Massachusetts Ballot Question #2 – Charter School Industry pours record breaking $26 million into stunning loss

As Diane Ravitch reported,

Voters in Massachusetts overwhelmingly defeated Question 2, by a margin of about 62%-38%. Question 2 would have permitted the addition of 12 charter schools every year into the indefinite future.

A vibrant coalition of parents, educators, and students withstood a barrage of dark money and won. They organized, mobilized, knocked on doors, rallied, and they won. More than 200 school committees passed resolutions against Question 2. None supported it.

The bottom line that unified opponents of the measure was that charters would drain funding from the public schools.

As of November 1, 2016, the charter school industry had raised in excess of $26 million to fund their effort to undermine public education in Massachusetts.  Much of the money came from the infamous New York based billionaires and hedge fund managers who have been funding the charter school industry and their allies in the corporate education reform privatization “movement.

The following chart identifies the major sources of money that drove the record spending by the charter school industry.


Charter School Industry Entity Amount Raised Major Sources of Funds
Yes on Two $710,100
Alice Walton $710,000
Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools $2,418,518.04
Jim Walton $1.125 million


Alice Walton (Transfer from Yes on Two $710k)
MA Charter Public Schools Voter Education Fund $150k


Massachusetts Charter Public School Assoc., Inc.  $100k


Great Schools Massachusetts $100k
Paul Sagan $100K
Charles Longfield $100k
Lawrence Coolidge $25K
Charles  Ledley $26k (Plus $40k to Great Schools Massachusetts
Great Schools Massachusetts  



Families For Excellent Schools Inc. and Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy, Inc. (NY)  $17.2 million


Strong Economy For Growth $1.1m


Expanding Educational Opportunities  575k


Great Schools For Massachusetts $501k


Michael Bloomberg (NY) $490K
Education Reform Now Advocacy (NY) $314k


John Arnold (TX) $250k
Edward Shapiro $225k


Bradley Bloom $150k
Ray Stata $100
Campaign For Fair Access To Quality Public Schools $100K


Cohasset Vc, Ltd (Dallas TX) $100k


Shari Redstone $100k
Robert Small $75k
Abigail Johnson $60k
Stephen Mugford $60k
Daniel Loeb (NY) $50k
George Conrades $50k
Longwood Ventures Partners $50k
Ross M Jones $50k
Advancing Obama’s Legacy on Charter Schools Ballot Committee $722,040
Education Reform Now Advocacy         $155K


Campaign For Fair Access To Quality Public Schools $567k
Expanding Educational Opportunities $575,000
Suffolk Cares, Inc.                   $100K


State Street Bank and Trust Co.       $100K


Partners Healthcare            $100K


The Kraft Group$100k


Emc Corporation         $75K


Massmutual Financial Group  $50K


Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated   $50K



As for why the Charter School Ballot Question #2 went down to a stunning defeat, Edushyster, the Massachusetts based education blogger, provides a full analysis in the recent blog post entitled, What Went Down in Massachusetts.

Edushyster writes;

I could give you a long list of reasons why Question 2 went down in flames. It was a complicated policy question that should never have made it onto the ballot. Yes on 2, despite outspending the ‘no’ camp 2-1 couldn’t find a message that worked, and was never able to counter the single argument that most resonated with voters against charter schools: they take money away from public schools and the kids who attend them. #NoOn2 also tapped into genuinely viral energy. The coalition extended well beyond the teachers unions that funded it, growing to include members of all kinds of unions, as well as social justice and civil rights groups, who fanned out across the state every weekend. By Election Day, the sprawling network of mostly volunteer canvassers had made contact with more than 1.5 million voters.

One, two, three part strategy
Question 2 was just one part of an elaborate three-pronged strategy dreamed up by charter advocates in Massachusetts, most notably our own Secretary of Education, James Peyser, to get rid of the charter cap. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s education reform eminence Chester Finn helpfully explaining in his new book how Massachusetts charter advocates had decided that things would go down:

There we see a coherent three-part strategy, beginning with a legislative move to amend the Bay State’s charter law. In case lawmakers balk, a ballot initiative is in the works, as is a legal move involving a prominent Boston firm that has filed a class-action suit to lift the charter cap, arguing that it unconstitutionally denies children access to an adequate education. As part of all three efforts, Families for Excellent Schools is organizing parents and other charter supporters to participate in an advocacy campaign.

Tellingly, Finn’s explication of Team Charter’s strategerizing is in a section entitled *From Grass Tops to Grass Roots.* A model of the *new parent power,* Families for Excellent Schools has successfully organized parents in NYC, most of whom already send their kids to charter schools, to demand more and more charter schools. Here they are marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, 30K strong. Now here they are, arriving in Albany by the busload. Theirs is a powerful spectacle, until one looks too closely and notices that the guys on the walkie talkies are all white and that the parents were told that they had to attend, or that the mayor wants to close their schools, and that their own charter schools had to be closed for the day in order to create the powerful spectacle.

In the spring of 2014, Peyser, who sat on the national board of Families for Excellent Schools, was imploring Boston’s charter schools to *take control of their own destiny by becoming a more potent political force.* By that summer, FES had a Boston offshoot, *seeded* thanks to the largesse of the New Schools Venture Fund, where Peyser worked, and the same Republican philanthropists who would get the #YesOn2MA ball rolling. And yet FES was an expensive flop from the start. What went so wrong? Much of the blame can be laid at the feet of the group’s astonishing odiosity. Like refusing to say what they were about. Their first big event, a lavishly choreographed rally at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, made no mention of charter schools. Then there was *Unify Boston,* a months-long petition drive in which organizers gathered signatures from parents who wanted great neighborhood schools. When group leaders informed staff members that the actual goal of the campaign was to lift the charter cap, a revolt broke out. *It’s like they think people of color are stupid,* said one former FES organizer.

In the end, charter advocates couldn’t marshal a parent army for the same reason that has undone one ambitious #edreform vision after another: their logic model was flawed. *People aren’t against charter schools,* Yawu Miller, the managing editor of the Bay State Banner, Boston’s African American newspaper, told me when I interviewed him earlier this fall. *But they don’t want to see the kind of expansion that’s being proposed now. They think there’s a threat to the district school system if that happens.* As Miller pointed out, his son is on the waitlist for several charter schools. So is Save Our Schools parent organizer Malikka Williams. In fact, it turns out that almost everyone in Boston is on some kind of waitlist. Calculate the number of students who are waiting for in-demand Boston district schools the same way that charters do and you end up with a number in excess of 20,000.

You can read more of Edushyster’s analyses at:

Additional Background on this nationally significant effort can be found via the following articles

How Long-Time Charter Funders Are Upping the Ante in Their Bid to Blow the Bay State’s Charter School Cap

Playing Three Card Monte With Dark Money

As MA Question 2 Funding Nears $32 Million, DFER Files a New Ballot Committee


Pass the Salary (cross-posted from EduShyster)

For those still digesting and cleaning up from yesterday’s festivities, here is a fun blog from EduShyster, fellow blogger and public education advocate who calls Massachusetts home.  I recommend everyone sign up for her blog, which can be found at:

Just in time for the holidays, a reform groaner for the groaning board

Reader: if your holidays are anything like mine then you are looking forward to consuming an entire box of Asti Spumante engaging in a vigorous back-and-forth about education policy with your extended family. But with so many great ideas out there for improving our failed and failing public schools, how to settle on just one??? Fortunately our friends at the Teacher Salary Project have done some extensive menu planning for us and have prepared a veritable buffet of topics to discuss at the table. Unfasten your eat belt, reader: it’s time to pass the salary.

Teacher turducken
Shall we begin with a canapé of context? The Teacher Salary Project starts with an idea that everyone in the whole family can get behind: teachers are *rilly* important, especially the excellent ones who are putting kids on a path to 21st century outstandingness. Except that the salaries that teachers are make are anything but excellent which causes excellent teachers to leave and excellent would-be teachers to avoid the profession entirely, depriving 21st century bound kids of their prospective excellence. Sounds great, right? Alas, the Teacher Salary Project fits squarely into a category of holiday fare I’ve come to know and love as *reform turducken*: one reformy idea stuffed into another and into another, all clad in an innocuously glistening exterior.

Raise your tip jar
But how to get your loved ones to talk teacher salary turkey? The Teacher Salary Project has thought of everything, starting with a toast—to teachers and their excellence and to the excellent salaries they should be earning. Then you’ll want to back up your toast with talking points and fact-based research helpfully tailored to compliment whatever political demographic you’ll be breaking bird with this Thanksgiving. Got a table full of conservatives? No problem—give them the great news about the two GOP governors who are leading the way to raise teacher salaries out of the swamp from which they just finished lowering them. Are they still hungry? Toss em a little red meat in the form of this study by Hoover Institute economist Eric Hanushek that found that great teachers increase students’ future earnings. What do you mean, is there more? Of course there’s more—like this McKinsey report on attracting and retaining top grads to a career in teaching.

Tasty tidbits 4 all
Well convincing the red state relatives was easy enough. Now, once you’ve retrieved your back-up wine box from the Subaru it’s time to work your magic on the moderates at the table.

Mention that for a small state to move salary scales to professional levels, it would cost the same as a single day in Afghanistan. Seconds, anyone? How about the news of places that have raised salaries through slashing administrative costs, early retirement packages, or bonds? Or offer up this tasty tidbit from Public Impact that shows states and districts how to raise teacher salaries by 20 to 130 percent with the money they have now.

Wow—that does sound like a tasty tidbit! Good thing the moderate wing of your family is tripped out on tryptophan or somebody might have a pesky question or two, like how does everyone get a bigger piece of pumpkin pie if the pie stays the exact same size? And is that whipped cream extra fluffy or just packed with merit? Perhaps it’s the Asti Spumantewriting but the Joyce and Gates-funded Public Impact and its husband/wife *thought leader* team (who just happen to sit on the board of the Teacher Salary Project) sound awfully familiar.  Why, is it time for another toast already? ¡To the Opportunity Culture! ¡Long may she reign!

Are you going to eat that?
By now you should be picking up on a theme—and it’s not just my, ahem, unhealthy interest in turkey-shaped-cakes. Peel back the Teacher Salary Project’s shiny skin—the documentary film, the involvement of writer Dave Eggers (of whom I’m a big fan)—and the *meat* of the campaign has a familiarly reformy flavor that has little if anything to do with raising teacher salaries. In fact the hater at the table (OK, it’s me) might point out that the entire thrust of our years-long-reform-a-thon is to figure out how to pay the majority of teachers less so as to free up dough for extra *stuffing*: the ever-expanding schmorgasboard of gizmos, test-preppery and achievement gap closure devices that our students so fiercely and urgently need. And don’t forget the gravy. A reformer can’t live by stuffing alone!

A powerful and haunting report from a former Capital Prep teacher

Note:  This incredible article was posted earlier today on fellow education blogger EduShyster’s site:

‘Did You Grow Up Around Black People?’

My year working for “America’s Most Trusted Educator”
By Ebony Murphy-Root
Dr. Steve Perry @DrStevePerry
The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It’s so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries.
9:33 AM – 20 Nov 2013

Folks in the national media are just beginning to take note of Dr. Steve Perry’s colorfully threatening metaphors and heated ‘no excuses’ rhetoric, but during my year as a teacher at Capital Prep, the school Perry runs in Hartford, CT, I had some of them directed squarely at me.

I first heard of Dr. Steve Perry back in 2010 on the Black in America special hosted by Soledad O’Brien. I agreed with his message that urban kids of color deserved schools as great as the ones in the affluent suburbs. I believe deep thinking and experiential learning are critical to developing active citizens in a democracy. I believe innovative classrooms with skilled teachers are crucial to the kind of society where all kids can thrive.

At the time I was teaching middle school English at a progressive grade 6-12 prep school in Hartford. I also coached lacrosse and served as an advisor to a small group of students, trying my best to become the consummate prep school ‘triple threat.’ I’d recently completed my master’s in curriculum and instruction and was happy in my position on a beautiful campus with warm, encouraging colleagues, and wonderfully quirky students. I myself attended a girls’ school in Fairfield County, CT, for six years and that experience has shaped my view of education as the great equalizer.

I heard about an open position at Capital Prep from a college friend who had interviewed but had ultimately taken a job in the suburbs. I sent in my resume in the middle of June, 2011 and received a phone call right away to come in for an interview and bring a lesson plan. Within days, I’d happily accepted a position as the ninth grade English teacher. The six-week summer session was about to begin and I couldn’t wait to teach The AlchemistRomeo and Juliet, The Outsiders, alliteration, the hero’s cycle motif, prepositions…

But within that six week period, six teachers disappeared. I didn’t yet know this but such sudden disappearances were a regular occurrence at Capital Prep. After the December break, one of the best teachers in the school simply failed to return. I never found out if she’d been fired or had just become disenchanted with the place. By that point the shine was already off for me. Dr. Perry was gone constantly, traveling the country on paid gigs even as he was accepting his sizable salary. Once we went almost a month without paper in the copy machine with no explanation.

The school lacked the warm, fuzzy, familial atmosphere of any of my previous schools—not even the lower school which served small children as young as three—but I figured this was part of the ‘no excuses’ package. In morning meetings, Perry often talked about “franchising” Capital Prep. He was fond of the ‘If you’re not with us, you’re against us’ language that President Bush had used. Once, in the spring, after the girls lacrosse team lost a game to Fairfield, Perry went on a tirade about how the girls on our team were ‘disgusting’ and ‘out of shape’ compared to the lithe, slender, mostly white girls from down state. I was livid at this attack on teenage girls’ bodies and as I looked around the ‘bull pen’ it was the first time I saw that others were also offended by Perry’s rhetoric.

Perry directed his insults toward members of the Hartford Board of Education, the Hartford Federation of Teachers, even other principals. I could never figure out Perry’s obsession with unions, and as the daughter of a Teamster it didn’t sit well with me. What sort of jobs did he envision for his students after college? I wondered. After all, Perry himself belonged to a union. If our poorest students had parents with union jobs, steady wages and paid time off, they might be able to support their kids better, both financially and emotionally. I wondered how Perry, if he’d ever been a classroom teacher himself, might teach about the history of the labor movement.

Still I knew I needed to work on my classroom management. The easy going yet firm style that had come naturally to me at other schools didn’t work with a segment of my students at Capital Prep. When I finally got up the courage to speak to my supervisor about the rampant use of the ‘n’ word and other racially abusive language, he chuckled smugly, asking: “Did you grow up around a lot of black people?” I was taken aback, unsure of what he meant.

I laugh now, but the thought that I, the daughter of a truck driver who grew up in the projects, was having my ‘blackness’ and working class bonafides questioned by a white man from suburbia was beyond infuriating. I knew firsthand what kids from tough backgrounds needed to succeed. When I was 17 I lost my mom to breast cancer, then helped my Dad raise my two much younger brothers. I took out loans (lots of them) to attend grad school. And unlike Perry who lives in a McMansion in the suburbs, I actually LIVED in Hartford. Yet I was viewed as some sort of suburban ‘oreo’ who didn’t fit into Perry’s urban boot camp.

I made lots of mistakes, as beginning teachers do. I frequently called my mother-in-law, an award-winning 20 year English teacher herself. Something just isn’t ‘right’ about the place, I’d say through tears, followed by: “The emperor has no clothes!” In late February of 2013, Perry and his vice principal called me in to say that my contract wouldn’t be renewed. Perry told me I could either ‘resign with dignity’ or be fired and I was presented with paperwork to sign on the spot. Perry said, “If you make this difficult, it will be very hard for you to ever work in this state again.” I know now that I could have requested union representation, but Perry made sure teachers in his building weren’t informed of their union rights, just as he made sure we were kept away from other teachers in the district. In fact, when I applied to work at another Hartford high school the next fall, the principal told me that he was ‘not allowed to hire’ me because I had resigned from Capital Prep. I am still not sure whether or not that is true.

I am not ‘disgruntled’; I have nothing to gain. Perhaps I’ll be attacked as incompetent for sharing my experiences. I don’t have Hollywood or media connections like Steve Perry. I won’t be invited on Melissa Harris-Perry or to the Essence Fest with Soledad O’Brien or Steve Harvey. P. Diddy will likely never attend my book party. What I do have is my truth and the experiences of other quality teachers who were treated shabbily by Perry and his inner circle.

After Perry made headlines for his controversial tweet, I began speaking out, responding to blogs and news articles. A former colleague contacted me to say that she’d seen my comments and that I was “hurting the kids.” She told me that unlike me, she stands “for all 732 kids there.” But as far as I’m concerned, I stand for all of the kids in Hartford, not just the ones ‘lucky’ enough to have a parent working at Capital Prep or for Central office, or ‘fortunate’ enough to be related to Perry or one of his close pals.

There are great kids at Capital Prep just as there are great kids at other Hartford schools. There are great teachers at Capital Prep just as there as great teachers at other Hartford schools—teachers who quietly give kids rides, buy them winter coats, snack food they will never be reimbursed for, yearbook money, and class parties—all without a national media platform to pat them on the back. These teachers reflect and keep on trying. And they don’t look down on the teachers in their district who work in schools entirely filled by kids from the neighborhood.

I’m back in the classroom now. I was hired at a progressive New York City prep school on the Upper West Side and began in August. My new head of school has been proclaimed a ‘hero educator’ by Diane Ravitch.

Ebony Murphy-Root is a humanities teacher on the middle school faculty of a progressive school on the Upper West Side in New York. Follow her on Twitter at @therealmsmurphy.

You can read the post and other amazing articles like this at EduShyster’s blog:

The Blogger EduShyster’s Article: “Steve Perry Talks to White People”

If you’ve read  yesterday’s post“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” (aka the Steve Perry story) and reviewed the other Wait, What? blog posts on Hartford, Connecticut’s Capital Prep Principal, Steve Perry, you have a pretty good sense of how this self-righteous, holier than thou, bully handles himself.

But perhaps the best portrayal of Steve Perry can be found in the article written by fellow public education advocate and blogger, Jennifer Berkshire. (The blogger also known as EduShyster).

In a blog written last April, EduShyster wrote about Steven Perry’s trip to Minnesota.

Steve Perry’s true character comes through loud and clear in the post entitled, “Steve Perry Talks to White People.”

“This week found America’s “most wanted educator” venturing to perhaps the reformiest place in America: Minneapolis. There, Dr. Steve Perry delighted the reformer-heavy crowd with his unique brand of high-octane, high-expectations roof raising, including referring to teacher unions as “roaches” and regaling the audience with tales of children who are literally dying from excuses. In this special guest post, an embittered veteran teacher (is there any other kind???) weighs in on what she and her low-achieving colleagues learned from Dr. Perry’s visit—or what they would have learned had they not been too lazy to attend. *

Imagine our delight when an email from Minneapolis Public School alerted us that the famed education motivational speaker, Dr. Steve Perry, was not only coming to Minneapolis to speak, but that we had a chance to win a free ticket!  Was it possible that we would get to see the man whose “heart pumps passion and produces positive change” in the flesh??? Our expectations were high—then came the excellent news. Thanks to the generosity of The Minneapolis Foundation, we were in!

We are pleased to be able to accommodate your request for a free ticket to “The Leadership Factor with Dr. Steve Perry,” the first in a series of Minnesota Meetings, on Monday, April 22, at 7 p.m. at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.  We are grateful to The Minneapolis Foundation for coordinating this free ticket opportunity as part of the RESET Education campaign. Thank you for your interest!

There was just one problem. The Minneapolis Foundation and team RESET clearly forgot we’re union teachers—with tenure— and hence, lazy, unmotivated, deficient in excellence and “part of the problem.” Also, we learned that wine boxes were not allowed in the auditorium, which caused our motivation to plummet. So we stayed home and followed the play-by-play on Twitter…Alas the scene was a familiar one as we know our local achievement gap score settlers all too well. Shall we introduce them now?

  • Beth Hawkins, a “reporter” for MinnPost,  published by Joel Kramer, who is the father of…
  • Eli Kramer, Executive director of Hiawatha Academies. Eli’s charter school coincidentally receives lots of good press from his father’s paper.  Eli is also a TFA alumni and his brother, Matt Kramer, is the new co-CEO of TFA. It’s a bit confusing, but if you’re a regular EduShyster reader, you already know thateducation rephorm phever is hereditary in Minneapolis
  • Eric Mahmoud, excellently compensated charter school entrepreneur who also has a lucrative side gig.
  • Dr. Steve Perry, who requires no further introduction.

Wine boxes at the ready, we watched #resetedu unfold on Twitter. The night began with a flurry of reformy platitudes keen observations about low expectations and “belief gaps” causing the achievement gap, that zip codes shouldn’t impact the education of our kids, who are literally being killed with excuses. We were sad not to hear Dr. Steve Perry referring to union teachers as roaches for ourselves, but we at least got to read about it later. The Minneapolis Foundation, one of the main funders of RESET Education, tweeted this during the event:

@mplsfoundation22 [email protected] on effective teaching & data: “I know you think you can teach, but let’s look @ your data.” #realtalk #ResetEdu

Too bad the Minneapolis Foundation didn’t look at Perry’s data—or at allegations from parents that Perry routinely counsels out challenging students and oversees a hyperdisciplinary culture where humiliation is routine. Not only is Perry an inflammatory speaker, but like so many education reformers, he misrepresents data about his school and its wild success. In other words, armed with sound bites and street cred, he is a perfect emissary to carry forward the disingenuous reform agenda of RESET Education.(For more on RESET Education, including its reliance on misleading statistics, propaganda and flawed pedagogy, read Teach for America alum Gary Rubinstein’s analysis).

Besides the Minneapolis Foundation and Minneapolis Public Schools, RESET Education is comprised of an alphabet-soup of education reformers, including Achieve Minneapolis, Teach for America and MinnCAN, all of whom happen to be using an urgent, crisis, “social justice” message to push for publicly-funded, yet privately managed charter schools. RESET’s corporate sponsors include General Mills, Medtronic, and Cargill, while media partners include Minnesota Public Radio and MinnPost. When audio becomes available a link will be posted and you can listen along and play the edreform drinking game and take a drink from your wine box whenever teachers and their unions are criticized. You will also have time to RESET your thinking about continuing to contribute to Minnesota Public Radio.

Thank you RESET Education for helping to bring us closer to privatizing public education in Minnesota. Who knew if could be so easy?

Note: after the event, our local teachers union published a letter stating, “Dr. Steve Perry, a magnet school principal from Connecticut, and noted anti-union activist, spent the evening abrasively trashing teachers and our unions. He went as far as to say “we need to call out the roaches” when referring to teachers unions. Dr. Perry went on to blame teachers for the literal death of children. It was truly beyond the bounds of acceptable dialogue.”  In response, Minneapolis Public School Superintendent, Bernadeia H. Johnson, urged Minnesotans not to dismiss Dr. Perry’s “overall message of acting urgently to save a generation of young people because of the sharp rhetoric he used during his speech and the subsequent panel discussion.” Read the entire exchange here.

To read the full blog on EduShyster’s site go to:

And be sure to bookmark here blog and sign up for her email updates at:

Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan – even worse than we thought (by Wendy Lecker)

When you take a break from digging out from the “Great Blizzard of 2013,” I strongly urge you to take a moment today to read Heart Newspaper columnist and fellow blogger, Wendy Lecker’s, latest commentary piece entitled “Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan – even worse than we thought.”

Wendy’s article is the clearest description to date of the dishonest, disastrous and counter-productive evaluation system that Governor Malloy, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and his State Board of Education are trying to foist upon the teachers, administrators, students and parents who are part of Connecticut’s public education system.

The waste of time, energy and money associated with this abomination is staggering.

Even in a time of unlimited public resources, the program the Malloy and his Department of Education is pushing would be inappropriate, but now, as Connecticut continues to struggle through the greatest economic troubles of our times; their plan is nothing short of a criminal waste of taxpayer funds.

As Wendy Lecker writes;

“It turns out state’s proposed teacher evaluation program is far worse than I originally believed it to be.

Connecticut’s plan involves using “indicators of student growth” to form 22.5 percent of an evaluation. For grades and subjects covered by the CMTs or CAPTs, teachers must use those scores as a basis for their evaluation.

In my previous columns, I wrongly assumed that Connecticut would use the unreliable “value-added” model (VAM) as the foundation of this 22.5 percent. However, it has come to light that Connecticut’s model is much worse.

The value-added model would be bad enough. VAM is a flawed attempt to isolate the teacher effect on a student’s test scores. We have all heard that a teacher is “the most important in-school influence on students.”

There is no denying that teachers have a profound influence on students’ ways of thinking, their emotional development and other crucial aspects of children’s intellectual growth that cannot be measured on standardized tests. However, those who trumpet this claim refer to a teacher’s influence on a student’s test scores.

But decades of evidence prove that out-of-school factors account for the vast majority of a student’s test scores. Even those claiming teachers’ outsize influence on test scores only attribute 7.5 percent to 8.5 percent of a test score to variation in teacher quality.

Therefore, VAM’s goal is to tease out that 8.5 percent. As I have previously shown, a large and growing body of evidence proves that VAM fails at this task. VAM ratings based on test scores have a 50 percent misclassification rating, with a variance based on the test, the year, the class and even the statistical model used. It is dangerous to use this measure for even 22.5 percent of a rating because it is so unstable. Because it varies so wildly, the test-score-based rating will become the tipping point in most evaluations, despite its small percentage. Moreover, being a so-called hard number, it will inevitably be the main focus of evaluations.

Apparently, in thinking that state education officials would use VAM, I was giving them too much credit.

Connecticut is not using VAM. Instead, Connecticut is using something much worse: a “student growth” model.

Here is how it works. At the beginning of the year, a teacher in a subject covered by the CMTs or CAPTs chooses a goal. It can be that X percent of the class will move from proficiency to goal. Or, it can be that the average vertical-scale score of the class will increase by X percent. (Recall from an earlier column that vertical-scale scores basically only measure whether a child is a good test-taker.) Testing experts use statistical models to predict test-score increases. Teachers, I guess, are supposed to use their intuition — about children they have just met. Then, the teacher will be evaluated on whether she meets that goal.

Let us put aside the lunacy of having a teacher predict score increases and focus on Connecticut’s model. Unlike VAM, which tries and fails to isolate teacher effect, “student growth models” do not even attempt to isolate that 8 percent. There is no mechanism in Connecticut’s system that even tries to distinguish between all the factors affecting student test scores and the one factor upon which a teacher’s job will depend.

Lecker provides even more details in her latest commentary piece.

In the coming weeks we’ll dig even deeper into this absurd plan, but if you want to get a basic primary on how the education reformers are wasting our tax dollars, undermining the teaching professional and destroying our public schools, I urge you to start by reading – and then re-reading Wendy Lecker’s great piece.

Wendy Lecker: Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan – even worse than we thought

Find it at:

Beware! Education Reformers Are Coming for Your School Board (cross-posted from Diane Ravitch)

(Cross-posted from

A big thank you to the nation’s leading pro-public education blogger Diane Ravitch for allowing me to write a guest post for her daily blog.  I’m re-posting it here on Wait, What? or you can read it here:

During the 2012 election cycle, we saw the corporate “education reform” lobby begin to play their hand when it comes to the notion of local control of public education.  Their approach is a simple one.  If you don’t agree with our position, we’ll simply change the rules or work to defeat your local elected board of education.

As far as the corporate education reformers are concerned, the end justifies the means and if the cost of getting what you want requires destroying our nation’s age-old commitment to local control of education, so be it.

And we certainly aren’t talking about local parents banding together to ensure that their voices are heard.  We are talking about billionaires and millionaires and the major education reform companies, organizations and foundations dumping tens of millions of dollars into state and local efforts to elect handpicked accomplices or even, where necessary, changing the rules to make it easier to open charter schools and dismantle the core elements of a broad-based public education system.

Take for example the political involvement of education reformer and New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg.  Mayor Bloomberg has been a very busy guy.  Not only is he the Chief Executive Officer of New York City where he is leading a successful effort to privatize much of that city’s public education system, but he has become a leading example of this “my way or the highway” approach to destroying local public education.

In Bloomberg’s case there was his $20,000 check for Residents for a Better Bridgeport, a political action committee seeking to do away with the democratically-elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the local pro-education reform mayor.  There was also the $75,000 check to California Charter Schools Association Independent Expenditure Committee, and on the same day in October, Bloomberg wrote a check for $10,000 to Neighbors for School Board 2012 (Oakland). The three “education reform” candidates that the group was supporting in Oakland also received checks from Bloomberg for the maximum allowable amount.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg dropped a check to Education Voters of Idaho for $200,000 to defend a set of reform proposals and $80,000 to Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, reformer Tony Bennett, who has now moved his destructive activities to the State of Florida.

In state after state, the super-rich, corporate executives and education reform entities spent millions to influence local elections.  When the final reports were filed in Bridgeport, the corporate education reform industry and its supporters spent more than $560,000, a state record, in their effort to take away the right of local citizens to elect their own board of education.  In that case, they failed, but they are already moving forward on efforts to undermine what’s left of the democratically-elected board.

In “So You Wanna Buy a School Board Seat…,” fellow pro-public education blogger, Edushyster, wrote about the situation in Minneapolis, Minnesota while another pro-public education blogger Jersey Jazzman wrote “How To Buy a School Board Race 3000 Miles Away,” about the same thing happening in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

In Minnesota, the push to elect a pro-charter school, TFA alumnus came from Teach for America and 50CAN, a national charter school lobbying group, as well as, other corporate executives.  50CAN was set up by Connecticut resident and education reform activists Jonathan Sackler, a corporate director of Purdue Pharma. The present Chairman of 50CAN is Mathew Kramer, the President of Teach for America. 

It will come as no surprise, but Sackler, with a check for $50,000, was also the largest donor to the Bridgeport effort that is mentioned above.

And in New Jersey, Jersey Jazzman asked, “Why would California multi-millionaires be interested in a school board race in the small city of Perth Amboy, NJ?

It seems absurd, and yet it’s true: four wealthy Californians and one wealthy Coloradan – heavy hitters in the tech, financial, and health care sectors – have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a slate of candidates running for the school board in Perth Amboy, a city of 50,000 with a majority Hispanic population.

From Connecticut to California and New Jersey to Idaho, the story is the same.  The charter school industry is spending record amounts to lobby government officials and buy local boards of education. 

But their tactics are very clear.   Backing up their lobbying effort is a broader strategy to change the rules and change the players as a way of ensuring they can build their charter schools and further privatize America’s public education system.

If General Eisenhower were alive today, it wouldn’t simply be the military-industrial complex he’d be warning us about, it would be the even more devious and dangerous education-industrial complex.

Keep your eyes open and don’t be surprised to find these corporate reformers playing their politics with your local boards of education.