Mindshift&mc_key=00Qi000001WzO2NEAV

An Aspen Institute report on the importance of Social/Emotional learning. https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/learning-happens-supporting-students-social-emotional-academic-development/


State Policies

Marc Tucker just wrote a very helpful review of David Driscoll’s book on the “Massachusetts Miracle” in becoming a world-class performer in public education covering the ingredients of state leadership with a great summary of the lessons learned in studying other countries and states.  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2018/01/driscolls_lessons_from_massachusetts.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=top_performers

December Comments 12/28/17

Charter Schools, Voucher, and Privatization Tribulations

A new government report shows major deficiencies in academic, administrative, and financial accountability in voucher programs. http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-18-94  and http://www.wisconsingazette.com/news/pocan-new-gao-report-shows-school-voucher-programs-failing-to/article_b3fd67a0-d618-11e7-a5f5-278875f56ff1.html

Graduation rates for Ohio charter schools substantially lag their public school urban counterparts. http://www.dispatch.com/news/20171226/charter-school-graduation-rates-way-behind-ohios-urban-districts Diane Ravitch reports that Texas charter schools have a graduation rate 30 percentage points below the counterpart public schools https://dianeravitch.net/2017/12/21/texas-low-graduation-rates-for-charter-schools-far-lower-than-district-schools/

Indiana Virtual School, one of the state’s largest on-line schools, graduates few, suffers from low scores and F grades, and high teacher/student ratios. It has raked in over $20 million  while its head pays himself millions for  management fees from a . The governor says this must cease, but proposes no action. https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2017/12/07/gov-eric-holcomb-says-indianas-low-rated-online-charter-schools-need-immediate-attention-and-action/

A survey finds strong skepticism about school choice such as vouchers among teachers, principals, and superintendents which include many Trump voters. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/12/13/many-educators-skeptical-of-school-choice-including.html?cmp=eml-contshr-shr

Charter school head in lax oversight Arizona steals money from his school for fifteen years. https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2017/12/24/nm-charter-school-ceo-steals-public-money-for-15-years-hows-that-for-oversight/

A coach embezzles hundreds of thousands of dollars at North Carolina’s largest voucher school and keeps his job. https://www.ncforum.org/out-of-bounds-embezzlement-and-basketball-at-north-carolinas-biggest-voucher-school/

The owner of the politically connected ECOT school has cheated Ohio out of millions of dollars. The state finally clamped down, he sued, and the case is before the Supreme Court of Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch editorializes that it is time for ECOT to be shut down. http://www.dispatch.com/opinion/20171212/editorial-can-ecot-saga-please-end-now

The Florida Sun-Sentinel reports another in a long line of Florida  charter school scandals. This one involves a charter school which cheated the state by submitting false enrollment numbers and then transformed itself into a private schools is under investigation again. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/education/fl-charter-private-school-money-20171213-story.html

Diane Ravitch reports on how a low-performing charter school in Pennsylvania received a 9 year renewal while bankrupting the local school district. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/12/23/pennsylvania-low-performing-charter-gets-reneewed-for-9-years-while-bankrupting-local-school-district/

Rebecca Klein has found that millions of tax dollars have been given to private religious schools in states with voucher or private tax credit policies which teach hate and a narrow world view. Klein’s title: Voucher Schools Championed by Betsy DeVos Can Teach Whatever They Want. Turns Out They Teach Lies. These Schools Teach Racism, Creationism, and Sexism. They Are Also Taking Your Tax Dollars. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/school-voucher-evangelical-education-betsy-devos_us_5a021962e4b04e96f0c6093c She also found many religious schools that discriminate against LGBT students https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/discrimination-lgbt-private-religious-schools_us_5a32a45de4b00dbbcb5ba0be

A similar finding that public funds are supporting Scientology schools. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/scientology-schools_us_5a2d8b9ee4b069ec48ae4109 The result of wide-open vouchers which Betsy DeVos advocates and many  Republicans are supporting.

The Arizona ACLU issued a report demonstrating how Arizona charter schools discriminate against low performing students. School Choice; How Arizona Charter Schools Engage in Illegal and Exclusionary Student Enrollment Practices and How It Should Be Fixed https://www.acluaz.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/schools_choosing_students_web.pdf

The much hyped Success Academy of New York City doesn’t backfill students who leave or are pushed out after the 4th grade greatly decreasing that cohort by later grades. Then it uses that rarified remnant to compare their scores against public schools who have to accept all entrants and claim success. Gabor points to instruction geared to test preparation, harsh discipline, large teacher turnover and the threat to public education by wholesale charter expansion with little oversight. https://www.alternet.org/much-hyped-success-academy-sync-trumpian-times?akid=16478.2679055.rPPj5p&rd=1&src=newsletter1086404&t=39

An investigation by AP shows that charters increase segregation https://apnews.com/e9c25534dfd44851a5e56bd57454b4f5

In some good news, South Carolina has just clamped down on virtual charter abuse and low performance. https://www.the74million.org/article/into-the-breach-south-carolina-cracks-down-on-poor-performing-virtual-charter-schools-rejects-their-bid-for-new-sponsor/

Diane Ravitch reports on a paper 18 years ago by the Heartland Institute, a font of radical conservative ideas, on how privatization should be advocated to kill public schools. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/12/28/peter-greene-the-end-game-of-the-privatization-movement/


Reform Blues

Rick Hess, a noted reformer, has serious second thoughts about the “reform” movement. http://www.aei.org/publication/lessons-learned-in-school-reform/

The business magazine Forbes published an article by Ethan Siegal How America is Breaking Public Education https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/12/06/how-america-is-breaking-public-education/#3f2fd6207f18 which argues that the “reform” movement violated a cardinal rule of effective enterprises—treat your employees like professionals.

Confirming the previous point a report shows teachers are leaving the profession because of lack of educational, financial, and public support and political hostility http://bustedpencils.com/2017/12/teacher-exodus-is-finally-not-fake-news/

Performance in New Orleans, one-time poster child for charter school districts, has disintegrated.https://peterccook.com/2017/11/08/great-nola-train-wreck/ and http://citizen.education/2017/12/05/bad-test-scores-for-schools-in-new-orleans-can-either-take-the-city-down-or-make-it-a-model-again-for-reform/

Peter Greene rebuts the idea that “market=based competition” should apply to public schools. http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/12/public-sector-efficiency.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FORjvzd+%28CURMUDGUCATION%29

Similarly, Steven Singer finds fault with the privatization movement. https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/04/the-false-paradise-of-school-privatization/

Brett Murphy tells the story of how reform efforts failed in various schools from the perspective of teachers In those schools. The Profession Speaks: Educator Perspectives on School Reform. https://www.aft.org/ae/winter2017-2018/murphy

Bruce Baker and Mark Weber examine the failure of “reform” efforts in Newark in the National Education Policy Center report. http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/17/12/12/opinion-newark-s-phantom-gains-in-school-improvement/ ; http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-newark-reform The Zuckerberg, Christie, Booker “reform” project in Newark showed no growth in math and trivial growth in reading. In addition, causation is questioned. The evaluations of the project did not measure the considerable community disruption that occurred.

Diane Ravitch reports on Laura Chapmans takedown of the harm done to public education by billionaire “reformers”. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/12/16/laura-chapman-reformers-with-too-much-money-and-time-making-troulbe-for-public-schools/

A similar finding by Thomas Tultican worries about the plot to destroy public schools in Indianapolis. https://tultican.com/2017/12/15/destroy-public-education-dpe-its-a-billionaire-fueled-agenda/

In the state of Indiana as a whole, Carol Burris tells the sad story of Republican decimation of the state’s public schools. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/12/21/a-telling-story-of-school-reform-in-mike-pences-home-state-indiana/?utm_term=.5fa91bc51281

Thomas Tultican reviews the powerful Network for Public Education report Charters and Consequences. Charters and Consequences https://tultican.com/2017/11/24/roll-up-the-failed-charter-school-experiment/ Tultican refers to NPE’s Executive Director Carol Burris who characterized charter schools as currently organized,  a failed experiment. To quote: “… nearly every day brings a story, often reported only in local newspapers, about charter mismanagement, failure, nepotism or outright theft and fraud.” About the report she writes, “This report … is the result of a year-long exploration of the effects of charter schools and the issues that surround them.” “Everyone I spoke with accepted that charters have a place in the state, and in many instances, they acknowledged that charters serve children well.  However, all had deep concerns about the lack of charter transparency, accountability, and their fiscal impact on public schools.”

Matt Barnum slams the growing trend to disrupt urban public schools by the “portfolio” scheme. https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2017/12/06/a-portfolio-of-schools-how-a-nationwide-effort-to-disrupt-urban-school-districts-is-gaining-traction/  Privatizers who were booted out several years ago in Kansas City, are now back with a portfolio proposal. https://in.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2017/12/07/in-kansas-city-national-push-for-portfolio-model-gives-way-to-local-group-with-similar-message-different-methods/

John Merrow debunks NPR’s report on a “miracle school” in Washington DC, which turns out to be bogus. https://themerrowreport.com/2017/12/06/too-good-to-be-true-proves-to-be-false/

Jeff Bryant, writing in Salon, warns democrats to back off the corporate reform movement and become much more supportive of public education if they want to win elections. https://www.salon.com/2017/11/27/democrats-be-warned-your-corporate-education-reform-is-not-enough_partner/

Diane Ravitch reviews an article by Rob Meiksins writing in the Nonprofit Quarterly, entitled What Happens When You Bust Public Unions; Nothing Good. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/12/04/nonprofit-quarterly-what-happens-when-you-bust-public-sector-unions-nothing-good/


Civic Engagement and Participation

An interesting article about civic engagement and participation especially among immigrant children. https://www.aft.org/ae/winter2017-2018/callahan_obenchain

The Education Commission of the States has produced a framework for civic education policy. https://www.ecs.org/state-civic-education-policy-framework/

Diane Ravitch reviews a comment by Tom Birmingham, making fervent plea to revitalize the teaching of history. https://commonwealthmagazine.org/opinion/schools-ignore-us-history-peril/


Quality Instruction, Collaboration, and Continuous Improvement

Daniel Koretz penned a follow-up with specific suggests for improvement to his book The Testing Charade; Pretending to Make Schools Better with specific suggestions for improvement in the latest American Educator entitled Moving Beyond the Failure of Test-based Accountability. https://www.aft.org/ae/winter2017-2018/koretz His recommendations cover measures and strategies to improve student achievement, quality of instruction, and classroom climate.

Dan Willingham argues that after foundation reading skills the build-up of  content knowledge is key to reading comprehension. http://view.email.kqed.org/?qs=f51f19a81bdc58a5a15ecf6bfa1950950e734551f741575aeea361c3843668c15c3139baab44677c210791eb15c9777e0cdb63f0b20a0da78e33300cadee753e  and https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/how-to-get-your-mind-to-read-daniel-willingham/

The Evidence Base for How Learning Happens; A Consensus on Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning by Stefanie Jones and Jennifer Kahn in the American Educator reviews the latest research on the topic based on a report from the Aspen institute. https://www.aft.org/ae/winter2017-2018/jones_kahn A quote: Compelling research demonstrates that the success of young people in school and beyond is inextricably linked to healthy social and emotional development. Students who have a sense of belonging and purpose, who can work well with classmates and peers to solve problems, who can plan and set goals, and who can persevere through challenges—in addition to being literate, numerate, and versed in scientific concepts and ideas—are more likely to maximize their opportunities and reach their full potential.

Cathy Davidson reports that an in depth study by Google found the soft skills more predictive of employee quality than the hard Science, Technology, and Math skills. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/12/20/the-surprising-thing-google-learned-about-its-employees-and-what-it-means-for-todays-students/?utm_term=.c2b0c61dd8f5  Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both brilliant computer scientists, founded their company on the conviction that only technologists can understand technology. Google originally set its hiring algorithms to sort for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities. In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998. Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

A New York Times article which listed which urban districts beat the odds by achieving more than a year’s growth per year over several years. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/05/upshot/a-better-way-to-compare-public-schools.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fupshot&action=click&contentCollection=upshot&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

The Learning Policy Institute issued a report on effective community schools. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/community-schools-effective-school-improvement-report  The authors also wrote this summary in the Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/12/13/betsy-devos-may-not-recognize-it-but-these-public-schools-work/?utm_term=.64bb6d6d30a4

A website devoted to teacher-powered schools. https://www.teacherpowered.org/

An evaluation system aimed at teacher engagement and growth—curriculum, collaboration, and feedback. https://www.erstrategies.org/teacher_professional_learning?utm_source=Subscriber+Master+List&utm_campaign=0ac69a1e24-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_07&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a3f2445f50-0ac69a1e24-317244101

Many high performing jurisdictions use the strong curriculum for students as the basis for teacher preparation. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2017/12/a_novel_way_to_improve_teacher.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=curriculummatters Is a focus on curriculum the missing ingredient in teacher preparation?

The New Teacher Center TELL program (Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning. https://newteachercenter.org/approach/teaching-empowering-leading-and-learning-tell/



Sophie Linden warns of the dangers of overzealous selling of technology to public schools especially Chromebooks for which she says there is no evidence they help student learning. https://www.alternet.org/education/silicon-valley-takes-over-american-classrooms-personalized-learning-technology?akid=16534.2679055.9Q7CyB&rd=1&src=newsletter1086893&t=5


International Comparisons

The US receives an award for the most growth in early reading and improvements in the lowest quartile. https://www.slideshare.net/ColinBrown24/itegs-international-test-of-early-grade-skills-2017

In a similar vein, Diane Ravitch quotes David Berliner on the US international literacy scores which look below the top ranks (but still high)  When you measure Asian-Americans versus Asian students, whites or schools with less than 10% poverty, however, our scores would be in the top ranks which means that for those students reading instruction is working well. The US has much larger poverty levels, which brings down overall scores. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/12/12/david-c-berliner-on-the-latest-international-test-scores-its-poverty-not-common-core-that-matters/

Ten things you need to know about international comparisons by James Harvey. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/02/03/ten-things-you-need-to-know-about-international-assessments/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.9224b80538f4

Another article by James Harvey showing that despite flat scores in a recent literacy assessment US students still rate near the top. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/12/05/worried-about-the-drop-in-u-s-scores-on-international-literacy-test-well-stop-it/?utm_term=.16e5219e41d8


School Finance

Study shows the states which pay teacher’s the most (and least) http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2017/02/which_states_pay_teachers_the_.html?cmp=eml-eb-popyear17+12212017&M=58321116&U=56558

The GOP/Trump tax bill and budgets harm public schools. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/19/opinion/republican-taxes-school-savings-.html?_r=1 The tax bill also gives a windfall to private school parents. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/08/your-money/the-private-school-tax-break-in-the-middle-class-tax-bill.html The Republican congress and president are essentially diverting funds from public schools to finance private education which is in keeping with their often expressed hostility to our public schools. The North Carolina News Observer editorialized against the GOP/Trump tax bill as harmful to public education. http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article188972429.html

For a FAQ sheet on the GOP/Trump tax cut bill see http://www.buildingbetterschools.com/2017/12/26/faq-for-gop-trump-tax-bill/

FAQ for GOP/Trump Tax Bill


How large is it?

Most reporters and commentators characterize the GOP/Trump tax cut legislation as a $1.5 trillion bill. That’s not remotely accurate and seriously underestimates the magnitude and severity of the recently passed law. According to the latest Congressional Budget Office analysis, the ten-year effect of the legislation is a net $3.9 trillion tax reduction (more than 2 ½ times what is being reported) even after you subtract the elimination of $1.3 trillion of corporate deductions from the total of $5.2 trillion in total tax cuts.

Who Benefits?

The tax reductions overwhelmingly benefit mega-wealthy families and corporations. Many of our most well-off citizens will annually pocket tens of thousands of dollars and some even millions while everyone else receives meager tax breaks. Initially, according to the Tax Policy Center the top 1% of families by income will receive 60% of the benefits leaving a smaller pie to be divided by everyone else. Lamentably, the smallish tax cuts which do help middle and low income families in 2018 (inflated to be in time for the 2018 elections) diminish over time until they are eliminated. Ten years from now 83% of the cuts will go to the top 1% and, incredibly, over 60% will go to the ultra-rich, the top 1/10 of 1% (1 out of every 1000 families). Conversely, 53% of American families will suffer a tax increase–a classic case of bait and switch. In contrast, the corporation cuts are permanent.

Do the wealthy really need such a large tax break so that they can buy another mansion, a bigger yacht or jet, throw another party, buy another designer outfit, or pad their bank accounts while tens of millions of families living paycheck to paycheck receive a pittance or get taxed? Republican mega-rich donors must think so because they drove the whole perverted process by which the tax bill was passed.

Who Pays?

Middle and low income families. The $3.9 trillion net tax cuts in the GOP bill are paid for by;

  • borrowing $1.5 trillion or more by increasing the federal debt–a burden on our economy and our children in years to come;
  • raising $2.1 trillion in taxes on mostly middle-class and working-class families by eliminating the personal exemption, changing the inflation measure, capping state and local tax deductions (which primarily affects the upper-middle class in blue states), and some other miscellaneous deductions; and
  • cutting $314 billion from health care by eliminating the mandated Obamacare contributions which will have the added harm of increasing premiums by 10% and dropping 4-9million people from medical care.

Thus, this tax cut bill is a much more massive shift of the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle-class and low income families than reported–essentially borrowing from the future, taxing the working classes, and cutting needed services to finance an unnecessary tax cut for the wealthy who are already living high on the hog and receiving an unprecedented share of post-tax income. 

What Happens to Inequality?

This country is currently suffering from dangerously high levels of inequality not witnessed since the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties–the latter period followed by the Great Depression of 1930’s caused primarily by the failure to pass down to workers enough wages to sustain demand. A multitude of research has shown that high levels of inequality stunt economic growth and opportunity. At present, the top 1% own 40% of US wealth which is more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90% and receive almost 20% of yearly income which is about twice as much as the share of the bottom 50% of families. The GOP/Trump tax plan will make this bad situation much worse.

Was There Any Bi-partisan Support?

Not one Democratic senator or member of Congress voted for the GOP/Trump tax plan, so broad support is absent.  Because the GOP congressional leaders rushed the drafting of the bill behind closed doors flouting normal procedure with no public hearings, there are many errors and hidden rip-offs creating fertile soil for gaming the tax code by such methods as turning individuals into corporations. Last minute loopholes and outright looting were obtained by lobbyists such as the pass-through write-off for real estate trusts which benefit real-estate moguls such as President Trump and his family. The real cost of the bill may turn out to be much higher and borrowing could exceed $2 trillion.

How Extensive is the Collateral Damage?

Severe. Existing budget rules, unless changed (good luck), mandate large and growing cuts to Medicare due to the increased deficit–$25 billion in 2018 and over $400 billion in the next ten years. GOP’ers are already using the existence of a larger deficit to refuse to fund health services for 9 million children under the CHIP program, insisting on public health cuts for millions of other children and calling for cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and medical and basic research. Republican leaders and President Trump are also proposing wide-spread reductions in other public services. For example, the proposed GOP budgets reduce federal funds for public schools while the GOP tax bill gives wealthy private school parents a significant tax break–in effect subsidizing private schools at the expense of the public school sector. This is consistent with many Republican politicians and the President’s expressed hostility to public education and encouragement of privatization of our public schools.

Will There Be Enough Growth to Offset the Increased Debt?

Nope, or minimal at best. GOP arguments that that the tax cuts for the wealthy pay for themselves by causing higher economic growth which will increase tax revenues to pay for a substantial portion of the larger deficit have been debunked by almost every reputable economist and the federal financial advisors who forecast minimal growth from the cuts. Furthermore, if there turns out to be greater revenues from greater growth, they are necessary to pay for current Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security future obligations. To divert them to the un-needy wealthy now means cuts in these programs later. 

Was There A Reversal of Settled Tax Policy?

The GOP tax bill violates elementary standards of good policy by creating different classes of winners and losers. For example, for the first time in our history, tax legislation overwhelmingly favors those who earn through capital over those who earn from wages.

Does the GOP Rationale for the Tax Bill Withstand Scrutiny?

No. The major selling point of the GOP is the assertion that reducing the corporate rate will substantially increase growth and workers will receive sizable benefits from that growth. That contention is also disputed by the vast majority of economists, the official scoring reports and the history of tax cuts and tax increases. Bush II cut taxes and subsequent growth was weak; Clinton raised taxes and subsequent growth was spectacular which flies in the face of the GOP theory.

The GOP’s specific argument that wages  will rise significantly because giving corporations more cash and lower taxes will cause them to invest, which will increase productivity, which will then be shared with their employees, doesn’t hold water. According to recent reports such as the one by the Economic Policy Institute each assumption is false. Corporations currently are awash with cash, corporate profits as a percentage of GDP are at their peak, the corporate tax share of federal revenues has plummeted (the wage share has skyrocketed) and yet large-scale investment hasn’t occurred. No surprise there. Investments are made based on projected demand. Availability of cash and tax rates play a small part in those decisions. More importantly, productivity gains during the past decades have not been shared with workers.

Instead, the increased profits for most firms have been used to buy back shares to raise stock prices, balloon executive pay, and increase distributions to shareholders. That same overall pattern occurred when billions of dollars were repatriated in 2004.  A repatriation holiday allowed corporations to bring back billions of overseas profits at a lower rate. The 15 companies that brought the most profits back to the U.S. used them to buy back shares instead of boosting investment, and actually ended up cutting jobs and slightly lowering their research and development spending. Why would corporate behavior change this time around?  Experts say it won’t. Even the most optimistic predictions suggest that only a small percentage of any increased cash or profits from corporate tax cuts will be given to wage earners.

For individuals, one of GOP’s more discredited arguments is that the super-wealthy pay the lion’s share of taxes so if taxes are cut they will have to receive most of the benefits. That’s nonsense. It’s true that the rich pay a large percentage of income taxes because, unlike most families, their before tax incomes have grown substantially during the past decades. However, the canard that these rich families pay almost all of federal taxes is demonstrably false. Income taxes constitute less than half of federal taxes. Payroll taxes are a third. The wealthy pay no payroll taxes on income just over $100k which means for mega-earners most of their income is exempt from payroll taxes. Corporate taxes were at record low levels in 2016 at only nine percent of federal tax receipts. There was no shortage of ways to ease the tax burden on the middle class without providing the rich with a windfall, if that’s what the GOP and the president wanted.

Were There Much Better Ways to Stimulate Economic Growth and Increase Wages?

Failure to bolster demand by sharing profits with workers is the most likely reason for low investment. Worker’s wages have been essentially flat for decades.

If the goal was to increase wages, the tax plan could have just given wage earners a larger share of the tax breaks directly, reduce their payroll taxes, or invest in rebuilding the US. Growth strategies which aim at increasing demand or direct investment result in much higher growth than trickle down measures.

Particularly galling is the lost opportunity to re-build America. If we are going to borrow over a $1 trillion, wouldn’t it have been fairer and much more productive to invest it in fixing our roads, bridges, ports, fire and flood protection, airports, schools, and power grids instead of giving an unneeded windfall to the rich? In fact, the GOP could have chosen to invest in infrastructure without increasing the debt by just closing the corporate loopholes agreed to in the bill and not giving a whopping tax cut to the richest Americans. The economic payoff from building infrastructure is multiples higher than tax cuts skewed to the ultra-wealthy and corporations, with the added benefit of creating jobs and improving the health and safety of the nation. Unfortunately, any proposed GOP/Trump infrastructure plan for 2018 will be woefully short of funds because of the heavy debt borrowing to finance tax cuts for the rich.

Were Corporations Taxes Higher Than Other Countries?

The GOP’s other argument made is that the US corporate tax rate of 35% was among the highest in the world and non-competitive. They contend that lowering it to 21% will attract investment from foreign companies or US companies threatening to leave. Actually, because of loopholes, our effective tax rate was 23%–already below the world average and thus competitive. Since most loopholes in the GOP tax bill weren’t changed, effective tax rates will plunge to 9% according to a UPenn-Wharton estimate, basically giving corporations a free ride. Since corporate taxes as a share of total taxes are already at historic lows, further lowering of their rates shifts that much more of the tax burden to the middle and working classes. Furthermore,, even if foreign corporations invest here, why would we think that these companies  would act differently than domestic companies in allocating a decent share of profits to workers?

How Much Do Foreigners Benefit?

Corporate shareholders, most of them wealthy will do very well under this GOP/Trump tax bill. Unfortunately,  a third of them are foreigners, mainly millionaires and billionaires, who according to the Tax Policy Center are slated to receive nearly $50 billion in 2019. That windfall is $5 billion more than the combined benefits to the middle and working class (the bottom 80% of families) in all the states that voted for President Trump. So the effect of the GOP tax plan is to borrow from the future and tax the middle and working classes in order to ship large amounts of cash out of the country. Make America Great, indeed?

Is This the Best Time for Massive Tax Cuts?

Finally, with unemployment low and a potential recession on the horizon this is not the time to add to the debt and disarm our ability to fight a downturn when it arrives.

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/

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