Monthly Archives: January 2018

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”.  For the California approach see

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.

Diane Ravitch reports on Wisconsin expanding a failed voucher program and dividing the state.

Charter schools in Ohio have a dismal record of eventual college graduation. 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.

Small charter school network in Houston buys expensive condo’s saying they are for storage.

A cautionary tale from Newark.

The GOP/Trump tax break for 529 education savings accounts almost exclusively benefits those making $100k or more.

New Mexico charter school CEO steals money for 15 years before being caught.

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.

Michigan has allowed large-scale expansion of charters. It is also the second most segregated state in the nation.

John Oliver blows the whistle on charter school abuses and lax oversight.

Mathis and Welner warn  of charter school expansion causing increasing school segregation stratifying our society and harming the common good.

Jersey Jazzman debunks claims of “miracle school” in New York City and asks reporters not to be so gullible.

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.

Abusive Practices: Recess at a Summit Charter School

Diane Ravitch’s speech to the California Schools Board Association on defending public education.

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?

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.

The Great School Voucher Fraud by Edd Doerr—an historical analysis.

The right wing, anti-public schools group, ALEC, causes harm in Indiana. 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


Testing and Accountability

Two favorable reviews of Daniel Koretz’s new book, The Testing Charade;

What’s the best way to measure schools?

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. 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.


Washington Follies

How not to model good behavior.


Technology/Personalized Learning

Diane Ravitch writes on Five Risks Posed by the Increasing Misuse of Technology in Schools.

A caution on teaching coding and computer science to young children.


Curriculum, Instruction, and Deeper Learning

Jal Mehta on the integration of deeper learning into all instruction.

The benefits of helping teens identify a purpose in life.

An Aspen Institute report on the importance of Social/Emotional learning.


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.

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