Diane Ravitch Speech at the Network of Public Education Conference

Here is a link to Diane Ravitch’s inspiring speech at last weekend’s Network of Public Education Conference in Austin Texas.


I was particularly honored and appreciative that Diane would recognize my efforts and my blog in her speech.

As background,

The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society. Our mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students. We will accomplish this by networking groups and organizations focused on similar goals in states and districts throughout the nation, share information about what works and what doesn’t work in public education, and endorse and rate candidates for office based on our principles and goals. More specifically, we will support candidates who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, the privatization of our public schools and the outsourcing of its core functions to for-profit corporations, and we will support candidates who work for evidence-based reforms that will improve our schools and the education of our nation’s children.

The Network for Public Education Conference ended with a press conference calling for Congressional hearings to investigate the over-emphasis, misapplication, costs, and poor implementation of high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s K-12 public schools.

The press release stated,

In a Closing Keynote address to some 500 attendees, education historian and NYU professor Diane Ravitch, an NPE founder and Board President, accused current education policies mandated by the federal government, such as President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top, of making high-stakes standardized testing “the purpose of education, rather than a measure of education.”

The call for Congressional hearings – addressed to Senators Lamar Alexander and Tom Harkin of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, and Representatives John Kline and George Miller of the House Education and Workforce Committee – states that high-stakes testing in public schools has led to multiple unintended consequences that warrant federal scrutiny. NPE asks Congressional leaders to pursue eleven potential inquiries, including, “Do the tests promote skills our children and our economy need?” and “Are tests being given to children who are too young?”


“We have learned some valuable lessons about the unintended costs of test-driven reform over the past decade. Unfortunately, many of our nation’s policies do not reflect this,” stated NPE Executive Director Robin Hiller. “We need Congress to investigate and take steps to correct the systematic overuse of testing in our schools.”

“Our system is being rendered less intelligent by the belief that ‘rigor’ equates to ever more difficult tests,” warned NPE Treasurer Anthony Cody. “True intelligence in the 21st century depends on creativity and problem-solving, and this cannot be packaged into a test. We need to invest in classrooms, in making sure teachers have the small class sizes, resources, and support they need to succeed. We need to stop wasting time and money in the pursuit of test scores.”

You can read more about NPE and join the organization at:  http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/

You can also read about the call for hearings at:  http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/2014/03/npe-calls-for-congressional-hearings-full-text/

Connecticut Pumps Millions into Google Books But….

Once again, Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate has honored me by re-posting one of my Wait, What? blog posts.

This one about Governor Malloy’s decision to put $25  million more on the state credit card to buy computers for the absurd Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Testing extravaganza.

Ravitch says;

Jonathan Pelto reports that Connecticut districts are spending lavishly on Google Chromebooks, while Google admits it is data mining to promote advertising and sales.

Here is the original post from last week:

Are Governor Malloy’s new Google Chromebooks data mining our kids?

“Google explicitly admits for the first time that it scans the email of Google Apps for Education users for ad-serving purposes even when ad serving is turned off.” – Safegov.org 1/31/14

Late last year, Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor, like governors and education commissioner across the country, proudly announced that they were charging an additional $24 million to the state’s credit card to buy computers and expand internet capabilities so that Connecticut’s public school students could take the inappropriate and absurd Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test.

Much of the money is being used to purchase Google’s Chromebooks.

The wild cheering could be heard across Connecticut.

For example, from Bridgeport’s came the news;

“Superintendent Paul G. Vallas today announced that Chromebooks for every student have been installed in Bridgeport high schools as the district completes its citywide technology upgrade. The upgrade includes 5,220 new Google Chromebooks to ensure every high school student has laptop access… Additionally, Google Apps for Education accounts are now available for all teachers and staff in order to fully operationalize the benefits of using online technology in the classroom.”

From Farmington came the report;

A grant of $350,000 from the state will help implement the state’s new computerized smarter change assessment.  The money will be used for getting computers and wireless Internet access in all schools.”

And from Cheshire the announcement;

The Cheshire Board of Education will use a $202,575 technology grant funds from the State Department of Education to purchase laptop computers for 7th and 8th grade students to support our work in transitioning to the Common Core State Standards and SMARTER Balanced (SBAC) assessments.”


“All seventh and eighth grade students will receive Chromebooks to use throughout the school day in order to access the learning resources, Google Drive, and the Internet as needed in every class.”

But as Malloy, Pryor and their corporate education reform industry allies high-five each other for a job well done, there is new and extremely disturbing news from SafeGov.org, a “forum for IT providers and leading industry experts dedicated to promoting trusted and responsible cloud computing solutions for the public sector.”

The January 31, 2014 headline from SafeGov.org read;

Google admits data mining student emails in its free education apps

Take a look at what these industry experts discovered.

“When it introduced a new privacy policy designed to improve its ability to target users with ads based on data mining of their online activities, Google said the policy didn’t apply to students using Google Apps for Education. But recent court filings by Google’s lawyers in a California class action lawsuit against Gmail data mining tell a different story: Google now admits that it does data mine student emails for ad-targeting purposes outside of school, even when ad serving in school is turned off, and its controversial consumer privacy policy does apply to Google Apps for Education.

This issue has come to the fore as companies like Google and Microsoft have launched a worldwide race to introduce their web application suites into as many schools as possible.


While Google pledges not to serve ads to students without schools’ permission, its Google Apps suite, which is a repurposed version of Google’s Gmail and other consumer services, was designed from the ground up to include ad-serving as well as highly sophisticated user profiling and data mining capabilities. Google explicitly offers schools the option of enabling ad serving to student users of Google Apps for Education. Although it does not yet offer to share the resulting ad revenues with schools that choose the ad-serving option, it has clearly left the door open to such revenue sharing in the future. Indeed, it is hard to see why Google would explicitly write the ad-serving option into its standard contract with schools if it did not hope one day to make ads for students a default and perhaps even mandatory feature of Apps for Education.


The uncanny power of Google’s data mining and user profiling algorithms to target ads effectively has made it the world’s largest advertising company. To cite just one data point, the Mountain View giant last year generated more ad revenue in the American market than the entire U.S. newspaper industry. While we take Google’s word that it does not serve ads to its student users unless it has permission from schools, an important question that until now has gone unanswered is whether the targeting algorithms that power Gmail are still running in Google Apps for Education even when ad serving is turned off. Google’s own web site once supplied an explicit and quite satisfactory answer to this question. Specifically, in a FAQ on its web site devoted to Google Apps for Education, the firm promised that:

‘If you are using Google Apps (free edition), email is scanned so we can display contextually relevant advertising in some circumstances. Note that there is no ad-related scanning or processing in Google Apps for Education or Business with ads disabled.’

However, at some point during the past year the crucial second sentence in this statement was deleted from Google’s web site.

In a remarkable pretrial document filed by Google’s lawyers, Google explicitly admits for the first time that it scans the email of Google Apps for Education users for ad-serving purposes even when ad serving is turned off. The issue at stake in the case is whether Google has properly informed its users and obtained their consent for data mining and ad serving in Gmail and, by extension, in Google Apps for Education. In the filing in question Google’s lawyers seek to prove that email users must have consented to Google’s email scanning practices – if only “impliedly” – because these practices have been widely discussed in the press and can thus be considered to be universally known. The lawyers seek to establish this point by supplying a long list of published articles that discuss these practices.

In other words, Google’s own lawyers here confirm in a sworn public court declaration that even when ad serving is turned off in Google Apps for Education, the contents of users’ emails are still being scanned by Google in order to target ads at those same users when they use the web outside of Google Apps (for example, when watching a YouTube video, conducting a Google search, or viewing a web page that contains a Google+ or DoubleClick cookie).

In sum, then, we have learned from Google’s own statements that:

  • Ad serving remains a standard option in Google Apps for Education,
  • Even when ads are turned off (as they currently are by default) Google still data mines student emails for ad targeting purposes, and
  • Google’s consumer privacy policy is incorporated in standard Google Apps for Education contracts.

Considering governors all across the nation are picking up the tab for all the new Google Chromebooks, perhaps the could force Google to come clean about exactly how much data mining they are doing when it comes to our public school students.

Getting the truth from Google is certainly the least Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor can do in Connecticut considering the damage they have done by opening up the Pandora’s Box known as the Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Test (SBAC).

You can read the full safegov.org article at:http://safegov.org/2014/1/31/google-admits-data-mining-student-emails-in-its-free-education-apps

Colin McEnroe’s commentary piece on Pryor getting national coverage

After reading Colin McEnroe’s recent commentary piece entitled,  Parsing The Unintelligible Stefan Pryor, Diane Ravitch, America’s leading public education advocate, cross posts the piece to her blog asking, “When Did Gibberish Replace Conventional English?

The two are MUST READ pieces.

Diane writes:

Colin McEnroe of NPR in Connecticut has discovered the root problem of corporate reformers: They have lost touch with common sense and the meaning of learning. To cover up their ignorance, they have invented rhetoric that sounds impressive but is no more than unintelligible verbiage.

He starts here, and gets better:

“I don’t know about you, but I remember the moment when, as a boy, I fell in love with learning. It was 1964, in the spring. My fourth-grade teacher, Miss Vick, sat down with me in the late afternoon and gently pried from my hands Hardy Boys book No. 42, “The Secret of the Mummy’s Strategically Dynamic New Paradigms.”

“Colin,” she said. “I know you’re a good boy with a bright mind. But your EAPE scores don’t point to project-based learning across the curriculum. You need to scaffold texts to other texts, and to that end I’m going to start interfacing with your developmental space.”

“Miss Vick,” I stammered, “can you disintermediate that for me in a way that unpacks the convergence in assessment-driven terms?”

We talked for hours as the sun sank toward the horizon. I believe both of us wept. My mind opened like a flower. That night, I chopped my Hardy Boys books into little pieces and fed them to the neighbor’s python. I read Emerson’s “The American Scholar” instead.

Wait. Maybe it didn’t happen that way, because in 1964, American education was not drowning in incomprehensible crap.”

Have we lost the ability to say what we mean and mean what we say?

You can read Colin McEnroe’s piece at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-79199774/

Diane Ravitch features Madison Superintendent Tom Scarice’s powerful letter on “education reform”

Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading pro-public education advocate, has used her blog to highlight the letter Madison Connecticut Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice sent to his legislators about the failed education reforms that are being pushed through in Connecticut. 

The letter is one of the most powerful statements to date about the failure of the corporate education reform industry agenda and the need to re-take control of our public schools and preserve local control, parental involvement and the values inherent in a true system of public education.

Diane Ravitch’s blog is the most read education blog in the country generating up to 70,000 or more hits a day.

In the piece entitled, “A Connecticut Superintendent Speaks Out Against Failed “Reforms”, Ravitch writes:

Tom Scarice, superintendent of schools in Madison, Connecticut, has already been named to the honor roll for his leadership and vision in bringing together his community to plan for the future of Madison public schools.

Now, he steps up and speaks out again to take issue with those, like Governor Dannel Malloy, who call for a “pause” in the implementation of misguided reforms.

In a letter to his state representatives, Scarice explains that education policy must be based on sound research and experience. What Connecticut is doing now, he writes, is merely complying with federal mandates that harm schools and demoralize teachers.

If every superintendent had Tom Scarice’s courage and understanding, this country would have a far, far better education system and could easily repel the intrusions of bad policies.

You can read Superintendent Scarice’s letter here on Wait, What?:  A CT superintendent speaks: Madison’s Thomas Scarice and the Power of truth  (http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/01/31/ct-superintendent-speaks-madisons-thomas-scarice-power-truth/)

The Washington Post has also covered Scarice’s letter, see:   CT Superintendent Thomas Scarice’s letter on “education reform” makes the Washington Post

From Diane Ravitch: The Best of 2013: The Great Awakening about the Status Quo

America’s leading public education advocate has written a series of blog posts as we leave 2013 and move into the New Year.

Her wisdom, perception, courage and conviction continue to inspire tens of thousands of teachers, parents, public education advocates and citizens across the country … and with each passing day, thousands more join the battle to take back our public school system from the corporate education reform industry.

As she took a look back on 2013, I am particularly proud that she listed the pro-public education uprising and victory in Bridgeport among the major national highlights of the year.

I am also deeply honored that she saw fit to make note of my work and the work of dozens of other bloggers around the nation.

As Diane wrote;

Farewell to 2013. It was a year of beginnings, a year that launched a fundamental change in the debate about what constitutes true education “reform.”

More and more parents and teachers are awakening to the realization that the word “reform” has been hijacked by people who want to dismantle public education and the teaching profession. Those who have boldly named themselves the “reformers” are all too often working on behalf of turning public dollars over to private interests and to strip teachers of any due process, any collective-bargaining rights, any salary increment linked to their experience or their education. These so-called “reformers” reify test scores, making them the be-all and end-all of education and are eager to fire teachers and principals whose students don’t get the test scores that the computer says they should, and equally eager to close public schools with low scores and replace them with privately managed schools that all too often escape the same scrutiny as the public schools they replaced. The “reformers” care not at all about class size, indeed, they say they would prefer larger classes with “better teachers,” even though teachers say they can be better teachers with smaller classes, especially given the diversity of students in most public schools today, some of whom have disabilities, some of whom are learning English.

Our educators and schools now live under a Sword of Damocles fashioned by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Those who cannot produce higher scores are doomed. This is madness. This is a game rigged to harm public schools, which is a fundamental institution of our democracy.

The good news in 2013 was that parents, educators, and citizens began organizing and rising up in opposition to the status quo controlled by the fake “reformers.”

Here are some of the high points of 2013 in the battle against the status quo:

1. High school students began organizing to fight high-stakes testing and school closings. The leading edge of student opposition has been the Providence Student Union, which has deployed intelligence and wit to lead the battle against the state’s use of a standardized test (with the appropriate acronym of NECAP) as a graduation requirement. The students are fighting because they know that the weakest among them will fall on the low end of the bell curve and be denied a diploma, which will knee-cap them for the rest of their life.

2. Ethan Young, a high school student in Tennessee, appeared before the Knox County School Board, to express his opposition to Common Core, and the video of his five-minute appearance went viral, having been viewed some 2 million times on YouTube.

3. In Tennessee, parents organized a group called the Momma Bears. They blog, post on Facebook, and organize protests against the efforts of Governor Haslam and Commissioner Kevin Huffman to take over their public schools and demoralize their children’s teachers. Why do they call themselves “Momma Bears?” They say on their website:

“Momma Bears defend and support children and public schools. Momma Bears realize that quality public education is a right for every child. There are greedy corporations and politicians eager to destroy and profit from our American public school system and vulnerable children. Momma Bears are united in defending and protecting our young and their future from these threats.

“It is our hope that this group will connect lots and lots of Momma Bears, because we are stronger together than as individuals. Together, we must protect our children and public schools and we must also support the teachers who nurture, inspire, and protect our children.”

4. Forty percent of district superintendents in Tennessee signed a letter to Governor Haslam calling on him to rein in Commissioner Huffman, who is intent on shoving his “reforms” down the throat of every educator, without ever listening to experienced educators (when the letter went public, a handful of the superintendents removed their names, fearful of reprisals). After all, he did have two years as a Teach for America recruit, then served as communications director for TFA, before being selected to redesign the education system of the state of Tennessee. Huffman is pushing charter schools and doing his best to demoralize the teachers of Tennessee by tying their evaluations to test scores, not to experience or education or any other factor that matters more than test scores.

5. Thanks to the energetic parents of Texas who joined TAMSA (Texans Advocating for Meaningful Assessment), the legislature passed SB5, which rolled back a requirement that seniors needed to pass 15 tests to graduate from high school. In the future, they will need to pass five tests, not 15.

6. The implementation of Common Core testing in New York state created a firestorm of opposition to Common Core, to testing, and to the educator evaluation system cobbled together by the State Education Department. Neither teachers nor students were prepared for the new Common Core tests, which had an absurdly high passing mark. 70% of the students in the state “failed,” including 97% of English learners, 95% of students with disabilities, and more than 80% of black and Hispanic students. Parents were outraged by the state’s imposition of standards and tests for which their students were not prepared, based on material they had not studied. State Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents dismissed parent complaints, and Secretary Arne Duncan brushed them off as the whining of “white suburban moms” who were disappointed to learn that their child was not as brilliant as they thought and their public school was not as good as they thought. This angered parents even more, and Long Island may well be the epicenter of a massive opt-out from state testing in spring 2014.

7. The teachers of Garfield High School in Seattle voted unanimously not to give the MAP test, which they agreed was useless. They said the test was a waste of time and resources, and they would not do it. Faced with threats of suspension and pay cuts, they stood firm. They won. There were no punishments, and they won the admiration of teachers and parents across the nation.

8. The Badass Teachers Association, organized in 2013, now counts 35,000 members across the nation. These are the fearless activists who will not tolerate the punishments meted out by the guardians of the status quo. Their motto: “This is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning.”

9. Some of the candidates opposed by the “reformers” managed to win their elections, despite being overwhelmingly outspent by corporate funders (in many cases, the corporate funders lived thousands of miles away). Among the winners who fought off the “reform” money machine were Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff in Los Angeles, Sue Peters in Seattle, and the winning candidates who took control of the school board in Bridgeport, Connecticut, signaling the end of the Paul Vallas era in that small city.

10. It is impossible to overestimate the power of social media in establishing communication among pro-public education bloggers. The bloggers have done an amazing job of informing people across the nation about what is happening in their district and in their state, and building awareness that the attacks on public education are not sporadic and are not local. They are heavily funded by a handful of millionaires and billionaires and passed through groups like Stand for Children, ALEC, Democrats for Education Reform, and 50CAN, who use their funding to advocate for privatization, for high-stakes testing, for evaluating teachers by test scores, and for stripping teachers of any due process so that experienced teachers may easily be replaced by newcomers who will work at entry-level wages and leave without ever collecting a pension. All of us are far better informed because of the remarkable and persistent bloggers in Ohio, Indiana, Connecticut (a special shout-out to Jonathan Pelto!), Florida, Texas, Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico, Louisiana, and every other state. They have blown the whistle again and again to call attention to financial misdeeds and frauds against students and teachers. Thank you, bloggers!

11. In North Carolina, a reactionary governor and legislature were elected in 2012, and they passed bill after bill to destroy public education and to turn teachers into temporary workers. In response, concerned citizens organized a weekly protest before the Legislature called Moral Mondays, where they gathered to show their opposition to the attacks on the public sector and on valued institutions.

12. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 12-year reign in office (extended by a controversial overturn of a term-limits law passed by voters twice) finally came to an end. Polls showed that his most unpopular issue was education, where only 22-26% of voters approved his harsh and punitive reform policies of closing public schools, grading schools, rating teachers based on student test scores, opening hundreds of small schools, and favoring charter schools with free public space. Among the many contenders for the office, Bill de Blasio was elected. De Blasio was the candidate who most sharply disagreed with Bloomberg’s education “reforms” and promised change. De Blasio pledged a moratorium on school closings and co-location of charters in public schools; he pledged to abolish the A-F grading system. And he promised to listen to parents and communities, unlike Bloomberg, who viewed parents and communities as a nuisance and obstacles that could be easily ignored.

13. Grassroots groups opposing the assault on public education and attacks on teachers formed in many states and continue to form. In spring 2013, Anthony Cody and I, along with a group of other concerned educators formed the Network for Public Education in spring 2013, specifically to identify and encourage the many grassroots groups across the nation and to help them find one another. In addition, part of our mission is to endorse candidates who support public education in local and state races for school board.

As parents, educators, and other citizens were mobilizing to support their schools, the faux reformers sustained a number of notable setbacks. I can’t list them all here. This is only a sampling. Suffice it to note that none of the “reforms” mandated by No Child Left Behind, required by Race to the Top and by Arne Duncan’s waivers, and advocated by corporate reformers has any evidence to support it. Lots of bad news for “reformers” in 2013, including the following:

1. One of the nation’s pre-eminent scholars of testing, Edward Haertel, explained in an important lecture to the Education Testing Service why value-added-modeling (VAM) was being misused by policymakers. Its value in evaluating teachers, he said, was seriously overstated. This policy happens to be the linchpin of Race to the Top, and its use is now commonplace in most states, despite the fact that the research base for it is not only weak but indicates that the current use of VAM is junk science.

2. The Louisiana State Supreme Court struck down funding for vouchers and course choice (from non-public school providers) by a vote of 6-1. Governor Bobby Jindal had planned to fund his privatization program by taking money away from the minimum foundation funding for public schools. However, the state constitution restricts public funding to public elementary and secondary schools. This forced Governor Bobby Jindal and the legislature to find another source for funding vouchers and course choice.

3. The first year report on the Louisiana voucher schools showed that nearly half the students were enrolled in schools rated D or F by the state, showing that (contrary to the voucher boosters), students were not “escaping from failing public schools,” but transferring from public schools with low ratings (based on test scores) to private schools with equally low ratings (based on test scores). Voucher schools, however, are not held to the same standards of accountability as public schools.

4. John Merrow, who had featured Michelle Rhee on a dozen occasions on PBS and helped to make her a media star, turned his tough investigative eye to allegations of cheating in D.C. during her tenure and was not upset to find that the allegations were swept under the rug. He asked a series of tough questions, which Rhee ignored and deflected.

5. G.F. Brandenburg and John Merrow deconstructed the NAEP gains made by D.C., pointing out that the trend lines were continuous with those that preceded Rhee and that D.C. continues to be one of the lowest performing districts in the nation. Arne Duncan and Rhee brandished the D.C. scores as “proof” that get-tough policies aimed at teachers work;

6. We learned how easily the A-F school grading system can be distorted when Tom LoBianco of the AP revealed emails showing that Tony Bennett, state superintendent of Indiana, had manipulated the A-F grading system to raise the score of a charter school founded by a prominent campaign contributor. Bennett, defeated in 2012, had moved on to Florida, where he was Commissioner of Education when the story broke. He resigned his position.

7. “Reformers” and major corporations have turned Common Core into a battle cry, but the more they push, the greater the resistance from parents and teachers who fear that the purpose of Common Core is to make public schools look bad and advance the privatization movement. Mercedes Schneider has tracked the money trail that created Common Core, attributing nearly $200 million in spending to the Gates Foundation, spread liberally among the creators of CCSS, as well as groups paid to evaluate and promote them. At last count, there was growing controversy over the CCSS and high-stakes testing connected to it in at least 23 of the 45 states that adopted them in response to federal lures.

8. Common Core will require districts and states to spent millions on technology and materials to implement it at a time of budget cuts. As teachers, librarians, social workers, and nurses are laid off, huge amounts of money will pay for technology and bandwidth for Common Core testing, all of which will be online. Los Angeles presented the perfect model of the costs that accompany Common Core when Superintendent John Deasy pledged to spend $1 billion to buy iPads for all students and staff, money taken from a school construction bond issue passed by voters. This means that the funds will not be available for school construction or repairs because they are being used to buy iPads loaded with Pearson curriculum; both the iPads and the Pearson content will be obsolete within 3-4 years (when the Pearson contract expires and the iPads must be replaced). Where will the money come from next time? Will voters pass another bond issue, without knowing how it will be spent?

You can read this full blog at:  The Best of 2013: The Great Awakening about the Status Quo

If you don’t subscribe to Diane’s blog you are missing out on the most important source of information about public education and the battle against the corporate education reform industry.  You can subscribe by going to: http://dianeravitch.net/ (and then scroll down to the bottom of the page for the sign up form).

Arne Duncan is an idiot (and a liar)

Earlier this week, some data about the results of some international standardized test scores were released.  Diane Ravitch put them in perspective in a piece published by the Huffington Post.  (See: What You Need to Know About the International Test Scores).

But quite frankly, more interesting than the results was the way the corporate education reform industry tried to spin the data to foster the belief that America is failing.

The “education reformers” message continues to be that America’s public education system is failing and the solution is to hand our public school system over to private corporations who will “turnaround” our schools by introducing the miracle of competitive capitalism in the way in which schools are governed and managed.

(Remembering that conservative corporate champion Rupert Murdoch called American’s public education system a $500 billion market)

The corporate reform spin was exemplified by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who, upon the release of the results, tweeted,

“The bad news from #OECDPISA: US is running in place while other countries lap us. Good news: We’re laying the right foundation to improve.” (Arne Duncan)

Diane Ravitch responded on her blog which is posted at www.dianeravitch.net.

Ravitch wrote;

This is very sad. If PISA shows anything, it is that the policies of the Bush-Obama administrations have not reached their one singular goal: higher test scores.

NCLB was signed into law on January 8, 2002. Since that time, every public school in the nation has followed the same federally-mandated prescription. It doesn’t work.

A reporter asked me last night whether the US performance over the past half century shows that no reforms work. I disagreed strongly. There was never any nationwide school reform that affected every school and every district until NCLB. Only since 2002 have we had a single federal policy. Before we had different districts adopting different programs and reforms, as they chose. PISA shows that the past decade of annual testing of basic skills in grades 3-8 failed. No other country in the world tests every child every year. No other country places as much value on test scores as we do. No other country fires principals and teachers and closes schools based on test scores.

Arne’s tweet is like a basketball coach who tells his team to use the same game plan again and again and again. It fails every time. Yet he says we must stick to his game plan anyway.

It makes no sense. We need a game changer. We need reduced class sizes for the students who struggle. We need bilingual teachers for English learners. We need experienced teachers but we are losing them. We need medical care for the students who never get a check-up. We need pre-K to help kids get a good start. We need after school programs and summer programs. We need healthy communities and healthy families and healthy children.

We need a national commitment to the well-being of all our children. Our children are our society’s future. We must treat them as our own.

It must really annoy Duncan and the other corporate education reformers when Diane Ravitch and the other truth-tellers provide the public with information about what is really going on.

But of course, as we know from our experience here in Connecticut, education reformers like Governor Malloy, Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Special Master Steven Adamowski and their supporters don’t let something like the truth get in the way of their public policy agenda.

A thank you to each and every one of you and a special wish for a happy, healthy and peaceful holiday season.


I want to say thank you to each and every one of you and convey my deep appreciate for your friendship, time, attention and participation in our world.

May health, happiness and peace be with you and yours, along with comfort, joy and a good bit of prosperity.

Below is a Thanksgiving wish or prayer that my friend and colleague, Diane Ravitch, posted on her blog this morning.  I borrow it with humility and praise for her ability to use words to convey such profound meaning.

I am thankful for Diane’s leadership in the fight to preserve public education in our nation for the hundreds of others who blog and speak out on behalf of that battle, for the hundreds of thousands of public school teachers dedicated to helping our children grow and bloom and the millions of parents who are standing up to promote a public education system that seeks to ensure that every child is provided with the knowledge and tools to make the most of life.

As Diane wrote this morning, Let Us Be Thankful

Let us be thankful for life and health.

Let us be thankful that we live in a free and democratic society.

Let us be thankful for the parents who love and cherish their children.

Let us be thankful for the children, filled with dreams and hopes and the joy of childhood, and let us pledge to protect them.

Let us be thankful for the educators who help children and young people grow, develop, learn, and come to love learning.

Let us be thankful for those who are able and willing to defend the rights of children to have a childhood.

Let us be thankful for those who defend the right of all people to live a life free from want, free from fear, free from insecurity.

Let us be thankful for the parents and. Educators who fearlessly defend the children in their care against those who want to experiment on them.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who read these words.

You can read Diane’s blog at: http://dianeravitch.net/2013/11/28/let-us-be-thankful/

Capital Prep’s Steve Perry: A Connecticut taxpayer funded voice for the education reform industry

Wednesday morning, October 9, 2013:

The school day began and Hartford Board of Education employee Steve Perry was busy using his personal twitter account to attack his opponents.  His target on this day, Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate.

Perry is the principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. His six figure income comes from the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut.  In fact, considering more than two-thirds of Hartford’s school budget is funded by the state, the vast majority of Perry’s salary is courtesy of Connecticut State government.

As usual, Perry’s diatribes are sounding increasingly unhinged and out of control.

To Diane Ravitch (and Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers) Perry tweets… “YOU are a person who supports racist zip code laws & failed schools, no metaphors needed. YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.”

Minutes later, “YOU, the ‘historian’, are on the same side of history as the segregationists who fought to keep ppl in the hood.”

Then “YOUR ideas are outdated & failed. It’s time for you to flip flop again. #edreform is winning so kids are winning.”

Later in the day, Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry is back at it tweeting to Professor Ravitch, YOU can’t stop a movement that has arrived to free our kids from your failed schools.” and

“But wait, there’s more… #edreform is winning bc the truth about your support of racist policies is public,” and

“NOTHING can hide your support of racist policies. Nothing. You fight for jobs not kids. Time to flip flop again.”

Thursday, October 10, 2013:

The school day begins again at Capital Preparatory Magnet School, and Principal Steve Perry is back on his twitter account.  80 tweets in the first hour of school and he is going strong.

It is our tax dollars at work…

And all the while, Steven Perry calls himself “America’s Most Trusted Educator

Go to his website and you can read his bio, watch videos of his speeches and book him to come and speak.

This corporate education reformer claims credit for virtually everything short of the fact that the sun rises on a daily basis.

Steve Perry’s bio leads with the claim, “Capital Prep has sent 100% of its predominantly low-income, minority, first generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.”

The only problem with his claim that he has a 100% college acceptance rate is that according to data filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education, one in five of his students dropped out before they made it to their 2011 graduating class and fully 40 percent of his students dropped out before they made it to graduation day in 2010.

Meanwhile, Perry’s claim that is students are “predominantly low-income, minority, first generation high school graduates,” hides his charter-school like propensity to be more than a bit selective about who gets to “benefit” from his no-excuses program.

While one in four Hartford school students are not proficient in the English language.  At Steve Perry’s Capital Prep, the percent of students who face English language barriers is 3.6 percent.

In a city where more than 50 percent of the students are Hispanic, Steve Perry reports less than a third of the students are Hispanic.

And when it comes to needing special education services, while 12.5 percent of Hartford students need special education help, at Steven Perry’s Capital Prep, the number is less than half that amount…a paltry 5.7 percent.

Just as with Connecticut’s “successful” charter schools, Capital Prep fails to take its fair share of Hispanic students, fails to take its fair share of those who face English language problems and fails to take its fair share of students who need special education services.

Meanwhile, as we approach the 10 o’clock hour on this school day, the number of tweets Steve Perry has sent out on the public dime is in excess of 110 and counting.

The most respected educator in America?

Surprise… Ravitch bashing Congressman Polis’ charter schools don’t measure up.

Last week, Colorado Congressman Jared Polis tweeted that public education advocate Diane Ravitch was “an evil woman” and that he couldn’t “think of anybody else who has caused more harm to public schools, except maybe Koch brothers.

Those bizarre and incredible statements generated a flurry of coverage across the country, including here on Wait, What?

One of the key discoveries was not only has Congressman Polis, the seventh wealthiest Member of Congress, sponsored his own charter schools but he has been a key foot soldier for the corporate education reform organization, Democrats for Education Reform, as well as a loyal follower of corporate education reformer Michelle Rhee.

Perhaps the most telling information on Congressman Polis’ involvement in the corporate education reform industry came from fellow blogger Gary Rubinstein, who rolled up his sleeves and took the time to track down the information about how well Congressman Polis’ charter schools actually do.

Gary Rubenstein wrote,

“Polis is a charter school supporter and has opened a few of his own charter schools, three in Colorado.  Of those three schools, called the New America Schools, two are located in counties just outside of Denver and one is near Vail.  Colorado is one of the states that has been most aggressive about tying standardized test scores to teacher evaluations and to school rankings.  They have developed something called The Colorado Growth Model, which is a way of comparing how schools with similar achievement levels have progressed from one year to the next.  So a school can have high test scores, but low growth and, conversely, there can be a school with low test scores but high growth.  The Growth model, as the idea goes, is the great equalizer.

Now I don’t put much stake in these growth models.  Like the New York City ‘progress’ score, a ‘growth’ number like 60 means that the students at that school generally scored better than 60% of the students in the state who had similar scores the previous year.  Though they are not supposed to be biased, I think they are biased against low performing schools, and the graphs below support this belief.  But people who fancy themselves ‘reformers’ like Polis do take these measures very seriously.  So I thought I’d look at the excellent Colorado public data system called SchoolVIEW to see where The New America Schools stand.

From the data I was able to find on the two schools near Denver, they had some of the least ‘growth’ in their districts.

…according to the ‘growth’ models are doing a very poor job getting their students to progress.  One day these low growth numbers could cause these schools to get shut down.  I wonder if Polis will still consider Ravitch ‘evil’ when he has to quote her arguments against these sorts of metrics to save his own schools.”

The information Gary Rubenstein dug up reveals that Congressman Polis isn’t only a bully and a thug, but has no idea of what he is talking about when he attacks Diane Ravitch and blurts out the education reform talking points he has memorized.

You can read more about the data Rubenstein reviewed on his blog: http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2013/09/23/polis-joke/

Is Diane Ravitch a hero?

My answer is yes, Diane Ravitch is absolutely a hero!

But in an incredible blog this afternoon, PBS Reporter John Merrow explained that not only was she not a hero but he equated her to the nut United States Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.  Merrow wrote:

“The words ‘hero’, ‘heroic’ and ‘heroism’ are overused in America. Think, for example, how often those words are tossed around in reports about athletics, as if running with a football and dunking a basketball were acts of heroism.  People talk about ‘everyday heroes,’ as if doing your job every day–even a tough job like teaching in the inner city–was heroic behavior.

We need to be more discerning in our use of those words.  We shouldn’t be so quick to crown people as heroes, because doing so dilutes the meaning of heroism.


The teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary Schools–those who lived and those who lost their lives–are heroes.  They exemplify the best in the education profession, and they remind us of how good and strong people can be.

Those were my words on Saturday night in Washington while presenting an award from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences to the teachers of Newtown. I have no doubt about their heroism. When they were tested, they responded heroically.

But I also have no doubt that we toss around that word, hero, far too easily. For example, Ted Cruz, the US Senator from Texas, is a hero to some on the extreme right because of his strident opposition to Obamacare.  Over on the left, Diane Ravitch is a hero to those who share her views on what is happening in public education.  Since when does taking a strong public stand qualify as an act of heroism?  Call them ‘crusaders’ or ‘principled leaders’ or some other term of approval if you wish, but not heroes.


When I saw the post, I was quick to add my perspective.

I wrote;

Mr Merrow,

I was with you and your observation that we use certainly words like hero too freely until you gratuitously added, “Over on the left, Diane Ravitch is a hero to those who share her views on what is happening in public education. Since when does taking a strong public stand qualify as an act of heroism? Call them ‘crusaders’ or ‘principled leaders’ or some other term of approval if you wish, but not heroes.”

As we know, the traditional definition of heroic is “behavior or talk that is bold or dramatic” and an individual of “distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities” is referred to as a hero.

For those reasons and more, Diane Ravitch is a hero. She is certainly a hero of mine and I have absolutely no reservations when it comes to recognizing her as a hero.

She has displayed extreme courage, conviction and wisdom in her ability to see and speak the truth. Of course in today’s political pandering driven world, speaking the truth might itself be called heroic.

As an academic and policymaker, she studied the issues and the data and changed her position on vitally important issues. The ability to become enlightened and then use that understanding to stand up and speak out is nothing short of heroic; that is true in the academic world and especially in the political world.

Finally, as a Connecticut resident and admirer of teachers, I’m offended that you’d twist the context to try to compare the heroic actions of the Newtown teachers and the heroic actions of Diane Ravitch.

It goes without saying that we are talking about fundamentally different situations.

Heroic actions come in a variety of different forms, many of which are not associated with trying to protect children from a gunman.

Personally, I’m fond of saying that if President Eisenhower was alive today, he would be warming us of the education industrial complex.

The warning would be apt because people like Rupert Murdoch openly admit that they see public education in the United States as a $500 billion market.

Considering the financial and political resources that are being utilized by the corporate education reform industry to push their agenda, I truly believe that Diane Ravitch is a hero and her actions on behalf of our nation’s children, teachers, schools and parents is heroic.

Merrow’s comments are so out of line, that  I hope some of my readers will take a moment to go to John Merrow’s blog, read his post and add your own voice to the discussion.

Personally I’m proud to call Diane a hero.

She may not have asked to be called a hero, but in the face of the corporate education reform industry she has been willing to stand up, speak the truth and lead the battle to take back control of our public education system.

As far as I’m concerned, that is the actions of a hero.

John Merrow is not only insulting and attacking Diane, he is intentionally or unintentionally trivializing all the work we are doing to speak out on behalf of America’s students, teachers, schools and parents.

Take a moment and make sure our voice is heard.

You can read Merrow’s blog at:   http://takingnote.learningmatters.tv/?p=6556