Author Archives: BillHonig

Comments Sept. 12th-Oct. 16th, 2019

Build and Support Issues

Jennifer O’Day and Marshall Smith’s excellent new book, Opportunity for All: A Framework for Quality and Equality in Education Harvard Educational Press (2019)

Why America needs to invest in public education from Forbes magazine.

Embracing Public Schools as the Very Definition of the Common Good

What does educational opportunity mean?

Cincinnati  Community schools make spectacular progress. and

Louisa Moats on dyslexia. 

What’s the difference between an organized phonics approach and balanced literacy.

The importance of content knowledge to reading comprehension.

Stanford’s Sean Riordan: Schools alone can’t overcome racial achievement gaps caused by concentrated poverty.


Charter, Voucher, and Privatization Foibles

Carol Burris. Federal report finds no difference in performance between charters and public schools.

Are charter schools public schools? Shawgi Tell says no.

Jeff Bryant on the disaster of private companies working an insider game for lucrative contracts.



Arkansas. ; ; and


Arkansas/; and ; ; and

Chicago. Rahm’s and Arne’s Legacies Continue to Damage Chicago Public Schools, Especially in Black Neighborhoods


Los Angeles.

Los Angeles. Can charter and public schools share space without fights? LAUSD’s $5.5-million solution:



Nevada, Several Charter Schools in Trouble:

New Orleans. Tom Ultican:

New Orleans.

New Orleans.



Ohio. State punches Youngstown schools with legislative assault on local control.

Ohio. Innovation Ohio Report: Ohio Budget Eases Oversight of Charter Schools and Provides Windfall for Ohio School Vouchers   

Ohio. Jan Resseger: State Takeover Fails in Youngstown, Ohio, So State Kills Elected Local Board

Pennsylvania. Republican speaker of the house berates public schools and their teachers but praises charters.

Tennessee. but see








Washington. Lavish Lobbying Ensures that Washington, D.C. Charter Schools Remain Unregulated


Technology and

The Perils of “Reform”

New book on the failure of educational reform.

Tim Seklar on the exodus of teachers from their chosen profession.

Teacher identifies 10 “reforms” that have damaged NC’s public schools:

Five Signs Your Reform Has Become Another Education Fad:

Resseger: New Reports Confirm Persistent Child Poverty While Policymakers Blame Educators and Fail to Address Core Problem and Ohio Senate blames teachers and schools in socio-economic areas while underfunding those schools.

ALEC’s faulty “report card”.  and

Even though ESEA dropped the requirement for test driven teacher evaluation because of major flaws, 34 states still require them.

Value added problems in Florida.  and; ; and

Comments 8/11/19-9/9/19

Build and Support Issues

How a Flawed Idea is Teaching Millions of Kids to Be Poor Readers

Learning Policy Institute: Lessons from the Golden State.

Learning Policy Institute: Effective Professional Development

How Not to Blow Continuous Improvement

What Finland is actually doing to improve its acclaimed schools.

Why I Pay School Taxes.

Six problems with a growth mindset strategy.

Jan Resseger: When traditional educators set education policy and speak for public schools, it makes a difference.

Dyslexia doesn’t mean low intelligence.

Free science materials.

Marc Tucker: Part 2 of the world’s best educational research strategies.

Gary Rubenstein: How to change math instruction.

 US students score low on problem solving compared to other industrial nations.

Rebuttal to NYTimes 1619 article on slavery.

Charter, Voucher, Privatization, and Public School Hostility Travails

Wall Street Journal opinion piece on why charter performance claims of success are an illusion.

Lubienski and Malin: School Vouchers Actually Harm Children

How ALEC seeks to destroy public education;

Jeff Bryant: How private vetting firms are ruining superintendent’s searches.

Tom Ultican: Broad academy graduates are destroying public education.

What happened to students who began a Kipp school in 2003.

Jan Resseger:

Tultican: The New Teacher Project is out to Destroy Public Education

John Thompson’s new book on the dangers of privatization of public service.

Charter cyber schools prey on poor school districts. 

Steve Singer: Charter Schools are Gobbling Up My School District

Shawgi Tell: Charter school lobbyists are on the defensive.




California. Another low performing charter scam.



California. The home-school charter business behind the latest scandals.


Charter School legislative battle ends in a compromise.







Rhode Island.

Rhode Island.


New Hampshire.



Pennsylvania. Steven Singer:


Pennsylvania. Peter Greene: Gov. of Pennsylvania says charter schools are private not public schools.



Pennsylvania: Steve Singer

North Carolina.



West Virginia.

Gary, Indiana

Louisiana. The failure of vouchers.

New Orleans.

New Orleans.

New Orleans.

New Orleans.

New Orleans. Twenty-five percent of students are chronically absent.

New Orleans.

New York City.


San Antonio. Betsy DeVos’s plan to overrun San Antonia with charter schools.

Washington DC.

Washington DC.

The Failed Promise of School Reform

Wall Street Journal front page article raises questions about heavy reliance on classroom technology. and

What do education reform failures have in common.

Peter Greene: The “burn and churn” model has not worked.

GERM: Stopping the worldwide “reform” movement.  

Peter Greene: 3rd grade reading retention doesn’t work.

Three “reform” high schools funded at $10 million each fail. and another $10 million dollar “reform” high school fails.

Tom Ultican: Teach for America is bad for America.

California. Criticism of Los Angeles School District’s plan to rank schools by a single measure.; and

MGT Consultants: Profiting from the School Crisis in Gary, Indiana and Taking Over Three Colorado School Districts.

Ohio. State takeover focuses on districts with high levels of poor children of color.


Fordham: Three lessons from Tennessee’s school turnaround efforts.

Newark eliminates pay for performance. Jersey Jazzman: The merit pay fairy dies in Newark. and

Larry Cuban: several posts on the realities of reforming schools.; ; ;;  and

Jan Resseger: Don’t trust superintendents from Chiefs for Change.  

Comments July 13-Aug. 10, 2019

Build and Support Issues

John Morrow: The purpose of public schools is to grow American citizens.

The importance of a common curriculum.  

Successful school improvement through capacity building.

Andrea Gabor: What comes after the heavy reliance on testing.

Schools strive to serve immigrant children.

Teacher driven professional development.

 The Financial Calamity that is the Teaching Profession, Atlantic Magazine

Treat teachers like doctors and lawyers to alleviate the teacher shortage. and

Poll shows more than half of our public school teachers have considered quitting because of low pay and lack of respect.

Larry Cuban: A Gift that Never Stops Giving; Being a Teacher

Atlanta schools need continuous improvement not disruptive change.

Larry Cuban:

Bargaining for the common good in education.

Charter, Voucher, and Privatization Travails

Peter Greene: How school choice undermines democratic processes.

Peter Greene: Why charter schools must waste money.

A review of a new book about competition and choice. and

Diane Ravitch rebuts Robert Pondiscio’s defense of harsh, no excuses schools.




Florida Unmasking a major charter school scandal.  




Indiana and Oklahoma

Oklahoma investigators find a $10 million virtual charter school scam. and and and

Florida.  Local superintendent defies push for privatization.


Georgia K-12 virtual schools, fined tens of millions of dollars for fraud in California,  wants to open a huge virtual school in Georgia. Diane Ravitch: The Virtual Charter schools of for-profit K12 Inc. have been noted for high attrition, low test scores, low graduation rates, and high profits.

Newark, New Jersey

Camden, New Jersey


Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

San Diego

 Puerto Rico and and

New Orleans

New Orleans

New Orleans

Washington, DC. Lack of transparency in DC charter schools.


New Bedford,  Mass.

“Reform” problems

The failure of market driven reforms by Tom Ultican

Gary Rubinstein finds that contrary to suggestions student work being assigned is appropriate.

Betsy DeVos sued for loan forgiveness mismanagement

State takeover the wrong remedy for Providence public schools.

Texas: Don’t take over Houston’s public schools.

America’s New School Lunch Policy: Punishing Hungry Students for Their Parents’ Poverty


Peter Greene: What can we learn from the epic failure of an experimental high-tech wunderschool.

Comments June 17th-July 12, 2019

Build and Support Issues

How to get your kid to

Atlantic: The importance of content for reading comprehension and the problem with heavy emphasis on skill instruction after children learn foundation skills. and

One third of the available jobs require an AA degree but not a four year college degree.  

How 32 school districts are reimaging CTE education.

10 California districts struggle and find some success in shift to common core math.

Teachers work longer In the US according an International teacher survey

Jan Resseger: Despite Cruel Conditions at the Border and Threatened ICE Raids, Educators Across U.S. Strive to Serve Immigrant Children  

Fordham on civics education.

Cutting Public Education

Charter School, Privatization, and Voucher Issues

Jeff Bryant: Why won’t the charter school industry reform itself?

How non-profit charters actually make a profit or benefit for-profit companies.; and and

Carol Burris: Federal charter school program is a slush fund.

Jan Resseger: Politicians Are Discovering They Can No Longer Ignore Charter School Outrages. Is a strict no-excuse policy necessary or counter-productive?

California. $50 million scam:;; and  Why California charters have so little oversight.; and Andrea Gabor on the backlash in California against charter schools.;;

Florida. and

New York City.


Washington state.


New Orleans. ;




Newark, New Jersey.

Kansas.; neo-liberalism undermines the common good by promoting vouchers and charter schools.

“Reform” Foibles

Skepticism grows about test-based school accountability and privatization.

Jan Resseger: Florida’s failed education reforms.

Five reasons school takeovers fail. and see  

Why standardized tests aren’t working for teachers.;


Comments May 14th-June 17th, 2019

“Build and Support” Issues

Learning Policy Institutes’ report on 156 districts achieving at higher levels. California’s Positive Outliers; Districts beating the odds. Experienced teachers made the difference.  and

Seven new schools join the list of previously 45 schools identified as high-achieving opportunity schools.

Pew reports: Public school funding is still below 2008 levels in most states.; and

Rethinking the American High School. Review of Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine’s recent  book. 

Four lessons for administrators on curriculum and instruction efforts. 

An article on the importance of improving instruction and curriculum.

Top PISA official: Liberal arts and humanities may be crucial for 21st century educational performance.

NCEE: Report on the best way to structure early childhood education.

Leander School District in Texas is one of the most successful districts in the nation and has implemented Deming’s work on continuous improvement. It needs a new superintendent who will stay the course.

17 things teachers want you to know about their jobs. 

Empowerment and Trust are Keys to Employee Engagement  

Blind spots in teacher development report.

Want to alleviate the teacher shortage. Improve working conditions and engagement. 

An eye-opening breakdown of actual time worked by a teacher.   

Interesting paper on the pros and cons of school autonomy.

Larry Cuban: What ever happened to the Core Knowledge program?

Emily Hanford’s article “Hard Words; Why aren’t our kids being taught to read?” won a prestigious award from the Education Writer’s Association.

Robert Pondiscio: Don’t dismiss the 30 million word gap quite so fast.

Jan Resseger: School segregation 65 years after “Brown v. Board of Education

Why Teachers Need Their Freedom (Ashley Lamb-Sinclair) and the effectiveness of Stanley Pogrow’s Teaching  Content Outrageously

Pastors for Texas post significant wins for public education.

Charter, Voucher, and Privatization Travails

Jeff Bryant: Why charter school proponents have lost many Democratic supporters.

Charters were supposed to save public education. Why are Americans turning against them? 

The Feds poured millions into failing charter schools in Louisiana. Over half of the federally supported charter schools in Louisiana folded or never opened wasting $24 million. Jeff Bryant recounts this sad tale.

Jan Resseger: Charter Schools at a Turning Point: How to Rein in an Out of Control Education Sector. Time to reign in the carter sector.

The Untold History of Charter Schools

Another expose of charter school failure.

Shawgi Tell: New CREDO evaluation of Pennsylvania charter reports mediocre results.

Time to rein in charters.

California’s charter school task force recommendations. and and and

Research on benefit of virtual school is lacking or extremely negative.

No excuse schools. Parents actually want strong academics AND respect for their children

Another study showing charter schools encroach on district funding for traditional public schools.  and also see; and

San Diego charter chain scandal.; and

A spectacular $50 million charter scam in San Diego by Peter Greene. and

NAACP response to a pro-charter article in the Wall Street Journal.

Diane Ravitch articles on charters and vouchers: Public schools will survive the privatization movement. Advocacy group adopts a policy against charter expansion.

Jan Resseger: Charter schools undermine the public good in Louisiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

West Virginia teachers continue their battle against charter schools and vouchers.

Peter Greene on New Hampshire’s proposals to privatize and outsource public education.

Credit ratings for charters in nine states.

Jeff Bryant: Charter schools support a major dividing issue among democratic candidates.

Failures of “Reform”

Jeanine Kaplan, “Education Reform” was a hoax from the start.

Improving our schools alone won’t fix America by billionaire Nick Hanauer previous major supporter of charter schools.

John Thompson reviews Diane Ravitch’s new book,  The Wit and Wisdom of Diane Ravitch in a review entitled “How could reformers get it so wrong?” and

The failure of a highly touted Florida reform plan by Sue Legg

Louisiana VAM deficiencies.

JerseyJazzman: Stop using flawed student growth measures in New Jersey.

Florida teacher quits after oppressive testing culture.

States using A-F letter grades do no better than those states without that “reform”.

Peter Greene: Teach for America’s other big problem—two years in the classroom doesn’t qualify your for leadership and policy positions.

Gary Rubenstein on inflated payments for “Teach for America” recruits in Ohio. and Kansas ($30,000)

Gary Rubenstein: After 29 years of evidence TFA still doesn’t prepare new corps members for success.

Jan Resseger: Shady exit of CEO of Ohio’s takeover district in Youngstown shows the perils of that approach.

Peter Greene: Can personalized learning deliver?

Peter Greene: who is behind the effort to woo teachers away from their unions.

Chris Edley and Pam Burdman: Don’t use SAT for accountability. 

Comments April 18th-May 13th,2019

Build and Support Issues

Hundreds of public with low-income minority students beat the odds in Los Angeles county.

An excellent education book by Andrea Gabor. Part 2.

Good communities produce good schools.

North Carolina’s former governor Jim Hunt speaks in favor of public schools.

Parents of dyslexic children win battle to make reading instruction consistent with best practice.

Wait list of 155,000 students for popular selective public high schools in NY City is much larger than the wait lists for charter schools..;

Fordham: You might be surprised at which states prioritize teacher salaries.

Teachers’ wage penalty with other college grads reaches a record high of 21% according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute. and

Ohio democrats pass resolution supporting public schools. and in Florida

Learning Policy Institute’s article on the national teacher shortage and what to do about it.

NPR: Re-imagining how to teach geography.

High quality materials and embedded educator support.

Charters, Vouchers, and Privatization

Less than 50% of charter school high school students graduate.  

Jeff Bryant: Why charter school proponents have lost many Democratic supporters.

No excuse schools: Parents actually want strong academics AND respect for their children.

Betsy DeVos travails: and Jeff Bryant and Peter Greene: Why DeVos doesn’t care about charter closings. and and Federal charter school program wasted $36 million on schools in Ohio that never opened or soon closed. and  and and, and, finally, DeVos loves charters but speaks against more funding for public schools.

Democrats in the House seek to cut charter school funding saying the DOE is not a responsible steward of federal spending.

Jan Resseger: Congress should shut down the charter school program and invest the money in Title 1 and IDEA. and Lack of Oversight of Federal Charter Schools Program Cheats Taxpayers, Students, Families, and Local Public Schools

Peter Greene: Who killed charter schools?

Tom Ultican: Sketchy charter on-line chain goes national.


Jim Scheurich, a professor at Indiana University, argues that the purpose of the Indianapolis charter proposals is to destroy communities.

Florida. NEP’s report on 20 years of reform failure in Florida; Peter Greene: Florida is the worst state in the nation for public education.; Carol Burris: Florida charters are a swamp of waste, fraud, and profiteering. ; Tampa Bay Times critique of new Florida legislation calling it a death sentence for public schools.;; conflicts of interest of an influential Florida legislator concerning charters go neglected.; the Southern Poverty Law Center statement on the harm caused by vouchers in the state; and ;  and


Tennessee passes dreaded voucher bill.  Mercedes Schneider; and  and


California. Carl Cohn: California must reform its charter law. ; California School Board’s recommendations on charter reform. Only one out of three charter schools outperforms the public schools in the district in which the charter is located; and another charter closes before the school year ends stranding students; and

Alabama:;  and



North Carolina.

Oakland. and  

Milwaukee. Jeff Bryant: and

Chicago. Teacher strikes at three charter schools.

Louisiana voucher program shows disappointing results. and

New Orleans. Mercedes Schneider,

Big bucks charter advocacy. and

The charter chain Democracy Prep has a lot to learn from public schools. and

Gary Rubenstein spills the beans on Success Academy;  ; and

Technology and proficiency based learning pros and cons

Teachers blow the whistle on ed-tech.

NYTimes: Kansas students rebel against Summit Learning web-based learning program.

Hechinger report: Disastrous rollout of proficiency based learning in Maine.

Knewton, a big name in ed tech, bits the dust.

Misplaced reforms

Personalized learning—the promise and the reality.; and

Peter Greene’s hard-hitting attack on personalized learning in Forbes magazine.

Diane Ravitch: education reform is dead but zombie ideas persist.

Larry Cuban:;;;   

Teach For America kicked out of Houston.

Texas pays Teach for America $5.5 million a year for 400 recruits. Only 85% show up for a second year. and also, and

Larry Cuban: and;

Warning: Atlanta’s portfolio plan is not a model.

Peter Greene: In Ohio, the ongoing fight to end school-takeovers.

Diane Ravitch: A book on the inside story of the Atlanta cheating scandal.

Michigan, don’t scrap the arts requirement!

Discussion With David Osborne on Comments Made to Mike Petrilli’s Article On Reform (Please read the comment before this one first)

Discussion with David Osborne

On August 16, 2018 at 3:06 PM David Osborne <> wrote:

Mr. Honig-

I’ve read your interesting dialogue with Mike Petrilli and could respond to many, many points, but there is one I feel absolutely compelled to comment on: your statement that ” The latest CREDO report does find that urban charters do better than the average traditional public school but the effect size is tiny overall. ”

The 2015 CREDO report on charters in 41 urban regions found that students in their fourth year or beyond in an urban charter school learned about 50% more than their matched peers (demographically similar, with similar past test scores) who stayed in district schools. (Table 10, p. 32.) This is so far beyond a “tiny” effect size that I can’t let it go unchallenged. 

I would also point out that the fastest improving cities in the country have been those that have embraced charter schools as a core strategy: New Orleans, DC, Denver, and Chicago.

There was a time in which too many states allowed failing charters to continue year after year, ignoring one of the central tenets of chartering: that failing schools are closed or replaced. That is still the case too often in California, Nevada, Michigan, and other states. But over the last decade more and more states and authorizers have begun to get serious about accountability, and charter performance has increased rather dramatically.

All best,

On Aug 19, 2018, at 10:29 AM, wrote:

David, thanks for the reply. 

I think our differences lie in how you characterize the CREDO findings. They report, in Table 10 which you cite, that students attending  an urban charter for four years, post a gain of .15 Standard Deviation in math and .1 in reading over their traditional public schools counterparts. This effect size is characterized as small by the research community (.4-.5 is deemed a medium effect size). John Hattie who examined hundreds of school improvement interventions in his Visible Learning series by examining thousands of research evaluations found a good number of interventions near or above a full standard deviation or 7-10 times the effect size the CREDO findings. Most of these involved instituting an active curiculum which involved students in the learning process such as reciprocal teaching or visible learning  strategies or collaborative team building aimed at increasing teacher engagement and efficacy.  Charter schools as a reform strategy ranked low in his listing. 

Given the small effect size found by CREDO, if you overlay a distribution of charter schools with a distribution of traditional public schools (TPS) the overlaps are very similar–almost a one-for-one match school for school with an extremely high percentage of  schools in both distributions showing the same results–good., average, and poor. Thus, the small average difference CREDO found is much too thin a reed to justify claims that charters should be significantly expanded vis-a-vis TPS.

Most importantly, there was wide variation in urban charters in the CREDO report. Some were in the high-performing .5 range, some showed substantial negative result, most clustered around the middle. TPS showed similar distributions resulting in a significant number of charters and TPS in the high performing category. We should be learning from both high-flying charters and the comparable percentages of high performing traditional public schools. These stellar schools or districts and CMO’s should be examples of what to do.  The issue shouldn’t be charters versus non-charters but what the most successful schools or districts do in either sector.

One small point: the overall effect size for charters in the CREDO report for all years of attendance (not just the four year cohort) was almost negligible–in the .04 range. What can’t be determined is how much the four year rate was influenced by weaker students leaving and their slots not being backfilled resulting in a more rarified cohort. 

Finally, your contention that urban districts placing charter school expansion at the center of their reform efforts posted the highest test score gains in the country is not supported by the data. Some urban districts  emphasizing charters did score high, some scored medium or low. Similarly, some traditional urban school districts scored high and some scored medium or low. For example, Washington DC did make large gains years ago but now is in the middle of the pack in growth in the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment(TUDA). The TUDA results show no clear pattern favoring urban districts emphasizing charters. Non-TUDA districts showed similar patterns. For example, Long Beach, Garden Grove, and Sanger are urban districts with few charter schools but who posted substantial gains.

Also, some districts you cite as high-performing because charter expansion was at the center of their reform strategy would not agree that charters were the reason for their gains. See the evaluations of Chicago public schools, for example, which found curricular reform, professional development,  team building, and community involvement as the main drivers of improvement. 

I agree with your point that low performing charters should and in some places have been shuttered and that more states should adopt stricter accountability.

Let’s continue the discussion. I hope we can agree to look for exemplars of high-performance from both the charter school and traditional public schools’ sectors  and avoid framing the issue as a charter/TPS conflict. Bill

On August 22, 2018 at 6:31 AM David Osborne <> wrote:


Thanks for replying.  You’re right, we do characterize the CREDO findings differently. I can’t imagine calling something that produced 90 extra days of learning (in math and ELA) as “tiny” or “small.” That’s half a year of extra gain, every year.

I think the effect size is .1 to .15 because we are talking about the performance of public schools in 41 entire urban regions. I have John Hattie’s book, and the interventions you’re describing that have much higher effect sizes come from studies of much smaller samples, I suspect. Doug Harris’s study of New Orleans found an 0.2-0.4 effect size, and he called that the most rapid improvement of an urban district of which he was aware.

One could get larger effect sizes by studying far smaller samples, such as charters in Boston, or KIPP schools, or Yes Prep or Uncommon. Some of the 41 CREDO cities used bastardized versions of chartering in which terrible charter schools were allowed to remain open year after year. The effect size of systems that were true to the principals of chartering were no doubt larger.

As for New Orleans, DC, and Denver, if we’re looking at the last 10-12 years, there is significant evidence that they have been the most rapidly improving high-poverty cities in the country. (Chicago’s improvement leveled off after 2014.) As Doug Harris said, New Orleans clearly improved the fastest. Among NAEP TUDA cities, DC clearly improved the fastest. And Denver was close behind.

I know a bit about Long Beach, and I agree, it has experienced significant improvement. But it has had continuity of superintendent leadership for 20-25 years—two superintendents, the second of whom was the first’s deputy, if my memory is correct. That is so rare in the world of elected school boards that we can hardly rely on it as a practical strategy. 

I do agree that we should be learning from the highest performing schools in both sectors. But since we organize schools into systems, we have to pay attention to what kind of systems produce more of those high performing schools. And the data is clear: the fastest improvement has come when public schools are relatively autonomous, accountable for their performance (and closed or replaced if it falls below par for several years), allowed to create diverse learning models for diverse students, subject to choice and competition, and operated by nonprofit organizations. The latter is important, sadly, because elected school boards have proven themselves almost incapable of closing schools for performance if they are staffed by unionized district employees.

I look forward to continuing the dialogue.

All best,

On Aug 22, 2018, at 1:31 PM, wrote:

David, three points.

1. The research community does characterize any SD effect size gain below .2 as small, .5 as medium and above .7 as large. So “small” is in comparison to other interventions with much higher results. Hattie lists fifteen such interventions above .7. Charters are near the bottom of Hattie’s rankings of approximately 100 interventions. You “suspect” that his studies of high impact have small sample sizes but Hattie was aware of that problem and used meta-analysis to deal with it. According to Hattie, an SD gain of 1.0 is equivalent to 2-3 yrs of instruction so the .1-.15 CREDO findings for urban charters are much less than the 1/2 year gain you cite and multiples below other interventions 

2. Whatever the characterization, the relatively small distance found between urban charters and their TPS counterparts means that comparable percentages of schools in each distribution would fall in the “medium” effect range so it is hard to argue that the charter sector deserves support as a key reform plank but TPS don’t. You claim that sclerotic TPS urban districts  prevent improvement but the large numbers of these high-flying TPS, magnets, etc. belies that contention. It is not just in a few stellar districts that high-performing schools are found. They are spread throughout the nation. In fact, even though the distribution of urban charters and urban TPS just about overlap so that the percentages of “medium” effect schools are comparable, because charters have so many fewer schools than TPS urbans, the TPS urbans have many more high performers in raw numbers. Maybe we should be concentrating on expanding those. In Los Angeles, for example, TPS magnet schools substantially outperform charters after adjusting for school populations and gifted schools.

You also argue that if you exclude low performing charters which should have been closed and concentrate on the high-performance CMO’s then results would look better for charters. Of course, if we disregard the low-performing TPS, their results would also improve. The main point is that there is wide variation in both charters and TPS and comparable percentages of each are high performing.  It is a false dichotomy to contend that  charter/non-charter policy is the determining factor in improvement.

So your claim in the last paragraph that there are “more” high performing schools in the charter sector is not accurate. And then inflating this false premise to justify expansion of charters freed from district controls as the only strategy to improve because unionized districts can’t perform is not supported by the data. 

3. Finally, your argument that urban districts where charters are a key element in improvement efforts have led the nation in test score gains during the past twelve years doesn’t fit the facts  As I wrote in the first response below, there is no clear cut pattern in TUDA results. Some of the charter emphasizing districts did score high, others did not. Some districts which did not emphasize charters scored high and some didn’t. What is worth noting is that almost all urbans taking TUDA significantly out-gained the rest of the nation.

(As I said before, I don’t agree with your using Chicago, which posted substantial gains, as an example of a district making charter expansion a central part of their improvement efforts. I doubt whether Chicago would claim that its increases were primarily driven by charters)

Here are the TUDA results using the 12 yr. period you suggested.

Eighth grade reading–2005-2017

Los Angeles +15

Atlanta +15

San Diego +11

Chicago +10

Boston +8

Large Urban +8

Washinton DC +7

New York City +7

Austin +6

Nation +5

Houston +1

Charlotte +1

Cleveland -2

Fourth grade Reading 2005-2017

DC +22

San Diego +14

Atlanta +13 

Chicago +13

Los Angeles +12 

Boston +10

Large City +8

Nation +4

Charlotte/M +3

New York City +1

Austin —

Cleveland -1

Houston -5

8th Grade Math 2005-2017

Atlanta +20

Chicago +18

DC +17

Los Angeles +16

San Diego +12

Boston +10

Large City +9

NYC +8

Cleveland +8

CharlotteM +7

Houston +6

Nation +4

Austin +3

4th grade Math 2005-2017

DC +20

Chicago +18

Atlanta +10

San Diego +5

Boston +4

Large City +4

Los Angeles +3

Houston +2 

Nation +2 

Austin +1

CharlotteM -1 

NYC -1

Cleveland -6

I’m glad we can agree that we should be using high-performing charters and TPS as exemplars and support an in-depth investigation and implementation of the processes and support structures to grow their number. Bill

Reply from David Osborne

The half-year gain in learning in urban charters was CREDO’s conclusion, not my own. And I’ve found that statistics gurus disagree about whether a citywide effect size of .1 or .15 is small or not. 

As for my point about closing low performers, it is a fact that this happens more often in the charter sector than the district sector. California may be an exception, because districts authorize most charters there and many of them don’t hold those charters accountable. But in much of the country, low-performing charters are closed far more often than low-performing district schools. That’s a key part of my argument: Why would we promote a system that does not hold failing schools accountable, when we have an alternative approach that does? We need education systems that do this, whether their schools are called “charters” or not. And experience has proven that elected school boards find it much easier to close a school run by a nonprofit than a school staffed by their own employees, particularly if they are unionized.

As for the NAEP TUDA data you cite, it proves my point. There is a pattern. If you average the four scores, DC was the fastest improving of these cities—and that was just the district. The charter sector in DC, which educated 47% of the public school students last year, improved even faster.

So among TUDA cities, DC has clearly been the fastest improving.

Among all cities, according to Doug Harris’s very thorough analysis at ERA, my analysis in Reinventing America’s Schools, and many others’, New Orleans has been the fastest improving city since the conversion to charters got serious in 2006. New Orleans is the only high poverty city I know that has outperformed its state on high school graduation rates and college going rates. New Orleans doesn’t participate in TUDA, but if you look at improvement in test scores, graduation rates, and college-going rates, no other city can touch it.

That leaves Denver, which unfortunately also does not participate in TUDA. Sean Reardon’s data shows that Denver had the second highest growth of any district with more than 25,000 students between 09-10 and 12-13 (after Lincoln, NE, which is not a high-poverty city), according to ERS (“Denver Public Schools:Leveraging System Transformation to Improve Student Results,” ERS, March, 2017). And since the 2015 switch to PARCC tests in Colorado, Denver has outperformed its state in middle school scores, a rare feat for a high-poverty city. Graduation rates have risen by nearly 30 percentage points since 2005, and college-going rates have increased by more than 80% over the last decade.

I challenge you to find a high-poverty city that has improved anywhere near as fast as these three cities, all of which used chartering in a major way. 

As for Chicago, from 2005 to 2010, under Renaissance 2010, the district closed 60 low performing schools and replaced them with 92 new schools, mostly charters or other nonprofit operators. During that era, this was a major district strategy. Was that a factor in the surge in 3rd through 8th grade performance between 2009 and 2014 that Sean Reardon documented? I find it hard to believe that it wasn’t, particularly because the mayor essentially agreed to freeze chartering in 2013, and academic growth leveled off after 2014. For a thorough discussion of Chicago, see my article at

I believe, as I argued in Reinventing America’s Schools, that the data shows that this combination of system elements creates the most rapid improvement in urban public schools: school autonomy, accountability (including closure or replacement), diversity of learning models, choice, operation by nonprofit organizations, and a concerted strategy to recruit and develop talent.

Chartering does not have to be part of this. In Indianapolis Public Schools, they call their sector built on this model Innovation Network Schools. Atlanta and Tulsa call them Partnership Schools. Some cities call them Renaissance Schools. In Chicago some of them are called contract schools, some are AUSL schools. 

Whatever we call them, it’s important that we recognize what type of system works best in urban public education, then embrace it. If we continue to pretend that the top-down bureaucratic model we developed in the 20th century can do the job, we are simply fooling ourselves—and sacrificing the futures of many, many children.

With respect,


David Osborne
Progressive Policy Institute
4 Hovey St.
Gloucester, MA 01930
978 865 3917
Cell: 978 273 5397


Final comment

David, thanks again for responding. I think our major disagreement is over the efficacy of closing low-performing schools as the indispensable ingredient in improving schools.

Preliminarily, I would caution you not to rely on CREDO’s extrapolation of a .1 or .15 effect size to a half year’s extra growth for students who were enrolled in a charter for four years. (the effect size was much smaller for all students surveyed by CREDO–.04 in reading and .06 in math but let’s use the higher figure). CREDO itself warned about the arbitrariness of “days added”, and a growing number of researchers such as Cohen, Pogrow, Glass, and Berliner have found no evidence for the conversion of effect size to “days added”. Most importantly, these researchers have found that CREDO  significantly overstated the actual magnitude of growth for the effect size reported by several multiples.  Most researchers characterize any effect size below .2 as “difficult to detect” and too small to make claims about differences in results. See Stanley Pogrow for a discussion of these points.

So I stand by my argument that the differences between urban charters and urban TPS are too small to be meaningful and certainly not large enough to support the claim that only charters and charter systems can significantly improve. Instead, let’s use both high-performing charters and TPS’s as exemplars for what all schools and districts should do to get better.

You never did refute the argument that, assuming comparable spreads, when you overlay the distribution of performance of charters and TPS’s, a .1 or .15 difference in the average has almost no effect on the percentage of schools scoring above the .5 level or medium effect level in the right side of either distribution. This means that comparable percentages of TPS and charters attain this level. Since there are many more TPS’s than charters the number of higher performing TPS schools is significantly higher than high-performing charters. This reality belies your claim that only charters and charter systems can effectively deliver high-performance. 

I think you arrived at these erroneous conclusions because of some basic flawed assumptions. 

You state: …in much of the country, low-performing charters are closed far more often than low-performing district schools. That’s a key part of my argument: Why would we promote a system that does not hold failing schools accountable, when we have an alternative approach that does?

1. You seem  to  think  that the only legitimate strategy for holding schools accountable and improve performance is to close low performers. You go so far as to assert that there can be no meaningful improvement efforts in the absence of such closures and that, since TPS districts have a difficult time closing their low-performing TPS schools, they can’t significantly improve. What evidence do you have for this extreme claim? As stated above that contention doesn’t square with the existence of large numbers of high-performing TPS. 

Moreover, while closing a school  is certainly one strategy to improve low performing schools, it is not the only one, not necessarily the best one, and it comes with severe collateral damage. Many of the non-charter driven districts or TPS high-performing schools described above got better by pursuing a “build and support” coherent strategy of strong curriculum and materials, investing in focused professional development, building capacity and team work around improving instruction, good site leadership, district support , etc. as I outlined in my original discussion with Mike Petrilli. (Indeed, many of the charter-driven districts such as Washington, DC also pursued a similar instructional improvement strategy so what caused improvements in these districts–the fact of closures or the impact of curriculum driven support initiatives?)

These positive approaches avoid the collateral damage caused by closing schools as part of a high-stakes test and punish accountability system.  Students are not commodities and when you rely on closing low-performing charter schools as a crucial element in improving the quality of overall charter performance, students who attended those schools suffer. You seem to be enamored of market-based solutions but what works in selling toothpaste doesn’t necessarily work in a public service where children are involved. If a toothpaste company goes out of business in a Schumpeter creative destruction the customer can shift brands. A student in a closed charter school, especially if it happens during the year, suffers significant hardship. The numbers of students stranded or being harmed by closures has become substantial. From 2001-2016 approximately 2500 charters have failed or closed involving almost 300,000 students. There are currently about 7000 charters so those which have closed are a significant proportion of the total. Quite a price to pay for improving the performance of the charter sector.

Alternatively, closing a TPS and replacing it with a charter also cause severe collateral damage such as destroying a a long-standing community institution and resource,  causing family and student disruption of relationships,  or forcing youngsters to take long bus rides or walk through hostile territory. Is this level of disruption and hardship worth the small or non-existent performance benefit of shifting to charters when there are effective, less destructive alternatives available?

2. Another major deficiency of a “close the low performers” accountability strategy is that the penalty is primarily based on test scores and fear of consequences which not only encourages gaming the system but too often results in narrowing the curriculum and diminishing learning. Too many charters have become test prep factories and, unfortunately, many TPS have also succumbed to the corrupting influence of high-stakes, test based accountability.  See Daniel Koretz’s The Testing Charade well-argued case against tests driving instruction instead of informing instruction.

Your stated premise is that the following combination of system elements creates the most rapid improvement in urban public schools: school autonomy, accountability (including closure or replacement), diversity of learning models, choice, operation by nonprofit organizations, and a concerted strategy to recruit and develop talent I don’t believe that premise withstands scrutiny as the only or even the best method of improving schools. I made this argument in the discussion with Mike Petrilli on the perils of high stakes test based accountability and the more effective alternative of a “build and support” approach.

For a fuller elucidation of these ideas on charters with supporting research visit 


I’m not sure which of us is suffering from confirmation bias. I look at the TUDA results and see a mixed bag. To me you are cherry picking charter driven districts which scored high in NAEP growth and ignoring both charter-driven districts not scoring high and districts with limited charters which did well. It is true that if you average DC’s four scores they are at the top (but currently stalled) in growth with the caveat that they started extremely low so had more room to grow. But, although they scored very high in 4th grade reading growth, by eighth grade, which is more indicative of  eventual student performance, they are in the middle of the pack.  In math they were at the top of the heap in 4th grade and third in 8th grade. Even counting 8th and 4th grade equally and adding all four growth scores for the twelve years  as you did, Atlanta, San Diego, and Boston, with limited charters and starting from much higher performance levels than DC  were not that far from DC’s growth scores: DC +69: Atlanta +58; San Diego +42; Boston +32 and all significantly higher than the national growth gains of +15.

Some charter driven districts did not score well in the TUDA results. Some, such as Milwaukee not taking TUDA and emphasizing charters for years,  have also done poorly which offsets the claimed high performance of Denver.  Charter emphasis does not seem to be the determining factor between high and low growth. Conversely, there are a number of high performing and high growth districts which aren’t enrolled in TUDA but did as well as the districts you cite such as Long Beach, Garden Grove, and Sanger. Again charter/non-charter doesn’t seem to make the difference but what counts is the successful support and improvement strategies the high-flyers from both sectors pursued. 

New Orleans

I agree with you that test scores in New Orleans grew substantially in the past decade although they have flattened out recently. But there is a counter-narrative. The city schools started from an extremely low base and pre-Katrina were corrupt and mis-managed. However, even after the growth spurts they are still among the lowest scoring schools in the country. Moreover, the gains came at substantial cost; disrupting communities, resegregation, growth in inequality, and destruction of a main component of the black middle-class when all teachers were fired and many replaced by short-termers.  The growth has been skewed to the non-poverty schools, large numbers of schools received D’s and F’s from the charter friendly state, and the ACT scores have been disastrously low and dropping. How much growth was attributable to charters, a change in the socio-economic mix of students after Katrina or the substantial increase in per-pupil funding is an issue. A basic question is whether New Orleans needed to adopt such harmful measures to improve or would have achieved comparable growth with less stringent alternatives. For a more extended discussion of this counter-narrative on New Orleans written two years ago see the following excerpt from my website . Much recent scholarship supports these findings.

Lessons from New Orleans

In some extreme instances, states have privatized entire districts, converting all public schools to charter schools. A decade ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana forced New Orleans to follow this path. What ensued was the wholesale elimination of the public schools that were the center of many communities, the firing of most teachers, and the creation of nonaccountable institutions under the umbrella of the state-run New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD). Unquestionably, prior to Katrina the district was severely dysfunctional and one of lowest scoring in the country. But the drastic measures taken in the name of reform created new problems. This is tragic given that better, less disruptive alternatives could have been pursued.

The New Orleans experience has been hyped by reform advocates as an extraordinary success story and, until recently, uncritically covered by the media. Adam Johnson wrote an excellent critiqueof the fawning media coverage. More objective analysesof the RSD have questioned the purported gains and detailed significant collateral damage: hours-long bus rides and other hardships foisted on children, substantial resegregation, and unaccountable schools as well as community erosion and alienation.

Failing Grades

According to blogger and education activist Mercedes Schneider, one decade later most New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) charter schools received Ds or Fs by a charter-friendly state education department. Out of 57 schools, 15 received Fs or were so low as to be in turnaround status; 17 received Ds; only 7 received Bs; and none earned an A. The RSD schools still rankamong the lowest-scoring schools in the country. Schneider also cites a recent report that showed only an embarrassing 12% of the high school students in the district who took the ACT college preparation test scored high enough under the state’s regent requirement to qualify for a Louisiana four-year college. Schneider has also debunked claimsof better-than-average graduation rates.

Other people have documented the continued extremely low performance of the RSD despite a decades’ worth of effort. Among them are Julian Vasquez Heiligand Andrea Gabor, who raised potent questions about the viability of the New Orleans model for reform when she wrote a response to the defenders of the district in TheNew York Times. See also “The Uncounted,” Owen Davis’s blog postthat raises the possibility that the New Orleans reform effort harmed the city’s most vulnerable children:

A decade after Hurricane Katrina spurred New Orleans to undertake a historic school reform experiment—a shift to a virtually all-charter district with unfettered parent choice—evidence of broader progress is shot through with signs that the district’s most vulnerable students were rebuffed, expelled, pushed out or lost altogether.

For another negative reporton the supposed success of the RSD, see Ten Years after Katrina, New Orleans’ All-Charter School System Has Proven a Failure.Finally, an editorial in The New Orleans Tribune, a major African-American newspaper, decried the reform efforts in New Orleans and its meager results.

In 2015, Frank Adamson, Channa Cook-Harvey, and Linda Darling-Hammond produced the most comprehensive and exhaustive examinationof the New Orleans experiment in districtwide charters. Whose Choice? Student Experiences and Outcomes in the New Orleans School Marketplace is their 72-page report developed for the Stanford Center on Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE). The authors came to conclusions similar to those I have previously discussed. The New Orleans experiment led to the creation of a stratified system, which more often than not produced low-quality education and was highly detrimental to large numbers of vulnerable students and their communities. They demonstrated that claims of increased performance for the RSD were not warranted and that schools in the RSD still scored extremely low on measures using accurate data.

Limited Gains and Unnecessary Damage

Even reports that found some progress demonstrate that in light of the extremely low starting point, the gains in New Orleanshave been minimal. After 10 years, the effect size ranges from only 0.2 to 0.4 SD—still leaving the district as one of the lowest scoring in the nation, with one of the country’s highest levels of economic and educational disparities according to race.

The alleged gainscould just as easily be attributed to the substantial increases in funding that occurred over the last decade or to changes in demographics since large numbers of low-achieving students left New Orleans after Katrina. Clearly, these small increases were hardly worth the major disruptions caused by closing just about every local school and firing 7,000 teachers, most of whom formed the backbone of the African-American middle class in the city. For a heart-wrenching accountof the callous treatment of New Orleans teachers, see “Death of My Career: What Happened to New Orleans’ Veteran Black Teachers?” in Education Weekand the extensive quotations in the SCOPE report cited above. For a forum with differing points of view on the New Orleans experience, see the Albert Shanker Institute’s series of conversations “Ten Years After the Deluge: The State of Public Education in New Orleans.” Finally, Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance,by Kristen Buras (2014), provides a devastating look at the harm caused in New Orleans by the abandonment of public schools.

Unquestionably, some excellent charter schools have been created in New Orleans, and many dedicated teachers and principals are making heroic efforts to improve instruction. Yet better schools and outcomes could have been produced without such drastic measures. Even researchers who supported the reforms have declared that New Orleans should not be held up as a model for the nation.

David, again I hope we can agree on using what the most successful schools from both sectors have done to improve performance and avoid an unfruitful debate over whether the combination of charters, high-stakes accountability based on test scores, and radical decentralization is the only or best way to improve public education. Bill

Discussion with Mike Petrilli on the Future of Reform July/August 2018

An August/September dialogue  between some respected members of the reform community and me on Mike Petrilli’s Where Education Reform Goes From Here and, Sandy Kress’s and Peter Cunningham’s comments. I found much to support in Mike’s piece although there are still a few areas of disagreement or emphasis needing further discussion.  

To M. Petrilli, S.Kress, and P. Cunningham,

Based on your collective comments, I think there is a good chance for reconciliation and a working consensus between “reformers” and those of us who have had major problems with reform policies, implementation, and assumptions. There seems to be a common emphasis on the following approaches to improving student and school performance:

  • the centrality of curriculum and instruction;
  • high-quality materials;
  • building the processes schools and districts (or CMO’s) for school improvement such as improving the capacity at each school for continuous improvement;
  • attracting higher caliber teachers, improved induction, career ladders and leadership, and a continued attention to improving performance for all;
  • alternate pathways for high-school graduation to include career/tech and CTE;
  •  increased funding;
  • striking a balance between school and local control and district and state expectations and support;
  •  avoiding the harsher anti-public school and teacher rhetoric; and
  • looking to both traditional public school and charter for models of high performance.

These ideas also drove our efforts in California to improve performance. For those who are interested, I’ve attached a short paper (found below) on that subject.

Your willingness to be honest about problems with the reform movement and your display of a sincere attempt to find common ground is to be commended. Both charters and traditional public schools need to improve and there is a growing agreement on what that takes.

Here are some specific comments on the points which have been raised—points of agreement and areas needing further discussion because of disagreements or differences in emphasis.

  • Thank you, Michael Petrilli, for adding preparing students for democracy to the purposes driving any improvement efforts. There is a growing interest in civics and civic engagement in the country and excellent exemplars by both charters (Democracy Prep) and traditional public school efforts now exist.

My only caveat is to add one more important purpose of education: the classic goal of a liberal education to help enrich each student’s life, reach individual potential, and develop character and a high moral stance. You do mention in passing literature, history, and the humanities as helping to find out how the world works and a glancing reference to character development in the service of citizenship. Yet, I think this goal of broadening individual perspectives to lead a more fulfilling life should be explicitly expressed. For a discussion of this point see

  • Kudos on promoting broadening the job preparation goal to include alternative rigorous CTE pathways for those students not bound for a 4 year college. For a school, district, or state, the preparation for work goal should be to maximize the number of students prepared for a 4yr college or a transfer pathway, and all others prepared for a specific career or tech/prep strand. Presently, the country is preparing about 40% for 4yr colleges. Even if we increase that to 50% (a formidable goal) that still leaves a large number of students not served. Most current policy at state and district levels basically ignores these students and assumes almost all can and should be prepared for a 4yr college.

I do agree with those who are wary of an early placement test because of the danger of a premature choice as we should give some students the chance to change perspectives in later grades. As one alternative, schools in San Diego Unified have a Linked Learning college (A-G UC requirements) program combined with a career path in which students who follow the career path early on are able to shift to the 4yr college track at a later time.

  • Many of your comments on literacy are spot on. The importance of early foundation skills and then content and vocabulary as the major driver of improving comprehension as opposed to over-emphasis on “comprehension skills”. One of the major deficiencies of annual statewide literacy tests is the lack of connection to content and the resulting default to comprehension strategies.  Louisiana is attempting to correct this situation.
  • From our perspective, too many reformers are still too wedded to a strict accountability model based on a faulty theory of change. The initial reform paradigm was a simple structural leverage approach:  define student performance standards (mainly for accountability purposes not to inform instructional improvement), assess whether the standards were being met, publicize those outcomes, and provide consequences for results bad (and good), get out of the way of individual schools, and let pressure from harsh consequences and competition especially from charters and parents force improvement.

This strategy proved to be flawed in several respects and thus didn’t produce the results hoped for.

First, it is highly simplistic. The assumption that individual schools if given freedom from district control and spurred by competition and consequences would figure out how to improve on their own proved false for most schools. Many of you now realize that the missing ingredient in that paradigm was neglect of direct attention to and support of the nuts and bolts of school improvement—curriculum, instructional materials, professional development, team building, principal and teacher leadership, effective district (or CMO) assistance and help with getting these elements to cohere, and proper funding of these efforts. (appreciation to Peter Cunningham for asserting the importance of funding if improvement is to occur.) By comparison, the indirect method of attempting to improve performance by standards, primarily test based assessment, and consequential accountability turned out to be a much weaker way to influence school performance and produced considerable collateral damage.

Another erroneous assumption underlying this simple reform paradigm assumed educators would not improve unless compelled or pressured by fear of consequences or competition. Actually, most educators want to improve but many did not know how, did not receive proper support, or were subject to leaders who were motivated by a test and punish philosophy relying on fear instead of the more engaging build and support approach.  Appealing to teachers as professionals and engaging them in the improvement work produces results; pressuring them often backfires. Deming and Drucker still apply.

Yet, many of you want to retain or strengthen accountability with consequences and embed the more direct approach in high-stakes accountability. The two strategies conflict since they stem from two radically different theories of how to encourage professionals to improve. More often than not, pressure and competition detracts from high performance. High-stakes testing encourages schools or districts to become too fixated on test results and test items, to the detriment of deep learning and learning progressions. Campbell’s law is relevant; consequential accountability encourages educators to game the system, outright cheat, or become detached from commitment to deeper learning and long-term continuous improvement by concentrating on short term test results. Some reformers retort that teaching to the test and test prep are fine if complex skills are tested. But the tests don’t meet that standard. Dan Koretz’s, the Testing Charade or Jim Popham’s work exemplifies the problems with focusing on standardized test results which are not of a fine enough grain size to help instruction.

As an example, tests don’t reflect the emerging idea of the importance of  learning progressions such as the development of proportional thinking in mathematics. These should be driving curriculum, instruction, classroom student assessment and personalization. For a free curriculum developed by Bill McCallum (one of the authors of Common Core Math and his team for 6-8 math based on learning progressions with a top rating from EdReports see the recently released excellent Illustrative Mathematics . Many of you have advocated for a more personalized, adaptive instruction. One impediment was the Dept. of Ed’s original refusal to allow SBAC to develop an adaptive test on broader strands across grades so students could adjust to higher or lower positions on these broader learning progressions. They insisted that the tests be limited to the standards of a particular grade.

Annual test results are a useful warning light and offer useful information about subgroups, but a whole array of formative evaluations and using instructional tasks as assessments and teacher and student judgements are necessary to focus on what is needed to improve student performance.  All too often assessment from the annual test drives instruction in superficial and shallow ways, instead of being one tool in the service of deeper learning. Many charters (and traditional public schools), which live and die by annual test results, have become test prep machines, narrowing the curriculum and harming student’s future performance. Also problematical is the tendency for some charter schools to trumpet bogus results by such ploys as not backfilling open slots over time and creating a rarified cohort.  Competition and fear of consequences has similarly infected many traditional public schools with the same disease including outright cheating or fiddling with who takes the test.

Finally, radical decentralization did not produce the results as advertised. The theory was based in part by the idea that districts were a main part of the problem of low performance. They were either consumed by politics, stakeholder resistance, and bureaucratic inefficiencies. Districts were thought to be ineffective as top down compliance oriented, or incapable of or not interested in improving results but in protecting turf. They couldn’t or wouldn’t change. Decentralizing to individual schools, preferably charters, however, did not solve the problem of district effectiveness or individual schools and teachers needing support.  Districts (or the central support structure in CMO’s) turn out to be crucial players in improving schools. Instead of end-running them, efforts should be made to improve their performance modeled after what our best districts have done. Contrary to the argument that districts were incapable of change, there are a growing number of districts in this country which have significantly improved their ability to support school improvement

Districts such as Long Beach (which only has a handful of charters), Garden Grove, Elk Grove, and Sanger in California and comparable districts in the US were able to engender school-site improvement by re-orienting their management philosophy. They made the difficult shift from compliance orientation to support and engagement, but still insisted on high expectations which if not met initiated discussions on how to improve. They placed a solid curriculum and effective classroom instruction at the center of improvement efforts and built a supportive structure and processes to facilitate instructional improvement with impressive results. That strategy should guide improvement policies. Instead of giving up on districts, we should agree on and support approaches and polices geared to help the laggards improve.

  • Bravo to your suggestions that teacher quality and teaching is not the only determinant of high student performance. Curriculum, good materials, support processes, money and community efforts are all also crucial. While reformers are now stressing the importance of curriculum and instruction, they and many traditional school leaders have not thought deeply enough about the complex school processes necessary to improve classroom instruction. Michael alludes to “professional development” but an effective improvement strategy is much more complex than that. Educators and policy makers need to concentrate on how to develop coherence among coaching, professional development, team building, use of instructional materials, a broad array of classroom formative assessment techniques, teacher and principal leadership, support for struggling students, and what districts must do to support those efforts. I will send more specifics on this issue in a future email.
  • It is also gratifying to see many pro-public school reformers  become sensitive to and willing to oppose privatization forces high-jacking their rhetoric to drastically cut funding for public schools, seek to replace them, or use the reform movement to squelch teacher unions as has happened in many Republican led states or at the national level. Most of you now resist the canard that the choice is between reformers policies favoring students or the status quo favoring adult and union interests. Both pro-public education reformers and the anti-reform camp want to improve the quality of our schools, the debate is over which policies or strategies are best to accomplish that goal.
  • Many of us agree with many of your proposals to concentrate more on the front end of the teacher pipeline. Suggestions to increase the quality of new teachers by higher entry standards for  preparation programs, strengthening teacher ed., lengthening the initial time for granting tenure with streamlined due process protections as part of career ladder progressions are welcome.

For existing teachers, many of you have criticized the almost exclusive reform emphasis on firing the worst teachers by test-based and intricate principal evaluations. The effort was not only ruined by the use of faulty assessments and processes but the policy detracted from more positive efforts to raise the performance of all staff. Moreover, concentrating on the worst often neglected supporting the best through such approaches as embedding the most effective teachers in a learning community and expanding their influence

Rewarding excellent teachers with more cash has not worked and has caused collateral damage by lowering morale and jeopardizing team building. There is a simple way out of this. Pay the best teachers more but have them take on additional supportive roles. Career ladders and teacher leadership positions need to become much more prevalent as some of you have argued. Convincing a top teacher to stay in the profession has much more dramatic effect on student and school performance than firing a laggard.

That’s not to say that the worst teachers should not be fired or counseled out. There are some excellent examples of effective teacher evaluation strategies such as those in San Jose Unified or San Juan Unified in California where teachers have helped design and implement the programs. When there is teacher buy-in and evaluation is embedded in a comprehensive school improvement effort and the participation of teacher leaders at the school, the rates of dismissal or resignations of the weaker teachers is actually higher. Incompetent teachers can’t hide in group efforts—those who can improve do so and many just resign. Conversely, having principals spend an inordinate amount of time and paperwork conducting multiple classroom visits of every teacher for purposes of formal evaluation severely hampers their more productive role of organizing a learning school. Even the best teachers are willing to accept improvement advice as part of a collaborative improvement effort, but tend to shut down, narrow their teaching, or resist when it is part of a formal evaluation process especially from one whom they don’t believe is more skilled than they are.

There are many more issues which could be discussed, but I hope that this commentary helps illuminate areas of agreement, areas needing further discussion, and areas that are still in dispute. In addition to a follow-up comment on comprehensive and coherent strategies to improve classroom instruction, I’ll also send out some thoughts on agreements and disagreements about charters.

Second comment by Bill Honig to Mike Petrilli.

A Comprehensive and Coherent Approach to Improve Schools

It is nearly impossible for schools and teachers to effectively teach the ambitious and active curriculum and instructional shifts envisioned by common core and its cousins if teachers are isolated in schools and not members of effective school teams. Getting good at questioning, conducting discussions and simulations, supporting student teams, and incorporating a fair bit of  student projects takes time, expertise, and work. Of course, teachers must make individual efforts and receive support to improve their craft. But, even more important, schools need to become cooperative learning institutions which are continuously getting better at getting better. Our best practitioners, educational leaders, and researchers are beginning to address coherence issues and what can states or districts do to encourage a comprehensive approach centered on instructional improvement.

Yet this crucial element of improvement strategies–the potential power of the school-site team focused on instructional improvement–has been under-emphasized by many reformers. That is changing in many charter organizations and traditional public schools where professional learning communities have become wide-spread. John Hattie’s book  Visible Learning reviewed thousands of interventions and found those with the highest effect size (more than a standard deviation or 1-2 years additional student growth) were effective programs aimed at teacher efficacy, engagement, building teams, as well as involving students in the improvement process. (Hattie found that charter schools, teacher evaluation, and merit pay strategies all resulted in minimal effects many multiples lower than these high pay-off engagement activities.) Organizations such as LearningForward, the Learning Policy Institute, SERP, and the Center for Innovation and Education and advocates such as Linda Darling-Hammond and Marc Tucker have been emphasizing this approach based on what the most productive schools organizations world-wide are doing.

Unfortunately, at present only a small percentage of school-site teams are effective by being highly-focused on instruction and are bolstered by teachers displaying a willingness to change classroom behavior.  Further, not many schools and districts pursue a coherent approach. Making teams productive by being part of a more comprehensive strategy is essential but complex. Educators and researchers are just beginning to appreciate these next necessary steps in school improvement (Implementation 2.0).

Moreover, developing state and district policies to promote coherence is in its infancy. Many traditional school district leaders still follow the dubious approach of heavy reliance on test-based accountability by top-down pressure, are hampered by bureaucratic inertia and politics, adopt single-shot strategies, or are not willing to shift management philosophy and organization to a more balanced approach. Many charters follow a simplistic model of instruction, philosophy, or management which relies on churning through lower-paid new teachers and neglects long-term team-building. Some are under the control of martinets, or have terrible working conditions for staff and suffer extremely high attrition rates and low morale.

To their credit some CMO’s and individual charters have identified deficiencies, shallow learning, or excessive attention to test prep and have undertaken corrective action. For example, some have recognized the problems of a harsh “no excuse” approach and became more supportive of students and staff; others such as the Kipp organization have found problems of performance by their graduates in college and revamped their programs.

For an excellent example of what needs to happen at schools and districts or CMO’s) with supportive state policies see Paul Cobb et al.’s book, Systems for Instructional Improvement. This book is a must read for what it actually takes to improve instruction at the school and district level and where things go wrong. It also includes the latest research on these issues and suggests further avenues of investigation. Even though the context is middle grade math using a more constructivist math program, the lessons learned apply to any proposed strategy for improvement or use of materials. Cobb’s conclusions are supported by findings from a large number of improvement initiatives such as the Math in Common folks (a large, foundation funded math improvement effort in California) and many of our most insightful researchers.


There still seems to be a strong commitment by reformers to charters as a major and necessary component of improvement efforts. There are some excellent charters (my favorites in California are the Aspire network and High Tech High). Charters should be an important element in school improvement efforts—as centers of energy for ambitious practitioners, as lighthouses for innovation, and as providing parents with more choices. Yet, they are not a panacea capable of single-handedly improving or replacing traditional public school and often become the exclusive recipient of reform fervor to the detriment of other essential strategies. On the whole they do no better than traditional public schools and even when some subset performs better, the effect size is minuscule. 

I appreciate the statements by some of you supporting stronger accountability for charters—transparency, prohibitions against self-dealing, and even eliminating for-profits as is evident in Marshall Tuck’s (a reform candidate for California State Superintendent) platform. A steady stream of embezzlement and self-enrichment stories cannot be good for the charter movement.

One continuing area of contention is whether or how much districts and the state can take into account the financial burden on a district of extensive charter expansion. It may be that charters receive less money from the state than traditional public school students (there is conflicting research on that issue) but, whatever they receive, at some point the financial pressure on districts harms the education of the remaining students. Additionally, the closing of schools to be replaced by charters doesn’t necessarily improve student performance, but does cause considerable collateral damage to the community and families.

Another contentious issue is some members of the reform community’s recent emphasis on choice as the primary value in educational policy (now that is clear that performance doesn’t favor charters). Parental choice should be one element in designing policy, but so is society’s interest in citizenship, scientific understanding, and the health of traditional public schools (which educate 90% of our students). As important is the public interest in giving each student the choice in how they are going to live their lives by offering them a broad course of study to expand their perspectives regardless of a more restrictive view of their parents (such as anti-evolution, anti-democratic values, or anti-vaccination views).

Moreover, one choice available to parents should be enhancing their local school. Most parents, even in low-performing schools like their local school as an important community asset, and want the choice of improving that school and not being forced to apply to a charter. Many charter advocates focus on parents who want to leave but ignore the needs of parents who want to stay. Finally, there are many ways of enhancing parent and student choice—magnet schools, schools within schools, etc. In Los Angeles Unified, for example, magnet schools substantially outperform charters. A fair policy should seek compromises in these various and often conflicting points of view.

A final area of dispute is the efficacy of recovery districts or a massive shift to charters and vouchers. Some of you now agree that the alternative approach of achievement districts or state takeovers converting low-performing schools to charters such as the one in Tennessee has not been successful. Other highly touted experiments such as the Recovery District in New Orleans remain contested (overall test score growth on one hand but a two-tiered system with low and declining performance at  segregated schools and community disruption and lack of involvement in schools on the other) and the heavy investment in charters and vouchers in Milwaukee or Michigan has been a bust.

At any rate, it is gratifying to see a willingness of the reform folks to look at both excellent charters and excellent traditional schools as exemplars of quality. One of the most galling attitudes of many reformers was a tendency to only use excellent charters as exemplars (regrettably, sometimes using bogus examples) and neglect the large number of excellent traditional public schools, districts, or states who exhibit the same qualities. Both types should be exemplars for the rest.

From: Michael Petrilli


Sent: Monday, July 30, 2018 8:40 AM
To: Bill Honig; Brandon Wright; Chester E. Finn, Jr; Robert Pondiscio
Subject: Re: FW: RE: New from Fordham: Where Education Reform Goes from Here

Very well said Bill. Can we post this on our blog? With some edits for style and such?

Keep in mind that reformers, in general, sit “outside” the system. As such, we don’t know how to compel, or even encourage, the kind of good work that you describe happening inside the system, in a few places. I can’t even figure out how to make it happen in my own kids’ school! So then what? For every Elk Grove and Long Beach there are a 100 complacent districts, it seems to me. That’s the rub.

On Mon, Jul 30, 2018 at 1:35 PM, Bill Honig <> wrote:

Mike, thanks for the kind comments. You can post this and edit it. I’m not sure that most of the 100 districts are really complacent and not able or willing to change given the right conditions. Most want to do better but are hampered by the wrong philosophy, management style, or lack of know-how. The new Gates project is attempting to put them in networks devoted to improvement and improvement science. We also need some deep thought on what states (or someday at the national level) can do from a policy perspective to help push them in the right direction. To the extent that policy people across the board and key educational leaders legitimize the comprehensive and coherent point of view I described we will attract more converts. I am sending you and the group a short, more detailed statement on what needs to be done which you probably will like. I am also going to send out a short statement on charters which will may be more controversial . Both are additionally listed below. Bill


From: Michael Petrilli


Sent: Tuesday, July 31, 2018 5:40 AM
To: Bill Honig
Subject: Re: FW: RE: New from Fordham: Where Education Reform Goes from Here

Thanks Bill. I do like the idea of focusing more on winning converts. 

For what it’s worth, I think some of your statements on charters are now out of date. The evidence is very strong that urban charters–which are the majority of them–outperform their district counterparts, and are getting better over time. 

But I’d love to read more articles with strong evidence about traditional districts that are improving rapidly and getting great results. So keep em coming!


On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 3:11 PM, Bill Honig <> wrote:

Mike, I know you are on vacation but if you get a chance please give me a call at 415-383-8690 or let me know of a convenient time and number to call you to discuss what is below.

I think I’m more optimistic than you about the chances that most districts can or will adopt the right improvement strategies. If we can agree that one of the most powerful ways to engender change in district and  practitioner efficacy is to legitimize and promulgate the most effective models of management and strategic thinking until they become standard operating procedure, then many more schools and districts will improve. A broad consensus on the model would help, as many district leaders, board member and  teachers have been subject to conflicting views of how to proceed.  Thus many practitioners are given an excuse not to change, adopt a counter-productive philosophy, or are too confused to fight bureaucratic inertia.

Here is an outline of a proposed model which takes into account the many initiatives in your comments and my response and organizes them to clarify the focus of each strategy. For a full explication of this point of view see  and especially look at the How Top Performers Build-and-Support section.

The key is to make improving classroom instruction the primary objective of reform efforts. Classroom instruction covers the interaction of teachers and students in the classroom which includes such areas as;

·         teaching a quality liberal arts curriculum and the pedagogical knowledge of how students learn and do not learn that discipline:

·        use of quality instructional materials including a balanced use of technology;

·        classroom management and student engagement;

·        the effective use of on-going formative assessment which involve students in the process;

·        use of deep learning techniques such as how to lead a discussion and incorporate questions, simulations and projects into instruction;

·        balancing whole class instruction with individual and group work.

Other levels of support then focus on supporting those below them and operate in  coherence with of all other major initiatives consistent with the overall goal of improving classroom instruction. Each initiative should view themselves as part of a larger strategic approach to building capacity to improve:

·        It helps to think of this model as four concentric circles with teacher/student interaction in the classroom in the center;

·        the first circle around the classroom includes all the school leverage points which could and should influence the quality of classroom instruction  such as the quality and best use of the  curriculum and instructional materials, individual professional development, coaching, building teams that continuously address helping teachers become better at their craft and addressing problems in classrooms and the school, attention to equity issues, creating an engaging atmosphere in the school, effective discipline policies, principal and teacher supportive leadership, an accountability system which collects and uses useful data, involvement of parents, and connections to community supports. How to get all these efforts to cohere and be part of a strategic school improvement plan should be a major component of school improvement efforts in the country.

·        the second ring contains all the efforts by districts (or CMOs) and local school boards to support the school efforts and processes of improvement by developing a coherent improvement strategy at the district. This strategy should  include such topics as funding improvement efforts to provide time for school collaboration, selecting a quality curriculum and instructional materials, developing a coherent message from the various line, staff, and special support departments, selection and support of principals capable of building capacity and learning teams, creating appropriate pathways for all students, developing accountability systems that feedback useful information to the schools and encourage schools to develop a coherent improvement approach, dealing with struggling and advanced students, shifting from a compliance management style and organization to a support philosophy, a robust human resource effort including connections with the university pipeline of teachers, induction, career ladders, and the development of school site teacher leadership, and involvement of parents and the community.

·        the third ring includes outside providers of direct  support for districts and CMO’s (some also provide direct service to teachers and schools) in how the district can best produce and implement a coherent, strategic approach to improvement centered on assisting their local school efforts for positive change. Examples of these providers are county and state educational entities, university initiatives and subject matter projects, district networks and collaboratives, professional development and district improvement providers, and direct services by union, administrator, board member, parent-teacher organizations. One goal of these providers should be to curated information about best practices to salt discussions at schools and districts so that practitioners don’t have to reinvent the wheel; and finally,

·        the fourth ring includes those organizations influencing policy and the intellectual climate such as state legislatures, governors, and state boards of education, national policy efforts, the research community, think tanks, advocacy groups, and bloggers. State and national governmental entities can provide policies consistent with a strategic build and support approach. The latter four provide information and best practice ideas consistent with that approach.

One goal is to get a critical mass of these large number of players at the different levels to adopt a similar build and support message, use best practices appropriate to their level and mission to help those below their circle. They should see themselves as part of a coherent, broader strategy and their efforts should mutually reinforce and be consistent with other initiatives and  leverage points. We need some intensive attention on how best to do all this starting with a broad understanding of how the most effective districts, schools, states, and countries have undertaken successful improvement.

What do you think?

As to your point about recent research on charters. The latest CREDO report does find that urban charters do better than the average traditional public school but the effect size is tiny overall. What it does show is that for some urban charters the effect size is strong (while for other urban charters the effect size is negative). However, there are urban districts such as Long Beach with less than a handful of charters that also do well. Both the high-performing urban charters and the high performing districts should become models for everyone else. It shouldn’t be charter versus traditional public school, but every school and district should be on an improvement trajectory and the exemplars from both sectors should help them in that task. Bill

From: Michael Petrilli []
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2018 8:28 AM
To: Bill Honig;
Subject: Re: FW: RE: New from Fordham: Where Education Reform Goes from Here

Well said Bill. The challenge is when school districts show no interest in rings 1 and 2, or just go through the motions…

Happy to find a time to talk. Jeff can help.


ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF THE CALIFORNIA APPROACH                                 May 2018

I am writing as a member of a wide-spread group in California which has resisted the harsher anti-public school and anti-teacher rhetoric of the reform movement as well as many of the major reform specifics such as test-based teacher evaluation, punitive high-stakes accountability based primarily on test results, and an undue focus on the lowest performing schools and teachers at the expense of broader improvement efforts. While the state has a robust charter sphere, we have attempted to avoid advocating large-scale charter expansion as a main driver of school improvement. We also are about to address strengthening charter accountability, transparency, and protections against self-dealing. Many of you have recently made similar arguments in most of these areas.

The state’s approach has instead been to emphasize a more positive, engaging, supportive approach. For an extended argument consistent with some of your conclusions about the deficiencies in conventional reform policies, how these efforts actually influenced teachers, schools, communities, and districts and their results, unpacking flawed assumptions, and  presenting the research supporting these ideas see and a monthly compendium of more recent articles The site also lays out a more positive agenda used by California based on the experience of the highest-performing districts, schools, states, and other countries. I have attached a brief summary of the California approach to this email.

Did these strategies work in California? One positive indication is provided by the large increases in the state’s NAEP results. If you look at NAEP 8th and 4th grade reading and math average score growth for 2009-2017 (the base year is just before Common Core was adopted in the state and the Brown administration took over) California posted top growthscores nationally for 8th grade reading (1st in the nation and now only 2 points below the national average), 4th grade reading (tied for 2nd), 8th grade math (tied for 2nd) compared to much flatter growth in many states. Growth was weaker for 4th grade math and a cause for concern and effort. (See the attachment for details) The gains are more impressive given that California has the most second language students, the most diversity, and high levels of low income students. This is not to say much more work needs to be done–the state still lags in performance levels.

The essential elements of the California approach are:

  • wide spread agreement on the importance of a more ambitious, engaging broad liberal arts curriculum, the development of the California frameworks (translating standards into specifications for curriculum and instruction) explicating common core reading and math, history/civics, and NGSS standards, wide spread agreement on the importance of a more ambitious, engaging broad liberal arts curriculum, the development of the California frameworks (translating standards into specifications for curriculum and instruction) explicating common core reading and math, history/civics, and NGSS standards, and the adoption of high-quality instructional materials based on these frameworks. Standards have been supported by many reformers as a crucial component of accountability, but their primary use should be to drive curriculum, instruction, materials, and professional learning. For example, the math standard “Use proportional thinking to solve problems” doesn’t tell educators how best to develop proportional thinking, where students go wrong and what to do about it, or how much time should be allotted’
  • A willingness to put this curriculum and instruction at the center of improvement efforts and a commitment by districts and educators to school-site team-building, professional development, and continuous improvement and adoption of high quality instructional materials around this deeper learning’
  • The slow roll-out of  common core (currently supported by a large majority of teachers) which resisted premature assessments with plenty of opportunities for buy-in and understanding;
  • the wide-spread political policy coherence and educator agreement in the state grounded in a positive build and support, empowering approach rather than a more punitive strategy;
  • a growing shift at the state and district levels from compliance to collaboration and support;
  • broader accountability measures besides test scores and viewing accountability primarily as assistance for instructional improvement or to inform improvement discussions not as punishment; and, finally and crucially,
  • a local control funding shift which provided significantly more funds especially for harder to educate students.

Here are the specifics of NAEP growth:

Reading: 8th grade: First in the nation. California growth +10 and now within 2 points of the national average. National growth +3

                  4th grade: Tied for 2nd nationally California growth +6  and now within 6 points of the national average. National growth +1

Math: 8th grade: Tied for 2nd nationally. California growth +6, Now within 5 points of the national average. National growth 0.

            4th grade: Tied for 15th in growth +1. 7 points behind nationally. National growth 0.

Gaps have actually narrowed in the state. White student scores have not grown as fast as Hispanic and Black children.

Another set of data from the Urban Institute app which adjusts NAEP scores for language, poverty, race, and special ed. And whether the adjustments are accurate or not,  comparisons using the same standards are legit.  

I took off the age control but let the others stay. (If you look at the website be sure to refresh after looking at math to allow you to click from math to reading and when you do remember to put off the age control) These data are ranks based on average scores, and if you mouse over the state it shows the growth in rankings. It is apparent that California has made large jumps in rankings this year from the past few years. (Florida has not grown as much but is at the top or near the top nationally in all the rankings—whether from state policy or district independent efforts needs to be determined)

In 8th grade reading we are now 14th in the country up from the low 40’s as recently as 2013.

In 4th grade reading we are 19th in the country up from the high 30’s in 2015.

In 8th grade math we are 22nd up from the low 40’s as recently as 2013.

In 4th grade math (our weakest area where we need to undertake considerable work) we are 37th up from the low 40’s in 2011 and 2015.  

Some confirmation is provided by our most recent SBAC 11th grade reading scores. 60% now reach the “proficient” level—a level consistent with 4yr college work and the NAEP proficiency level which compares favorably to the other SBAC states that are much less diverse. To me, getting 60% of our diverse students to that level is impressive and a tribute to the hard work of our educational practitioners and policy direction. On the other hand, the state is much weaker in SBAC math performance at 11th grade (although improving) and math will be a major area of subsequent improvement efforts.

Comments March 17-April 17, 2019

Build and Support Items

Excellent new book  In Search of Deeper Learning; the Quest to Remake the American High School by Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine.  and their Op Ed piece in the New York Times.  

A similar book to be released in May by Linda Darling-Hammond and Jeannie Oakes. Preparing Teachers for Deeper Learning

A fine review of Andrea Gabor’s After the Teacher Wars.

WestED: Strategies for Supporting Teacher Collaboration and Inquiry.

How San Jose school district  achieved more collaborative labor/management partnerships.

LeBron James’s efforts raises performance in a regular public school. Ohio: LeBron James’ School Demonstrates that Money and Kindness Matter 

How Democracy Prep charter schools boost student voting.

Marc Tucker:

Marc Tucker: The sorry state of Career/Tech Education in the US.

Don’t give up on curriculum reform.  

The teacher shortage is worse than we thought and growing.  

Bill McCallum and his group have developed the tremendously useful mathematic progressions. Here are the latest changes to them. Changes in the progressions

IllustrativeMath’s  latest choices.

Wallace Foundation: Principal pipelines are an effective way of increasing student performance.;

Continuity of superintendent key to improvement. St. Louis Regains Its Elected Board After 12 Years of State Control


26 Ted talks to spark student discussion from WeAreTeachers.

Opinion in the Hechinger report. How Our Youngest and Neediest Learners Benefit from Phonics and Other Reforms.  and Meet the Moms Pushing for a Reading Overhaul in Their District

Fordham Institute: How aligned is Career/Tech Education to local labor markets?

Vouchers, Charters, and Privatization Problems

The U.S. government has wasted up to $1 billion on charter schools that never opened, or opened and then closed because of mismanagement and other reasons, according to a report from an education advocacy group. The study also says the U.S. Education Department does not adequately monitor how its grant money is spent.

Jeff Bryant: What is the U.S. Department of Education Hiding? 

Why Does Betsy DeVos Tolerate Fraud in the Charter Sector? 

Charter Schools: A Very Horrible, Terrible, Awful Week by Diane Ravitch

Jan Resseger: Charter School Sector Swindles the Public, Burns Tax Dollars, and Cheats Children—Part 1; 

Jeff Bryant launches “Our Schools” media project to report on the privatization movement.

Jan Resseger: momentum grows for charter school regulation.

One month’s examples of lax regulation of and harm to public schools caused by the charter and voucher industry nationwide:

Wisconsin legislator: Charters and vouchers siphon off $193 million from public schools.

How a couple worked charter school regulations to make millions. and BREAKING: Los Angeles Times Exposes Charter School Fraud and Profiteering;

Los Angeles: Enrollment in Charter Schools Declines While Executive Salaries Soar

Arizona: Acclaimed BASIS Charter Schools Are $44 Million in Red, Audit Shows 

An expose in five parts of self-dealing in charter schools from New Jersey:;; ; ; ; and a challenge by a respected reporter questioning why the paper doing the expose didn’t reach the obvious conclusion to clean up the mess.Bob Braun Blasts the Weak-Kneed Charter Expose in New Jersey Press

Bob Braun: The Political Machine That Is Taking Over Newark’s School Board 

Florida: The Graveyard of American Public Education 

Peter Greene: FL: Charter Thievery And The Worst Legislature In The USA 

Problems with equity practice in Philadelphia charter schools Education Law Center Criticizes Equity Practices in Philadelphia Charter Sector 

Pennsylvania: Court Rules that Charter Is Not Tax-Exempt 

Former President of Milwaukee School Board Charged with Taking Kickbacks from Charter Chain 

Bill Phillis: One-Half of Ohio’s Authorized Charter Schools Either Closed Or Never Opened 

Bill Phillis: Ohio and Indiana Race to the Bottom to Waste Money on Cybercharters 

Bill Phillis: Dictatorship Does Not Raise Test Scores 

Stephen Dyer: Ohio’s Failing Charter Sector Wants a 22% Funding Increase 

Jan Resseger: Ohio’s Poorest School Districts Need Support Instead of Punitive HB 70 State Takeover 

Lynn Davenport: Look Out, Texas, Here Comes Kitamba Consultants to Privatize Your Public Schools! 

Tom Ultican: Atlanta School Board Votes for Privatization 

Tennessee: Showdown Over Vouchers 

Mercedes Schneider: Ah, Those Failing Charter Schools in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Philadelphia: It Takes Years and Millions to Close Failing Charter Schools and the Public Pays for Everything 

Lisa Haver: How Many Lawyers Does It Take to Close Down a Failing Charter School? 

Anthony Cody: Will Oklahoma Rein In Epic Charter Failure? 

Diane Ravitch: Julia Keleher: The Destroyer of Public Schools in Puerto Rico 

Indiana: Virtual School Scams Taxpayers and Students 

Missouri: Why Fund More Charter Failures? 

A Teacher in Arizona Reports on the Slow Strangulation of Public Schools 

“Have You Heard” Interviews Award-Winning Reporter about Arizona Charter School Scandals 

Houston: Charter Founder Pays Her Companies $17 Million a Year 

Houston: Charter School Superintendent and IT Specialist Charged with Embezzlement 

New Beginnings Charter CEO Under Investigation for Grade Changes, Unapproved Contract, Forged Docs to Cover Tracks

Congress Should Defund the Charter Schools Program and Invest the Money in Title I and IDEA Jan Resseger

New organization to reform charter schools in California. and

Just released book on the perils of privatization and segregation. Noliwe Rooks , Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education

California: East L.A. Community Defeats “Mega-KIPP” Plan, Plus the Identity of the Culprit Who Weaponized State Law

And for the charter advocate’s  point of view, a Forbes article comments on five arguments being used against charter schools.

Reform Foibles

Steven Singer: Accountability Begins at the Top, not in the Classroom 

Bob Shepherd’s expose on how Florida is killing the teacher profession.

A South Carolina teacher makes similar points.

New Mexico: New Democratic Governor Eliminates A-F School Grades 

Gary Rubinstein on Teach for America’s CEO: Same old tired clichés.

The dangers GERM (The global education reform movement)Denisha Jones: First, Protect Childhood and Children from Harm 

Bombshell Report About Copycat Legislation Written by ALEC but Adopted by Your State 

Chalkbeat: Attending a Selective High School Does NOT Confer Advantage


Pros and cons of robot tutors:

Comments Feb. 23rd to March 16, 2019

Build and Support  News

We Must Restore Respect to the Teaching Profession, Nation’s Top Teachers Say.

Seven links to research and reports on social emotional learning.        

  Navigating SEL from the Inside Out: A new guide that takes a deep dive into 25 evidence-based SEL programs. Provides comprehensive details and cross-program analyses about programs that are currently available in US contexts, to help schools and out-of-school-time organizations find a model that meets their needs.

·         The Science and Practice of Social Emotional Learning: Guidance to state policymakers interested in taking SEL to scale, published in NASBE’s State Education Standard.

·         Reimagining SEL: Findings from a Strategy-Based Approach: In a recent article in Phi Delta Kappan, EASEL researchers propose a new approach to SEL that is developmental, flexible, and responsive to local needs, and describe a site using this approach.

·         Future of Children: A journal published by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution released their newest edition on Social and Emotional Learning, organized and edited by EASEL director and Harvard professor, Stephanie Jones.

·         The Evidence Base for How We Learn: A new brief released by the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development provides a set of consensus statements and supporting research that affirm the importance and interconnectedness of social, emotional, and academic development.

·         EF Mapping Measures Compendium: A resource for selecting measures related to executive function and other regulation-related skills in early childhood, written by EASEL staff and published by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation at the Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services.

·         An Integrated Model of Regulation for Applied Settings: A developmental model of self-regulation for school-based and community interventions, appearing in the March 2019 special journal issue of Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review.

Three educational leaders address the issue of low reading performance. and an EdWeek podcast and transcript on the subject.

Class size matters. Five positive findings about reducing class size.  

Michael Petrilli’s new report Toward a Golden Age of Educational Practice.

Educational Leadership magazine devoted a whole issue to instructional leadership.

CCEE: Getting selective about teacher training based on what some of the highest achieving nations or states do.

Charters, Vouchers, and Privatization

Charter schools exploit lucrative loophole that would be easy to close.

Diane Ravitch: The dangers of outsourcing American public schools to foreign entities.

Toledo Blade calls for an end to state takeover legislation.

Stephen Dyer: No Matter How You Spin the Numbers, Ohio’s Charters are Failing and,


Two-thirds of charter schools in Ohio are rated d or f but the charter industry wants more money.


Another reason why Ohio charters should not receive more funds.


Jan Resseger: Ohio Voucher Promoters Mislead: EdChoice Vouchers Eat Up Local Dollars and Ruin District Budgets


Indiana pays millions to virtual charters that educate almost no one.


Oklahoma virtual charter school is an epic failure.


Texas migrant shelter owner cashes in on charters.


Carol Burris report on waste, fraud and abuse in California’s charter sector.


Charter profiteer exposed in Arizona plans to open a charter chain in North Carolina


Arizona senate passes a phony charter reform bill.


North Carolina “white flight” academy becomes a charter to get public funding.


At many Arizona charters parent’s complaints are ignored. and lack of  state oversight removes student protections.


In many charters the chance to graduate is slim. Of the 1000 schools with the lowest graduation rates in the US, 50% are charters.


“No Excuses” Charter Chain, Achievement First, Has a Reckoning with Its Harsh Disciplinary Policies  


Charter expansion which drained public school resources are at the heart of the Oakland’s financial woes and the teacher strike.

Anthony Cody: Charters and Vouchers: The Threat to Public Schools is Real.

Twelve supposed negative “myths” about charters turn out to be accurate.

Kentucky: Vouchers are dead this year in the legislature because of opposition from parents and pastors.  

The real faces behind corporate reform and some of their misleading rhetoric.

Expose of Utah legislators cashing in on the charter school industry.

NY state finds Success Academy and NY city ed in violation of rights of disabled students.

Tony Evers, Wisconsin governor proposes a budget which slows down charter expansion.  

Diane Ravitch: The recent Chicago mayoral race results were a complete repudiation of Rahm Emanuel’s policies.

Another for-profit college chain collapses leaving students with debt.



Education Reform Foibles and Public School Neglect

Politicians forget that cut-scores are not grounded in science.

Further dismantling public education in Florida.

Diane Ravitch asks “Why are there over 2000 teacher vacancies in Florida?”

DC schools rethinking “reform”.

Larry Cuban reports on Rahm Emanuel’s change of heart on the education reform movement.  

Why the New York City school renewal program failed.

Years of neglect of public schools in Oklahoma. 30,000 teachers have quit in the last three years

Expose of the Newark reform program.

Atlanta: A public protest against the privatizing “portfolio” model.

Peter Greene asks “Why do teachers have such lousy parental leave?

Angie Sullivan blasts Nevada legislators and power brokers who refuse to fund public schools.

Two new reports show the negative effects of segregation and propose ideas for remedying the situation. and

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