Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bigger Picture Alert: PARCC Is Not Like Any Other Standardized Test

Have you heard comments like these:

"My child will do just fine on the PARCC test." 
"The concerns about PARCC are just about the technology."
"My child should be able to face challenges and this test is just one of them." 
"My child will take the test - but knows it will not count."

Bigger Picture Alert

Common Core State Standards are NOT just standards
the PARCC is not just like any other standardized test. 

Pay attention to the instruction of your child.

Has instruction been distorted?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cutting through the Stupid

The testing rhetoric continues even when it defies years of scholarly research and worldly evidence.  This is by no means a complete list of articles, reports and posts containing scientific conclusions that are ignored over and over by policy makers.

The list will be updated from time to time.

Special thanks to Bruce baker for the genius title... "Cutting through the Stupid..."

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Remarkable Contrast: Sidwell Friends and the "New & Improved" Public Schools

All across NJ, teachers, parents, students, concerned citizens and children gathered in Trenton to testify at the NJDOE against the dangerous road our education policy is taking our families.  All kinds of citizens are asking why?

  • Why must our children be standardized?  
  • Why can't my child opt out of this test?  
  • Why are we teaching to the test? 

Because, those in Trenton believe the PARCC is so great, it is worth teaching to the test.

Yet, look at Sidwell and Friends.  The private school where Arnie Duncan's boss sends his kids.  A presentation was held on November 17, at Sidwell where Tony Wagner "one of the nation's leading voices on innovations in education" was invited to speak.  Tony Wagner is "an expert-in-residence at Harvard University's new Innovation Lab and author of the acclaimed 2012 book, Creating Innovators:  The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World."  

An excerpt from Tony Wagner's presentation below, reveals that it is unlikely that he, nor Sidwell Friends, nor the parents that send their children to this elite, private school lean toward a test-driven curriculum, though that is the favor of the NJDOE and other reformery DOEs:

"Education that creates innovators also avoids falling into the trap of “test prep curriculum,” which is what most of America’s students are taught today, he claims. Schools have only to look to colleges, an impressive 750 of which are making their entrance requirements “test optional,” including the venerable SAT."  (emphasis mine)

Also look to the perspective of Yong Zhao, professor of education at the University of Oregon, an authority on Chinese and American education and the author of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World:

Duncan stated that matters of standardized testing were "sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools," yet state DOEs drive full steam ahead!  

How can parents, educators and American students avoid "falling into a trap" when the DOE is mandating a test prep curriculum across the country?  

What about those parents, their children and educators who voice the same concern, but seem to be repeatedly ignored as the testing regime continues?  

Activate thought bubbles:

Kinda' feels like the private schools know something that public schools know, too.   
Kinda' feels like policy-maker-parents and legislator-parents know something that public-school-parents know, as well.  
Kinda' makes one wonder that even though NJ's public is testifying, will policy maker$ and legi$lators continue to turn a deaf ear?
If students in private schools (i.e. children of legislators and education reformers) can be protected from being involved in the Common Core State Standards and the accompanying high-stakes test, why must public school students be mandated to do the opposite?  
Private schools are preparing their students (many of whom are children of policy makers) to be creative for the competitive global economy.  And, while there is nothing against sending ones child to a private school, how can one contend that the reverse is best for public school students?  

Making rules for other people's children, 
while not applying the same rules for ones own children

…for lack of a better term, does this seem a bit icky?  

Or, in other words - as John Dewey stated over a century ago: 
“What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How the Common Core and other Reformery Ideas are like Pet Rocks

"The Pet Rock is now a long-forgotten fad, but this invention shows that sometimes a joke and a bit of determination can lead to a fortune."

Does Bill Gates dabble in lawmaking?


a person who makes or enacts law; legislator.

Of course not.  Bill Gates is a businessman, not a lawmaker.  Or, rather, he is a Venture Philanthropist, with no other interest in education than to improve the career and college readiness of American children, through the supportbankrolling of the Common Core State Standards.  

Those who believe Gates has no interest in changing laws, may also want to know of a bridge that is for sale.

Take a short detour...
If you are a savvy business person, you would want to know what product you could invent that would become a blockbuster seller.  You realize, sadly, that the pet rock already had its time.  But, the pet rock has some valuable lessons even for the average entrepreneur and rogue business person:  Get a trend started; Make millions.

Even lessons from the Shark Tank teach the viewer:  A venture capitalist will make billions discovering that next surest trend that every person would "need" to purchase.  Would you not invest in a sure thing, if the opportunity presented itself?  

Back to Gates...  
He already has the product, he just needs a huge market.  So, what if every single American public school student HAD to have it - rather, were REQUIRED to HAVE it?  It would need to be bigger than a mere trend.  A sure thing needs to be a law.

A law...  These things must be done delicately.  Diane Ravitch writes:
"The reason that the Gates Foundation had to pay for the standards is that federal law prohibits the government from controlling, directing, or supervising curriculum or instruction."

Spoiler alert:  Like all good corporate profit stories, it starts getting good with a manufactured crisis.  

Along with other reformers, Gates invests in studies to support a hypothesis that there is an emergency with American Education.  

Just take a look at this "crisis" evidence by Paul Bruno.  Here is one chart that shows how the attainment of education degrees have steadily increased since 1940 (source: U.S. Census Bureau).  Where about is the crisis?

Plenty of published research illustrates myths surrounding an American Education Crisis.  But, within a full-blown crisis mode (manufactured is insignificant here), you better believe, mountains will be moved.

Just to be clear on our little roadtrip with the Pet Rock:
(You will want to know this for Part 2)

How to sell a Pet Rock or Common Core State Standards/standardized tests:
  1. Come up with a trend... a need, if you will. (Note: For highest profitability exploit or manufacture a crisis.  If you can get the public opinion in your favor, you are golden.)
  2. Find ways to adjust the laws so everyone is required to buy in.
  3. Sell your product... Don't forget to add the phrase in some fashion: "Everyone is doing it... what about you?" or "Don't be left behind!" or "Ready or not..."

Microsoft Growth...
Aided by Standardized Tests (which lead to so much more!)...
Starts with Common Core State Standards!

The only difference between the Pet Rock and Reformery Profit Schemes...
The Pet Rock is not a harmful experiment in the lives of our children.

Part 2 - How Lawmakers are like Businessmen

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Broad Foundation - Why Should You Care?

Do you know who Eli Broad is?  
Have you heard of the Broad Foundation?  
Are you aware of the Broad Superintendent Academy?

But most importantly... Do you know why you should care?

Now is the time to get familiar with a Venture Philanthropist, named Eli Broad, whose philosophy is to impose a business model of disruption within public schools and eventually target them for closure, making way for privatization - all while receiving profits and tax benefits.

Click on each link for more information.  Small excerpts appear below the links.

“Broad and his foundation believe that public schools should be run like a business. One of the tenets of his philosophy is to produce system change by “investing in disruptive force”. Continual reorganizations, firings of staff, and experimentation to create chaos or “churn” is believed to be productive and beneficial, as it weakens the ability of communities to resist change.”

The uncertified Broad Superintendents Academy (BSA) has been producing graduates since 2002. Through 2011 the Broad Center issued press releases biannually which announced the incoming participants and then graduates of each year’s cohort. Although the Broad Superintendents Academy invited individuals to apply to its program in 2012 and 2013, press releases are no longer issued and the names of recent participants are not known. 
Another interesting shift to note is that the adjective “prestigious” is being used less and less by reporters when describing the Broad Superintendents Academy, and the adjective “controversial” is being used more and more.

So, what exactly is the Broad influence? ...By it's own admission, it calls itself a venture philanthropy, as in venture capitalist.  Meaning it invests in philanthropy expecting to yield a return on its investment... 
The Broad Foundation likes to infiltrate its targets on multiple levels so it can manipulate a wider field and cause the greatest amount of disruption. Venture edu-philanthropists like Gates and Broad proudly call this invasive and destabilizing strategy "investing in a disruptive force." To these billionaires and their henchmen, causing massive disruption in communities across the nation is not a big deal...
A hallmark of the Broad-style leadership is closing existing schools rather than attempting to improve them, increasing class size, opening charter schools, imposing high-stakes test-based accountability systems on teachers and students, and implementing of pay for performance schemes. The brusque and often punitive management style of Broad-trained leaders has frequently alienated parents and teachers and sparked protests...
We strongly oppose allowing our nation’s education policy to be driven by billionaires who have no education expertise, who do not send their own children to public schools, and whose particular biases and policy preferences are damaging our children’s ability to receive a quality education.

As on the Board, almost all have no training in pedagogy or child development, and no classroom experience. Most are people in their 20’s and 30’s who see promoting the corporate education reform agenda as a stepping stone in a career path which they began in the business world.

In reform-speak, both the Broad Academy and Residency are not mere programs: they are “pipelines." ...Once Broad alumni are working inside the education system, they naturally favor hiring other Broadies, which ups the leverage…

How to tell if your School District is Infected by the Broad Virus
  • Schools in your district are suddenly closed.
  • Even top-performing schools, alternative schools, schools for the gifted, are inexplicably and suddenly targeted for closure or mergers.
  • Repetition of the phrases “the achievement gap” and “closing the achievement gap” in district documents and public statements.
  • Repeated use of the terms “excellence” and “best practices” and “data-driven decisions.” (Coupled with a noted absence of any of the above.)
  • The production of “data” that is false or cherry-picked, and then used to justify reforms.
  • Power is centralized.
  • Decision-making is top down.
  • Local autonomy of schools is taken away.
  • Principals are treated like pawns by the superintendent, relocated, rewarded and punished at will.
  • Culture of fear of reprisal develops in which teachers, principals, staff, even parents feel afraid to speak up against the policies of the district or the superintendent.
  • Ballooning of the central office at the same time superintendent  makes painful cuts to schools and classrooms...
Click on the link to read more.  It may take a few minutes to load, but totally worth the read.  Also included are answers to the ever popular question:  "What can I do?"  

The Broad patterns are visible in the latest suburban "reform infections" in (these must read pieces): 

Eli Broad, one of the richest men in America, runs a private, unaccredited "academy" to train budding school leaders in corporate education reform. I put "academy" in quotes because the thing is really a book club: six weekends over ten months, which I consider an insult to the many dedicated professionals I know who work hard to earn their Ph.D.s and Ed.D.s at real, accredited institutions of higher learning before taking over school districts.

“Morale is as low as I have ever seen it.  Virtually every teacher I speak to, especially the strongest teachers, are planning their exit strategies.  The environment is about compliance and loyalty and there is absolutely no emphasis on strong teaching.” He goes on to say that “the administrative team is extremely weak,” “Teachers are writing lesson plans that are never read,” and “We are being treated as a failing school when there are some highly successful things about the school.”


Within months of his arrival, Mr. Capone managed to fire both the president and the vice-president of the local teachers union, among other staff, in the middle of a contract negotiation. The ostensible reason for this was to free up monies for improved instruction; however, Capone simultaneously hired more central office staff, including a "data analyst," rather than putting all of the savings back into Highland Park's classrooms. 

The criteria for the selection of schools to be closed is a mystery to the community that is trying to find what must be done to the keep their community school open so their children do not have to walk or travel long distances to school. Parents are told their schools are not cost effective because of under enrollment (which are largely due to student transfers to charters), the building is too old, or they are given no clear reason for the community school being closed. At some point in the process, charter schools are offered as an option to distressed parents.
In cities where this process has begun, vacant closed schools are blight in already impoverished communities, or they are turned over to charters, or they are sold to real estate interests at bargain basement prices. This is the script being followed by graduates of the Broad Superintendents Academy all over the country.

He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune 
Philanthropies risk losing their tax-exempt status if they donate directly to candidates for public office, so some foundations have tried other ways to ensure they have the people they want in key posts. 
The Los Angeles–based Broad Foundation stipulated in the contract for a $430,000 grant to New Jersey’s Board of Education that Governor Chris Christie remain in office.  [emphasis added]

A Question to Consider
before the train derails:

  • “At what point do financial gifts begin reshaping public decision-making to fit a private agenda?…Even the best-intentioned gifts have a way of shifting behavior. Educators and the public, not individual philanthropists, should set the agenda for schools.”  - Times Editorial

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013

Class Sizes Are Not The Only Things Growing

Corporate decisions are to families what a hurricane is to a growing tree. 

Perhaps you have seen that the latest jobs report came out.  Only 47% of adults are working full time.  
“The report, however, also provides clear evidence that the the nation is splitting into two; only 47% of Americans have a full-time job and those who don't are finding it increasingly out of reach.” 
If you are in the “middle” of your life, you probably know plenty of hard-working friends that in this past month have lost their jobs.  It's the end of the corporate quarter.  It’s reorganization time.  Out with the old, in with the new and the less expensive. 

And, the mantra has been that schools should be run like businesses.  However, in education, reorganization is called “reform.”

Reorganize... Reform, right?!  Good for the nation!  Good for the future!  Cut expenses, make money and it will all trickle down and water the trees.  Growth.

You have seen the growth:
  • Swelling tax loopholes (for large corporations, not average citizens) squeezing budgets into deficit.
  • Emerging markets and budding privatization schemes that transform public community resources into for-profit entities – all the while devouring taxpayer funds.
  • Advancing families as “human capital” and updating cheaper labor tactics.
  • Rising middle and lower class debt through pay-cuts and underemployment.
  • Prune more for growth and a better future

Do we really understand the kind of gale force winds that are stirring?  The kind of growth in wealth that is our country?  A Harvard business professor and economist, asked that very question.  You may find the answer and the reality a bit shocking:

In cash-strapped economic times, it is comforting to know that CEOs are shamelessly making 273 times the wages of the average worker yet blaming “greedy” teachers.  Even the New York Times Executive Pay Report details a 16% growth for CEOs these difficult economic times. 

Can we question why we have difficult economic times?  Why are these times so much more uncertain?  Here's a quick journey back in time to CEO vs. average worker salary ratios:

CEO to Average Worker
  • 1965:  20.1-to-1
  • 1978:  29.0-to-1
  • 1995:  122.6-to-1
  • 2000:  383.4-to-1 
  • 2012:  272.9-to-1, far higher than it was in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s.

The Economic Policy Institute report shows:
"From 1978 to 2012, CEO compensation measured with options realized increased about 875 percent, a rise more than double stock market growth and substantially greater than the painfully slow 5.4 percent growth in a typical worker’s compensation over the same period."

 Diane Ravitch points out:
Think how busy they must be outsourcing jobs to low-wage nations. Tough job, but someone has to do it.

So, growth is accepted everywhere.  CEO compensation… class sizes… underfunded school formulas… school closures... “experts”… overregulation…

Have you seen what else is growing?